“22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:22-24 (ESV)
Passionate words from Paul. It is hard to imagine this. Knowing the hardships that are going to face you for the gospel and yet being compelled to go at the same time. Paul has never intentionally looked for trouble, we have seen him try to avoid murderous plots before. But then he won’t let it keep him from doing his job either. Compelled to go to Jerusalem and yet still warned by him concerning the trouble that awaits him there.
He doesn’t count his own life of any value. He writes the Philippian’s that to live is Christ and to die is gain. He knows that he will be better off in heaven. He signed away this life with his baptism, it has been claimed by God. He will do his Lord’s will, he knows his life is forfeit. All he cares about is testifying to the grace of God. The Lord died for him so he is now ready to die for the Lord.
This is profound faith, the result of having been forgiven much. Paul who once considered himself the most righteous of the righteous. But then he saw where the righteousness of man leads. The righteousness of man is good for what it is, serving the peace and tranquility of community. But when it is confused with righteousness before God, it becomes an affront. Before God our only righteousness is his forgiveness alone, confirmed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, whom Paul’s earthly righteousness of man had led him to persecute. It was through this righteousness that Paul had sought to secure his life. Now that he has the righteousness of Christ he is willing to give up his life entirely.
Today you hear people say, “I can be a good person without Christ.” Yes, you can. And no, you really can’t. This is the kind of reliance on the righteousness of man, earthly righteousness that is an affront to God. It confuses God with your neighbor, and your neighbor isn’t near as forgiving as Christ. It’s the kind of righteousness that in the end isn’t righteousness at all, but sin, because it despises the forgiveness that is given us in Christ. Yes, when we examine ourselves we find we really aren’t any better off than Paul was. We too have been forgiven much by Jesus Christ who purchased us with his holy and precious blood, his innocent death.