Sermon Summary - Our Testimonies are Servants of the Gospel - Acts 21:27-22:21
Our Testimonies are Servants of the Gospel
Paul declared in Romans 1:16 that the gospel message of Jesus Christ is the power to save souls. Our testimonies are not the gospel. The gospel is the good news about Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for the sins of all who would believe in Him, and that He was raised from the dead and promises eternal life to every sinner who would receive it through faith. Having said that, every one of us who is a Christian has a testimony of the work of God in our lives. But our stories are not the gospel. Our stories are important servants in carrying the gospel to various persons and groups, acting as a bridge connecting our lives to the gospel.
In this passage in Acts, Paul never actually got to the gospel because he was cut off (but he was going there). Acts 21-22 takes place in the massive temple in Jerusalem, which was nearly a quarter of a mile long and wide. There were massive outdoor courtyards where thousands of people would have room to mingle in the temple grounds. Paul is recognized in the temple by some non-Christian Jews from Ephesus, who then falsely accuse him of bringing Gentiles into the temple. (Acts 21:27-29). They gather a mob that had intended to kill Paul, dragging him out of the temple and beating him (Acts 21:30-32). But Paul is saved by the tribune (a Roman commander over a thousand soldiers), who was in charge of keeping watch for any signs of revolt against Rome. The tribune originally mistook Paul for an Egyptian who had stirred up a revolt (Acts 21:38). Paul then begs the tribune to allow him to speak to the people (Acts 21:39), even though he had just beaten by those same people. Paul stuns the crowd by addressing them in the Hebrew language (Acts 21:40). The stage is now set for Paul to give his testimony.
Paul begins by telling of his life before he became a Christian. He lays out where he is from, his educational background, and what drove his life and his passion. He is from the city of Tarsus, but his formative years were in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3), and he was born and raised a Jew. He goes on to his educational background under Gamaliel, a greatly recognized scholar. He tells of his deep zeal for God, as evidenced by his persecution of fellow Jews who were believing in Jesus as the Messiah (Acts 22:4). He even challenges the crowd to go ask the high priestly family if they don’t believe him (Acts 22:5). Paul’s clarity about his pre-Jesus life as a non-Christian should encourage all of us who are Christians to reflect on our own pre-Christ life, and reflect on how we use it as a testimony in order to build bridges to the gospel that saves.
Paul then tells of the beauty of God’s saving grace to him. He is now beginning to touch on the gospel in his testimony. Ananias, a law-keeping Jewish Christian (Acts 22:12), had told Paul that God had caused him to see Jesus, the Righteous One (Acts 22:14). “The Righteous One” was the one who was prophesied of in Isaiah 53:11, and this crowd would have known that passage well. Paul testifies to the crowd that he has been baptized, called upon the name of the Lord Jesus, and that his sins were washed away (Acts 22:16). That was Paul’s testimony. What is your testimony? Notice that Paul did nothing to deserve seeing Jesus. And the same is true of us.
Every believer is uniquely special to the Savior, with unique personalities, family of origin, and pre-Christ experience. All of those life circumstances have been orchestrated by our sovereign God. For Pastor Joe, being raised in a Roman Catholic family and intellectually agreeing with gospel truth, he grew up doing the works of attending mass, taking communion, confession and penance. But in between each Sunday he did what he really wanted to do: sin. And yet in his mind all those years, he thought that God and him were ok. So too Paul thought that he was ok with God. And then God encountered him. For Pastor Joe it was at age 19 that God’s grace came upon him, following a deep bout with depression and a deep sense of lostness and purposelessness. Within a couple months he was yearning to read the Bible and the gospels. All the basics of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus went from his intellect to his heart and his affections. So what did Joe do once he became a Christian? He told his story and the gospel to family members and co-workers and whoever would listen. And of course they all came flocking to Jesus when he told them. Not quite. But over time, some eventually did come. God uses our testimonies as servants to the gospel to save whomever He wills. Sometimes the initial response to our testimony and the gospel is only negative, as our passage goes on to show (Acts 22:22). What do we do when people are so hardened that they won’t let us share our testimony or the gospel with them? Move on, for the time being, and continue to love the Lord Jesus and let your testimony be a servant of sharing the gospel with others.
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