December 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
Most of the time we get into trouble because we do stupid things. But sometimes we get into trouble because we do the right thing. Maybe we all can recall a time when we were maligned for putting our hope in the truth. In my daily reading I journeyed through Paul’s adventures in Acts, a classic example of a man in trouble for the truth.
In the presence of the Roman Governor Felix, a contingency of Jewish leaders and their lawyer brought this charge against the apostle in Acts 24: “For we have found this man to be a troublemaker, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” (vs.5)
The fear was that Paul would be politically dangerous. In his defense Paul denies the accusations of inciting a riot, but admits: “But I confess this to you, that I worship the God of our ancestors according to the Way (which they call a sect), believing everything that is according to the law and that is written in the prophets. I have a hope in God (a hope that these men themselves accept too) that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous…(vs.14,15) “I am on trial before you today concerning the resurrection of the dead.” (vs.21)
Most Jews believed in a future resurrection, a raising and judgment of all mankind, something that Paul preached in connection with Christ’s resurrection (Acts 17:30-32, 1 Corinthians 15:15-58). The Sadducees (Acts 23:8) did not believe in any type of life after death, or miracles, or the supernatural. The Greeks believed in immortality, but not the imminent judgment of Christ. These slanted teachings started to infect the Church somewhat. And this was a cause of much of Paul’s trouble.
In the next two chapters, Paul finds himself in Jewish court before Israel’s King Agrippa. In his defense before the king in Acts 26, Paul testifies: “They know, because they have known me from time past, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain as they earnestly serve God night and day. Concerning this hope the Jews are accusing me, your Majesty!” (vs.5-7)
On trail for hope in God’s promises, Paul believed His promises to be true. To an extent, so did Paul’s accusers, who believed in the same Hebrew scriptures where hints of the future resurrection should have vindicated Paul. The charges of stirring up riots were unfounded. Instead, their main contention was that “they had several points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a man named Jesus who was dead, whom Paul claimed to be alive.” (Acts 25:19)
Among other things, Christians believe this: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)
Jesus Himself promised us trouble (John 16:33), and when we merely do what Paul and others did, preaching God’s word and holding to His future promises, we may find ourselves on trial. We’ll dispute big issues with those who claim to follow God, even true Christians. Persistent hope in Christ has its cost, and it sometimes gets us in trouble. But we are promised that any present trouble cannot outweigh future glory, and that’s where our hope lives. “So we do not lose heart…” (2 Corinthinans 4:16-18)