“And Festus said: 'King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him. I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write...'” Acts 25:24-26
After Paul had been in prison for years by the time this account in Acts was written, I have to ask myself, “What was driving these Jews to continue year after year to seek for the execution of Paul?” Well as we all know, Paul was not sitting idly in prison buying his time. Rather, he was writing letters to the churches he had established among the Gentiles (letters we have proof of as they make up a good part of our New Testament). The Jews who were against the talk about Jesus having been raised from the dead, the grace God desired to extend to the Gentiles outside the Jewish faith, and the fact that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jewish nation did not sit well with them.
These Jews were quite happy, and wanted that happiness they had established in their religion and their rituals to continue. But instead of agreeing with these Jews, Paul was putting before the people he preached to the ability to access God outside the Jewish man-made religious ways. The Jews therefore were not delighted with the freedom Paul was spreading about this seemingly open access to the kingdom of God or about Jesus.
The lifestyle Paul was prescribing was like mud in the face for these devout “clean” Jews who felt they had God and His ways all figured out. They wanted to find peace in the practices they were keeping so in turn they could say they were righteous before God without having to give up control of the rituals they held so dear to. It was for these reasons the Jews were seeking to execute Paul, not because of anything Paul did to them directly.
Have you ever felt like people find your commitment to God offending to their lifestyle even though you do nothing to directly offend them? If so, you are in good company. True Christians, living by the Spirit of truth, since the beginning of the church have had to deal with those who have disliked them for just the plain fact their lives confront the believes they hold onto so dearly. These believers by no ill-will of their own have shone too much light on the darkness of the lives of those around them and their empty ways of pursuing purpose, love, and acceptance.
When writing Psalm 5, David hit the nail on the head when he stated this about those type of people:
“For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue. Psalm 5:9
And, he then proceeded to tell us how to respond to those types of people as they confront us:
Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against You.” Psalm 5:10
God knows who is seeking Him in truth, who is serving Him with a sincere heart, and who is performing religious activities out of love for Him verses the empty practices of those who want to just appease a religious obligation and feel self-righteous. We do not need to do anything to stop those who accuse us, because before God they are already accused. And, just like Paul had to deal with a life of imprisonment because of the accusations brought against him, we too will more than likely have to suffer limitations to how we function here on this earth because of those who oppose us.
But be encouraged! Just as Paul was able to do his greatest work within the confines of his prison walls, we too, if we choose to live for God every day in the circumstances He does not stop from coming our way from our accusers, can find our greatest work in the places we have been pushed to live within the confines of.