01/12/T – Our Living Hope

1 Chronicles 5:18-6:30; Acts 26:1-8; Psalms 6:6-10; Proverbs 3:9-10

NT: “Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense: “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially since you are very knowledgeable about all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. “All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand on trial because of the hope in what God promised to our ancestors, the promise our twelve tribes hope to reach as they earnestly serve him night and day. King Agrippa, I am being accused by the Jews because of this hope.” (‭‭Acts‬ ‭26:1-7‬ ‭CSB)

Two years after Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and held captive in Caesarea, Felix’s term as procurator ended and transitioned to Porcius Festus. With a new Governor in place, the Jews in Jerusalem attempted once again to gain custody of Paul so that they could put him to death. After defending himself before Festus , instead of being remanded to the Jews, Paul made an appeal to Caesar. Festus agreed to have Paul sent to Rome to stand before Caesar, but he needed charges that would hold up in Roman court. Shortly after, King Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice made a state visit to Festus. While they were there, Festus decided to seek Agrippa’s advice on what charges to apply to Paul’s case. So once again, Paul gave his defense… and in giving his defense, he shared the gospel.

Paul’s defense was that he had done nothing wrong, and that the only accusation against him was his belief in the hope promised of God and foretold by the prophets. The hope that he had was the hope of Israel. What was that hope that he refused to deny? Specifically, Paul’s hope was in a bodily resurrection, but the hope of Paul and the hope of all Israel went far deeper than just a bodily resurrection. The hope of Israel was the hope of an eternal inheritance. Psalm 2 spoke of an Anointed One to come who would be known as the Son of God. God the Father would give the Anointed Son the inheritance of the nations of the earth, and through the Son would come God’s justice. Paul and the Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection of both the righteous and unrighteous alike (Acts 24:15), but the promised hope of an eternal inheritance was only available to the righteous. God’s judgement awaited the unrighteous. That is why Paul stated that the Pharisees and a remnant comprised of all Israel strived night and day to serve God and be found righteous… all for the hope of an eternal inheritance. Hebrews chapter 11 lists generation after generation of people who remained faithful to the Lord, but died never having received the promise of God… but died in hopes of a bodily resurrection by which they would receive their inheritance. There is one big glaring issue with this hope, and that is around the reality of righteousness. Mankind as a race is stained and infected with sin, and is incapable of living a holy and righteous life. No one in the human race can earn righteousness. Righteousness can only be given by God. The only way that humanity can be made righteous is to be made new… spiritually reborn into a sinless state. In Ezekiel 37, the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of a vast army of bones being made alive again… and then brought to life by being filled with the very Spirit of God… saved, cleansed, and able to receive the inheritance promised to them.

Paul came to realize that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Anointed Son of God that would receive the promised inheritance from the Father. He believed that Jesus was born into humanity but was not born from sinful man… that He was the offspring of a virgin woman (Genesis 3:15) and conceived by the Holy Spirit. He believed that Jesus lived a sinless life and thus could be a satisfactory sacrifice to pay for the sins of the human race. He believed, that through Jesus’ death, the debt of sin was paid in full… but Paul also believed that Jesus rose from the dead bodily, defeated the power of sin and death, and ascended into heaven to receive the inheritance promised to Him from long before. Paul believed that by placing faith in both the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, he and anyone else would have their prior record expunged, would be dead to their former sinful selves, and would be made into spiritually new creations that were alive and empowered for righteousness by the very Holy Spirit of God. Paul believed that because Jesus was resurrected bodily, he would be resurrected bodily… and because through Christ his sinfulness was removed; by faith in Christ, he would rise one day to receive the joint inheritance that was promised. Paul had the same hope that all Israel hoped for… but Paul’s hope wasn’t simply a promise passed down over generations of faithful people. Paul’s hope was a present reality. Paul’s hope was alive and seated at the right hand of God the Father… and Paul’s hope had a guarantee that was abiding in him in the form of the Holy Spirit of God. For that sure hope, Paul was willing to live his life and give his life – which is why he said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” We can have that same sure hope through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

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