Chapter 26: The Gentile Account of Saul's Conversion

Acts 25:23‑27; Acts 26  •  27 min. read  •  grade level: 8
(Suggested Reading: Chapter 25:23-27; Chapter 26)
The expression “on the morrow” is a favorite one with Luke and here he uses it for the last time—25:23. The world’s “tomorrow” is now, for it has no future. This is clearly the message here. Paul had once written to the Corinthians “but for me it is the very smallest matter that I be examined of you or of man’s day” —1 Cor. 4:33But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. (1 Corinthians 4:3). “Examined” here does not mean judged, but the preliminary examination at which the accused has to answer and give an account of himself. So it is here. Though Paul is not technically answerable to Festus or Agrippa because of his appeal to Caesar, he is in another sense. For Festus is consulting Agrippa on the substance of that appeal. But this is all “man’s day.” Paul looks beyond the glittering assembly to eternal realities. Well does he know how hollow it all is. The Herod of Acts 12, who was the father of Agrippa and Bernice, had arranged just such a public display as this in the same city—Caesarea—and God had smitten him with worms so he died. Agrippa might have learned from this and seen Paul privately. But this is man’s day, when he displays his hollow glory. The occasion is one of great pomp, in an audience hall, with the Chiliarchs and important men of the city. Paul is discharging that peculiar ministry the Lord gave him—to testify before kings—9:15. Each time he does this more courage is required than the previous time. First, he appears before Felix and Festus, a difficult enough matter. Here he is brought before an enormous audience of Gentiles of distinction, presided over by a Roman Governor and a Jewish King. Finally, he appears before the Emperor himself—an ordeal that calls for the heart of a lion. His defense here before Festus and Agrippa reminds us of Luther’s position at the Diet of Worms. Behind all these events is God, who as another has remarked, is behind the scenes, moving all the scenes He is behind.
Festus opens the proceedings by addressing King Agrippa and the assembled military and civilian dignitaries. “Ye see this person” he says—language used to describe the Apostle of Jesus Christ— “this person” —truth in chains before the world. And the world it is, with a
huge assemblage of the elite of society. What is bringing them there to hear Paul? Couldn’t Festus have just as easily consulted Agrippa in private? Certainly, he could. But God would not have it that way. The activities of the Holy Spirit are troubling the world, and men flocked together to see and hear Paul, the storm center of it all. Festus goes on to relate how the Jews sought Paul’s life, but he has done nothing worthy of death. However, Paul has appealed to Augustus. Therefore Festus has summoned Paul before this assembly, and in particular before King Agrippa, so Festus can relay to his Lord (Caesar) the results of the examination— “for it seems to me senseless, sending a prisoner, not also to signify the charges against him.”
Paul’s Opening Remarks Before Agrippa
Paul addresses Agrippa throughout his speech, although a huge crowd hears his words. He opens his speech with the customary laudatory remarks, as Tertullus did before Felix. With Paul however, such an opening, although used to conform to the social customs of the day, is always tempered with the preserving salt of truth. He finds little to say to Felix of a complimentary character, knowing the man well. Here he can go a little further. Agrippa has a knowledge of divine things. This in itself will not save a man—it needs faith which is in Christ Jesus. But it is a base on which the evangelist can build—2 Tim. 3:1515And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15). At the close of his address Paul will revert to this theme in a personal appeal to the king.
Paul starts by describing his life as a Jew before his conversion. Unlike those who claimed he profaned the temple and have no witnesses, there are abundant witnesses to his claim that “after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” Why does he introduce this piece of background information here? Is it not because he believes in resurrection? His claim before the Sanhedrin that he is a Pharisee divided the Council because the Sadducees denied the resurrection. He appeals to Agrippa— “why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” Incredible it might be to a pagan Roman. But to a Jew, versed in the Holy Scriptures? The fathers had the hope of the promise which God made to them. “Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God night and day, hope to come.” This means that the remnant of Israel, the fragment of the whole nation who have accepted Christ, is viewed by God as the twelve tribes themselves, even though the whereabouts of ten of these tribes is unknown then as now. It is for that hope Paul is accused by the Jews. This puts matters in perspective. Paul is not preaching a deviation from the orthodox religion. He is the real exponent of it. It is the Jews who have disbelieved the Scriptures. But if this be so how does Paul reconcile his present position with the beliefs of his youth? He explains this difficulty with the story of his conversion.
The Gentile Account of Saul’s Conversion
His voice ringing through the vast audience hall, Paul testifies that “I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the Name of Jesus of Nazareth.” And what were these things? Why “many of the saints did I shut up in prison.” This name “saints” means holy ones. It is the way God views all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is found only four times in Acts—twice in connection with Peter, doing good to them, and twice in connection with Paul—doing evil to them—cf. 9:13, 32,41, and 26:10. Paul had them put to death, voting on their punishment. He punished them in every city— “and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even as far away as foreign cities.” An enemy of the Lord, surely.
Then Christ arrests him, appearing to him in glory—the radiant effulgence of the glory of God. He hears a voice saying to him in Hebrew— “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” In persecuting those feeble believers he has been persecuting the God of the universe—the exalted Man in the glory—the Head of the Church which is His body, the fulness of Him who filleth all in all. Astonished, Saul exclaims ‘who art Thou, Lord?’ The Lord replies ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest!’ In this way Paul receives the truth which he gives to us in two of his epistles. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” —revealed the truth that Christ is the Head in heaven of His body the Church on earth. In persecuting believers, he is persecuting their Head in heaven. This truth he unfolds in his Ephesian epistle— “and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” —Eph. 1:22, 2322And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22‑23). The complementary truth— “Christ in you (that is in the Gentiles) the hope of glory” —unfolded in his Colossian epistle—see Col. 1:2727To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Colossians 1:27)—is implied in the Lord’s words “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” This latter doctrine—Christ in them sustained many a dear early Christian when facing death for Christ’s sake.1
Three times during this discourse Paul gives Agrippa, whom he is addressing, his full title “King Agrippa.” But when he speaks of Christ, he drops Agrippa’s name and merely says, “O king.” “At midday, on the way, I saw, O king, a light above the brightness of the sun.” Here the Great King is in question. It is Jesus, who is not only great but the Son of the Highest, to whom the Lord God shall give the throne of His father David. It is Jesus in Solomon character meeting Shimei who cursed David. Like Solomon this Great King is on the throne, for Jesus is now upon His Father’s throne—Rev. 3:2121To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3:21). But He is not yet sitting on His own throne. If He were, His ambassador would not be in chains before King Agrippa. How vividly Paul makes this great event shine out in its true character.
Acting in sovereign grace, the Lord does not destroy His enemy but saves him. More than that He entrusts him with a mission which explains his presence before King Agrippa. He has appeared to him to make him a minister and a witness “both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in which I will appear unto thee.” To discharge this mission, he must be a heavenly man, separated from the earth, transformed to the Christ in glory he has just seen. No other man can be entrusted with such a mission. That is the meaning of v. 17 “delivering thee from the people (that is God’s people, the Jews) and from the Gentiles.” That is, God cut Paul off from all earthly ties. For there are only two classes of men in the world—Jews and Gentiles and God severed his links with both on the road to Damascus. Now made a heavenly man, the ambassador for Christ, he is to be sent to the Gentiles— “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith that is in Me.”
How Paul Carried Out His Mission
Paul informs King Agrippa that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. He went forth preaching, and he preached repentance. Peter called for repentance first—2:38; Paul here last. While Paul’s preaching began with the Jew the gospel is to the Jew first he went on to the Gentiles. Because he did this the envious Jews caught him in the Temple and went about to kill him. The Jews hate him because he is doing what their Messiah told him to do. If he had been disobedient to the heavenly vision, they would have left him alone. But God was with him in spite of the opposition of the Jews. He witnesses to all both small and great. Since his witness is founded on Holy Scripture, he has not repudiated the faith of his fathers.
The audience by this time, a pagan audience, is growing restive. Still his discourse is uninterrupted until he says, “that Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should announce light to the people and to the Gentiles.” Note the language “announcing” light and the order, first the Jews the people then the Gentiles. This is too much for the pagan Festus. He has never read the Scriptures, and to him the possibility of a man rising from the dead is the purest fantasy. He is probably doing no more than expressing the feelings of the crowd when he interrupts Paul in a loud voice “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” If Paul had not confessed Christ, he would not have been considered mad. Festus’ remark illustrates an important principle that if you confess Christ both Jews and Gentiles will be against you and try to explain away your testimony. If you are an ordinary man, they will say you are intoxicated 2:13; if you are an educated man, they will say that too much learning has made you insane. Paul’s reply to Festus’ uncalled for interruption is a model of courtesy, tact, and faithfulness “I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but utter words of truth and soberness.” “Most excellent” is the correct mode of address for a Roman official of Festus’ standing, which Luke also accords to the Roman official Theophilus to whom he addressed his gospel. Paul’s comment restores Festus to the dignity of the office he has disgraced by his interruption. Paul says that he speaks the words of truth and soberness. “For the king knows about these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him” (Agrippa knew what God did to his father in this same city and how God had delivered Peter out of his father’s hand). “For this thing was not done in a corner” that is, it is widespread there are many witnesses to the resurrection of Christ.
Paul Challenges King Agrippa
Paul now makes the most of Festus’ interruption. He has just pointed out the king’s knowledge of these things, which was why Festus consulted him in the first place. Now he hurls him a personal challenge one which Agrippa has not bargained for. “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” Agrippa dares not answer negatively or he will prejudice his position with the Jews. But if he says he believes the prophets he knows he cannot refute Paul’s testimony. He tries to avoid the dilemma with sarcasm. To paraphrase him he is saying “you are very persuasive if you keep on trying you might even convert me.” Well the crux of Paul’s testimony is the twenty-third verse where he is interrupted. Here he rises to his noblest, no doubt beckoning to Agrippa with his chained hand “I would to God, that not only you, but also all who hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”
Agrippa has had enough of such virile testimony. He concludes the interview by rising. The Governor follows him, then Bernice, then the audience, all in an orderly fashion. It is hard to conceive of an audience hearing such words without some decisions for Christ. But Paul’s message has no apparent effect on the king and governor. They agree that Paul has done nothing worthy of death and bonds. Agrippa says to Festus “this man might have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to Caesar.” A dubious conclusion. But in their eyes Paul’s defense has served its purpose. They can now set in motion the formal procedure of an appeal to Caesar. They can send the Apostle, who witnessed for the Lord at the Temple, on to Rome. And so, the word “Temple” disappears from the text in v. 21.
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While Agrippa helps Festus prepare his report to Caesar, let us reflect on what Paul told them the account of his conversion. This was delivered to a Gentile audience. Let us compare it briefly with the other two accounts of his conversion in Acts.
It is evident that the Holy Spirit considers the conversion of Saul of Tarsus an extremely important event, for He gives us three versions of it in Acts. The first is the general account, looked at from God’s standpoint. This is in the ninth chapter. Then in chapter 22 we have the account of it from the Jewish viewpoint; here in chapter 26 from the Gentile viewpoint. Saul was an enemy of the Lord like Pharaoh, who said “who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go; I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” —Ex. 5:22And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. (Exodus 5:2). But when Saul heard the Lord’s voice he obeyed it. He cried out “who art Thou Lord” and let His equally persecuted people go.
In the general account of his conversion “suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.” Then in the Jewish version the light grows brighter— “there shone from heaven a great light round about me.” Finally, in the Gentile version he sees in the way a light from heaven— “above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and those who journeyed with me.” The light is at its brightest in the Gentile version of his conversion because he is the Apostle to the Gentiles.
The Testimony of Peter and Paul to Christ the Rejected King
In Peter and Paul, the two great Apostles who divide the Acts, we have fulness of testimony to Christ by each Apostle in the same cities Jerusalem and Caesarea. Peter knew Christ on earth; Paul only from the glory. On the day of Pentecost Peter let the Jews into the kingdom of the heavens at Jerusalem; at Caesarea he let the Gentiles in. Now these are just the cities where Paul testifies of his conversion to the Jew and the Gentile. He gives the Jewish account at Jerusalem on the steps of the fortress of Antonia overlooking the temple; the Gentile account in the assembly presided over by Festus and Agrippa at Caesarea. In both instances Paul has large audiences but no recorded fruit; Peter has blessing in both cases. Now just what is meant by this amazing symmetry?
Well, Christ the True King has been rejected. A king always rules from an official residence. Where is Christ today? Why in heaven you say. Quite true—and that is why His kingdom is now called the kingdom of the heavens. Didn’t the inscription over His cross testify that He is the King of the Jews? Didn’t Pilate say, “shall I crucify your King?” At the beginning of Acts the disciples don’t understand this. They ask Him “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” They want an earthly king and an earthly kingdom. But the Lord shows by His ascension that this is not to be now. Not only that but before He left this world for heaven, He entrusted Peter with the keys of the kingdom of the heavens. From Acts we know that Paul’s great subject is the kingdom of God. Paul’s testimony to his conversion at Jerusalem and Caesarea complements Peter’s action in those two cities in turning his two keys. Peter lets man into the kingdom of the heavens at these two cities for the King is no longer on earth but in heaven. Then Paul testifies in the same two cities that the King met him on the way to Damascus—He came from heaven to earth to arrest Saul in his madness.
Peter’s ministry is the kingdom of the heavens; Paul’s the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is moral. It consists of righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit—Rom. 14:1717For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17). We find righteousness displayed when Paul “reasoned of righteousness temperance and judgment to come” —24:25—causing Felix to tremble; peace in the story of Saul’s conversion; joy in his chains—26:29.
Paul’s bearing as a man throughout all this is exemplary. He lived Christ and endured persecutions which would crush other men. He lived to see men beginning to tear down his work and he was alone with few caring for him in his old age and last imprisonment. Here he is carried away by the power of Rome—the last of the Gentile kingdoms—the iron legs of Daniel’s image. Can we doubt for a minute that man contests the kingdoms of this world with Christ? Look at Paul who is an ambassador for Christ. He is seized by Roman soldiers, carried away captive to Caesarea, tried before Felix and Festus, paraded before Agrippa. To whom do the kingdoms of this world belong then—to Christ or to Caesar? The Jews answer, “we have no king but Caesar.” The Gentiles crucified the rightful King who said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” His kingdom, then, is the kingdom of the heavens—a kingdom in mystery—not of present worldly rule.
The Jews stoned Stephen, thus really sending a message after Christ who was then in glory—that they would not have that Man to reign over them. Then the Gentile powers imprisoned Paul, the man whose ministry started where Stephen’s left off. In doing so they merely pointed up Paul’s unique likeness to his Master, something we view in Stephen also. This is the next subject we will consider.
Thoughts Concerning the Closing Testimony
of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostle Paul
The principle underlying human education is to set before the student a goal he can attain with effort and to reward him with a degree. In divine education the soul is given an unattainable object Christ in glory. We always come short of this object but are never to cease striving for Him. The believer’s education will never be ended because the goal set before him is infinite, being God Himself. This education will continue for all eternity, although it starts in time. This can be seen in Paul—perhaps the greatest man in the New Testament. Yet when his life and work are compared to Christ he is as the light of a candle compared to the light of the sun. At this point, though, we might anticipate the reader’s question as to the connection of these remarks with the text. It is a good question, and we will consider it.
Many have been puzzled by Luke’s lengthy description of Paul’s trials, imprisonments, and shipwreck—and not without reason. For example, Paul barely mentions his other shipwrecks in his writings, whereas Luke goes into the last one at great length. Again, the period is marked by no conversions or evidence of blessing. A suggestion has already been made that when there is any degree of departure from the Lord in our lives, they cease to be simple, as God intended, and become complicated. But this only partially accounts for the problem. We are greatly helped toward an answer once we realize that the period under review is one in which the great Apostle’s life is gradually drawing to its close. While there is everything to indicate that his appeal to Caesar was successful and that he enjoyed a subsequent period of liberty, still the greatest part of his life’s work is now past. Therefore, it is at this juncture that the Holy Spirit draws the line and affords us a picture of what Paul’s life really was. For in this apparently barren period a series of striking similarities between the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and the life of His great Apostle take place. This should not surprise us for Paul wrote— “so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Phil 1:20, 21.
Paul was in all respects a model Christian—a man who alone of men could say— “be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ” 1 Cor. 11:11Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1). And if, in imitating Christ, Paul seems in some respects to fall short of his goal, let us not in any way disparage the great Apostle. Rather let us magnify the Lord. May the soul of the reader rejoice like Paul who wrote— “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” —Phil 3:13.
A final caution is that our comparison is not drawn up to stimulate the mind or imagination of the reader, but to reach his heart’s affections—to spur him on in the same pathway as Paul’s—pursuing Christ in glory until that Object is attained.
A Comparison of the Closing Events in the Life
of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Great Apostle Paul
When the Lord’s public ministry ended, He was completely rejected by His own nation. The synoptic gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—narrate this as a gradual thing culminating in total rejection.2 This also was true of Paul as bit by bit the door of the synagogue was closed on his preaching, and his own nation rejected his appeal as he spoke to them over the Temple area.
Both the Lord and Paul concluded their public ministry at Jerusalem. The Lord went there to die, in obedience to His Father’s will and in the power of the Spirit; Paul was willing to die for the Lord at Jerusalem—21:13 but went there in spite of warnings from the Spirit. The Lord rebuked Peter when he tried to turn Him away from suffering and death—Mark 8:31-3331And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. (Mark 8:31‑33); Paul chided the saints at Caesarea when they sought to turn him aside from suffering and death. The Lord entered Jerusalem on beasts provided for Him—Luke 19:28-3828And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. 29And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, 30Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. 31And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. 32And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. 33And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34And they said, The Lord hath need of him. 35And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. 36And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. 37And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. (Luke 19:28‑38); Paul left Jerusalem on beasts provided for him—23:24. The Lord’s entrance to Jerusalem is in triumph—His colt is tied by the door without “in a place where two ways met” —Mark 11:44And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. (Mark 11:4). Paul’s exit from Jerusalem is in captivity and his ship runs aground “in a place where two seas met.”
The events connected with our Lord’s betrayal and their counterpart in Paul’s life will next be considered. First, we find that Judas Iscariot, a Jew, bargained with the chief priests for money to deliver the Lord to them; Felix, a Roman, bargained with Paul for money in exchange for his freedom. Next we find the Lord instituting His Supper in the large upper room; Paul too as his ministry was drawing to a close broke bread with the disciples at Troas “in the upper chamber where they were gathered together.”3 When we come to the last partings other similarities show up. The Lord had said “the things concerning Me have an end.” In the upper room He gathered His own together before instituting the Supper and communicated His most intimate thoughts to them. So with Paul. He summoned the Ephesian elders and told them that he had not shunned to declare to them all the counsels of God.
After the Lord’s Supper at Jerusalem Peter fell from not listening to Christ; after the Lord’s Supper at Troas Eutychus fell from not listening to Paul. Peter is a figure of the confidence of the flesh; Eutychus of the weakness of the flesh. Finally, it was night when Judas left the upper room to betray the Lord to the Jews and hence to the Romans: it was night when Paul was taken away from the treachery of the Jews at Jerusalem to the Romans at Caesarea. In both cases it was their hour and the power of darkness. In rejecting both Paul and the One who sent him, Jerusalem, the lighthouse of the world, was plunged into darkness.
This darkness next manifests itself in the events connected with the imprisonment and judgment of the Lord and His Apostle. We find that both the Lord and Paul were seized by armed men the Lord in the garden of Gethsemane with artificial light provided by torches Paul in the Temple area in daylight by Roman soldiers. The real darkness emerges in the treatment of the Lord and Paul before the Sanhedrin. Of the Lord we read “now the chief priests and elders and all the Council, sought false witnesses against Jesus... but found none... at the last came two false witnesses and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the Temple of God, and to build it in three days” Mat. 26:59-61. Paul, on the other hand, was charged with profaning the Temple, but no witnesses can be found to support the charge. The Lord was then smitten Mat. 26:67 as Paul also was 23:2. The language used against them is strikingly similar “answerest Thou the high priest so?” —John 18:2222And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? (John 18:22) and “revilest thou God’s high priest?” 23:4.
Such treatment is too much for nature. Mark tells us that they all forsook Jesus and fled. Even the young man with the linen cloth around his body ran away naked in his eagerness to escape see Mark 14:50-5250And they all forsook him, and fled. 51And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: 52And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked. (Mark 14:50‑52). So, with Paul in his imprisonment left alone as far as the record shows, by James, the elders, and all at Jerusalem. A young man, Paul’s nephew, visits him, and is the means of his deliverance from the Jews. So, Paul shares Christ’s reproach “despised and left alone by men” Isa. 53:33He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3). Yet the Lord said, “I am not alone because the Father is with Me” John 16:3232Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. (John 16:32). So with Paul. In the very moment when he seemed to be abandoned by all the Lord stood by him in the fortress 23:11.
Next, we find that both the Lord and Paul were delivered by their own nation, the Jews, to the Gentiles. Pilate said “am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me” John 18:3535Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? (John 18:35). Even so Paul’s imprisonment and trial by the Romans was directly traceable to the Jews. Both the Lord and Paul heard their cry of rejection. With the Lord it was “away with This Man and release unto us Barabbas” Luke 23:1818And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: (Luke 23:18); with Paul it was “away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live” 22:22.
How did the Gentiles, then, treat the Lord and His Apostle? Pilate has the Lord appear before Herod; Festus has Paul appear before another Herod (Agrippa). Herod with his men of war set the Lord at naught; Paul’s position before Festus, Agrippa and the Chiliarchs and dignitaries is similar— “ye see this person” Festus cries—25:24. The Gentile power, though, finds nothing chargeable against the Lord or Paul. Pilate washed his hands to show this. He also said “ye have brought This Man unto me, as One that perverteth the people, and behold I, having examined Him before you, have found no fault in This Man, touching those things whereof ye accuse Him, no nor yet Herod” Luke 23:14, 1514Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: 15No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. (Luke 23:14‑15). Even so Agrippa tells Festus “this man might have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Completely guiltless, the Scriptures must yet be fulfilled concerning Christ. The prophet Isaiah had written “He was taken from prison and from judgment and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living” Isa. 53:88He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (Isaiah 53:8). The first act in crucifixion was scourging. The Romans did this to the Lord; Paul escaped it only by declaring his Roman citizenship. Written over the Lord’s cross was His accusation “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” John 19:1919And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. (John 19:19) in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew. This was just Paul’s testimony to his own nation when addressing them over the Temple. He confesses that this Jesus of Nazareth is alive, not dead, and in the glory of God, not on earth, and that this Jesus is Lord, a title given to Him over and over again in this address. In his delivery, and in the events preceding it and following it, Paul uses the three languages over the cross which proclaimed Jesus to be the King of the Jews 21:37; 22:2; 22:27-29.
We have now compared the close of the Lord’s life and testimony with that of His Apostle Paul. Small wonder then that Paul writes “for the rest let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the brands of the Lord Jesus” Gal. 6:1717From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 6:17). His great desire was “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death” Phil 3:10.
The Lord’s own sufferings are a thing apart. But Paul’s sufferings are the supplementary sufferings of Christ continued in His body down here—the Church. At his conversion Paul learned the truth of union with Christ—that Christ and His members here below are one. “If one member suffer all members suffer with it” —1 Cor. 12:2626And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26). It was his privilege to suffer here for Christ— “who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for His body’s sake, which is the Church” —Col. 1:2424Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: (Colossians 1:24).