Today’s text is a great example of how Christians should respond to persecution from the authorities God places above us. We see how the apostle Paul interacts with both Tertullus and Felix while being persecuted for his faith and under their civil authority. And just like the apostle Paul, as Christians in today’s culture, we must know how to respond to persecution from authorities over us, whether that’s with non-Christian parents, the government, education, at work, etc.
Here are some things we learn from this chapter bout that:
- Put yourself in a place where you can speak from a clear conscience (v. 16, 20-21)
First off, know it’s going to be hard for you to move forward with any of the other items if you can’t speak from a good conscience. A big part of that is not responding to authority the WRONG way so God can use you, that season, and your witness.
- Show honor & respect to the authorities above you (v. 10)
Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t speak out, protest, change unfair/unjust laws, or even rebel/fight back when it’s necessary (ex. genocide, slavery, etc). Here’s what Watchman Nee said about this when imprisoned for his faith in China.
“Authority is a tremendous thing in the universe. Nothing overshadows it. God’s throne is established on His authority. God’s authority represents God Himself. God alone is authority in all things; all the authorities of the earth are instituted by God. It is therefore important for us who desire to serve God to know the authority of God. God’s authority is absolute, hence we must give Him absolute submission (our heart’s attitude) and absolute obedience (our outward actions). But to His delegated authorities we can render absolute submission, but only relative obedience. For their authorities are circumscribed by the measure of the life of Christ in them. Only when they themselves submit to God’s authority in them are they able to represent God. Hence there is much we have to learn about how to represent God with authority.”
- Speak of your Faith in Jesus Christ (Share the Gospel) (v. 24)
No matter what, this can be an opportunity to point out that authority and others to the Gospel. You must view it in this way.
- Righteousness & Morality Matters (v. 25)
This is not rubbing in the face, judgmental mention of how righteous and moral you are and they are not, but it is pointing to ethics that matter. Listen, we suck. We really do. Sometimes I wonder if we should just give up pointing others to our counter-cultural morality knowing how sinful we still are. But we do have to. Because it really does matter to God, and it matters with our fruit and witness.
- Show Self-Control (v. 25)
Christ-centered self-control is important to discuss AND show in these times. When you are attacked it’s hard not to be on the attack yourself. That’s why I believe it was being discussed in the midst of this persecution here in Acts 24.
- Acknowledge the Coming Judgment (v. 25)
Whatever you truly believe about authority or however you respond to authority, the truth of the matter is you will be under it at the great judgment. For some Christians it’s reminding others about it (hopefully not in a weird, cheesy, scary way but it is true). For others, it’s acknowledging it for your current situation and season of being persecuted. God is just and will bring justice. He’s the true authority and judge so you can trust he will make wrongs right.
- What do you need to work on when under persecution from authority above you?
By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor