Sermon title: “BROUGHT BEFORE GOVERNORS AND KINGS”

Acts 24:24-27, 25:9-14, 22

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, August 1, 2021

 

 

Our Lord Jesus commanded at Matthew 28:19 to

 

19 ...go and make disciples

of all nations,

baptizing them in the name

of the Father, and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit,

20 and teaching them to obey

all that I have commanded you.

 

So, Christians have gone into all the earth,

to share the Good News of salvation

with people of every sort.

 

That includes high-ranking people & low-ranking people,

and everyone in between.

 

But V.I.P.s—‘Very Important People’—

are very hard to reach.

You couldn’t just walk up to the front door

of a governor, king or emperor,

and expect to be ushered in

to share the Gospel with an important

high-ranking ruler like that.

 

But Jesus specifically said that his followers

would get to witness for the faith

before governors and kings.

 

How?

 

He explained that it would happen

when Christians are persecuted for the faith

and are put on trial before governors and kings.

 

At Matthew 18:16 Jesus said,

 

16 Behold, I am sending you out

like sheep among wolves;

therefore be as shrewd as snakes

and as innocent as doves.

17 But beware of men;

for they will hand you over

to their councils

and flog you in their synagogues.

 

18 On My account, you will be

brought before governors and kings

as witnesses to them

and to the Gentiles.

 

So, it would be persecution that would result in

our being brought before governors and kings.

 

Jesus’ disciples knew what he meant.

 

Governors were often the judges in Roman courts.

 

And kings were often the Supreme Court—

the final appeals court.

--------------------------

 

Today, Christians are being brought before

the Supreme Courts in various lands.

I’ll have more to say about that later.

 

But first, let’s look at how Jesus’ words

were fulfilled on the early Church.

 

An outstanding example was the Apostle Paul.

 

Hostile Jews caused an uproar—actually a riot—

when Paul visited Jerusalem’s Temple.

 

They would have killed him, except that Roman soldiers—

who served as Jerusalem’s police force—

took him into custody.

 

Paul’s Roman citizenship was the only thing

that kept the Romans from torturing him

under interrogation.

 

Instead, the commander of the military police forces

brought Paul back to a full session of the Sanhedrin—

the Supreme Court of the Jews,

to learn what the accusations were against him.

But another riot broke out there,

and the Roman commander again

saved Paul from being killed on the spot.

 

Paul’s young nephew overheard a large group of Jews

plotting to ambush the officers

who would be transporting Paul the next day,

so they could kill him on the road.

 

When that information reached the commander,

he immediately took action

to send Paul and his case to the Roman governor.

 

Acts 23:23 tells us what happened.

 

23 Then he called two of his centurions

and said,

“Prepare two hundred soldiers,

seventy horsemen,

and two hundred spearmen

to go to Caesarea

in the third hour of the night.

24 Provide mounts for Paul

to take him safely to Governor Felix.”

 

That would be a large enough force

to fend-off any attack from Jewish extremists.

 

Along with Paul, the commander sent the governor

written information about his case.

 

25 And he wrote the following letter:

 

26 Claudius Lysias,

To His Excellency, Governor Felix:

Greetings.

 

27 This man was seized by the Jews,

and they were about to kill him

when I came with my troops to rescue him.

 

For I had learned that he is

a Roman citizen,

28 and since I wanted to understand

their charges against him,

I brought him down to their Sanhedrin.

29 I found that the accusation

involved questions about their own law,

but there was no charge

worthy of death or imprisonment.

 

30 When I was informed that

there was a plot against the man,

I sent him to you at once.

 

I also instructed his accusers

to present their case against him

before you.

 

31 So the soldiers followed their orders

and brought Paul by night

to Antipatris.

 

32 The next day they returned to

the barracks and let the horsemen

go on with him.

33 When the horsemen arrived in Caesarea,

they delivered the letter to the governor

and presented Paul to him.

 

So, Paul was sent, as a prisoner, to the governor—

for the governor to rule on his case.

 

The Jewish accusers then came down

and tried to present their case to the governor.

 

But he was married to a Jewish woman

and knew a bit about Christians,

and how opposed the Jewish leaders were to them.

 

So, he told them instead,

according to Acts 24:22

 

22...“When Lysias,

the commanding officer, comes down,

I will decide your case.”

 

23 He ordered the centurion

that Paul should be kept in custody,

and should have some privileges,

and not to forbid any of his friends

to serve him or to visit him.

 

The governor extended those kindnesses

to Paul in his confinement,

partly because Paul was a Roman citizen,

and partly because the governor knew

that Christians were not really criminals.

 

In fact, the governor must have discussed his prisoner

with his Jewish wife,

and they must both have been curious

to hear more about the Christian faith.

 

Because the next verse tells us,

 

24 But after some days,

Felix came with Drusilla, his wife,

who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul,

and heard him

concerning the faith in Christ Jesus.

 

25 As he reasoned about righteousness,

self-control, and the judgment to come,

Felix was terrified, and answered,

“Go your way for the present,

and when it is convenient for me,

I will summon you.”

 

Governor Felix was a tough military commander.

 

He was familiar with hand-to-hand warfare

and with life and death on the battle field.

 

But what Paul told him about righteousness,

self-control, and the judgment to come

terrified him so much,

that he put a stop to that conversation.

 

He saw immediately that he was a sinner,

but didn’t want to repent,

and didn’t want to think about

the judgment” he would face

someday from God.

 

Still, as Jesus had said it would,

the message Paul shared from Scripture

reached the ears of this high-ranking governor.

 

In fact, while he held Paul prisoner,

he spoke with him on other occasions, as well.

 

The account in Acts continues,

 

26 Meanwhile, he also hoped

that money would be given to him

by Paul, that he might release him.

 

Therefore also he sent for him

more often, and talked with him.

 

27 But when two years were fulfilled,

Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus,

and desiring to gain favor with the Jews,

Felix left Paul in bonds.

 

The Constitution of the United States guarantees

the right to a speedy trial,

but Paul was at the mercy of this Roman governor,

who kept hoping to receive a bribe.

 

So, Paul was still in custody

when governor Felix was replaced

by a new governor.

 

The new governor Porcius Festus

was eager to win the favor of the Jewish leaders,

who were planning to ambush and kill Paul

while the Romans took him to Jerusalem.

 

But Paul took action to protect himself

by using his right as a Roman citizen

to appeal his case to Caesar in Rome.

 

Acts 25:10 tells us,

10... Paul said, “I am standing

before Caesar’s judgment seat,

where I ought to be tried.

 

I have done no wrong to the Jews,

as you also know very well.

 

11 For if I have done wrong, and

have committed anything worthy of death,

I don’t refuse to die;

but if none of those things is true

that they accuse me of,

no one can give me up to them.

 

I appeal to Caesar!”

 

That’s not what Governor Festus wanted,

but his legal experts told him he had to comply.

 

The account continues,

 

12 Then Festus,

when he had conferred with the council,

answered,

“You have appealed to Caesar.

To Caesar you shall go.”

 

Sending Paul to Caesar in Rome

involved a trip of around 1500 miles,

like going from here to Florida.

 

So, there would be a delay before

transportation could be arranged.

 

And, during that time, Paul would actually

appear before another King—

King Agrippa of the neighboring Roman province.

 

We read,

 

13 Now when some days had passed,

King Agrippa and Bernice

arrived at Caesarea, and greeted Festus.

 

14 As he stayed there many days,

Festus laid Paul’s case

before the king, saying,

“There is a certain man

left a prisoner by Felix;”

 

And, after Governor Festus gave him the details,

Acts 25:22 continues,

 

22 Agrippa said to Festus, “I also

would like to hear the man myself.”

 

“Tomorrow,” he said,

you shall hear him.”

 

So, as Jesus foretold would happen with his followers,

Paul got to speak, not only to 2 different governors,

but also to a king—

and was about to be sent to appear

before the Roman Emperor, who ruled over

much of the world at that time.

 

Paul concluded his message to King Agrippa by saying,

 

27 King Agrippa, do you believe

the prophets? I know you do.”

 

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul,

“Do you think that

in such a short time

you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

 

29 Paul replied, “Short time or long

—I pray to God that not only you

but all who are listening to me today

may become what I am,

except for these chains.”

 

30 The king rose,

and with him the governor

and Bernice and those sitting with them.

 

31 After they left the room,

they began saying to one another,

“This man is not doing anything

that deserves death or imprisonment.”

32 Agrippa said to Festus,

“This man could have been set free

if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

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That was almost 2,000 years ago.

 

But, what about today?

 

Well, today governors and kings

don’t normally hear legal cases.

 

Most countries have a Supreme Court.

 

But Christians are still being hauled before those courts.

 

In Islamic lands, Christians are often falsely accused

of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed.

 

In 2009 a Christian woman named Aasiya Noreen,

also known as Asia Bibi, was harvesting berries

alongside a couple of Muslim women,

and an argument developed between them.

The Muslim women then accused her of blasphemy,

and she was convicted and sentenced to death.

 

After she had spent over a year on death row,

the governor called for her to be released.

 

But Muslim fanatics assassinated him for saying so.

 

After many world leaders and international organizations

cried out for her release, she was finally set free

after almost 10 years behind bars.

-----------------------------

 

An American pastor by the name of Andrew Brunson

from North Carolina moved to Turkey years ago

and pastored a small church there for over 20 years.

 

Then he was suddenly arrested in 2016 on false charges.

 

President Donald Trump

kept pressuring the Turkish authorities

until they finally released the pastor—

after which President Trump

welcomed him to the White House.

---------------------------------------

 

In 2015 Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis

was jailed for 5 days for refusing to issue

marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

 

She was visited at the jail by

former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee,

who was then a Presidential candidate.

-------------------------------------

 

So, even in modern times persecution of Christians

has resulted in believers being taken to court,

and coming before governors and kings,

as Jesus foretold.

 

Going back to that account at Matthew 18:18,

where Christ said,

 

18 On My account, you will be

brought before governors and kings

as witnesses to them

and to the Gentiles,

 

we notice that he went on to give us

these words of encouragement:

 

19 But when they hand you over,

do not worry about how to respond

or what to say.

 

In that hour you will be given

what to say.

 

20 For it will not be you speaking,

but the Spirit of your Father

speaking through you.

 

21 Brother will betray brother to death,

and a father his child;

children will rise against their parents

and have them put to death.

22 You will be hated by everyone

because of My name,

but the one who perseveres to the end

will be saved.

 

And today we see that hatred of believers

manifesting itself even in this country.

 

In a land settled and founded by Christians

to establish the Christian faith

and to defend their freedom of worship,

we now see the news media

presenting Bible-believers in a negative light.

 

Along with their slanderous lies about President Trump,

they cast Bible-believing Christians in the role of

hateful bigoted racist homophobes.

 

In a country that, for centuries,

took pride in its Christianity,

we now see believers mocked and ridiculed

and pursued by lawsuits and criminal prosecution

for upholding what the Bible says

about marriage and abortion.

 

So, we have now joined our brothers

and sisters in foreign lands

who have long experienced Jesus’ words that

You will be hated by everyone

because of My name.

 

But, if our persecution comes in the form of

being hauled into court before judges or

before governors and kings,

we can take comfort in Christ’s promise that

 

“In that hour you will be given

what to say.

 

20 For it will not be you speaking,

but the Spirit of your Father

speaking through you.”

 

He will help us, through the power of his Holy Spirit,

to persevere to the end.

 

And we pray that Christ will soon return

in his own Kingdom power,

and bring the promised end

of this corrupt and wicked world.