Acts Chapter Twenty-Six

Read Acts 26:1-32

 

v.11Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:”

 

            It seems that after Festus makes his introduction of the need for Agrippa to hear Paul that Agrippa takes over.  There are no charges against Paul that can be supported, Festus has admitted as much, and has a problem of what to tell the people at Rome when he sends Paul there to be tried by Caesar.  So Paul begins his presentation.

 

v.2-3I 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: 3Especially 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.”

 

            Paul in opening his presentation does not try to flatter Agrippa but begins by providing the courtesy due a Roman governor.  He is happy to have the opportunity for two reasons.  Herod Agrippa is Jewish, or at least part Jewish, understands and practices the Jewish religion and he knows that Agrippa will understand much more of what he presents than will Festus.  Secondly Paul is being given the opportunity to present the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

v.4-5My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; 5Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.”

 

            The early life of Paul as Saul was open and well known to many of the Jews who were accusing him.  He’s telling Agrippa nothing different than he has already told any who would listen (Acts 22:3, 6) and that he would later write to the Philippian brethren:

 

Philippians 3:5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;”

v.6-7And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 7Unto 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.”

 

            In his defense before Agrippa Paul says that he’s being judged because of the promise that God had made to their fathers, the Israelites.  What promise and when did he make it?

 

Psalms 132:11 “THE LORD HATH SWORN in TRUTH UNTO DAVID; HE WILL NOT TURN FROM IT; OF THE FRUIT OF THY BODY WILL I SET UPON THY THRONE.”

 

Isaiah 7:144Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

 

Daniel 9:2424Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”

 

            The promise and the hope of the Messiah to come was the entire reason for the nation of Israel to be brought into being.  The entire reason for the covenant between God and the Israelite nation, the Mosaic Law to be given; it was to preserve God’s people until the Messiah should come.  It is this promise and this hope for which Paul now tells Agrippa he’s is being tried or judged.  Having given the basis or foundation for his actions, Paul then turns to the entire gathering.

 

v.8Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”

 

            To think that something is incredible is to not believe that it occurred.  The Greek word apiston used here is translated “unfaithful” in Luke 12:46, “faithless” in John 20:27; they just didn’t believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.  If God can and did raise people from the dead, Lazarus is an example, why should anyone not believe that he raised Jesus?  If Jesus was raised then why should they not believe that Jesus was the Messiah?  What Paul was guilty of doing was preaching the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah.  An occurrence that had been promised, prophesied, and looked for by the Jewish nation for centuries, why would they not believe that it had finally happened?

 

v.9I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”

 

            Paul now begins to explain his motives for what he is doing.  There was a time in his life when he determined to do everything he could contrary or against the followers and the name of Jesus Christ.  He tells Timothy that he was one who was:

 

“Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” I Timothy 1:13

 

v.10-1110Which 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. 11And 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.”

 

            Paul not only did this work in Jerusalem under the authority or direction of the chief priests and the Sanhedrin but pursued these people even to foreign cities.  He went to the synagogues and there searched for, sought out, those who believed in Jesus.  He did everything that he could to get them to blaspheme God which was punishable by death under the Mosaic Law.  When they were brought before the council, the Sanhedrin for trial he cast his vote against them.  Many think that Paul’s words here indicate that he was a member of the Sanhedrin at that time.  Then he tells of the confrontation between him and Jesus and his conversion.

 

v.12-13Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13At 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.”

 

            He tells again of the occurrence that we read about as it happened in Acts 9 and then Paul’s telling of it again in Acts 22.  He has a commission, authority from the chief priests and is traveling to Damascus, the capital city of Syria; probably up the Jordan valley thought Samaria, Galilee, Capernaum, and Caesarea Philippi as this is the shortest route.  The same route traveled by Jesus several times during his ministry between Galilee and Jerusalem.  Its midday, a very bright light appears, the glory of God, and it’s much brighter than the mid-day sun.  This light envelopes not only Paul but all those that are traveling with him.

 

v.14And 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.”

 

            Paul’s companions didn’t just see what happen to Paul, they were all involved.  They all fell to the earth.  That alone should have enough to make an impression on those with Paul but we have no record of their reaction.  A voice speaks to Paul in Hebrew, his native language using a proverb or what we would call an “old saying”, a truism.  Why are you persecuting me?  It’s like kicking against the pricks, or ox goads.  This proverb was commonly known in both Greek and Roman literature and apparently well known to the Hebrews as well.  Our commentator explains what it means.  The ox goad was a sharp pointed stick about 6-8 feet long.  Contrary to the horse plow that we might remember, the ox plow only had one handle.  The plow was guided by one hand, the goad held in the other and used to prod the ox to move forward and to control his direction if he didn’t obey the voice commands.  If he kicked against the goad the ox got an even sharper prod to remind him not to do that.  Paul is going to suffer many pangs of regret for his work against the followers of Jesus Christ.  It is something that will stay with him and works on his mind until the day he dies.

 

v.15And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”

 

            Paul asks a very short question, Who are you Lord?  He receives an equally short response, I’m Jesus the Christ whom you are persecuting.  When Paul persecutes the church, he persecutes the body of Christ:

 

I Corinthians 12:12-13 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

 

v.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;”

 

            Now that Jesus has Paul’s attention he gives him his instructions.  Get up, stand on your feet for I have a purpose for you.  You will become a minister, a servant, who teach and preach the death, burial and resurrection, the remission of sins, the gospel.

            Jesus tells Paul that he will be a witness of all that he has seen and all that he will be shown.  Paul would become an apostle and just as the twelve were taught and commissioned by Jesus, Paul would be taught and commissioned as well.  As he writes to the church at Corinth:

 

I Corinthians 9:1-21Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? 2If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.”

 

            So Paul was to be commissioned as an apostle and then Jesus tells him more precisely the purpose he is to serve.

 

v.17-18Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18To 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.”

 

            Paul is to be “delivered” from his own countrymen and he will continue to be delivered from the wrath of the Gentiles in the places where that was encountered.  It wasn’t going to be easy, it wasn’t going to be without trials, trouble and persecution, in Lycaonia (Acts 14:19) he was stoned, thrown out of the city, probably on the garbage dump and left for dead.

            He is to teach the Gentile people, open their eyes; in turn (because he has been rescued) he is to rescue them from the darkness of sin.  He is to persuade them to leave the power of Satan and turn to God.  He is to provide them the means for forgiveness of their sins and bring them to the inheritance that God promised to all men.  God’s promise that He first made in the garden when sin entered the world (Genesis 3:15), to bruise the head of Satan is now being fulfilled.   And we now understand that the bruising of Satan’s head to be the removal of his power, Satan no longer has power over us because God has given us a choice that removes us from that power.

 

v.19-2019Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20But showed 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.”

 

            With his Jewish background, Agrippa would immediately understand the presentation that Paul has made.  Consequently Paul has symbolically laid his credentials at the king’s feet.  The Messiah, looked for, hoped for, sought for diligently by the Jewish people has come.  The Messiah promised has given Paul his authority, his commission has come from the Son of God the Divine; there is none higher.  When he received this commission, Paul did not hesitate for a moment but straightway, immediately began his work:

 

Acts 9:19-20And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. 20And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”

 

            With this beginning he preached Jesus Christ and the good news of salvation to as many as would hear in Jerusalem, Judea, and then as we have studied over these past lessons, Arabia, Asia Minor, and Southern Europe.  He preached that those who hear should repent of their sins, turn to God and then produce “WORKS”, what kind of works?  The same kind of works that John, the one who was preparing the way for Christ, demanded of his audience at the very beginning of his ministry in:

 

Matthew 3:8Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:”

 

They (and we) are to bring forth works meet, appropriate, in keeping with the declaration we have made of our repentance and dedication to the cause of Christ.  These works are called the “natural fruit of repentance” by the commentator.

 

v.21  21For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.”

 

            Paul has a governor that because of his Jewish background, because his family has been in Judea as rulers periodically for 50-60 years, knows what he is talking about.  He tells him that it is for these causes, these are the reasons; that it is his dedication to the Messiah and the gospel that the Jews have tried to kill him.

 

v.22 -2322Having 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: 23That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”

 

            Paul continues that it is by the grace of God, by God’s providence and even his direct intervention that he has continued in this work down to that very moment of time.  He has taught absolutely nothing except those things that the prophets of Israel and that the lawgiver, Moses, said would come about.  We should remember from our study of Luke that Jesus in teaching his disciples:

 

Luke 24:27And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

 

Luke 24:44And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

 

v.23That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”

 

            The Jews looked for a political kingdom, a physical restoration of the kingdom of David, when the Messiah came but that was not God’s plan.  God’s plan provided a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom that would include all men, not just the Israelite nation.  Death came into the world through sin, death could only be removed if the effects of sin were removed; that required a sacrifice.  Jesus was that sacrifice; he taught his disciples:

 

Luke 24:46-47And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

 

It is written; it was prophesied, most specifically in Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53.  Also through him would “LIGHT”, the same kind of “LIGHT” that John writes about in I John be brought to the darkness of sin within the Gentile peoples.  Jesus also stated in Luke 24:47 that he would be preached “AMONG ALL NATIONS”.  This was also promised and prophesied from the beginning at Genesis 3:15, through the promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:18, Isaac in Genesis 26:4, Jacob in Genesis 28:14, and on down through the Old Testament scripture.  But Paul has a doubter in his audience.

 

v.24And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.”

 

            This is probably why God’s providence has brought Herod Agrippa to hear Paul’s defense.  Festus the governor of Judea doesn’t have a clue.  At this point he speaks out and basically tells Paul that he’s crazy.  All of the learning and education that he has received has addled his mind, he’s mad.  The Greek translated here is “mainei”, the root word for maniac, so we have the governor responsible for judging Paul calling him a raving maniac.  Not because Paul has said anything that would indicate that his mind is warped but simply because in his ignorance Festus can’t comprehend what Paul is telling him.  This is not an unusual human reaction from one who is unlearned or inexperienced.  In spite of his outburst, Paul answers Festus politely:

 

 v.25-2625But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 26For 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.”

 

            Paul responds to Festus that he’s not mad as he has been accused but has spoken only words of truth and soberness.  King Agrippa knows about these things and understands their importance.  None of the activities of Jesus, the other apostles or the church since it having been established has been hidden or done in a corner so that people would not know about it.  Then he turns to Agrippa:

 

v.27-2827King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

 

            Agrippa, do you believe the prophets, I know that you do.  The king is put in a position where he must make a reply; he cannot evade or deny Paul’s question and comment.  He makes the only response that he can at this time, you have almost persuaded me to become a Christian.  Another translation says “WITH BUT LITTLE PERSUASION THOU WOULDST FAIN MAKE ME A CHRISTIAN.”

 

v.29And 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.”

 

            Paul responds that his wish is that not only Agrippa but that everyone there listening would respond to the gospel message and become just like him except for the bonds and chains that bind him.  At this point the governors and their advisors have to have a caucus, what we would today in common practice would call a sidebar, they have a decision to make and they need to talk about it.

 

v.30-31And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: 31And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.”

 

            After they have caucused they decide that indeed Paul has done nothing that would warrant death or even imprisonment.  They could let him go except for one thing:

 

v.32Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.”

 

            An official record has been created.  Paul has appealed his case to the highest court of the empire.  Consequently they have no choice, Paul must be sent to Caesar for judgment.  God’s providence continues to work, Paul is being sent to Rome, just as Jesus told him he would be in Acts 23:11.