Meditations on Acts 26

Acts 26  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Acts 26.
Paul now shows that it is on account of the promises made to the fathers that he stands charged, and this too was the ground of the Jews’ accusation. “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:88Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? (Acts 26:8)). He had thought that he should do many things against the name of Jesus, and zealous like the other Jews against the Christians, had persecuted them unmercifully, even into strange cities. Then he relates the appearing of the Lord Jesus on the way to Damascus, whither he was going to imprison Christians—how he had been arrested by the glory of the Lord in heaven, and learned that it was He Himself he was persecuting, since all Christians were one with Him. It was then that the unity of believers with Jesus was for the first time declared, a truth more fully unfolded afterward by means of the apostle.
But the conversion itself was effected by two things; first, the heavenly glory of the Man, Jesus Christ the Lord; Paul, seeing this first, and then learning that it was Jesus; and secondly, that all Christians were united in one body with Him. Paul was persecuting Jesus Himself. But thenceforward he was to be a witness both of the things he had seen, and of those in which He who had been revealed to him would yet appear unto him. He had been separated from his own people, the Jews, and from the Gentiles, to whom now he was to be sent. He was no longer a Jew, but yet had not become a Gentile. He was associated with the Lord of glory, and was sent out from Him as a witness of His glory, and of the grace that could take up an open enemy, and make him the expression and witness of the perfect grace that had converted and saved him. His mission, as God’s workman, was to open the eyes of the Gentiles, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified —the whole by faith in Jesus. “By faith that is in me” (vs. 18), applies more particularly to forgiveness and inheritance, though as a matter of fact, the words extend to the entire sentence. Obedient to the heavenly vision, he had preached repentance everywhere, beginning with the Jews, exhorting them to turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. Though the Jews had sought to kill him, yet by the help of God he had continued till that day, saying none other things than those which the prophets had said should happen—that Christ should suffer, rise from the dead, and show light to the people and to the Gentiles.
To Festus, all this was mere fanaticism. But Paul replied with perfect dignity and propriety, in a way which was the best proof that he was not beside himself, but that he spoke the words of truth and soberness. Such a testimony, however, to an unconverted Gentile, whose conscience had not been reached, was nothing but pure madness. At all events, Festus felt that these things were entirely beyond his knowledge. He saw that Paul could not be charged with any misdemeanor. He understood nothing about the matter. The formal politeness he had at first shown now disappears, as well as the propriety of his position. The power of what Paul had said has sufficed to reduce him to his natural state of soul. But Paul maintaining both dignity and propriety, places Festus anew in the position of governor, and addresses himself to Agrippa, who knew the truth of these things, and before whom therefore he could speak freely. Turning towards the latter, then, he asks, “King Agrippa,” appealing to his conscience, “believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest” (Acts 26:2727King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. (Acts 26:27)).
Being above all circumstances, Paul is completely master of the occasion. Agrippa is confused by the apostle’s question, since he was a Jew by profession, though nothing in heart! and ashamed of being placed in a corner before such company by his simple but powerful words, tries to parry the blow, and says jestingly, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” But Paul, whose large heart is occupied only with the reality and happiness of Christianity, replies, “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.” Such was the beautiful expression of a heart full of grace, and therefore of love for others, and of the consciousness of a happiness that two years’ captivity had rather strengthened than weakened. But how highly by his nearness to God, is he, the poor prisoner, the despised Jew, elevated above both governors and kings! He treats them with deference and respect, as was his duty, but because he was able to do so from his place of moral superiority to them, which he had by faith in a glorified Savior. Humble, and at peace, when the opportunity presented itself, he could display the greatness of what was in his soul, and utter desires for the great who only possessed outward splendor.
For the pagan Festus, who only relished human grandeur, he was nothing but a madman; for Agrippa, nothing but a trouble and vexation of spirit. He had desired to know what this Christianity that was attracting the attention of all around him, and that pretended to come from God and demand the submission of all with His authority, might be; but he did not expect himself to be challenged so personally. For Paul the prisoner, it was eternal life and the presence of God who had saved him, and the earnest of the glory to which he was heir. His testimony had been given.
The effect on king Agrippa is evident. Not that he was converted—far from that—but his conscience was touched. He speaks to Festus as a little king to a governor, not as feeling lightly, nor despising the truth and Christianity, but is careful to declare that Paul might have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to Caesar. Two things are thus made manifest; the innocence of Paul, since Agrippa fully understood the truth of his case, and that his appeal to Caesar was the only hindrance to his liberation. It was the will of God that he should go to Rome, but if he had not made use of his worldly rights to regain his liberty, he might have gone there free. Yet the hand of God was in all this, for the one who had given his decision in the matter had listened to the testimony through this appeal to Caesar; and from his knowledge of the ways of the country, was able to declare with confidence, that it was only the appeal that prevented him from being set free. It is manifest in what light the apostle’s faith considered the effect of his captivity (Phil. 1:12-13,1912But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; (Philippians 1:12‑13)
19For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (Philippians 1:19)
). Moreover, the Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon, are the precious fruit of his captivity at Rome. But his mission to the Gentiles, as far as the Spirit speaks of it, is now at an end. Yet, though his mission is over, the apostle remains a bright and blessed object. We shall find the condemnation of the Jews closing our history.