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Text – Acts 26
Text – Acts 26
Matthew 10:18 You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.
Since we have so many students out today we’re going to take a week off from First Peter to look at something I’ve wanted to teach for a while; That is the importance of a good Christian testimony and how to give one.
Sometimes a testimony is your best weapon against a person who is not interested in evidence or research or hearing the Bible, but will listen to you. Basically a testimony is a real-life story of your spiritual transformation. Before we start, I want to give a caveat, that testimonies are becoming a popular debating technique of the Mormon church, and so a testimony is not foolproof but it is an awesome way to bear witness to the work that God has done in you. The major difference between a Mormon testimony and a Christian testimony is that a Christian testimony should be a radical change and not just a feeling, which the Mormon testimony is.
One of the most simple testimonies is in the Bible, a man blind from birth who Jesus healed, the man had no idea who the Messiah was and didn’t have a theological basis for what happened to him, so this is how he gave testimony,
John 9:25 One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.
Such is the radical difference in the Christians’ life when they go from lost to found. The song, Amazing Grace, is very simple and is also a good example of a testimony, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” These are some simple examples, but probably the most comprehensive example is in Acts 26 and there is a huge amount to learn from it. (Handout - http://trustobey.blogspot.com/2008/04/testimony-evangelism.html)
Acts 26 takes place in about AD 61, Paul has been a Christian for about twenty years at this point, but he’s still going to go back to that very first encounter with the grace of God which saved him. The context to Acts 26 is that he has been arrested for inciting a riot, they were ready to let him go but a plot was put together by the Jews to kill him, so to protect him the government kept him in prison. This caused some confusion and a king, two governors, and several law enforcement officials tried to figure out what to do with him, and so we come today to Acts 26 with Paul in front of King Agrippa, King of Judea, in order for Agrippa to understand why Paul is being held and what to do with him.
Acts 26:1 So Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:
Agrippa tells Paul to tell why he is in prison and what should be done with him, basically to be his own lawyer. The word for defense is apologia, where we get apologetics, which is to defend the faith. Paul seizes the opportunity to preach; he is ready in season and out of season to proclaim Christ. This is your first lesson, to take every opportunity to speak to others about your Saviour.
Acts 26:2-8 I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. "My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
Paul introduces himself to the king, he is very respectful and finds common ground with Agrippa, who is the reigning king of Judea and so obviously knows the customs of the Jews. As far as we know Agrippa was not a Jew, although his family had a long line of ruling over the Jews.
After his introduction, Paul explains who he was before he became a Christian, he was a Pharisee raised in that school of thought, in other places Paul gives his testimony as his growth in the faith, he was not lacking in anything. If your testimony includes something like, “I felt lost without God,” then by all means include it, but look at Paul, he had no such “God-shaped hole” in his heart. He was fulfilled and exceeding greatly in his promotion; I believe that he would have exceeded Gamaliel, his teacher, as the greatest Rabbi every to live, you may even say that he eventually did (after Jesus), albeit in the true faith of Israel. Instead of elevating himself, Paul opts in the next passage to outline what he needed saving from.
Before we get there, the second step is to introduce yourself and outline your motives. Paul here points his hearers at Heaven, saying that he has hope in the God of Israel, the God who raises the dead. I often introduce myself as a Christian or pastor and that I want to see the person I’m talking to in Heaven someday. People greatly appreciate it when I am straight-forward instead of trying to sneak into a religious conversation.
Acts 26:9-12 I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.
Paul’s sins included murder, reviling, and standing against Jesus Christ. This is the third step in giving your testimony, to share the sins which you are saved from. Notice that Paul is specific enough that his hearers know what he did, but he doesn’t boast in them or get too specific. He could have mentioned James or Stephen by name as saints he murdered, but he is just showing that he is a sinner. Remember two verses,
Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Romans 7:7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
We want our hearers to know that not only are we sinners, but the same law applies to them and that they too are sinners. Paul is very familiar with Agrippa’s ancestors and their persecution of Christ and Christians, and so he tailors his list of sins to apply closer to the king. Two of his grandfathers had tried to kill Jesus Christ. For a practical example of tailoring the message; if I were going to give my testimony to scientists I would mention my one-time adherence to the religion of evolution, or if I was going to talk to people in the Air Force I’d talk about my self-centeredness, alcoholism, and womanizing. But, making sure it applies to your audience is not hugely important, the Holy Spirit will convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment based on whichever parts of God’s law you share.
So now we’ve shared our sins, the next step is how we were convicted of our sins, how we became aware that we were against God. Up until this point in Paul’s testimony, he thought he was serving God, doing him a favor by persecuting a seemingly new religion, but Paul was shown his error in a major way.
Acts 26:13-15 In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.’
Paul to this point was stubborn and disobedient to the law, yet he thought that by keeping it as well as he could, he was in good favor with God. But, on the Damascus road the light of conviction shown on him, he fell to the ground, and a voice from Heaven asked him why he was kicking against the goads. This is language of driving cattle or livestock, you goad them by poking them in the side with a sharp stick. An animal that doesn’t want to go will kick at the one driving him. The law was that goad, driving everyone towards Christ, and it was magnified by the testimonies of the Christians which Saul was persecuting.
Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
And who was Paul persecuting? Christians, but Jesus asked, “Why are you persecuting me?” It became more than apparent to Paul that he was not a friend of God, but an enemy, his sins weren’t just against people, but against Heaven.
So before we see what he did about it, this is the fourth step, to explain how you became aware that you were in need of a Saviour. The most common way you learn about this is that someone confronts you of your sin, for Paul it was Jesus, for me it was a street preacher, for you it might be a pastor; then the Word of God speaks to you, a Bible verse or passage, for me it was 1 Timothy 3:16, God manifest in the flesh, and quite often it can be a paraphrase of a Bible verse; then is the conviction of your conscience, letting you know that you are wrong and God is right. This point came to Paul when he realized that Jesus Christ is the God of the Hebrews; the very God that Paul meant to serve he was persecuting.
The next step is left out in Acts 26 because Paul must have known that Agrippa already knew that Jesus was purported to have been crucified for sins and raised by his Father; knowing why there is forgiveness of sins available is a vital part of a testimony and one that Paul shares in Acts 22, so lets read that:
Acts 22:10-15 And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.' And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. "And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, 'The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.
Sometimes the person who confronts of sin is not the same one who reveals grace. Jesus and the Holy Spirit convicted Paul of his sins, but Ananias was the one who had the privilege of seeing Paul saved. This is an aside to the testimony lesson, but often you may just plant a seed and someone else gets to see the person saved, or it might be the opposite way; however it happens Christ receives the glory and so we rejoice. I witnessed to a young man who later got saved and joined Northstar. Anytime we do anything with Northstar and I see him I think, “He’s mine! I confronted him with his sin and introduced him to Christ, he should have joined Summit!” But it’s ultimately far more important that he was saved than which church he goes to.
This step is to explain how you came to the knowledge that Jesus is the Saviour and that you repented and trusted in him.
Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.
Acts 26:16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,
This step is when you reveal that you’ve received grace. Paul is brief in his testimony on this point, but that doesn’t lessen it’s impact. Paul goes from being an enemy of Christ to being his minister, he is wholly justified and forgiven. It is truly amazing grace that can turn a man’s affections from himself and his idols to Heaven and the Living Christ. Recount when you repented and believed and how huge an event it was.
But your testimony doesn’t stop here, now you go to your fruit, how God has used you since your conversion.
Acts 26:17-20 ‘delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from 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.' "Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
Paul is very humble and brief here, but in talking about his preaching, he reveals that Christ had used him powerfully up to that point. When you share this you can include, “I used to hate going to church, but now I love it,” Or, “I’ve been on missions trips and have shared the gospel,” Or, “Now I volunteer at VBS and love discipling people,” or whatever is true for you in how God has radically changed your life. Paul went from killing people who preached the Christian message to preaching the Christian message with people wanting to kill him!
Acts 26:21-23 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 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: 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."
Press through with your message, know that people will stand against you, and when they do, include it in your testimony. If your message is not offensive to the world, then it probably isn’t the same message Jesus and Paul preached. This may not be people trying to kill you, but it may be friends you’ve lost or people that don’t like you because you’re a Christian.
Acts 26:24-26 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind." But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.
Festus, governor, stands up and tries to get Paul to stop preaching; I’m sure Festus didn’t want Paul to offend the king and/or to get himself killed, but Paul presses through. When people try to get you to stop talking about Jesus and the mighty work he has done in your life, press through and make sure they hear this message of forgiveness of sins, because it’s the most important message in the world.
And finally, your testimony is just a beautiful story if it doesn’t impact your unbelieving audience. Paul at the end of his testimony turns it towards the king,
Acts 26:27-29 “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe." And Agrippa said to Paul, "In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?" And Paul said, "Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains."
Paul calls the king to repentance and trust in Jesus Christ, but Agrippa brushes him off. But in doing this Paul has fulfilled his duty to his audience to preach Christ. Paul preaches in order that everyone may be reconciled to God, to receive the awesome gift of salvation, to have gone from lost to found, to go from enemy to friend, to go from blind to seeing, and he calls everyone to it. This is the point of your testimony to unbelievers, to call them to repentance. If you share your testimony to believers then it is for edification, for building up by declaring the awesome works of God, and it is great, but in that setting you wouldn’t need to include a call to repentance.
Finally, two things that aren’t in Paul’s testimony are Heaven and Hell. He is pointing his testimony at Jesus Christ, not at a final destination. Paul believed fully in a Heaven and Hell, yet he doesn’t mention either because what he is trying to do is get people reconciled to God, not just to save them from Hell or get them to Heaven. Be fully aware that Eternal Life begins at the moment of regeneration and that a life reconciled to God through Christ is your goal.
In conclusion, your steps to sharing your testimony are:
1. Take every opportunity to share
2. Introduce yourself and find common ground if possible with your audience
3. Share your sins through the law
4. Explain how you were convicted of your sins
5. Describe how you heard that Jesus died for your sins and lived again
6. Express the grace you received the hour you first believed
7. Summarize the fruit that your life has borne since conversion
8. Recount the persecution you’ve faced for Christ’s sake
9. Defend your Saviour and the work he’s done in your life
10. Call your audience to repentance and reconciliation
Finally, your testimony may not be as dramatic as Paul’s, but there is an important quip to remember, that if you don’t have a conversion story, then you probably don’t have a conversion. You should be able to point to a day or a season in which your sins became very real to you, you went from loving the world to loving Christ, and your life started to bear fruit.
My testimony is posted on the website, please be sure to watch it; I hold pretty closely to this template, but of course this reference guide is just a suggestion and is not set in stone, as evidenced by other places Paul shares his testimony and emphasizes some points and excludes others, but this is a great place to witness for your Saviour, and one which will break through strongholds when others are blocked.
Canyon's Testimony (1 Part, 10 minutes)
David Berkowitz's Testimony (3 Parts, 22 minutes)