Acts 26

Acts 26  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 10
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: 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: 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” (Acts 26:1-31Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: 2I 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. (Acts 26:1‑3)).
“My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Acts 26:4-54My 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. (Acts 26:4‑5)).
“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers: 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. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:6-86And 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. 8Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? (Acts 26:6‑8)).
Paul, upheld in spirit by his blessed Lord Jesus, could calmly address King Agrippa, recognize his power as an authority, and give him a short summary of his life as an unbeliever. Then, he went straight to the point: the resurrection — God raised from the dead! After that, he continued his discourse, speaking of the unexpected encounter with the Lord:
“I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 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. 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. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 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. 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. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 26:9-159I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10Which 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. 12Whereupon 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. 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. 15And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. (Acts 26:9‑15)).
Saul, finally detained from his crazed career of enmity against Jesus and His saints, suddenly saw the uncreated glory of the Lord Jesus that surpassed the created glory of the sun, fell to the ground and heard a question directed to him. He instantly realized that God was speaking and recognized Him as the “Lord,” but wanted to make sure of His identity. Then he received the most extraordinary revelation of his life: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (v. 15).
In an instant, Saul was left enormously surprised, humiliated, confused, and submissive. That Jesus, whom he persecuted through his saints, was the Lord of glory!
“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; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 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” (Acts 26:16-1816But 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; 17Delivering 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. (Acts 26:16‑18)).
Here we have the great commission that the Lord entrusted to the “chief” of sinners. (“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” — 1 Tim. 1:1515This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)). He was sent to the Gentiles (also Compare Acts 22:2121And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. (Acts 22:21)) so that they would (1) have their eyes opened, (2) convert from darkness unto light, (3) from the power of Satan to God, and (4) receive by faith in Him the remission of sins and (5) the inheritance among the sanctified.
What a blow Paul directed (although indirectly) to everyone: the king, his wife, Festus, and the rest of the authorities from the city who were present! All branded as having been blind, in the darkness, and under the power of Satan!
“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 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. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. 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: 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” (Acts 26:19-2319Whereupon, 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 Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. 21For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. 22Having 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. (Acts 26:19‑23)).
Paul always testified “both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:2121Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)); and in his defense before King Agrippa he did the same. Of course, the king and the rest of the hearers were made responsible before God for having heard the preaching of the gospel. Will we see one or more of them when Christ comes to take His own from the world and the grave?
As soon as Paul spoke particularly of the resurrection of Christ and generally of the dead, Festus interrupted him:
“And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 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. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest” (Acts 26:24-2724And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. 25But 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. 27King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. (Acts 26:24‑27)).
Doubtlessly, Paul knew a lot about the relationship of King Agrippa with the Jews before becoming King of a sector of the Roman Empire. He knew that he was not ignorant about what happened to Jesus, he had some knowledge of the prophetic message about His death and resurrection. Otherwise, he would not have been able to address the king so directly and honestly: “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” Paul here is not the overcome, but the overcomer; not the prisoner, but the free man in Christ. Not intimidated in the presence of the Roman court, but rather fully inspired by the Holy Spirit and arguing against the conscience of the king himself, since he was troubled. “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (v. 28). Note that the inspired writer did not write, “King Agrippa” but just “Agrippa said unto Paul.” Before the eyes of his creator, Agrippa was nothing but a “man.” “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Is. 2:22). Agrippa’s answer indicates a troubled conscience, but it does not show that he had repented. Whereas Paul affirms in his conviction:
“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” (Acts 26:2929And 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. (Acts 26:29)). Emphatically, he let Agrippa and the rest of those present know that he was a happy man and they were unhappy. This was the last thing he said. A good confession of truth!
“And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar” (Acts 26:30-3230And 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. 32Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar. (Acts 26:30‑32)).
When the Lord sent Ananias to speak with Saul of Tarsus, he told him: “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings” (Acts 9:1515But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: (Acts 9:15)).
The next person Paul would have to testify of Christ to (after Agrippa) would be the emperor of the most powerful empire in human history — Caesar of Rome himself.