Testifying the Facts about Jesus Christ: Acts 23:1 – 22

October 16, 2016 – 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

by Pastor Pete Scheele

Grace and peace to you as you live in the assurance of God’s love, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Read Acts 23:1-22

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Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. When I feel afraid, think I’ve lost my way, still You’re there right beside me, nothing will I fear as long as You are near. Please be near me to the end.” (Verse 1 of Thy Word is a Lamp)

Can you hear the Apostle Paul singing or thinking these words as he stands before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish rulers? I can.  Here we are again with the Apostle Paul standing before the Jewish ruling council, so why isn’t he afraid of them beating him almost to death as they had tried to do only a day earlier?  Because he knows what the song says, “God’s right beside him, so nothing will I fear as long as You are near.” You see the Apostle Paul knew the truth of God’s Word and that’s why he could stand before the same council that condemned him to be beaten to death the day before and could say to them, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23: 1)

How many of us today could come up here and say those same words before all of us in good conscience?  We all should be able to do that, not because any of us are better than anyone else or that we have any more faith in God than anyone else but because of what God has done for us this morning at the start of our service. At the start of our service we confessed to God all our sins and iniquities knowing that we deserved God’s eternal punishment. We confessed that we are heartily sorry for each and every one of our sins and we asked for God’s boundless mercy for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.  In response to our confession of all our sins, I as your called servant of God, in the name of God announced the Grace of God upon each and every one of us, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That’s the truth of God’s Word that we testified to as we received the confession and absolution in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, this morning. So each and every one of us can stand up here and say, as the Apostle Paul did before the ruling council of the Jews, “Brothers and sisters in Christ, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.

But when the Apostle Paul said those words the High priest Ananias told those were standing near to the Apostle Paul to strike him. Why? Because the high priest Ananias though that the Apostle Paul was telling a lie.  If we spoke those words could someone come up here and strike us because we were lying?  Well in the Apostle Paul’s case the high priest Ananias knew that the Apostle Paul had broken every one of the ten commandments and I’m sure that could be said for each of us also, but the truth is that our life now is not judged upon what we have done, because if it was we would only be worthy of eternal death and destruction. No, our lives before God are made good and perfect because of what God has done for us. That’s what the Apostle Paul is testifying to in his statement.  It is not our works that gives us a good conscience about our life before God but the work of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ who not only came into this world to show us how to live with God, but took all our sins upon Himself and paid for them with His own life, by His crucifixion on the cross of Calvary and then rose again on the third day to give each of us the assurance of our forgiveness and a new life before God with a good conscience.

That’s what the second verse in the hymn that we just sang is talking about as it says; “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Now I will not forget Your love for me and yet my heart forever is wandering.  Jesus, be my guide and hold me to Your side, and I will love You to the end. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

The Apostle Paul wasn’t perfect, as we have read about over the past months, in our reading of the Acts of the Apostles.  We all wander away from God and His will in our lives, but as our song reminds us, “God’s Word is a Lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

It’s the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word and Sacraments that has brought us to faith in the truth of God’s love, grace and mercy for us.  It’s the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word and Sacraments as we partake in them here today in our Divine Service that keeps us in that faith and strengthens us so that when we loss our way in this world or the world seems to be against us that God is right there by our side guiding us back to Him.  Yes, as we have seen week after week these past months, it’s the Holy Spirit working our lives through God’s Word and Sacraments that enables us to stand with the Apostle Paul and others Christians and say, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” (Acts 23:6) Oh we might not use the word ‘Pharisee’ because our definition of a Pharisee has changed, but many of us here today could say, “Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I am a Christian, a son or a daughter of a Christian and it is with respect to the hope that I have in God and the resurrection of the dead given to me through Jesus Christ that I am on trial.”

As each of us let the Word of God be the lamp for our feet and the light that leads us on the path of righteousness we are on trial because we have a hope that the world is looking for and we know about the resurrection of the dead given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave.  When our life proclaims the hope and the resurrection only found in Jesus Christ there is dissension and sometime that dissension can turn into violence against us and God’s Church.  It happened to the Apostle Paul in our reading of the Acts of the Apostles and it’s happens in our world today in many places and in many ways. The devil and the sin filled world doesn’t want the light of God’s Word to shine as a lamp for our feet or as light to the path of our heavenly hope. But God is there right by our side just like he was for the Apostle Paul, to guided people like the Roman Tribune to command the soldiers to take the Apostle Paul to safety.

Yes, God is standing by our side; just as He did for the Apostle Paul, and says to us, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me here, so you must also testify in other places.” (Acts 23:11) Today by your witness of God’s love, grace and mercy you are testifying to the facts of Jesus Christ to all those who are here today, to all those who know that you are here today and to all of those who you will share God’s love, grace and mercy with in the coming days and weeks.  What are the facts that we need to testify to in this world?  I’m sure that we all know them, but I ask you to look at the hymn on the other side of the bulletin insert that we just sang the hymn from and you will find the word to the song, “My Redeemer.”  Philip Bliss in this hymn testifies to the facts about Jesus Christ, in this old American hymn that he wrote over a hundred years ago just before he got on a train for Chicago that crashed into the Ohio River when the bridge failed as the train went over it.  Listen to the word that Philip Bliss testifies to, for these are the facts of Jesus that the Apostle Paul testified to and these are the facts that I’m sure we will be able to testify to with God’s help in each of us also.

I will sing of my Redeemer, And His wondrous love to me; On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.  Sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer, With His blood, He purchased me. On the cross, He sealed my pardon, Paid the debt, and made me free.

I will tell the wondrous story, How my lost estate to save, In His boundless love and mercy, He the ransom freely gave. Sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer, With His blood, He purchased me. On the cross, He sealed my pardon, Paid the debt, and made me free.

I will praise my dear Redeemer, His triumphant power I’ll tell, How the victory He giveth Over sin, and death, and hell. Sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer, With His blood, He purchased me. On the cross, He sealed my pardon, Paid the debt, and made me free.

I will sing of my Redeemer, And His heavenly love to me; He from death to life hath brought me, Son of God with Him to be. Sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer, With His blood, He purchased me. On the cross, He sealed my pardon, Paid the debt, and made me free.

What can we learn from this account of the Acts of the Apostles?  1st, That God is with us always and is the lamp to our feet and the light to our path to heaven. 2nd, That Jesus has redeemed us from all our sins and therefore we can with the Apostle Paul say, “I have lived my life before God in all good conscience through my savior Jesus Christ.” 3rd, That God wants us to testify to the facts of Jesus Christ and He will provide us with the ways to do it the best.  So testify the facts about Jesus Christ in your life, in your words and in your actions so that others may come to know the love, grace and mercy of God and find the hope only found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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