Acts 26 - Outline of Acts (Book Notes menu page)
As chapter 25 closed, Paul has been brought out by the governor Festus, before King Agrippa II and Bernice and a great crowd of Roman dignitaries. The stated purpose of the hearing is to identify a reasonable criminal charge against the prisoner, before sending him to Caesar (Acts 25:24-27).
1. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself.
Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
Paul's words are heard by everyone in the assembly. But Paul speaks specifically to king Agrippa.
Paul's accusers are not present. He does not spend time refuting the charges of sedition which were raised against him previously. Rather, he puts his full attention into communicating the way of salvation... speaking directly to one man, the king. The others will hear the Gospel, too. But here is the beginning of Paul's opportunity to bear the name of Christ before kings. King Agrippa has given Paul permission to speak for himself, but before he speaks, consider the contrast between these two men....
"...One is clothed in purple, the other in prison garb. One is on a throne, the other is in shackles. One wears a crown, the other is in chains. Agrippa is a king, but in the slavery of sin. Paul is a chained prisoner, rejoicing in the freedom of sins forgiven and liberty in Christ. Agrippa is an earthly king who could not free Paul or himself. Paul is an ambassador of the King who had freed him and could free Agrippa from the damning effects of sin." [JVMcGee]
"Then Paul stretched forth the hand..." in gesture toward the king. (Perhaps his other hand followed, pulled along by his shackle.)
2 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:
3 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.
Paul begins by greeting the king, and expressing appreciation for the opportunity.
The family of Herod the Great was corrupt to the core. Yet, for four generations, they had ruled over the Jewish people. Herod the Great (great grandfather of Agrippa II) had severely taxed and repressed the Jews, yet he had embellished the Temple in Jerusalem. The Herods professed to follow the religion of the Jews, although they were ethnically Idumean (from the region of Edom). They were well versed in the Hebrew scriptures and customs. Unlike the Gentile officials before whom Paul had testified previously, Agrippa should have understood the issues.
Paul continues... introducing himself to the king, and explaining his personal background...
4 My manner of life from my youth,
which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify,
that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
From his earliest days, Paul had been raised as a Pharisee, in strict adherence to the scriptures.
Although he had been well regarded from his youth, by his Jewish peers and elders, they had not been willing to testify in his behalf, in previous court sessions.
In the absence of others to speak for or against him, Paul gives his assessment of their charges...
6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:
7 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.
8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
The charges against him are centered in the hope {ie., expectation} of resurrection:
  • the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers... -
    Jesus quoted Ex 3:6, to demonstrate this hope, in Mat 22:31,32. ("God is... the God... of the living..."; thus emphasizing God's 'present tense' relationship to men who were physically dead.) The fathers of Israel were sojourners on earth, living in temporary dwellings (tents), in anticipation of promises that would be fulfilled in a future life, beyond the time of their sojourn (Heb 11:8-10).
  • the hope which is the goal of all Israel (the twelve tribes). -
    Paul says, this was not only the historic expectation of the fathers, but continues to be the expectation of the Jewish people at the present time. From the time of Adam and Eve, we have looked for the Messiah, the seed of the woman who would save us from Satan's dominion (Gen 3:15), and the seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Gen 22:18), the one whom our father, Jacob, called "Shiloh" {the one to whom it belongs} who will come to take dominion unto Himself (Gen 49:10). It is He who Paul proclaimed to Jew and Gentile alike. See his message in Acts 13:26-41.
King Agrippa, Why should you judge it to be unbelievable, that God raises the dead?
Yet, O king, I myself opposed this, at one time...
9 I verily thought with myself,
that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10 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].
11 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.
There was a time when I did everything in my power to destroy those who believe that God raised up Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.
Paul says, I was previously "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief" (1Tim 1:13).
     How great is that mercy! That it should cover a man who put believers to death, hunting them like animals wherever I could find them, and compelling {forcing, pressing} them to blaspheme {to revile or denounce their Lord}, while all along I was the blasphemer in rebellion against God.
12. Whereupon as I went to Damascus
with authority and commission from the chief priests,
13 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.
14 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.
15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord?
And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
Paul recounts how the resurrected Jesus arrested him in his zealous insanity against believers.
He had not been persecuting mere men, but this glorious living One, whom he would not have known, except that He identified Himself, as Jesus.
"It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks {ie., against the goads}."
What had goaded Saul into action? It was his own zealous hatred against Christ and His followers, whom he persecuted with a vengeance.
     Yet, inwardly, he was goaded by a fear that he was fighting a losing battle. Those whom he hated, like Stephen, clung to their Lord more than to life itself. Though he persecuted them to the death, they would rise again. His campaign was all in vain. 'Saul, your rebellious kicking is against me. You can never accomplish what you have set out to do.'
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;
17 Delivering thee from the people, and [from] the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
18 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.
But "rise..." - The word is used elsewhere of rising from the dead (eg., Eph 5:14; 1The 4:14,16).
Paul arose not only from the ground where he had fallen before the Lord, but also up out of spiritual death, to serve the One whom he had been warring against. cp. Eph 2:1-10
The Lord outlined His purposes for Paul:
  • to make thee a minister and a witness...
    • of what he had seen (the resurrected Lord Jesus)... and
    • of what would be revealed to him in the future (eg., the Gospel, the teaching concerning the Church, etc.). See 1Tim 1:12,13.
  • delivering thee from the people {ie., the Jews} and the Gentiles...
    Paul would suffer persecution (from those who would hate him, as he had hated the saints), but the Lord would preserve him until his task was completed. cp. 2Cor 1:10; 4:11
  • sending thee to the Gentiles... "to open their eyes... to turn them... that they may receive..." (v.18)
    None of these things were within Paul's power to accomplish. Rather, the prophets foretold that the Messiah would do these things (Isa 42:6,7,16; 61:1). The risen Christ, who opened Saul's spiritual eyes, commissioned Paul to proclaim salvation through faith in Him, to the sin blinded world. The Lord Himself would...
19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
20 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.
21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill [me].
22 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:
23 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.
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision...
'What else could I do, having seen this vision? What would you have done, O king?'
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing...
'Just as the Lord promised to deliver me from the people and from the Gentiles, it is He who has helped me and preserved me to this day, so that I can continue to proclaim this message, to the poor and lowly, and also to the high and mighty.'
...witnessing... saying...
  • (v.22,23a) 'My message is simply what the scriptures (the prophets and Moses) have said all along:
    "that the Christ must suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead..."'
    The line above is a succinct summary of what Paul had presented, as he reasoned in Jewish synagogues in various gentile cities. (eg., Acts 17:2,3)
  • (v.23b) ...and that He "...should shew light unto the people {ie., the Jews} and to the Gentiles."
    "The Gospel of Christ... is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Rom 1:16
24. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice,
Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus;
but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
...Paul, thou art beside thyself... mad...-
To Festus, who had no understanding of the scriptures, this talk of a Messiah who had to die and then rise from the dead, was utter nonsense. 'Paul, you have been in the scriptures so long, that you have gone crazy {turned into a raving maniac}.' (The word for 'mad' is GK=mania; 'beside thyself' is GK=mainomai.)
Paul answers Festus respectfully:
'I am not overtaken with a mania. My words are sound minded truth.'
He then turns back to address the king...
26 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.
The king must be aware of these things...
of both the scriptural prophecies, and also their fulfillment in the Person of Jesus Christ.
The prophecies were fulfilled in plain view. Your own family members played a role, of which you must surely be aware.
27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
Paul brings the king to the point of decision:
  • If you believe the prophets, you must put your trust in the Messiah of whom they spoke... the one who died and rose again... even for you.
  • We are all condemned by the Law of God, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who saved me, the chief of sinners, will save all who turn to Him, including you (1Tim 1:8-17).
28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
The GK wording is not clear.
Our English translation implies that Agrippa was sincerely considering the Gospel message:
     "Almost {lit., in a little} thou persuadest me to be a Christian."
But it is likely that his response was a flippantly humorous dismissal of Paul's witness:
     'With but little persuasion do you intend to make me a Christian?'
29 And Paul said, I would to God,
that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day,
were both almost
{lit., in little}, and altogether {lit., in much} such as I am,
except these bonds.
30 And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up,
and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them:
31 And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves,
saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.
32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus,
This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
Paul's desire was sincere... that all who had heard the Gospel might be transformed,
as He had been, from sinner to saint, set apart to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
The king arose abruptly.
He would hear no more from the prisoner.
The dignitaries deliberating, following the session, could find "nothing worthy of death or bonds."
Perhaps Paul would have been set free. But he had appealed to Caesar, and even king Agrippa had no power to prevent Paul from going to Rome, to fulfill the course which his Lord had outlined for him. "...for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome." (Acts 23:11)

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