28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains” (Acts 26:28–29, NKJV).
Roman authorities had already imprisoned Paul for more than two years (Acts 24:27). Now, before the Roman governor Festus and King Herod Agrippa II, Paul defended his faith and the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 25:21-26:23). His compelling rehearsal of Christ’s appearance, appointment, and commission of Paul as an apostle, coupled with his obedient preaching to the Gentiles, supported his conclusion that the gospel fulfilled Moses and the prophets. Festus rejected the gospel out of hand, but Herod, who believed the prophets and had witnessed the events of which Paul spoke, was almost persuaded by the apostle’s words of “truth and reason” (Acts 26:24-28). Although imprisoned, Paul was genuinely free while his audience was in sin’s bondage (John 8:32, 34, 36). Paul was not vindictive, bitter, and hateful over his false imprisonment. He did not rail at Festus and Agrippa. Instead, he desired their salvation. Paul’s defense became an opportunity to preach the saving gospel for their benefit. Even so, may we not be blinded by the injustices of others. Our desire must ever be their salvation in Christ. We must continue to “speak the truth in love” as Paul did that day (Eph. 4:15). Some will be persuaded, obey the gospel, and be saved from sin (Acts 28:30-31; Phil. 1:13; 4:22).
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15–18, NKJV)
Some people preach the gospel from evil motives. Others preach the gospel from godly motives. Paul made this observation while imprisoned in Rome for Christ’s sake (Phil. 1:13). Some were preaching Christ out of envy for the apostle, attempting to foment strife against him. Driven by selfish ambition, they pretended affection for the cause of Christ. But, they only loved themselves. Their insincerity became obvious, as they aimed to harm the apostle, not help him in his bonds. Others were preaching Christ out of goodwill and love, knowing the apostle was determined to defend the gospel. Amazingly, Paul rejoiced that the gospel was being preached, even though some preachers’ motives were evil. He did not seek personal vindication, he sought the progress of the gospel and the salvation of souls. Even if a gospel teacher’s motives are shown to be evil, rejoice in the truth he has taught. And, do not blame the truth when men, including preachers, sin against it. One man’s sin against the truth is not your license to reject the truth.
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1 Peter 3:13–15, NKJV)
Peter does not say Christians will be free from harm when we follow what is good. On the contrary, suffering for the sake of righteousness will happen. God blesses the Christian who endures such troubles and threats (cf. Matt. 5:10-12). Just as God assured Isaiah that He was his “sanctuary” (holy abode and sure protection) in the face of opposition, so the Lord is for us (v. 14; Isa. 8:12-14). As you “sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart” (NASB), you will be equipped with the necessary faith to be prepared to give an answer for your hope in Christ. So that, even when you suffer for what is good, you will not grow weary. If Christ is not Lord of your life, then you will not long endure suffering for the sake of what is right. Instead of faltering when defamed for being a Christian, let us say with Paul, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
9 Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. 10 My defense is of God, who saves the upright in heart. (Psalm 7:9–10, NKJV)
Let it be clearly understood that wickedness does not triumph over the people of God. God in His righteousness protects the just, for their hearts and minds are stayed on Him. God is our shield, defending us from the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Notably, it is the “upright in heart” who have this spiritual protection and salvation, since God is well aware of the workings of our minds and passions. What type of heart does God see in you? Are you passionate for what is just and righteous? Or, has wickedness deceived you with its baseless promises of fulfillment? Keep your faith in God and remain upright in heart. God establishes, protects and saves all whose hearts are devoted to what is upright and just.