Sunday, August 19, 2012

Think First, Acts 22:22-23:11

We’ve all done it, haven’t we? We’ve all said something we wish we could’ve taken back. We’ve all made stupid choices in haste without thinking through the consequences. We’ve all wanted to take back words and actions. Much pain and confusion could be avoided if only we would think first. The same is true of our characters in today’s Scripture passage. We see folks speaking and acting rashly. First is Lysias the tribune. Lysias had already presumed Paul was another criminal. He has since learned that Paul is a Jew, not an Ethiopian. He has allowed Paul to speak, and Paul shared his testimony. But Paul has been interrupted by the crowd again calling for Paul’s death. Once again, Paul is taken away. Lysias is determined to get to the truth by having it flogged out of Paul. Lysias is acting without thinking. He doesn’t know this man at all. Paul is spared the flogging by asking his would be punisher if it is legal for him to flog an uncondemned Roman citizen. The centurion goes to Lysias and tells him Paul is a Roman citizen. It would have been illegal for Paul to be physically harmed in any way as a prisoner until proven guilty, in fact he shouldn’t even have been bound! This could have cost both men their jobs and resulted in their own beatings and imprisonments. Not only is Paul a Roman citizen, he is one by birth, whereas Lysias paid for his citizenship status--all the more reason that Paul should have been protected and given rights under due process as a Roman citizen. Lysias and his henchmen are now fearful, for Paul has the right to press charges against them. Paul does not, but Paul does demand justice. All this could have been avoided if Lysias had thought first and if Lysias had followed proper protocol. His fear of a riot led him to treat Paul as if Paul were guilty. We learn proper ways of doing things for a reason. How often have shortcuts only ended up making things worse? How many times have you had to backpedal when doing things the right way the first time, would have saved a lot of trouble? More importantly, how can we act rightly if we do not know the truth? Lysias should have asked Paul directly who he was and what was going on. He assumed before he knew. We cannot afford to assume truth. We must seek it out and act on truth, not on assumptions. The next guilty party for not thinking before acting is Paul himself! Lysias brings in the Jewish leaders so that he can hear why they are demanding Paul’s death. As Paul once again starts to defend himself, Ananias, the high priest, orders his lackeys to hit Paul on the mouth. Paul says to him, “God will strike you, you white-washed wall!” A normal reaction for sure, but not the smartest one! But those near him point out that he has slandered the high priest. Though Paul’s trial parallels the Maundy Thursday/Good Friday trials of Jesus, Paul is not Jesus. He is not silent, and he speaks foolishly. Paul is not perfect. He is a sinner just like us. Paul backpedals and says he didn’t know that Ananias was the high priest. Whether Paul really knew or not is to be debated. But Paul was wise enough to know that name calling, even though true, wasn’t going to help his case, and as Paul himself quotes, this name-calling is contrary to God’s word. In quoting the text, Paul calls himself to repentance. Just because something may be true doesn’t make it necessary if it causes harm. We too lapse easily into name calling when we are treated unjustly. We even lapse into name calling when someone does something we don’t like. How guilty are we of resorting to name calling over politics and religion or over someone’s opinions? And social media hasn’t helped us much. I think people are much nastier to each other through electronic communication then they would ever be to someone’s face. Name-calling is never helpful. A former boss of mine passed along this advice—when you have something to say, check first: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If it’s not true, it’s not worth repeating—it’s gossip. If it isn’t kind, then make sure it is necessary. Are we as quick to repent over our hasty words, hasty actions, and reactions as Paul was? Paul reminded himself, or was reminded by the Holy Spirit, what the law said about people in authority. We might remember that Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. Or we might call to mind that we also are instructed to submit to those in authority. Paul is able to calm himself down, though he has been hit unjustly, and analyze the situation. In taking those moments, he is able to deflect the attention from himself and expose his accusers. Paul says plainly that he is on trial because he preaches the resurrection. This causes infighting between the Pharisees, who believe in resurrection, and the Sadducees, who do not, as some Pharisee scribes wanted to exonerate Paul. The tribune removes Paul from the room because once again, Paul’s accusers lapse into mob mentality. Paul truthfully states in simple terms that he is on trial for preaching THE resurrection. He is being persecuted for preaching the resurrection of Jesus. His persecution had nothing to do with breaking Jewish laws or defiling the Temple, but for proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. His Pharisee brothers concede that Paul is not guilty of any mortal crime. He is at most deluded and perhaps, even speaks by divine inspiration. Most importantly, Paul is vindicated by the Lord, who appears standing by him, telling him to be of good cheer, for Paul must also bear witness in Rome, where Paul has been longing to go. Even when we are treated unjustly, we need to think first. It is better that we are treated unjustly and find our vindication in Christ as Paul does when Jesus validates Paul’s testimony, then to give our accusers further reason to find fault with us. When we slow down and analyze the situation before we speak or act rashly, we are far less likely to end up with our foot in our mouths or lying in bed awake at night thinking of what we should have said or done instead. When we slow down, we are more likely to be led by the Spirit then by our flight or fight reaction. We can have the confidence that Scripture tells us that we don’t have to worry about what we are going to say, but the Spirit will put words in our mouth. Letting the Spirit speak through us requires that we submit our automatic responses to God and pause. When we stop being defensive, we will find that we can truly testify as Paul did.


Anonymous Matthew Perri said...

What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? Here are 5 to get the discussion started:

.1) Paul’s boastful conflicting false testimonies, exaggerating and making things up about his conversion experience in Acts 22 & 26, compared to what actually happened (recorded by Luke in Acts 9).

.2) Paul lying to the Ephesian elders saying he was “compelled by the Spirit” going to Jerusalem, when in truth he was clearly disobeying God. [Acts 19:21 - 22:21]
3) Paul exaggerating his ministry in Ephesus claiming it was “3 years night and day with tears” when really it was 3 months in the synagogue and 2 years daily in a lecture hall.
[Acts 20:31 vs Acts 19:8-10]

.4) Paul abandoning the Church in Corinth after a year and a half for no obvious reason, and going off on another long trip, mostly on his own, without appointing anyone else in Corinth as overseer, or giving anyone else any specific authority in the Church in Corinth.
[Acts 18]

.5) Paul acting as an abusive absentee overseer / pastor to the Church in Corinth years after he abandoned them, and clinging to all power and claim to control of money and all aspects of the church ministry, while he was hundreds of miles away teaching full-time in his own school in Ephesus. [1 & 2 Corinthians.]

Paul is the “model pastor” for many modern “Pauls” like;

Bob Coy, who still owns all the assets and controls all the money at his cult known as Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, in spite of his recent resignation as “Senior Pastor” there due to adultery with multiple woman and other major sins that he still has never specifically admitted to personally.

Greg Laurie, the Boss of a wide-ranging personal cult empire that generally goes by the name of “Harvest.” Greg lives in Newport Beach, commutes by helicopter, and exploits the very large church he founded in Riverside from a distance, while he does his own thing in Orange County and travels around wherever he feels like, building a personal business empire with himself as the center, not Jesus.

June 14, 2014 at 7:06 PM

Blogger Pastor Parato said...

Dear Matthew,
I do not see the major discrepencies in Paul's testimony from Acts 9. Obviously, Luke writes all of Acts. He would have used multiple sources for Acts 9, including Paul himself. The only major question is how much did the others with Paul hear? Was it a loud noise that they did not understand as a voice?
Just because Paul was warned about the dangers he would face in Jerusalem does not mean that he was not compelled by the Holy Spirit. In fact, I have heard numerous testimonies of those who felt/experienced the closeness of God's presence and the surety of God's will precisely as something terrible was about to happen. This occurs especially in areas where access to the Bible is limited and the Church is persecuted such as in Islamic countries and North Korea.
Just because Paul's ministry moved locations does not mean that he stopped ministering to some of the same people who were with him from the beginning.
I agree that acts 18 isn't crystal clear in regard to who the remaining leadership was in Corinth. Perhaps Crispus as he was already head of the synagogue and a believer? It is clear that Apollos went there later, even before I Corinthians was written, but you may very well correct that there was a leadership gap, which could have contributed to the later problems in the church.
Our I Corinthians was written as a response to an ambassadorial visit to Corinth by Timothy at Paul's request. (Maybe Paul did feel concern over the lack of leadership.) Our II Corinthians was written in response to communication received from that church--in other words, II Corinthians was invited correspondence. They wanted their questions answered.
Certainly Paul was not perfect and had a tendency towards arrogance and being short-tempered and impatient. He was a sinner indeed as we all are. Our conclusions in regard to the split in Acts 15 is the same, and certainly, I tried to point out that Paul was wrong in his speech in this passage as well.
As for the folks you've mentioned, it sounds as if you are disillusioned by the failures of leaders in your denomination. I understand, as I am with mine. I do not know the specifics, but I fully agree that someone like Bob Coy should be removed from ministry, at least temporarily, and that Greg Laurie needs to be more transparent with finances and held accountable. Are you aware of the work of the Trinity Foundation in Dallas, TX? You may find some help and support there.

June 24, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Anonymous Matthew Perri said...

Dear Pastor Parato,
While I appreciate you taking time to respond, you seem not to have really looked at the Bible texts that I was referencing.

Acts 22 & 26 are Luke's record of Paul talking about himself and his experience, which Luke accurately records in Acts 9. Paul doesn't even agree with himself. He makes things up, exaggerating and making himself appear more important than he really was. You have the texts, you can compare them, particularly Acts 9 vs Acts 26.

Luke didn't make mistakes, he just recorded Paul's sins.

We have been trained to do the Evangelical "Mexican Hat Dance"

Sin is always specific, not general.
The "Hat" is, "What were Paul's sins?"

The music starts, with a cheery blast of trumpets in a melody that is familiar to most North Americans- the “Mexican Hat Dance.” (The national dance of Mexico, taught in Mexican public schools since 1921, and officially named “El Jarabe Tapatio.”)

A couple in rather elaborate traditional costumes begins the dance. The man throws his huge sombrero hat on the floor, and the couple dances around it, but never steps on the hat. (The “Hat” is, “what were Paul’s sins?”) Here are the basic steps- (there may be one or two other basic steps, but they are very similar to these.)

What were Paul’s sins?

STEP 1) Paul said; “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” [1 Timothy 1:13]
(Response- Those were Saul's sins, before Jesus called him. What were Paul’s sins as a Christian? )

STEP 2) Paul said; “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst.” [1 Timothy 1:15]
(Response- Sin is alwasy specific. What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? )

STEP 3) Paul said; “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23]
(Response- Again the same question; What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? )

STEP 4) Paul said; “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” [Philippians 3:12-13]
(Response- They say third time's a charm. Same question; What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? )

STEP 5) Paul said; “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing.” [Romans 7:15-19]
(Response- One more time! This is getting boring. Same question; Specifically, what were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian based on specific verses of the Bible? )

STEP 6) LOOP- REPEAT steps 1 through 5, until your dance partner gives up, the audience gets bored, or the music stops. The rule is- never step on the “Hat,” just keep dancing around it.

July 13, 2014 at 11:48 PM


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