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The Book of ACTS
THEME: Paul before Agrippa
This testimony of Paul is not a defense of himself. It is a declaration of the Gospel with the purpose of winning Agrippa and the others present to Christ. This is a dramatic scene, and this chapter is one of the greatest pieces of literature, either secular or spiritual.
Paul's Testimony Before Agrippa (Acts 26:1-32)
Acts 26:1 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: (KJV)
This stretching forth of his hand was:
- #1. To obtain silence of others while he spoke; but more likely:
- #2. As other orators, when they begin to speak, move their hands.
The providence of God gives Paul a wonderful liberty to preach the Gospel, and to make his case and the cause of Christ known.
The appearance of Paul before Agrippa is a high point in the ministry of this apostle. It is a fulfillment of the prophecy that he should appear before kings and rulers (Acts.9:15). There is no doubt at all in my mind that it was God's will that he should come before King Agrippa.
Let's consider several things about this chapter before we get into Paul's message before King Agrippa. First of all, Paul is not on trial. This is not a court trial. Paul is not making a defense before Agrippa. He is preaching the Gospel. In view of the fact that this great apostle had appealed to Caesar, not even King Agrippa could condemn him, and he is out of the hands of Governor Festus, as the final verse of this chapter confirms: "Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar" (Acts 26:32). They no longer had the authority to condemn him. Neither could they set him free. They are confused and helpless. So Paul is not attempting to make a defense. Instead he is trying to win these men for Christ.
This was a public appearance of Paul before King Agrippa and the court so that they might learn firsthand from the apostle what "that way" really was. Everyone was talking about The Way. Because of this, they have this public appearance to have Paul explain The Way. This was one greatest opportunities that any preacher ever had to preach Christ. There has never again been an opportunity quite like this.
Because it concerned the King, this was an occasion filled with pagan pomp and pageantry. It was a state function filled with fanfare and the blowing of trumpets. There was gala tapestry and tinsel. The function was attended by all the important government officials of that part of Rome. There must have been a scramble for people to be able to attend this occasion. The purple of Agrippa and the pearls of Bernice were in evidence. There was gold braid and brass hats of the Roman Empire. The elect and the elite and the sophisticates had all turned out in full dress.
Notice again how Luke records it: "And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus' commandment Paul was brought forth" (Acts 25:23).
Can you picture this scene? This elaborate gathering is for just one purpose: to hear from a notable prisoner by the name of Paul. He is the one who has already been over the greater part of the Roman Empire, certainly the eastern part of it, preaching The Way.
When the huge door of that great throne room swings open, a prisoner in chains is ushered into this colorful scene. He is dressed in the clothes of a prisoner, and he is chained to two guards. He is not very impressive in his personal appearance. This is the man who teaches and preaches the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ for men because they are sinners and need a Saviour. This is the one who can speak with authority about the new Way. And they will listen to this man because he knows how to speak and because he is a highly intelligent man. The light of Heaven seems to be on his face.
He is no longer Saul of Tarsus but Paul the apostle. Can you see the great contrast of modest, humble Paul to that pompous, arrogant crowd of nobility gathered there!
Festus told how the Jews had tried to kill Paul. How the Jews hated him, yet they had absolutely NO real charge against him. Remember what the Lord Jesus said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18). Paul is steadfast and true to the Lord Jesus, so the world will hate him, just as they will hate us when we confess Jesus and take a stand with Him.
Let us look at the two men who stand out in this assembly: Agrippa and Paul. What a absolute contrast! One of them is in purple, the other is in dingy prison garb. One is on a throne, the other is in shackles. One wears a crown, the other is in chains. Agrippa is a king, but is a slave to sin. Paul is a chained prisoner, but he rejoices in the freedom of sins forgiven and liberty in Christ. Agrippa is an earthly king who could not free Paul nor himself. Paul is an ambassador of the Eternal King who had freed him and who could free Agrippa from the damning effects of sin.
Remember that King Agrippa was a member of the family of Herod, a completely wicked family, the worst family that is mentioned in the Bible. Ahab and Jezebel were mild compared to the Herod family. Agrippa was an intelligent man and a great man in many respects in spite of his background. He knew the Mosaic Law, that is, he knew the letter of it. Paul rejoiced in this because it gave him an opportunity to speak to a man who was instructed and who would understand the nature of the charges.
Paul's plea to Agrippa to turn to Christ is magnificent, logical and intelligent. It is not a defense, it is a declaration of the Gospel of Christ, the only Gospel that can save your soul.
Acts 26:2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: (KJV)
I think myself happy . . . Paul thought it was to his advantage to speak before Agrippa, who could not be unacquainted with the law or the prophets, by which Paul would have his case determined.
Before thee . . . though Agrippa was not as judge in this place, yet his opinion and judgment would prevail much with Festus.
Touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews . . . such as violation of the law, profaning the temple, contempt of the people of the Jews and their customs, blasphemy and sedition; all which he was able to clear himself from, and had no doubt that he could do it to the satisfaction of the king.
Acts 26:3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. (KJV)
This is not flattery, but simply stating what was true; for Agrippa, by reason of his birth and breeding, could not be totally ignorant of those things in question:
- #1. About the Messiah;
- #2. About the resurrection;
- #3. About the giving of the Holy Ghost.
I beseech (beg) thee to hear me patiently . . . it being a matter that concerned the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the life and liberty of a man, nothing but ignorance or impiety could stop Paul from attending unto it. Since Paul was charged with a breach of the laws and customs of the Jews; what Paul would say would be about things which Agrippa was not altogether ignorant.
Acts 26:4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; (KJV)
Paul appeals to his enemies, the Jews themselves. My manner of life . . . my opinions, principles, and conduct. From my youth . . . Paul was born in Tarsus; but at an early period he had been sent to Jerusalem for the purpose of education in the school of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).
Which was at the first . . . from the beginning; the time when the opinions and habits are formed. Know all the Jews. . . it is not at all improbable that Paul was distinguished in the school of Gamaliel for zeal in the Jewish religion. The fact that he was early entrusted with a commission against the Christians (Acts 9,) shows that he was known. He might appeal to them, therefore, in regard to the early part of his life; and, doubtless, to the very men who had been his violent accusers. "Manner of life" (2 Tim.3:10-11).
Acts 26:5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. (KJV)
Which knew me . . . those who were well acquainted with me. From the beginning . . . from the very start of my career. Were perfectly aware of my whole life.
That after the most straitest . . . the most rigid, the most strict; not only in regard to the written law of God, but the traditions of the elders. Paul himself elsewhere testifies (Phil.3:4-6), that he had enjoyed all the advantages of birth and training in the Jewish religion, and that he had early distinguished himself by his observance of its rites and customs. I lived a Pharisee . . . he lived in accordance with the rules and doctrines of the Pharisees.
WHY does Paul refer to his early life?
- #1. He had lived during the early period of his life without crime; as his principles had been settled by the instruction of the most able of the Jewish teachers, it was to be presumed that his following life had been the same.
- #2. At that period of his life, when he showed the utmost zeal for the laws and customs of his country, it was to be presumed that he would not be found opposing or reviling them at any following time. From the strictness and conscientiousness of his past life, he supposed that Agrippa might argue favorably respecting his subsequent conduct. A virtuous and religious course in early life is usually a sure pledge of virtue and integrity in subsequent years.
Acts 26:6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: (KJV)
I stand . . . in the position of one who is guilty. The hope of the promise . . . Paul brings into his speech, the resurrection, which is the foundation of all religion (1Cor. 15:14; Acts 23:6; 24:15; Tit.1:2); and now it is called the hope of the Promise, because God's Promise did raise them up to this hope: for God promised to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all nations. God would make this His Word good. Gen. 12:2-3 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (KJV)
Acts 26:7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. (KJV)
Twelve tribes . . . the people of Israel were distinguished into twelve tribes, according to the names of the twelve patriarchs, the sons of Jacob; and although ten of the tribes had been carried captive, and had not returned as tribes, there were many of the several tribes, who either were left in the land, or returned along with the two tribes, and were mixed with them. (Ezra 6:17; 8:35).
For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews . . . for preaching that the Messiah, the twelve tribes hope for, had already come and that there is salvation in Him, and in NO other, and that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both just and unjust (Dan.12:2); and that there is another world and state after this life on Earth, in which men will be either happy or miserable (Mat.25:46). These were the charges and accusations against Paul.
Acts 26:8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? (KJV)
Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you . . . to the Heathens and Sadducees, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was thought an incredible, hard to believe doctrine.
That God should raise the dead . . .
Paul speaks of both, the particular resurrection of Christ Himself from the dead, which was not believed by the Romans or the Jews, and not by Pharisees or Sadducees . . . OR of the general resurrection of ALL the dead (Rev.20:11-15), which was thought to be impracticable by the Pharisees, and impossible by the Sadducees, as well as by the Heathens. But, since God is omniscient and omnipotent, just and true and knows where every particle of every a dead body lies, and can gather all together, and inspire again with life; which He can just as easily do, as to form all things out of nothing as He did in the beginning! (Gen.1:1-2; John 1:3,10; 1 Cor.8:6).
God's justice, sound truth, power and authority seem to require, that the same bodies which were partners with their souls in sinning, OR in sufferings, should share with them in woe OR in happiness (Mat.25:46). It is absurd, unreasonable and/or incredible, to think that God shall not raise all from the dead one day (Dan.12:2), because He says He shall, for God CANNOT lie! ((Tit.1:2).
Acts 26:9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (KJV)
The name of Jesus . . . the Gospel that teaches Christ Jesus is to be worshipped, and His Name to be magnified; is the only TRUE Gospel (2 Cor.11:4). ANYTHING contrary to this TRUTH is "another gospel" preaching "another Jesus" and it will lead you straight to Hell.
Jesus of Nazareth . . . is what the Jews called our Saviour, their Messiah (Acts 22:8). To blaspheme His Name, to deny Him to be the Messiah, to condemn His Gospel as heresy, to dispute against His doctrines and to persecute His followers is to bring damnation down on you.
Acts 26:10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. (KJV)
Paul says: "I was guilty!" The saints . . . are the professors of the religion of the Holy Jesus (Rom.1:7), and have Him for the great example of holiness, who fulfilled all righteousness; and from Him they have the Spirit of holiness; being sanctified in Him (1Cor.1:2,30). Whosoever hath not His Spirit, he is none of His (Rom.8:9).
And many of the saints I shut up in prison . . . at Jerusalem (Acts 8:3). I gave my voice against them . . . Paul was not one of the council, but was certain the "saints" were wrong, and did all he could to persecute them. He approved, rejoiced and delighting in their condemnation, before his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).
Acts 26:11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. (KJV)
Paul confesses that he forced them to blaspheme, either: #1. By the persecutions he made against them: or: #2. By his own example; he confessed that he had been a blasphemer himself (1Tim.1:13).
This blasphemy was either: #1. Denying of Christ to be the Messiah; or: #2. Cursing or humiliating Christ, and acknowledging that He was justly condemned.
I persecuted them even unto strange cities . . . drove them out of Jerusalem and Judea; and, according to what Paul then believed, he drove them from the worship of the true God, and said as David's adversaries when they expelled him from Jerusalem, Go, and serve other gods (1Sam.26:19).
Acts 26:12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, (KJV)
Whereupon as I went to Damascus . . . Paul was intent to punish the saints, compel them to blaspheme, imprison them, and even put them to death on account of these things. It was because of this, that he went to Damascus, the chief city of Syria, where he knew there were many that believed in Christ, who had moved there from Jerusalem because of the persecution, or were settled there before.
With authority and commission from the chief priests . . . the Jewish Sanhedrin, to bring those of them at Damascus bound, back to Jerusalem, in order to be punished (Acts 9:2; 22:5). Paul had letters recommending him to the Jews abroad, and deputing him as their agent.
Acts 26:13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. (KJV)
At mid-day . . . this incident happened at noon-day, so it might not be suspected to be a dream.
Above the brightness of the sun . . . our Saviour's Face in the transfiguration did shine as the sun (Mat.17:2; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:29), and He was on Earth in His mortal body, yet He appeared from Heaven with His glorious Body!
This mid-day circumstance is omitted in (Acts 9:3). King Agrippa is called upon by the apostle, to pay attention to what he was about to say, it being wonderful, and of great importance.
Acts 26:14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (KJV)
And when we were all fallen to the earth . . . Saul, and the men that were with him, fell for fear of the divine Majesty, who by this extraordinary light was thought to be present. This is to be reconciled to their standing speechless, in (Acts 9:7).
In the Hebrew tongue . . . the Lord Jesus spoke to Saul in the Hebrew tongue in this incident.
It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks . . . a proverb borrowed from the Greeks, as some think, but used in many languages, meaning any who tries such things will ruin or hurt themselves. So it is with all persecutors; for NOT one can harden themselves against God, His Truth or His servants, and prosper, (Job 9:4). To kick against God will lead only in themselves being pricked.
Acts 26:15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. (KJV)
See: Acts 9:5.
Acts 26:16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; (KJV)
Stand upon thy feet . . . just as Daniel was told by the angel (Dan.10:11).
For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose . . . not to take vengeance for past offences.
To make thee a minister and a witness, both of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee . . . so Paul was an apostle, not of men, nor by man, but by Christ Jesus the Lord, as Paul himself states (Gal.1:1). Paul was a minister because Jesus said he was a minister! Unless a person is called by the Lord Jesus, they are NOT the true ministers of the Gospel. Those made by Christ, have their mission and commission, their qualifications, gifts and abilities. They preach the TRUE Gospel of Christ.
Of those things in the which I will appear unto thee . . . Paul had many visions and revelations (Acts 23:9; 23:11; 2Co 12:2); as he suffered much for Christ, so he also had many consolations from Christ (2 Cor.1:5) .
Acts 26:17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, (KJJV)
From the people . . . from the Jews and all his enemies. God means to deliver Paul, and all His faithful servants, from all evils and enemies.
But how is this performed? Paul was really persecuted by the Jews, and finally put to death by the Gentiles. Paul's enemies would seek to destroy him; so the Lord promises him before hand, deliverance and security from them.
And where is the promise? When Paul had finished his course, and done the work he was sent for, it would not have been a deliverance, to have been kept longer from his reward (2 Cor.5:6,8), and the prize he had ran so hard for (1 Cor.9:24; Phil.3:14).
Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (KJV)
To open their eyes . . . the eyes of their hearts and minds, that they might know God, and see their duty towards Him.
To turn them from darkness to light . . . this was signified by the glorious light which came from the Body of our glorified Redeemer, which appeared unto Paul that day.
From the power of Satan . . . for so are all sins, for by them Satan rules in the children of disobedience (Eph.2:2).
That they may receive forgiveness of sins . . . this means that their former sins, no matter how grievous, would not hinder the salvation of those who believed and received the Gospel in the love and power of it.
By faith that is in me . . . faith in Christ is the only thing that can purify the heart.
And to turn them from darkness to light . . . conversion is the end result of the Gospel, and LIGHT is necessary to achieve it. This conversion is not merely an external one, or a reformation of manners. It is a person turning from the evil of his ways, FROM a wicked lifestyle TO a Godly, righteous way of living. Where there is no special illumination of the Spirit, nor any true spiritual light; there is NO true conversion or grace! The unconverted remain wicked, in the darkness! They may have a form (2 Tim.3:5) but not the power of godliness.
Acts 26:19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: (KJV)
Paul simply tells Agrippa "I believed God, and yielded to His call, and immediately set set out to do the work He gave me, without consulting flesh and blood" (Gal.1:16).
Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (KJV)
This verse is simply a summary of Paul's work, in obedience to the command of the Lord Jesus. He said that the Lord Jesus had come from Heaven, and commanded him to do this, and that he had done no more than to obey the Lord's words (Acts 9:20-23).
And turn to God . . . sin is a turning FROM God, so repentance is a turning (or rather returning) TO God.
Do works meet for repentance . . . meaning being truly penitent. We must show our faith by our works (Jam. 2:18) . . . so too, we must show our repentance by our works.
Acts 26:21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. (KJV)
The Jews . . . Caught me in the temple (Acts 21:30). And went about . . . to try to put me to death. By violent hands and indirect means (Acts 21:31), just as they had done unto our Saviour (Acts 5:30). They wanted to kill Paul for no other reason than he preached the Gospel of Christ.
Acts 26:22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: (KJV)
Paul continued with the work the Lord gave him, despite all the lies and persecution of his enemies. What he had done was gratitude towards that God who had maintained him in life unto that very day. He witnessed both to small and great; witnessing to all sorts from princes to paupers. What Paul is saying is: the Gospel concerned Agrippa as well as all the rest in the auditorium, for with God there is no respect of persons, and that we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28).
The prophets and Moses . . . Moses was also a prophet, but Paul makes special mention of this, because of Moses' far exceeded all the other prophets, unto whom God spoke Face to face (Ex.33:11). And also because Moses was the lawgiver to the Jews, and to whom, on all occasions, they pretended to yield obedience. Paul taught only what Moses and the prophets said should come: CHRIST! The MESSIAH!!!
Acts 26:23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. (KJV)
The sufferings of Christ were taught by Moses, in all the commands about sacrifices, and more plainly by Isaiah in all the 53rd chapter (Isa 53:1-12) . . . although the majority of Jews, both then and now, do stiffly deny it. The carnal Jews do not want to hear about a spiritual kingdom.
Great afflictions in soul and body, and death itself; this is recorded by Moses, (Gen.3:15) and is the sense of many of the types, as of the passover, brazen serpent and of all the sacrifices which from God were appointed by him, and is the constant account of all the prophets from the beginning to the end (Ps.22:1-2,6-7, 11-21; Isa.53:2-12; Dan.9:26; Zec.9:9; 12:10; ,13:6-7). The Sufferer is Christ, the Messiah, not the Father, nor the Spirit, but the Word (John 1:1), the Son of God, and not in His divine nature, which was incapable of human suffering, but in His human nature.
Although sufferings may be ascribed to His whole person, both natures being united in Him: and hence they became sufficient to answer the purposes for which they were endured . . . which He endured, not for Himself, nor for angels, but for chosen few (Mat.7:13-14), sinners and ungodly persons. His sufferings make peace with God the Father and reconciles them to Him. It obtains the pardon of their sins, and eternal redemption for them, and brings them nigh to God.
What Christ suffered was no other than what had been foretold in the writings of the Old Testament, which all along represent the Messiah as a Suffering One; and that He should suffer in His character, be criticized, be accounted a worm, and no man (Isa.53:3; Ps.22:6; 59:9), and be put to death and buried, as the above prophecies show.
He was betrayed by one of His disciples, a friend (Ps.41:9) selling Him for thirty pieces of silver (Zec. 11:12), His being forsaken by all His disciples (Zec.13:7; Mark 14:50), His crucifixion between two thieves (Isa.53:12), the parting of His garments (Ps.22:18), giving Him gall and vinegar to drink (Ps.69:21), and the piercing His Hands and Feet (Ps.22:16), no bones broken (Ps.34:20).
To all this, the doctrine of the apostle Paul did agree. He taught that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ that was to come, and that He had suffered all that Moses and the prophets did say should come upon Him. But these were not the beliefs of the Jews, who expected the Messiah to be a temporal Prince and Saviour, and to live in great outward prosperity, and for ever.
There is a doctrine being taught today that is FALSE, and that is that Jesus was rich and wants everyone to be rich. This is a damnable heresy! (2 Pet.2:1). Our precious Jesus was NOT rich! He did not even have a place to lay His Head! Luke 9:58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (KJV) . . . BEWARE of false teachers! They LIE, just like the devil who leads them!!!
Acts 26:24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. (KJV)
Thou art beside thyself . . . crazy, insane, mad, nuts! This was what Festus thought about Paul, and this same opinion is held today by all the carnal and worldly people concerning those who love the Lord and are truly godly. The prophet who came to Jehu was counted a mad fellow (2 Ki 9:11), and the friends of our Saviour thought Him to be beside himself (Mark 3:21). And it cannot be any other way! For good men and bad men have quite different thoughts concerning most things. What one calls good, the other says is evil; and what is wisdom to the one, is madness to the other.
Much learning doth make thee mad . . . Paul is said to have been skilful in the Hebrew, Syriac, Greek and Latin tongues; to have been well read in the poets; and he certainly was an brilliant orator, as shown clearly in his defense he made for his doctrine and his life. But maybe there was something more than all this. Festus might feel a more than ordinary effect from Paul's words, not knowing that the Spirit, by which Paul spoke did help to his learning (or madness).
The reasons why Festus thought Paul mad were, probably:
- #1. His earnestness and excitement on the subject.
- #2. His laying so much stress on the Gospel of the despised Jesus of Nazareth, as if it were a matter of eternity . . . which it it! Festus despised it; as do all the ungodly, and he saw it as proof of derangement that so much importance was attached to it.
- #3. Festus most likely regarded the whole story of the vision that Paul said had appeared to him, as the effect of a crazy man.
Acts 26:25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. (KJV)
Paul, with all humility, makes his reply to the governor, not taking notice of his sharp censuring of him, returns an answer in most respectful terms to him; as his blessed Master, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again (1 Pet.2:23).
But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus . . . Paul replied to Festus, to whom he gives his title of honor, not out of fear, nor flattery, but according to custom; even though Festus used him in such a critical manner, as if he were crazy.
But speak forth the words of truth and soberness . . . Paul was perfectly agreeable to the Scriptures of Truth. He spoke of Christ, who is Truth itself (John 14:6), and of which He (Jesus) is the subject; and which the Spirit of Truth leads to. Paul spoke of the Gospel and all the doctrines in it, and they are words of Truth. They are TRUE, there is NO falsehood in them.
Please do NOT fall for the counterfeit gospel of false teachers (2 Cor.11:4; Gal.1:6-7), which looks like the gospel, and has the appearance of truth, but in reality is NOT! (1 John 2:21-22). Search for godly teachers who bring the "words of truth and soberness" for they are words of highest wisdom, which contain the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the deep things of God, which can NEVER be found by the wisdom of men.
Soberness . . . clear-headed and sincere, is in direct contradiction to being mad. Paul modestly and humbly denies the charge Festus had laid upon him.
Acts 26:26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. (KJV)
King Agrippa, being educated in Judea, must surely have heard of the life and doctrine, death and resurrection of our Saviour; also of the miracles done by Him, and by His disciples. John 18:20 Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. (KJV) . . . NO secrecy!
Before whom also I speak freely . . . Paul, imitating Christ, also spoke and served openly! This should be a lesson to us. NO one can be a "closet Christian." We MUST speak of Christ openly! This will be harder and harder to do in the future. God is being 'withheld' from our military. Chaplains are not allowed to speak of Christ for fear of offending "other" religions! Ridiculous! If the "others" do NOT want to hear about Christ, there is the door! Leave!
For I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him . . . just as Moses and the prophets had foretold, they had their fulfillment in Jesus.
For this thing was not done in a corner . . . the ministry of Jesus was public, His miracles were done openly, His suffering the death of the cross under Pontius Pilate was well known, and His resurrection from the dead was a well attested fact, and the ministry of His Gospel to Jews and Gentiles was well known.
This morning on the news, they said it is now going to be forbidden to say "God" or "Jesus" in prayers for fallen soldiers. And this is supposed to be a "Christian" nation??? May God have mercy on these evil lawmakers!
Acts 26:27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. (KJV)
Believest thou the prophets? . . . Paul says: Festus does not believe, do you? Agrippa was a Jew and, as such, he of course believed the prophets. Maybe, from what Paul knew of his personal character, he might confidently affirm that he professed to be a believer. Instead of waiting for his answer, Paul anticipates it, and says that he knows that Agrippa professes to believe all these prophecies respecting the Messiah. His plan is evident. It is to meet the charge of derangement, and to bring in the testimony of Agrippa, who understood the subject, and the importance and the Truth of what he was saying.
Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. (KJV)
Agrippa could not deny that he believed the prophets. And he could not deny that Paul's argument was a strong one, that the prophet's words had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. He could not deny that the evidence of the miraculous way that God had worked in the conversion of Paul was overwhelming.
Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. . . . except a little bit held back, like SO many in today's world! Agrippa said that Paul had nearly convinced him that Christianity is true, and nearly persuaded him to embrace it. The arguments of Paul had been so clear. The appeal which he had made to his belief of the prophets had been so irresistible, that Agrippa had been nearly convinced of the truth of Christianity.
We must remember:
- #1. Agrippa was a Jew, and that he would look on this whole subject in a different manner than the Roman Festus.
- #2. Agrippa does not seem to have partaken of the violent passions and prejudices of the Jews who had accused Paul.
- #3. Agrippa's character, as given by Josephus, is that of a mild, candid, and ingenuous man. He had no particular hostility to Christians. Yet, as in thousands of other cases, he was not quite persuaded to be a Christian.
What prevented his being quite persuaded, we do not know. Maybe, like Felix, he wanted to wait for a more convenient season (Acts 24:25). There is every reason to believe that he was never persuaded to embrace the Lord Jesus; and that he was never nearer the kingdom of Heaven than at that moment . . . like millions today.
There are many in the same situation as Agrippa; many who are almost, but not altogether, persuaded to be Christians.
Acts 26:29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. (KJV)
I would to God . . . I pray to God; I earnestly desire it of God. This shows Paul's intense desire that Agrippa, and all who heard him, might be saved, and his constant belief that none but Christ Jesus could make them Christians. Paul earnestly sought of God, that they might be true believers. Paul knew that there was nothing that would overcome the reluctance of the human heart to be a Christian, only the grace and mercy of God could accomplish this.
All that hear me . . . Festus, and the military and civil officers who had been assembled to hear his defense (Acts 25:23).
Except these bonds . . . these chains. This is a touching appeal. Probably Paul, when he said this, lifted up his arm with the chain attached to it. His wish was, that they might be partakers of the pure joys which "the way" (Christ jesus) had given him; that in all other respects they might partake of the effects of the Gospel, except those chains. Those he did not wish them to bear. The persecutions, and unjust trials and confinements which he had been called to suffer in the cause, he did not want for them.
Acts 26:30 And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: (KJV)
Agrippa, Festus and the queen, together with the governor's council, although they had heard this excellent speech from, the most learned apostle, like the leopard, they cannot change their spots, or skin (Jer. 13:23).
Acts 26:31 And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. (KJV)
Gone aside . . . either to their houses, or to some apartment near the tribunal. They acquit Paul; for as yet Nero had not made those bloody laws, whereby the profession of Christianity was made capital.
Acts 26:32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar. (KJV)
These judges and great men do, by their opinion about Paul, condemn the Jews, whom they say have no cause for the prosecuting him. The Jews returned to Jerusalem. When Paul appealed unto Caesar, an inferior judge could NOT release him. It was ordered in divine Providence, that he should appeal to Caesar, that he might go to Rome, and there bear a testimony for Christ; however, this declaration of Agrippa, and what he and the governor and the rest said among themselves, are a considerable proof of the innocence of the apostle.
Jewish Agrippa is an intelligent man, he knows the Mosaic Law, and he understands the Jewish background. Paul rejoices in this chance to speak to such an instructed man who will understand the true nature of the case.
Paul is well instructed in the Mosaic Law, but Paul has met Christ. Now the Law has a new meaning for him. Paul's soul is flooded with the Light of Jesus! Now he sees, and knows that Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness. Rom.10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (KJV)
Now he knows that God has fulfilled that which He had stated by the prophets. He knows that God is good and that through Christ, God is gracious. Paul wants King Agrippa to know this. There is a passion filling the soul of the apostle as he speaks.
This is Paul's masterpiece. His message on Mars' Hill was good, but it does not compare at all to this message.
Although there were probably several hundred people present to hear this message, Paul is speaking to only one man, King Agrippa. Paul is trying to win this man for Christ.
Paul starts with an extremely courteous introduction, telling Agrippa how he rejoices in this opportunity. Then he proceeds to give King Agrippa a brief sketch of his youth and background. Then he tells of his conversion. Finally he makes his attempt to reach the man for Christ.
After Paul gives a simple explanation of his conduct, which was the natural outcome of his background, he goes on to tell how he lived a Pharisee, and then of the experience he had on the Damascus road.
The Lord Jesus has never had an enemy more bitter and brutal than Saul of Tarsus. He had a persistent hatred of Christ Jesus and of the Gospel. He tells how he shut up many of the saints in prison. I think this is one reason he could endure two years of prison and the abuse from the religious leaders. He had been one of them. He knew exactly how they felt.
When Saul became Paul, he became a completely different man. That is what Jesus does for people!
It is quite clear that Paul is going to Rome. Was Paul right when he appealed to Caesar? Some say that Paul made a mistake. I don't think it was a mistake at all.
In Paul's letter to the Romans, Paul expressed his longing to go to Rome. "Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established" (Rom. 1:10-11). Paul IS going to Rome.
Book of Acts
Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28