Sermon Notes & Slides
Except for These Chains
Tony Chute, Interim Pastor
Overview: During Paul’s stay in Caesarea, he takes the opportunity to defend himself against false charges while proclaiming the gospel to the governor, Felix, and Drusilla, his wife. Two years later, Paul is brought before Festus who suggests having a trial in Jerusalem, leading Paul to appeal to Caesar in hopes of a just and fair hearing. The subsequent visit by King Agrippa provides yet another opportunity for Paul to share the account of his conversion and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps most revealing is the fact that Paul no longer believes people should be forced to accept his religious views; rather, he seeks to persuade all people to believe in Christ without persecution or government coercion. Paul’s appearance before Roman officials provides a model for Christians to embrace as we consider the relationship between church and state.
01. Church and state are institutions ordained by God, which function best as separate entities. They have different members, different interests, and different means of accomplishing their ends.
02. As citizens of the state, Christians should respect those who are in authority; obey laws that do not conflict with God’s commands; and work within systems that promote a just society.
03. As children of God, Christians should share their faith as opportunities arise; suffer on account of the gospel; and recognize God as the ultimate authority and judge over all.
Questions For Discussion & Discovery
1. In light of Ananias and the elders’ approach to justice, in which they solicited help from Felix, the governor, what cautions might we take regarding the influence of church leaders seeking to share power with government officials? How did their personal interests conflict with justice for Paul?
2. When Felix heard Paul speak, he trembled and then dismissed him (Acts 24:24-25). What might have accounted for Felix’s reaction? What part of Paul’s message might non-Christians find personally disturbing? Pray that whenever you share the gospel with others, and after you leave their presence, the Spirit of God will convict them of their sins and the need to believe in Jesus.
3. Picture in your mind the image of Agrippa and Bernice entering the audience hall with great pomp and circumstance (Acts 25:23). How might this image change when you picture Agrippa and Bernice standing before God on the Day of Judgment (see Daniel 7:9-10)? Pray that you will honor God above all so that you will not be taken in by the powerful forces of this world in exchange for the glories of the world to come.
4. What was Paul’s practice towards Christians prior to his conversion (Acts 26:9-11)? How did Paul’s perspective change with regard to dealing with non-believers after his conversion? What would you say to a person who believes Christians want to force others to accept Christ? Why is it better to persuade people to become Christians rather than to prosecute those who are not?
5. This section ends with a declaration of Paul’s innocence (Acts 26:31). What is the significance of this statement in terms of Paul’s witness to the life-changing power of the gospel? How does being a Christian enable you to show respect for laws that do not contradict the Word of God? See Romans 13:1-7 for further insight.
For Further Reading: Bruce Riley Ashford, Letters to an American Christian (B&H Books, 2018).