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The Book of Acts Series

Acts, Chapter 26

John Baugh

March, 2010

Acts 26 (New American Standard Bible)

Acts 26

 

Summary:

 

In a story that begins in Acts Chapter 21, Paul has been taken into custody by Roman Guards on the grounds of the Jerusalem Temple as an angry Jewish mob there was trying to kill him. In the course of an unsuccessful effort by the Chief Priest and Sanhedrin to have him condemned by the Roman Tribunal in Jerusalem he has been found without any fault in the actions that occurred in the temple more than one time, but has been brought to Caesarea, placed in house arrest and held for two years under the decision of Roman Governor Felix and then Roman Governor Festus. In response to Paul’s demand as a Roman citizen, Festus is holding him for appeal to the Roman Emperor Nero rather than returning him to Jerusalem for trail before the Sanhedrin, which would accommodate the demands of the Jewish authorities, Chief Priest and Sanhedrin. With the arrival of King Herod Agrippa II in Caesarea Paul once again stands before Roman authorities for questioning.

 

Acts 26

 

Paul's Defense before Agrippa

 

 1Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense:

 

2"In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today;  3especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. 4So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; 5since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion. 6And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; 7the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. 8Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? 9So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. 11And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

 

Paul bases his case to King Agrippa on the fact that from his youth, he has been a good Jew, a Pharisee, and one who sought out the coming of the Messiah. He offers his defense to Agrippa, understanding that the King knows the Jews very well, and that as “an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews” Agrippa will understand the reasoning offered.

 

1 - Paul immediately points out that he has a strong Pharisaic background and reminds Agrippa that any Jew who knows him will testify that that is true. As a Pharisee Paul would have belonged to the very strictest (mist conservative) Jewish sect and would have been seen as a strict keeper of the Law. 

 

2 – Paul states that he believes nothing at this point n his life that he did not believe in the days before he accepted Christ as Messiah. He has not changed his faith at all and believes that he is still a good Jew. He points out that the Jews were looking for the Messiah -- that is the "promise made by God to our fathers" that he mentions -- and so was he.

 

3 – He reminds Agrippa that the Jews believe in a resurrection. "And for this hope," he says, "I am accused by Jews, O king!"

 

4 – Then he addresses the entire court, saying "Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?"

 

5 – He then argues that he demonstrated how sincere he was in his commitment to his beliefs by the way he persecuted the church (Followers of The Way). All this is to show Agrippa that he is a true Jewish believer in every sense of the word, that basically he has changed none of his fundamental beliefs, except with regard to the character of the Christians that he persecuted.

 

6 - The only thing that he concedes was wrong is that he was persecuting people whom he ought not to have persecuted.

 

At this point, he changes his tone of his address to tell Agrippa the details of his conversion.

 

12While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. 14And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'

 

The voice speaking to Paul was a Hebrew voice. Agrippa would have known that the source of the voice was Hebrew. It is interesting that the challenge was not “Why are you persecuting those people you are seeking to beat and throw into prison”. The voice was demanding to know “Why are you persecuting Me?”

 

A goad is a part of the rigging of a plow used by farmers to turn over their fields. Such a plow would have been pulled by an Ox, who would have been attached to the plow through a harness. The goad would have been attached into the rigging just behind the animal. It was a sharp stick that would swing forward and to the rear. If the animal kicked backward and did not continue pulling forward, he would contact the goad, which would poke him and force him to continue pulling in a forward direction. Essentially, the voice was asking Paul, “Why are you kicking against the prod, resisting the forward movement of the Holy Spirit?”

 

Paul Continues:

 

15And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'

 

At this point, Paul presents Jesus Christ to Agrippa, through his own transforming experience on the Road to Damascus.

 

Luke has already covered this story more than once in Acts. In this version, he details Christ’s offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile.

 

In verse 18, Paul offers Agrippa in the words of Jesus all that he or anyone else in humanity would ever need to hear.

 

18to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'

 

As Jesus speaks to Paul on the road to Damascus, he offers his description of humanity in its lost, broken, fragmented condition. What is the matter with people? "They are living in darkness," Jesus says, "but they have the opportunity to come into the light through him."

 

The power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it has the power to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God. The gospel is that God has found a way to forgive men's sins, to wipe out all the guilt from the mistakes of the past, from all that they have done in their ignorance and enslavement to the lying propaganda of Satan, and to give them a resource from which they may live in fulfillment and strength. That is what Jesus means by "an inheritance among those who are sanctified." And how do you get this? Jesus says precisely: "By faith in me."

 

19So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. 21For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. 22So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; 23that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."

 

At this time, Paul tells King Agrippa that he made the choice to step out in obedience to the vision of Christ Jesus, first in Damascus and then Jerusalem, then Judea and to the Gentiles preaching repentance and a turning to God. Paul tells Agrippa that for this reason, the Jews seized him and tried to kill him. Through Gods help, that did not happen and so Paul finds himself standing before King Agrippa continuing on in obedience to the task he was given some 30 years previously.

 

At this point Paul is interrupted by Festus:

 

 24While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad."

 

Festus’ heart is certainly closed to Paul’s message, or in his (fallen) human condition, he remains unable to come to terms with the great truth and challenge of the Gospel message.  For whatever reason, he is unable to respond to Paul and so he sees him as mad.

 

Paul has evidently dealt with this opinion in times past. He quickly replies to Festus, disagreeing with the Governor in a rational manner. From his response, it seems that his words were spoken for Agrippa and not Festus.

 

 25But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. 26For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do."

 

 28Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian."

 

There is much truth in what Agrippa says to Paul. To know the apostle for any time at all would be to receive all that Christ through the Holy Spirit would have to offer. To openly receive that from Paul and not respond would be difficult. Agrippa was likely speaking in humor. However, his words have the fullness of truth hidden within his humor.

 

 29And Paul said, "I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains."

 

Paul has had his say. His desire would be for everyone who has heard his words to accept Christ as he has and to be what he is, except for the chains he has endured for two years.

 

 30The king stood up and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them, 31and when they had gone aside, they began talking to one another, saying, "This man is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment." 32And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."

 

In the privacy of a setting away from those attending the hearing, Agrippa clearly says that he is unable to find any fault in what Paul has said. The apostle’s words evidently spoke to the King and perhaps touched his soul. In Agrippa’s mind, Paul is guilty of nothing.

 

However, Agrippa understands that he is unable to release Paul. The decision has been made. Paul is headed toward Rome.

 

In This ends Acts Chapter 26.

 

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