It’s such a sure thing that you can usually set your clocks by it. If you’re effective in reaching people with the Good News and in furthering God’s Kingdom, you can expect that the Enemy will give you his attention. And one of his favorite means of working against the Church has always been that of false accusations. During the early years of the Church—after the Apostles’ era—Christians were routinely accused of fomenting sedition against the Roman government, of cannibalism, and of incest. Of course none of these were true. Our foremost author of the New Testament told us to submit to governing authorities. The charge of cannibalism came from the fact that during the Lord’s Supper we recited verses in which we mentioned “eating his body” and “drinking his blood.” And the reason we were suspected of incest is because men and women referred to each other as “brother” and “sister”; even husbands and wives did so.
So when Paul’s enemies were on the lookout for anything with which to accuse him, they finally found something. They saw him with some men, and they'd earlier seen him with a Gentile walking through the city streets. So they accused him of bringing a Gentile into the temple area. But notice the first accusation, the one they hoped would really stir up murderous passions. Supposedly Paul had somehow taught “against” the Jewish people and law and temple. This was the real justification for rioting and murder!
But of course none of this was legitimate. True, Paul had taught that we’re justified by faith in Christ, not by observing the Law. And he taught that Gentiles were accepted before God on the same basis as Jews. But the real unspoken issue--the elephant in the room, so to speak--was the nature of Jesus. Was he a charlatan and a false teacher and a false Messiah? If so, then the religious leadership was perfectly right in rejecting and condemning him. But if he was who he said he was, then that changes things! The issue of contention always was, and always shall be, who Jesus is.
Please keep in this mind. Why was Paul at the temple in the first place? He was there to help some observant Jewish brothers keep to Jewish religious tradition. He himself was a practicing Jew, except in the matter of witnessing to Gentiles. He thoroughly believed in the inspiration of the Torah. He completely accepted the divine authority of the Prophets. His custom was to worship among fellow Jews whenever he could. So this accusation that he was counseling fellow Jews to abandon their heritage was pure nonsense.
Is there anything completely new for us here? Not really. I just thought we all needed a couple of reminders:
• If you’re falsely accused, then don’t be surprised. You might think from some peoples’ reactions that our Lord didn’t forewarn us about this. He did. Repeatedly. Here’s just one sample: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” I mean, they did it to our Savior at his trial, and we certainly can’t expect that a servant is going to be treated better than his master, can we?
• If you’re accused, please let it be a false accusation. Just like in Daniel's case, Paul’s enemies had to make something up against him. When our enemies attack us, I hope that they have to resort to the same tactics. I for one am getting really tired of God’s name being blasphemed among nonbelievers because of something a Christian actually did, aren’t you?
So how about you? If you actually got accused of some gross misconduct, would it be a false accusation, or would they have a legitimate point?
Father God, for all the times that my actual conduct brings shame to your name, I’m so sorry. Please help me to change, and please may everything I do and say point them straight to you.
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