In this week’s text we continue the theme of “Paul and politicians.” Last week we observed how a Roman tribune, who was governed by rules of law, was the instrument God used to rescue Paul from three riots and transport him safely to Caesarea. Having been escorted by half of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem must have encouraged Paul that God was confirming his promise that he would soon testify to God in Rome. But in Caesarea Paul’s hopes are dashed when his case is turned over to Felix, the Roman governor. Felix has no interest in being a servant to the people nor in justice. Rather than giving a ruling on Paul’s case, he vacillates, postpones, manipulates and finally puts his ruling on hold endlessly. What do followers of Jesus do when faced with corrupt officials and the justice due us is delayed with no end in sight?
Acts 22:30-23:35 How ought we think about how we relate to structures of power in society? If Jesus is reigning as Lord of the world, what does that imply about how we relate to the authority structures in society? Both Paul and Peter seem to be very clear in their writings that we are to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom 13:1-5; 1 Pet 2:13-15). But is it really that simple? What happens when those institutions become corrupt instruments of evil and our submission enables further injustice? In the aftermath of WWII, we condemned those who carried out Hitler’s abominations with the excuse that they were just doing what they were told. So there must be more to our responsibility to governing authorities than mere submission. This Sunday we will get a glimpse at how Paul thought about the structures of power in society, and discover how the kingdom advances in a very imperfect and, in some cases, corrupt world. Acts 22:30-23:35
Having completed our series “Does it Matter,” we will now turn our attention back to the hair-raising drama in the book of Acts, which by divine coincidence puts flesh and blood on many of the themes we explored over the summer. If you were with us in the spring, you may remember Paul’s boundless energy, evangelizing and planting churches throughout most of Asia Minor and Greece. But when Paul arrives in Jerusalem, his whole career abruptly changes. He is assaulted, arrested, brought to trial and endures five trials that transport him from Jerusalem to Caesarea and finally to Rome. Paul the evangelist now becomes Paul the apologist, giving a defense concerning the revelation he has received and the integrity of his character. The fact that Luke devotes six chapters (nearly 200 verses) to these trials is a clue to their theological importance both then and now. Perhaps we should title this section, “Do Apologetics Matter?”