Text: Acts 21:37-40, Acts 22:1-30, Acts 23:1-11, 1 Peter 3:21-22, Hebrews 10:19-22
In the last few verses of Acts 21, we find Paul has been arrested yet again and taken by Roman soldiers to the barracks. There he makes his defense, culminating in the reality that he is a Roman citizen and, as such, cannot be treated like he is being treated (Acts 22:23-29). When the Romans realize they have made a serious political mistake, they hand him over to the Jews, where Paul pulls the same defense—that he is one of them, a Pharisee and a son of Pharisees (Acts 23:6). That’s some impressive genealogical gymnastics, and it’s a lesson for us all.
Who are we?
My pastor once said that every time the Enemy comes to remind him of his sin, he reminds the Enemy he’s right.
He is a liar.
He is guilty of the lust of the flesh.
He is like a murderer in his heart.
He is a thief, a scoundrel, and an unworthy son of God.
But no matter what we are or what we’ve done, the truest thing about us is who we are in Jesus. As my pastor so faithfully reminds me, Christ has taken our sin and borne it on our behalf. So though we are guilty of countless things, we are not identified by them.
The Enemy is a liar, but his best tactic is to take the truth and twist it just enough—leave out enough of the whole truth—that I am caught in his lair. I forget who I am, or I exaggerate who I am, or I minimize it. And, what’s more, I forget who God is.
In this passage, Paul is caught in the lair of two enemies—the Romans and the Jews—and his best defense is to say the whole truth to both.
To the Romans, he is a Roman citizen by birthright. He is endowed with all the rights and perks of his citizenship. And to the Jews, he is a Pharisee of Pharisees. He is a prince of Pharisees, student of the Torah, and righteous rabbi. Paul is not swinging from two extremes in this passage; he is telling the truth—the whole truth.
So often we get caught in the web of lies about who we are and who God is. In those moments, it’s easy to forget the cross, the blood of Christ, the resurrection, and the hope of eternity. It’s easy to forget who we are by our birth in Christ.
In those moments, remember Paul. Say to the Enemy who comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10), “I know who I am and who God is. I know my sin and my wrongdoing. And I know that all the righteousness of God has covered over me.”
We, like Paul, are on trial with “respect to the hope and resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6). And, friend, we will one day rise again with all the people of our eternal home country. Until then, this is the gospel antidote to the lies of our enemy: “Yes, but…”
…we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One.
He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…
- 1 John 2:1-2
Lore Wilbert is the Director of Community and Formation at Park Church, Denver, and writer at Sayable.net. Find her on twitter @lorewilbert.