[In responding to the accusations made against him, Paul denied they were true, and then went on to say:] "But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people."
— Acts 24:14-16 NLT
Paul was willing to admit that he was part of the Christian movement that followed "the Way." He acknowledged that it was connected to the faith of sincere and law-abiding Israelites. The faith Paul embraced was consistent with the Jewish prophets, and his hope was anchored in Jesus' resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In Paul's defense, the connection to the Israelite faith was essential for legal reasons. However, we need to recognize that connection as part of our spiritual heritage as well.* On the one hand, Paul was willing to be blamed for or accused of following Jesus of Nazareth as the Jewish Messiah. On the other hand, he wasn't going to let false allegations go unchallenged — see yesterday's Unstoppable. Paul was not afraid of suffering or martyrdom for his faith, ministry, and mission in Christ Jesus.** He was, however, not going to suffer unnecessarily, so he disputed untrue accusations against him. He used every legal right he had to protect himself and his ministry — as we see in the unfolding story of the rest of Acts. His example in the ordeal he faced during the last eight chapters of Acts helps us discern how we should approach unfairness, false accusations, and threats made against us and our faith.
O Father, I need your help as I seek to live for Jesus in a world that seems to be growing more hostile to the Christian faith. I want to passionately pursue your standards of morality, righteousness, and character. I want to value each person as someone made in your image and for whom you have a purpose in life. So, dear Father, please help me know how to navigate criticism, slander, and persecution with a grace that opens people to the message of Jesus. At the same time, Father, I want to use all the legal power available to me to protect the ministry and mission you have for me. Give me the wisdom, dear God, to keep these principles in balance and use me to bless others on their way to know Jesus as Lord. I pray this in his name. Amen.