“Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” 9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” 10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” 12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!” Acts 25.8-12
It has been two years since Paul returned to Jerusalem, was beaten by the Jews, arrested by Felix, put under house arrest in Herod’s Palace. And now, with a new Governor Festus, and old charges being drummed up against Paul, his enemies are trying to get him to return again to Jerusalem so they might kill him.
But Paul has a trick up his sleeves. Being a citizen of Rome, he defends himself from being forced to return to the Jews in Jerusalem, where he would surely be killed, and he makes his appeal to Caesar. Because he had the right to appeal to Caesar, that is where Festus would send him. Although Paul was not afraid to die, he admits this in v.11, he knows he is being called to Rome to proclaim the gospel to the known world. Returning to Jerusalem would end his evangelization campaign way to early, but going on to Rome would allow the Gospel to be spread to the ends of the earth.
There is little doubt that the Lord is with Paul. Even with great opposition from the Jewish leaders, God is moving Paul and at every turn he is talking about Christ. He is holding steady, remaining faithful to his calling. And in life, this is what we are asked to do no matter the opposition. And yet, we must discern the voice of the Lord in our lives. We must determine whether or not it is God calling and speaking to us.
In Matthew 7.15-20 Jesus says near the end of the Sermon on the Mount these words: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
It is easy to be deceived in this world. The Jews believed Paul was a false prophet, teaching heresy against God’s laws, but as Jesus affirms, Paul’s fruitfulness affirmed his calling. What he produced was good and faithful fruit for the building up of the kingdom. The Jews could dispute this but they could not disprove it any more than they could prove the false charges they brought against Paul. Jesus says, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
What fruit are you bearing this day? How are you living in accordance with the Spirit of God who is accomplishing his purposes in this world? How are you being obedient to the calling of Christ upon your life? When opposition comes, do you appeal to God or humans? Are you placing your faith in Christ? And is Christ confirming your call in him?
“O Lord God, you are good and faithful. Even when trouble comes, we can trust in you. You are our hope and our stay. You are the one who bears good fruit through us. And yet, sometimes, by our decisions, that good fruit sours because of our decisions and actions. I’m a living testimony to sometimes bearing good and bad fruit. But help me Lord, bear only what is good. To produce fruit that lasts so that your name might be known. I love you Lord and praise your name. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen