I pray that I have the same confidence and boldness that Paul has if I am ever faced with the kind of persecution he experienced. One of the reasons that Paul was so bold is that he was so persuaded of the truthfulness of Christ and Christianity and the faithfulness of God. He was confident not in himself but in the Lord and His Word and so Paul could engage those around him without fear.
In Acts 26, Paul is standing before the governor Festus and King Agrippa in Caesarea, and he is defending himself by sharing his testimony. He explains to Agrippa the encounter he had with Jesus on the road to Damascus; he openly speaks of his calling to the Gentiles and why he was called: “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from the darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18).
Then Paul turns to make this important point that reveals something about why Paul was so bold.
22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.
- Paul has no question that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Word of God, the One about whom the Law and the Prophets were speaking. Paul is immersed in the Scriptures, so aware and confident that Jesus is who He says that He is. He believes God’s truthfulness.
- And Paul knows that the Lord is with him and strengthens him, because he has experienced that help again and again—“to this day I have had the help that comes from God…” He believes God’s faithfulness.
One author pointed out that it had been approximately 28 years since Paul’s conversion and each and every step of the way, he experienced God’s strength and protection.
So often we quickly forget the provisions of the Lord. We see His hand in our lives, we rejoice in His wise blessings… but then the next time we face a trial, we act as though we question everything. Paul had eyes of faith to see how God had providentially guided him throughout his many years of ministry, both in circumstances that appeared good and those that appeared bad. And this gave him confidence that he would never be alone.
Paul is standing in the most vulnerable place possible—before a human court of fallible people who could call for his execution. Yet Paul is not afraid because “to this day” the Lord has helped him and Paul is certain that He will continue to do so.
Paul speaks clearly and confidently about the resurrection of Jesus (v. 23) and Festus responds by saying that Paul must be “out of [his] mind.” Yet Paul, knowing that the Lord will carry him through responds without hesitation (v. 25): “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.”
“True and rational words”—the world thinks the opposite of what we say. They claim we’re foolish and superstitious, irrational and brain-washed. But Paul knows that all the evidence is on our side whether others are willing to see it or not. It was not Paul’s job to change the heart of Festus or Agrippa; it was his job to stand confidently for Christ. The truth is true whether it is accepted or not.
The more we read about Paul’s life and ministry, the more amazed we are at the grace of God. Paul first killed Christians… and then he faced death many times because he was a Christian. But he faced death with confidence in the One who he knew was both true and faithful. May we be grateful that we serve the very same God.