Sunday 7 June, 2020
25 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.” 6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them. 8 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!”
Paul has been in prison now for two years, defending his case but also talking with the ruling authority (Felix) about faith in Jesus. Then the ruling authority changes (Festus) and Paul has to start again. Yet again the accusations again Paul are made, and yet again Paul answers that he has done nothing wrong against the Jewish law, the temple or Caesar. Essentially he repeats Acts 24:16 – his conscience remains clear before God and man.
How does Paul remain so confident after two years of multiple people telling him he is in the wrong? And whilst these accusations are different, how can a man who has a history of murdering Christians ever stand before a court and say his conscience is entirely clear? Sometimes I define myself by old sins. I get stuck in regret and almost try to punish myself by feeling bad. When I get into this mindset it ruins me for the present and the future.
Paul is not yet perfect and still struggles with sin (Romans 7:15-20 is written in the present tense!), but he does not define himself by his own actions or previous sin. Paul stands confidently with a clear conscience because he knows in whose righteousness he stands. By Jesus’ blood Paul has been made righteous before the only Judge that matters in the end. His conscience is clear and he is free.
Jesus forgive me for trying to pay a debt that has already been paid with my regret. Please help me to live in the freedom of a clear conscience, which your precious blood has bought.
Written by Rhiannon Mellor
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