God Is Helping You, But Who Will You Help?

Sun, Apr 10, 2022
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Duration:25 mins 3 secs

Message text

God Is Helping You, But Who Will You Help?
Acts 24:22-25:12

INTRO: Good morning, Church. In Acts 24 last week, we saw the apostle Paul being charged with four counts of breaking Jewish Law and his accusers hired a very clever lawyer to bring a case against him.

Even though they wouldn’t admit it, Paul knew exactly what the real charge was.
He invited those Sadducean accusers who were present to step forward and show the error in his one statement before the Sanhedrin, "concerning the resurrection of the dead."

With the courtroom procedures under way, Luke continues and tells us in Acts 24:22-23 – “But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, "When Lysias [ly-se-us] the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.'' So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him.” [NKJV]

An astronomer, on his way to give a lecture, discovered that his seatmate on the airplane was a preacher. Early in the conversation he assured the preacher that he knew everything about religion he needed to know. The preacher expressed delight and asked where the scientist had studied religion and how much he had read in the Bible. "Oh, no," the astronomer replied, "I've never studied theology, and I don't read the Bible, but I know the Golden Rule, and I figure that's enough religion for me."

"Well, on that basis," declared the preacher, "I guess I know all about astronomy." The scientist laughed and asked the preacher what he knew about the cosmos, to which the minister replied gravely, "Twinkle, twinkle little star; how I wonder what you are."

I. You have heard it said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but in this case, we could safely say that a little knowledge can win the day.

A. Luke tells Theophilus that Felix had a good knowledge of the Way but I wondered, just how did he get that knowledge?

1. We are not told directly here, but scholars point out that Caesarea was the place where a prominent centurion, Cornelius, had been converted. It was also where Philip the evangelist and his four daughters lived, and where there were probably many Christians.
2. Felix may have known many of these, hence it is not unreasonable at all that he should have had a great deal of information about the Way.

B. Felix delayed judgment until Lysias would come to give his testimony. Certainly for any judge it is a good thing to have all the testimonies heard before making a decision.

1. We are told that Felix directed the centurion in charge of Paul to grant him basic freedom to be with his friends and have someone attend to his needs. This indicates the favorable impression made by Paul on Felix as seen in the unusually lenient treatment accorded the prisoner.
2. We may think that this was good of Felix to allow all the testimonies to be heard first before making any judgment, but as we are about to find out, there is a strong possibility that he was merely delaying the situation in the hope of receiving a bribe from the Christians.

C. Luke tells us next in Acts 24:24-27 – “24. And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.'' 26. Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him. 27. But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.”
D. When Felix returned to Caesarea with his third wife Drusilla, who was one of the three daughters of Herod Agrippa l, he called for Paul to come tell him more about "the faith in Christ."

1. Like all of us should be able to do, Paul was ready to give the reason for the hope that he had in Christ Jesus. He presented the case for righteous living, along with consideration of the importance of self-control. Luke records that Paul also warned of the coming judgment, in which every man will be judged based upon his works. That discussion terrified Felix and moved him to send Paul away, saying he would call for him again at a more convenient time.
2. Historians do tell us that after Felix’ removal from office, Drusilla and their son, perished in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Jewish historians also tell us that Felix did call for Paul to come and converse with him often, secretly hoping to receive a bribe to release him. Here in verse 26 is revealed the real reason Paul was not set free when it was obvious he did nothing wrong.

E. In verse 27 it seems that after two years of waiting, Felix was relieved by Festus, but Felix left Paul in prison to earn some special favor from the Jews.

1. There is no record in scripture of Lysias ever coming to give his testimony. From history records, it seems Felix had been recalled from his post due to an outbreak of strife between the Jewish and Gentile elements of Caesarea, in which Felix' intervention with troops led to the slaughter of many Jews.
2. Through the intervention of his brother, Felix received no punishment beyond that of removal from office, which was then taken by Festus.

F. We find today that the widespread preaching on the subject of eternal judgment has subsided or disappeared altogether in many churches; but right here is seen the power that convicted sinners like those who heard Paul. If modern churches are to have any convicting power, then when the gospel is preached it needs to include the word of God on the judgment.

1. We should understand though, that nothing has changed today when it comes to people listening to the gospel. People are more than happy to set aside time in their lives to talk about how much God loves them. They are thrilled to contemplate all sorts of things they consider “spiritual”... But as soon as we begin to speak about judgment, their reaction is the same as Felix’. It terrifies them, and suddenly, it’s never a convenient time to speak to them.
2. The truth is the truth, folks, the gospel is the gospel and part of the gospel message is the return of Christ which will include… judgment.

II. 2 Corinthians 5:10 we read – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

A. “For we must all ...” This means everybody who ever lived, or ever will live, upon this earth. There are those who have difficulty with this verse. The problem does not lie in what Paul taught here, but in the theory of justification by "faith only". The blunt truth is that this verse is not merely "inconsistent" with the theory of justification by "faith alone"; it is a dogmatic contradiction of it. Hence some attempt to spin this as something different from the final judgment. Yet in the New Testament there is only one judgment.

1. In Matthew 12:36 Jesus says; “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.”
2. In Matthew 12:41 we are told; “The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with this generation and condemn it,…”
3. Paul in Acts 17:30-32 says “30. "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31. "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.'' And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter.''” “He has appointed a day”
4. Romans 14:10 declares; “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” “All stand”
5. From these and other scriptures we may be absolutely certain that every person, including every Christian, shall in the last analysis be judged according to his deeds, whether good or bad. There will be no such thing in the judgment as a person of vile deeds being entered into heaven on the basis of "Well, after all, he was a believer!"

B. In this connection, however, it is appropriate to add that “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. Yes, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, “IF we walk in the light”.

III. Let’s look at what scripture tells us is going to happen when Christ returns. Turn in your Bible to Matthew 25:31-36.

A. This scene presented by Jesus is one of the most awesome revelations brought to mankind by the Savior. Those who hope to avoid the fate of the unrighteous and aspire to enter the home of the redeemed, should take deeply into their heart the words of Christ who said; “31. "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32. "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33. "And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34. "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, `Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35. `for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36. `I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'”
B. The first thing which is going to happen when Christ returns is that He is going to take a seat. This is not teaching that Christ will sit upon the throne of His glory only upon the occasion of His second coming. He already sits at the right hand of God ruling over spiritual Israel, which is the church. The expression, "then" shall he sit, refers to a special sitting for the great judgment. He is already upon the throne of His glory; but on that day… He will be visibly so, and every eye shall see Him, and they shall look upon Him whom they pierced.

1. We are told He will come in His glory AND all the holy angels with Him. When the Son of Man comes, He will sit on His glorious throne. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
2. It’s then according to 1 John 3:2 that His deity will be clearly visible to all, “for we shall see Him as He is.”

C. The second thing which is going to happen when Christ returns is that all the nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate… He will separate all nations.

1. Make no mistake about it, folks, when He comes it’s for judgment and no-one is going to escape because Jesus uses the word ‘All’.
2. All nations will be gathered, and separation will occur. All that are in the tombs will hear His voice, and ALL shall stand before His judgment seat. In other words, this great division will be universal and discriminating.

D. The third thing which is going to happen when Christ returns is that He will speak.

1. When the Son of Man comes, He will say to those on the right, “Come, you blessed of My Father” To be blessed by the Father means that the sheep are saved and it is upon them that grace and mercy are bestowed, through which they escape God’s wrath. He will also say to them, “ inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:”
2. To the goats on the left, He will say according to Matthew 25:41 – “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:”

E. Folks, Christ is coming, and it’s not a question of when, as many people seem to want to make it. It’s a question of… are we ready?
Are we feeding the hungry?
Are we giving water to the thirsty?
Are we inviting strangers to come in?
Are we clothing people who need clothing?
Are we looking after the sick and visiting people?
Because if we’re not, then we too like Felix have lots of reasons to be terrified. By the way, those who think they find in these words of Jesus an excuse for making Christianity a mere matter of social charity, should look again.

IV. Meanwhile Paul is still in prison and Luke continues in Acts 25:1-5 – “1. Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2. Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, 3. asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him. 4. But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly. 5. "Therefore,'' he said, "let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him.''”

A. After only three days in the province, Porcius Festus went to Jerusalem. It was there that the high priest and some of the members of the Sanhedrin approached him about bringing Paul up to Jerusalem for a trial. Again and again we have seen throughout these last couple of chapters in the Book of Acts, these so-called religious leaders intending to have Paul assassinated along the road.

1. Like we saw last time God protected Paul. We see this in the fact that Festus said Paul would remain in Caesarea, because Festus was going there anyway. Festus urged those in authority to come present their charges before him there.
2. We marvel at the lengths these leaders are going to, to have Paul killed. They plot and scheme, they lie and bring false accusations. You know if we didn’t know better, we would think they had an issue with Paul.

B. Paul once again is called upon to defend his case. We are now at verse 6. Acts 25:6-8 – “6. And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. 7. When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, 8. while he answered for himself, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.''”

1. Luke says that in ten days or so, Festus went to Caesarea, sat on the judgment seat, and called for Paul to be brought before him.
2. The Jews who were on a mission to get rid of Paul once and for all, also appeared before the judgment seat and brought serious charges against him.
3. Once again Paul told them clearly that he had not committed offence against the Jews, the temple or Caesar.
4. What happens next is another part of the fulfillment of God’s plan to get Paul to preach the gospel in Rome.

C. Acts 25:9-12 – “9. But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?'' 10. Then Paul said, "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. 11. "For if I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.'' 12. Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!''”

1. Festus, to establish good relations with the Jews, asked Paul if he would appear before him in Jerusalem to be judged. Paul answered that he had done nothing wrong, as Festus well knew, and, as a Roman citizen, would remain before Caesar's judgment seat. You see, for all their cunning, the priests overreached themselves by alleging Paul's offence against Caesar; for Festus could hardly have let that charge be tried by the Jews.
2. Paul’s honesty and his clear conscience is heard when he says that he was willing to die if he was guilty of some offence worthy of death but would not be given up to the Jews if innocent. What did Paul do? He appealed to Caesar. I suspect Paul’s abrupt appeal to Caesar must have come as a surprise to Festus. Having his very first case appealed to Caesar was not exactly the way he would have hoped to begin his term as governor. Still, it did get him "off the hook" with regard to those whom he sought to please in Jerusalem; and he was probably pleased that Paul had appealed.
3. Festus consulted with his advisors and then said Paul would go before Caesar as requested. Every Roman citizen had a right of appeal from lower tribunals in the empire to the final court of the emperor; and once an appeal was registered, it had the effect of stopping all further litigation and transferring the case to Rome. God was working in the background all the way through this to get Paul where Paul really wanted to go.

D. If you recall it was earlier in Acts 23:11 that “… the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.''” The Lord gave Paul comfort and ratification of the witness Paul bore in Jerusalem. Then the Lord confirmed that Paul should also bear witness in Rome.

In many ways we too are on a journey to a great city, but it’s not Rome, its heaven.
Hebrews 13:11-14 – “11. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”
Just as God was using many people to help Paul get to Rome, He is using His church today to help get us and others to heaven. The only way that is going to happen is for us to work together with God and with each other.

It’s a bit like the little boy who was flying a kite and we imagine an argument about who was actually doing the flying.
The sticks which made the frame of the kite said, "I am flying the kite.”
The paper around the frame said, "No I’m flying the kite.”
The tail said, “Without me the kite would not fly, I am flying the kite.”
The little boy insisted that he was flying the kite.
In the background the wind whispered, "No I’m flying the kite.”
The truth is folks, they all flew the kite together.
If the sticks had broken, or if the tail got caught in a tree, if the paper had torn or the wind stopped blowing, the kite would have come down.
Each had a part to play.

You don’t need to be a mastermind to understand the point. Each one of us has work to do, and if we are going to be successful in getting ourselves into that eternal city and take as many people with us as possible then we all have to work together to that goal.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 – “6. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.”
They were one in mutual love and respect for each other, one in purpose, one in status as God's servants, and one in their reliance upon the Lord who would reward both.

Between us we have the work of visiting, giving, preaching, and countless other jobs to do to make sure the church and its work is successful. For that to happen we first must all work together and each do what we can to help.
You can’t do it all on your own.
I can’t do it all on my own.
It is a matter of teamwork.

God provided help for Paul to eventually get to Rome.
God is providing help for us all to get to heaven, but the question I will ask you is; who will you help today to get to heaven?

We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ, be buried with Him in baptism, and become a part of the work He has for us; or if you need to ask for prayers on your behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.

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Reference Sermon: Mike Glover


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