For that reason, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision
These are the words that the Apostle Paul addressed to King Agrippa. Paul's words shed an immense ray of light on the character and activity of the great apostle. In this portion of scripture, Paul gives his testimony to King Agrippa and Governor Festus. In this, Paul gives a very accurate picture of what he was like before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. By his own admission, he was truly a prosecutor.
Can you imagine the splendor, the ceremony, the showy display as Governor Festus, King Agrippa, Bernice and their ranking officials all entered the palace room? You can almost hear trumpets blaring. You can see them in their finery. Here they come parading in: proud, wealthy, and powerful. Each one wearing their fine, colorful garments as they take their seats. Of course their seats are raised, as they looked down on the poor folks who would come into their court to be heard and helped. Then here comes Paul, a small man, weighted down with chains. He shuffles into the room, stood for a moment, and when the investigation was formally handed over to King Agrippa by Festus, Paul begins his defense.
Paul speaks of his own vanity and pride. He wanted to make a name for himself by cleaning up the earth of “those” saints. Paul tells them of all the people he had killed. How he had accused Christians. How even when the Christians were dying he insulted them. He became more and more intoxicated with power because he had letters of authority. But then he gets to the critical turning point! It was mid-day and everyone was taking a rest, but Paul was not taking a rest, he was on a mission, rushing to kill people. However, he was stopped by a bright light from heaven. They had all fallen on the ground and Paul heard the words: I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting. Rise up. He then continues to tell his audience that since that day he has not been disobedient to that heavenly vision - the heavenly call that he had received from the LORD. Paul informs his hearers that he witnessed to all men-everywhere. He preached repentance and the need to turn to God and to do the works of repentance. He preached only the Scripture. He preached Christ’s death and resurrection. He told Agrippa and Festus that he was obedient to the heavenly vision, to the call of Jesus.
He lets them know that his call was from Jesus and he lets them know that he was the most unlikely person in the world to receive a call from God, but it came any way. The Lord Jesus appeared to him and called him and the call was a command, a demand, a charge, a mandate, a decree, an ultimatum, a stipulation, a claim and a dictate. Are you getting the message? The Lord’s call was not up for discussion or debate. There was no need to confer with family or friends, no need to seek out other people’s opinions concerning the call. The Lord called Paul and the Lord expected Paul to fulfill his call. Paul states emphatically that he had not disobeyed the heavenly call. The charges brought against Paul, who was now before King Agrippa, were unjust. He wanted them to know that he was not disobedient to God. He had been faithful to the Lord, doing exactly what the Lord wanted done. Yes, he was a sinner: but the Lord in His mercy saved and called him, and he was now obeying the Lord.
He tells them that the Lord commissioned him to preach to the Gentiles and the Lord promised to deliver him from them. Wow what courage!! Here is Paul speaking before two powerful Gentiles - a King and Governor, neither of whom can touch him because he has appealed to speak to Caesar, the Emperor, and yet he is able to preach the gospel to both of them. The Lord means business when HE calls a person. The call is from heaven; therefore it supersedes all other calls and interests. It is not up for discussion nor is it to be subjected to any other desire. God knows the need of the world for the gospel, and he knows whom HE wants to fill that need. So, the best thing to do when we hear the call from the Lord is to surrender to it...immediately!
Paul gave his resume in a few words. We get the impression that Paul said these words emphatically, and not as a weak, old man. He said them because he was filled with sorrow and full of affliction for his past but that the Lord saved a wretched like him and like us. Oh, that each of us Christians could say the same thing that we have not been disobedient to the call that we have received from the Lord.
I want to point something out, in this scenario. Who had the real power? Was it those who were dressed in their finery, or was it the crowd that was listening, or was it the one man who was in chains? The answer is the man in chains. Yes, Paul had the power. He spoke of a suffering Christ, of His resurrection from the dead - this is reality. This is the truth of the gospel. The swords and spears of the guards, the chain mail worn by the officers standing beside the governor and king, these are as delicate as fabric and just like fine cobwebs and temporary as butterfly wings. You see in this one instance that the power of this world is a fraud. The man in chains was the one who was really free. And those who proclaimed their freedom by their splendor and pageantry were really bound. That means that they were bound for all eternity in hell.
Paul was not only obedient in the good times when he was surrounded by victories and successes, but always even when others would feel their hearts freeze up and their throats get dry. Paul was obedient in spite of the ingratitude of those he loved most and by whom he was loved the least in every condition of his agitated existence: in poverty as also in abundance. Paul never wavered not even a single time. For Paul even death was considered gain. It would bring him to an encounter with Jesus, the object of his vision and the hope of his heart. He never allowed his heavenly vision to vanish. We all get tired, we all get hurt, we forget that heavenly vision that was given to us by our Lord. We have to be reminded that we need to draw from the fountain of life: Jesus Christ. We need to live in community with Christ.
In the history of King Xerses you can read that in order to maintain and keep his hatred against the Greeks alive, he gave orders to a slave to whisper in his ear every day at dinner time the words that said: “Remember the Greeks,” “Remember the Greeks.” As Christians we must always keep the infinite love of our Lord in our minds, “Remember the love of Jesus.” “Remember the love of Jesus.”
What is it that GOD has called you to in this New Year? Let's follow this lesson from the Apostle Paul and live out our calling! Do not be disobedient to your heavenly vision.