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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Acts 26







I. Paul"s defense before King Agrippa:

A. Introduction:

B. Paul"s well known past in Judaism:

C. The events on the road to Damascus:

D. His commission from Jesus:

E. His fulfillment of that Commission:

II. Festus interrupts and Paul"s response:

III. Personal question to King Agrippa and his response:

IV. Aftermath:

The chain of events which resulted in this defense before King Agrippa, started back in Acts 21:27. When Paul was in Jerusalem, he was accused of bringing Gentiles into the Temple (21:28-29), and he was rescued from the Jewish mob by observant Roman soldiers (21:31). Because of a plot that was being laid by the Jews (23:12-21) in Jerusalem, Paul was moved to Caesarea (23:23ff), and thus came into the care of the Roman Governor Felix. Paul will remain under arrest in Caesarea for two years (24:27). Porcius Festus replaces Felix as governor of Judea in Acts 24:27. The Jews then try to persuade the new Roman governor to bring Paul to Jerusalem, but a trial is held at Caesarea, in which Paul appeals that the proper venue for his case to be heard is before Caesar himself (25:11). Festus has found himself with a prisoner, whose case perplexes him (25:25-27). He needs to write a letter to the emperor that will explain Paul"s case or accusations against him and he finds himself at a loss of words concerning what to write. When King Agrippa and Bernice arrive at Caesarea (25:13), Festus finds an ideal person to hear Paul"s case (25:14ff). King Agrippa is intrigued by what Festus tells him and wishes to hear the case himself (25:22). Acts 25:23-27 informs us that Paul will stand before a grand audience (25:23). The "place of hearing" mentioned in 25:23 probably refers to the "audience room" in which the governor would receive visitors of state. What immediately impresses me about Paul"s speech in this chapter is that Paul is not bitter. False charges have been trumped up against him and Felix should have released him but had kept him in prison as a favor to the Jews (24:27). Yet Paul is still polite, positive, persuasive and zealous in trying to convert this King.

Verse 1

Acts 26:1 "And Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth his hand, and made his defense"

"Agrippa" Pronounced a grip uh. This man was known as Agrippa II. He was the son of Agrippa I, the same man who had been responsible for the death of James (Acts 12:1-19), and the persecution of Christians. Agrippa"s father had died in A.D. 44 (Acts 12:20-23). In A.D. 50 the emperor Claudius made Agrippa II king of Chalcis. In 53 A.D. Claudius granted Agrippa the tetrarachy of Philip in exchange for the territory of Chalcis. Shortly after Nero"s accession in A.D. 54, he gave Agrippa the Galilean cities of Tiberias and Tarichea and their surrounding land. "Agrippa II"s private life was not exemplary. His sister Bernice was a widow after her second husband (and uncle Herod), king of Chalcis, died in A.D. 48. From that date she lived in her brother"s house. In an attempt to quiet the rumors of incest she resolved to marry Polemo of Cilicia. But she did not continue long with him and returned to her old relations with Agrippa. The incestuous relationship became the common talk of Rome" (Zond. Ency. p. 144). "Said unto Paul" Indicating that Festus had turned over the investigation to Agrippa. When Agrippa rises (26:30) that signals the end of the proceedings. "Stretched forth his hand" "Raising his hand in salutation" (Bruce p. 488). Note the detail. "Rendered in this case still more impressive by the chains which hung upon his arms" (P.P. Comm. p. 264). "Made his defense" "As the actual charge of heresy, Paul at once shows that it is absurd. He is held guilty because he believes and teaches the essential doctrine of Judaism (that is the fulfillment of all that the prophets had said 26:22-23), namely, the hope of a Messiah (26:6). He is thus innocent in the view of Roman law, for Judaism is a religion permitted by Rome. However, there are two points in reference to the Messiah in which Paul does differ from his fellow Jews: one is his belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah, and the other is his message that, through faith in Jesus, Gentiles as well as Jews can be saved" (Erdman p. 183).

Verse 2

Acts 26:2 "I think myself happy, king Agrippa, that I am to make my defense before thee this day touching all the things whereof I am accused by the Jews"

"I think myself happy" "I think myself fortunate" (Wey). Note that Paul is not flattering Agrippa or buttering him up. He is sincere. "Just as there was frankness and courtesy in Paul"s defense before Felix, he gives a truthful explanation of his feelings and he does not flatter the king whose character, he must have known, did not deserve praise. He does tell how fortunate he feels it is to have opportunity to speak to one like Agrippa who had some understanding of all the intricacies of Jewish life and thought" (Reese p. 873). "It was a dramatic moment when the holy and humble apostle of Jesus Christ stood before this representative of the worldly, ambitious, morally corrupt family of the Herods, who for generation after generation had set themselves in opposition to truth and righteousness. Their founder, Herod the Great, had tried to destroy the infant Jesus. His son Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, beheaded John the Baptist, and won from the Lord the title of "fox". His grandson Agrippa I slew James the son of Zebedee with the sword. Now we see Paul brought before Agrippa"s son" (Stott p. 370). Note that Paul shows the proper respect for those in authority, even though he represented a higher Authority than the Roman Empire (1 Peter 2:17). Also consider that Paul does not write Agrippa off as a hopeless case. Paul makes a serious effort to convert this man.

Verse 3

Acts 26:3 "especially because thou art expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently"

"Thou art expert" ""As thou art well versed"(Rhm). "Thoroughly acquainted" (Ber). "Like his Uncle Herod, Agrippa II was in control of the temple treasury and the vestments of the high priest. The Romans would consult him on religious matters" (Zond. Ency. p. 144). "Agrippa not only professed the Jewish religion, but also had been given certain administrative functions in connection with the temple and priesthood" (Reese p. 873). "Customs" That is, Jewish practices. "Questions" Such as the precise subjects of debate that existed between such parties as the Pharisees and Sadducees. "So expert in the customs and problems of the Jewish religion. He, at least, might appreciate the strength of Paul"s argument that the message which he proclaimed was the proper consummation of Israel"s ancestral faith" (Bruce p. 488). "Wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently" Indicating that his presentation would be somewhat lengthy. Note that Paul felt that Agrippa would have no problem in following this presentation.

Verse 4

Acts 26:4 "My manner of life then from my youth up, which was from the beginning among mine own nation and at Jerusalem, know all the Jews"

"From my youth up" At some point in his "youth" Paul had been sent to Jerusalem to study under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). "From the beginning among mine own nation" "Spent from the first among my own people" (Knox) Paul had not spent his youth among foreigners. "And at Jerusalem" Paul was not just among his own people, rather he had been brought up in the center of the Jewish faith. "Know all the Jews" "Saul must have been a familiar figure in Jerusalem when as a young man he sat at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel (22:3). He is likely to have gained a reputation for scholarship, righteousness and religious zeal. Many Palestinian Jews still alive knew how he had lived as a child, first in Tarsus, then in Jerusalem" (Stott pp. 370-371).

Verse 5

Acts 26:5 "having knowledge of me from the first, if they be willing to testify, that after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee"

"Having knowledge of me from the first" "They have always known" (TCNT). "They are fully aware" (Ber). "If they be willing to testify" "If they chose to admit it" (Mof). "As they could testify if they wanted to" (Rieu). To me this expression seems to be intended to let Agrippa know that Paul"s Jewish accusers were not always completely forthcoming and honest with all the facts of the case. "Straitest" The most exact. "With the very strictest form of our religion" (TCNT). "Paul knew the rules of the Pharisees and played the game to the full (Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:5 f)" (Robertson p. 444). He belonged to "one out of all the sects that was most exact and rigorous when it came to interpreting the Law and enforcing ceremonial observances" (Reese p. 874). (See Mark 7:3-4; Matthew 23:23; Luke 18:12). "I lived a Pharisee" Paul is letting Agrippa know that he was not some kind of malcontent, or someone who had been raised by irresponsible parents or under the influence of pagan thought. Nothing in his past could be used against him, to prove that he had been always dissatisfied with Judaism or that he had always been unorthodox in his thinking. The Jews could not accuse Paul of being a "liberal" or a "crank".

Verse 6

Acts 26:6 "And now I stand {here} to be judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers"

"For the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers" This was the same point that Jesus made, that His teaching was the fulfillment of everything the prophets had said (Matthew 5:17-18). Notice that the "promise" in this section does not refer to a promise of "land". The one promise made repeatedly in the O.T. is the promise of the Messiah (Acts 3:22-26). Paul did not believe that he preached "one" version or one interpretation (among many valid ones) concerning the fulfillment of the prophets, rather he knew that he preached the one right interpretation. And if Jews did not obey the gospel, or if they did not come to Jesus Christ, then they would completely miss out on what God had promised (Romans 11:20). Apart from the gospel message--there was no hope.

Verse 7

Acts 26:7 "unto which {promise} our twelve tribes, earnestly serving {God} night and day, hope to attain. And concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, O king!"

"Our twelve tribes" This is an expression that indicates that the 10 tribes were not lost. This statement Included Jews in and outside of Palestine. Every now and then someone tries to argue that the United States and Britain are the "lost ten tribes of Israel". "Earnestly serving God night and day" Notice that Paul does not hate his brethren according to the flesh or his heritage, neither does he argue that Jews are not seriously about serving God. Paul knew that their devotion was intense (Romans 10:1-3), and that they were continually offering prayers and sacrifices. "Hope to attain" At this point in history, most Jews were still looking for the fulfillment of the Messiah. Carefully note that sincere, religious devotion separated from faith in Christ does not save (Romans 10:1-3). Paul is making the point that what he preaches does not ridicule the Jewish faith, but rather, what he preaches is the fulfillment of what all true Jews claim to be wanting. "And concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, O king" He is "suggesting that it is an utterly amazing thing that the Jews who have the hope which the Old Testament Scriptures promised should persecute Paul for entertaining the very same hope! So the whole dispute boiled down to a question of evidence whether or not Jesus was the promised Messiah and the fulfillment of Israel"s hopes. To that evidence Paul now turns" (Reese p. 876).

So here is the train of thought in these and the following verses: The Jews and I have the same hope. They are still looking for the fulfillment of God"s promises and I say the fulfillment has come. The proof that Jesus is the Messiah is His resurrection. The proof of the resurrection is the fact that this Jesus appeared to me. This Jesus commanded me to preach to the Gentiles. The O.T. Scriptures clearly teach a Messiah that would suffer, die, be raised from the dead and send salvation to the Jews as well as the Gentiles (). Thus, the prophets backed up what Paul claimed.

Verse 8

Acts 26:8 "Why is it judged incredible with you, if God doth raise the dead?"

"Judged incredible" "Why do you Jews of all people find it impossible to believe" (Rieu). "The purpose of the demand was to challenge them to produce in their own minds a reason for their incredulity" (McGarvey pp. 251-252). "You" This statement was directed not only to Agrippa but also to the audience assembled. "If God can or does raise the dead, why should anyone not believe that he raised Jesus?" (Boles p. 401). "You is plural in the Greek; and this plural shows that Paul is not, at this moment, addressing Agrippa in particular, but has turned to the whole audience" (Reese p. 876). "If God doth raise the dead?" "The Pharisees would answer that they did not think it incredible; they ardently believed in God as the raiser of the dead. But Paul"s point was that this belief had now been validated in that God had already raised up one man and had by that very fact demonstrated that man to be Israel"s long-expected Messiah" (Bruce pp. 489-490).

Verse 9

Acts 26:9 "I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth"

"I verily thought with myself" "I myself was convinced" (RSV). "At the time I was convinced" (Rieu). "He gently excuses their unbelief by confessing that he himself had once felt like them" (P.P. Comm. p. 265). "This brief review of his career as a persecutor must have caused Agrippa to say within himself: Why, the man was once on the same side with my family, and he showed the same zeal to suppress the cause of the Nazarene as did my father (Acts 12:1 ff), my uncle, and my grandfather. It was intended to have this effect, and also to start within the astonished young man the question: How did this persecutor come to undergo so great a change?" (McGarvey pp. 252-253). "I ought to do" This is the frame of mind that Paul was in before he became a Christian. He was 100% convinced that Christianity was a perversion of the truth and that it had to be stopped. Again, let us emphasize the fact that Saul of Tarsus wasn"t saved by being sincere, zealous, religious or ignorant. "Many things contrary" "My duty to oppose in every way" (TCNT). "To take extreme measures" (Was). "My duty to combat" (Rieu).

Verse 10

Acts 26:10 "And this I also did in Jerusalem: and I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them"

"And this I also did" Paul had put his convictions into action. "Shut up many of the saints in prisons" (Acts 8:3). "Having received authority from the chief priests" "He took the lead in the campaign to uproot this subversive heresy, as he thought it" (Bruce p. 490), indicating that he was the official "strongman" or persecutor for the Sanhedrin. "When they were put to death" He is suggesting that other Christians besides Stephen died during the persecution mentioned in Acts 8:1-3; Acts 9:1. "I gave my vote against them" Paul had been so convinced in his own mind that Christians were in the wrong that he believed they deserved death for what they taught and practiced. "Some suppose that Paul here refers to casting his vote as a member of the Sanhedrin; in which case he must have been married and the father of a family. But there is no reason for believing such (compare 1 Corinthians 7:7-8); and the phrase may be taken as expressing merely moral assent and approval" (Vincent p. 588).

Verse 11

Acts 26:11 "And punishing them oftentimes in all the synagogues, I strove to make them blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities"

"And punishing them oftentimes in all the synagogues" Not that Christians were members of the synagogue, but Christians often tried to preach to the Jews during the synagogue service (Acts 6:9). The synagogue became the place where punishment was administered. "The synagogue punishment of whipping will be meant here" (Stott p. 371). The local synagogue would also know which Jews had become Christians. "I strove to make them blaspheme" "To make them recant by blaspheming Christ" (Rieu). "To make them renounce their faith" (NEB). Paul used strong-arm tactics and he attempted to make Christians curse Christ and deny Him. The word strove suggests that Paul put all his effort into this task, but that he was not always successful. "Being exceedingly mad against them" "Mad rage" (Gasped) (Acts 9:1). Paul was as upset with Christians as the Jews were presently upset with him. Paul was not content to merely persecute Christians in Jerusalem or rid Palestine of all Christians, rather he was out to destroy the whole movement. "I persecuted them even unto foreign cities" Since the word cities is in the plural in the above verse, it appears that Paul had planned to persecute Christians in other cities besides Damascus and may have already visited other foreign cities prior to his trip to Damascus.

Verse 12

Acts 26:12 "Whereupon as I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests" This he did while on the mission of persecuting Christians. Acts 26:13 "at midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them that journeyed with me" This indicates that this was a supernatural event, because the light was greater than the sun at noon in the Syrian desert. Acts 26:14 "And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice saying unto me in the Hebrew language, Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou Me? It is hard for thee to kick against the goad"

"All fallen to the earth" This again stresses the fact that the source of this intense light was supernatural. "In the Hebrew language" This is a detail not mentioned in the accounts of this event found in Acts 9:1-43 or 22. "Why persecutes thou Me" Compare with Acts 9:4; Matthew 25:40. "It is hard for thee to kick against the goad" This was a common proverb in the ancient world. In is found in the works of Euripides, Aeschylus, Pander and Terence, "where this saying occurs as a metaphor for useless "opposition to deity"" (Stott p. 372). The statement is taken from agricultural life. When sloughing, the farmer would carry a goad (a stick 6-8 ft. long, which was sharpened on the end). The goad was used to encourage the ox to go faster or obey the plowman. If the ox kicked back, he would only receive a severer prod. Hence Jesus is saying that Paul"s opposition to the church is a fruitless exercise.

Some commentators think that Paul"s conscience was already starting to bother him (that is, the goads of conscience). But the statements made by Paul himself in and 23:1 reveal that Paul was not having any qualms about persecuting Christians. Note how Jesus believes that nothing can stop the spread of the gospel. Even the fiery and zealous Saul, armed with zeal, dedication and material resources could not stop this movement. This statement should serve as a warning to all who try to oppose and restrict the spread of the gospel. A life spent opposing Christianity is a life spent in a fruitless exercise. "It comes to denote an obstinate and refractory disposition and course of conduct, resisting the authority of Him who has a right to command, and opposing the leadings of providence, to the injury of him who makes the resistance" (Reese p. 353).

Verse 15

Acts 26:15 "And I said, who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest"

"Who art thou, Lord?" "Who are you that I am persecuting?" (Stott p. 372). "I am Jesus" Upon hearing this simple statement, Paul realized that he had been persecuting innocent people who were God"s people. He was actually hurting the true believers. He was wrong. He had misunderstood the Scriptures, and he was not the "expert" that he thought he was. These Christians knew the proper application and fulfillment of O.T. better than he did. Jesus had been raised from the dead. Jesus was the Messiah, and all his close friends, family members and relatives were also in the wrong.

Verse 16

Acts 26:16 "But arise, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen Me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee"

"Stand upon thy feet" "In Paul"s account to Agrippa of what happened on the Damascus road what he stressed was not his conversion (which happened later, ), but his commissioning, the command to stand was a necessary preliminary to the command to go" (Stott pp. 372,373) (Compare with Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 2:1). "For to this end have I appeared unto thee" Jesus appeared to Paul not merely so that he could repent and become a Christian, but also to qualify Paul to be an apostle. One of the qualifications of an apostle was that one had to have seen the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22; Acts 22:14-15). "Witness" The apostles were eye and ear witnesses (Acts 10:41-42). "Of the things wherein I will appear unto thee" "And also of what I will reveal to you" (Nor). "And of those in which I shall yet appear to you" (TCNT). This statement reveals that Paul was a man that Jesus spoke through (Galatians 1:11-12; 1 Corinthians 14:37) and that Paul was guided into all truth, just as the other apostles were (John 16:13). Carefully observe how God demonstrates His mercy even when Jesus confronts this persecutor of His cause. One of the first things that Paul is told, "You are going to be preaching the very message that you are now persecuting", which infers, "God is not going to destroy you", rather "you are being given a second chance".

Verse 17

Acts 26:17 "delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee"

"Delivering thee from the people" "The people in this sentence refers to the Jews who wouldn"t accept the gospel message. Notice how Jews who did not believe in Jesus are simply called "the people". They are not called God"s people or even the chosen people. "Delivering" This word did not guarantee immunity from suffering, but it does tell Paul that many Jews would not accept his preaching, even though he had a glorious past in Judaism. In fact, they would persecute him as he had persecuted Christians. But the Jews would never be able to silence Paul, until his God appointed work was done. "And from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee" What an impression this statement must have made to the mind of Paul when he first heard it. God was sending this former Pharisee to Gentiles! Paul must have known that such a commission would make him the object of Jewish hatred and ridicule.

Verse 18

Acts 26:18 "to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Me"

"To open their eyes" Through his preaching (Romans 1:16). "Turn from darkness to light" All the wisdom of Greece and Rome had not been unable to bring people to the truth. This statement reveals that every human system of religion and philosophy had failed to bring people out of spiritual darkness. This immediately places the New Testament far above the Greek classics and every other piece of literature found in antiquity. If you want illumination, and enlightenment then read the New Testament (Hebrews 6:4). Anyone who watches even a little bit of television is fully aware of the fact that the world, some 2000 years later, still remains for the most part in "darkness". The fact that most people are spiritually blind should not come as a shock to anyone who watches the evening news or reads the daily paper. "From the power of Satan unto God" Only two spiritual realms exist. There is no position of neutrality in reference to Satan or God. One is either serving the Devil or God (Romans 6:16). One is either the enemy of the Devil or the enemy of God. "May receive remission of sins" Baptism would be essential for the Gentiles as well as those of a Jewish background (Acts 2:38). These verses infer that remission of sins is not available until one "turns" and makes a break from the power of Satan, that is, until one first repents and accepts what God requires to be saved. According to Colossians 1:12-14, another name for this forgiven relationship is the Kingdom of God. "And an inheritance" 1 Peter 1:4. "Among them that are sanctified by faith in Me" This statement reveals that Gentiles who become Christians are completely equal with Jews who become Christians. God wants to give them every blessing that He has given all true believers. There is no second-class level of citizenship in the kingdom of God. "Faith" Since faith in his passage is linked with remission of sins, so is baptism (Acts 2:38). This passage infers the faith that enables one to be sanctified (set apart from sin and dedicated to God"s service) is a faith that completely trusts God"s appointed way of saving us (Mark 16:16).

Verse 19

Acts 26:19 "Wherefore, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision"

"I was no disobedient unto the heavenly vision" Paul could have disobeyed. Like Pharaoh, if Paul had been dishonest, if Paul had let pride rule him, Paul could have resisted and even grown more stubborn and bitter in his feelings towards Christians. We need to remember that while Paul had many incentives to become a Christian (absolute proof that Jesus was the Messiah), there were also many reasons to refuse: the material advantages, fame, prestige and success that he would lose, the loss of friends and family, all of a sudden being the hunted instead of the hunter, the difficult task that would bring upon him the suffering and ridicule that Jesus demanded of him, being viewed as a traitor, coward and or worse. This statement also revealed to King Agrippa that Paul was not claiming credit for the message he preached that is, he was not claiming that he was the originator of this doctrine or teaching. Paul didn"t become a Christian because he was dissatisfied with Judaism, but rather because the Messiah commanded it. As to his preaching to Gentiles, that was not a self-imposed task but was simply something he was doing in obedience to Jesus.

Verse 20

Acts 26:20 "but declared both to them of Damascus first and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judaea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance"

"But declared" Paul"s obedience was prompt and without delay to the command of Christ (Acts 9:19 ff). "Also to the Gentiles" Which especially started to happen once he came to Antioch (Acts 11:26 ff). "Repent" Considering the personal life of King Agrippa, this is something that he also needed to do. "Doing works worthy of repentance" "Performing deeds appropriate to repentance" (NASV). "And so act as befits men who are penitent" (Knox). "In their works, the fruits of a changed heart" (Bas). "And live lives consistent with such repentance" (Wey). "Demonstrating that repentance by deeds" (Rieu). One of the first works worthy or repentance is to follow through and do everything Jesus said to do to be saved, including being baptized (Mark 16:16). Hence, the person who refuses to acknowledge that baptism is necessary for salvation, is refusing to follow through and truly admit that Jesus is Lord. One"s faith cannot be separated from one"s conduct or personal life. Habitual sin must be ceased (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:9).

Verse 21

Acts 26:21 "For this cause the Jews seized me in the temple, and assayed to kill me"

"For this cause" Here is the real reason why Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem some two years previous. The Jews seized Paul because they resented the fact that he was preaching to Gentiles (). "Assayed to kill me": "Tried to put me to death" (NASV). Reminding Agrippa that several attempts had been made on his life since his arrest (Acts 21:31; Acts 23:10), and if anyone was not respecting the "law and order" of the Roman government, it was his opponents.

Verse 22

Acts 26:22 "Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand unto this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses did say should come"

"Obtained the help that is from God, I stand unto this day" Jesus had kept His promise (), and Paul had been delivered from the various plots of the Jews and their efforts to silence him. The message that he was delivering, this very defense was given to him by God. "I continue unmoved, steadfast, and, by God"s help, not crushed by my enemies" (P.P. Comm. p. 266). "Small" Those in humble positions, the poor, ignorant, obscure (1 Corinthians 1:26). "The great" This include the rich, noble, kings, princes, governors, like Agrippa. "Saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses did say should come" Once more we find the inspired men the New Testament insisting that the words of the prophets were finding fulfillment in the first century (Acts 3:24 ff).

Verse 23

Acts 26:23 "how that the Christ must suffer, {and} how that He first by the resurrection of the dead should proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles"

" How that the Christ must suffer" Luke ; 44-46. "Proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles" "In spite of clear prophecies, like the one at Isaiah 60:3, the Jews had difficulty accepting the idea that Messiah would come to save the Gentiles equally with the people" (Reese p. 882).

Verse 24

Acts 26:24 "And as he thus made his defense, Festus saith with a loud voice, Paul, thou art mad; thy much learning is turning thee mad"

"As he thus made his defense" "The present participle here indicates that Festus broke in and interrupted Paul"s defense" (Reese p. 882). "Festus" His full name was Porcius (POUR shih us) Festus (FESS tuss). Nothing is known of his life prior to his appointment as governor of Judea. "With a loud voice" Loud enough to interrupt Paul"s preaching. "Thou art mad" "Means that Paul"s enthusiasm (in Festus" opinion) had overcome his better judgment. Festus had earlier described Jesus simply "as one who was dead" (), yet Paul says He has risen from the dead! Indeed, who ever heard of such things? And Paul talks about bringing "light" to Gentiles (and of course, that included Romans like Festus). Well, Festus" better judgment had not been affected. They were superior to the conquered peoples. They did not need any light!" (Reese p. 882). "Thy much learning is turning thee mad" "Too much study is driving you mad" (NEB), inferring that Festus had probably heard Paul quote many Scriptures in his defense, and or in previous conversations. Notice that Festus had the same attitude that has infected some people today. They tend to blame everything on "too much religion" in our culture. Festus, like many people today, probably believed that a man with Paul"s abilities and talents was wasting them in preaching a message that only brought him trouble. "Such a career, on the part of a man of great learning and talent, he could not reconcile with those maxims of ease or of ambition which he regarded as the highest rule in life" (McGarvey p. 256).

Verse 25

Acts 26:25 "But Paul saith, I am not mad, most excellent Festus; but speak forth words of truth and soberness"

"I am not mad" Be impressed with how Paul calmly, respectfully and pointedly handles this rude interruption. Paul is not intimidated nor is he unsettled by this bold accusation. "Most excellent Festus" "Most excellent was the usual title given to the Roman governor (Acts 24:3). "Speak forth words of truth and soberness" "I speak nothing but the sober truth" (Phi). Note that Paul did not have the popular religious attitude, "I may be wrong, so this is just my opinion". People say that we must keep an open-mind and realize that our view of the truth is probably not the only correct view. Well, that type of attitude would have never spread the gospel in the first century (Colossians 1:23). Paul, the other apostles, and the early Christians did not put their lives on the line for a "possibility", or "one view of the truth".

Verse 26

Acts 26:26 "For the king knoweth of these things, unto whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him; for this hath not been done in a corner"

"For the king knoweth of these things" Notice how Paul quickly backs up his claim of "telling the truth" with evidence. "Agrippa was close enough to the matters Paul has been talking about to have knowledge of them. By personal experience he could testify to the truthfulness of Paul"s presentation of the Old Testament, and the things about Jesus" (Reese p. 884). "Unto whom also I speak freely" "That is why I speak with such confidence in his presence" (Knox). "And I speak to him also with confidence" (NASV). "He could speak thus confidently of Agrippa"s knowledge and of his belief, because he knew his past history. He knew that the name of Jesus and his apostles had been household words in the family of Agrippa for generations" (McGarvey p. 257). "None of these things is hidden from him; for this hath not been done in a corner" The life and death of Jesus, and the preaching of the resurrected Christ by the apostles all had been done in public. In fact many of these events had taken place in densely populated areas. The crucifixion of Jesus had taken place during Passover season, right outside the city of Jerusalem. "The remark was intended for Festus, to let him know that his ignorance of the matter was no proof of its obscurity" (McGarvey p. 257). The reality of Paul"s comment is really appreciated when one realizes how many secular writers of the time mention Jesus and those who called themselves "Christians".

Verse 27

Acts 26:27 "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest"

"Believeth thou the prophets?" Notice how Paul is not intimidated by Agrippa"s position or standing. "With Paul, to believe the Prophets was the logical step toward believing in the One of whom they spoke. There was no logical alternative" (Reese p. 884). Thus the real believer and the real expert in the Old Testament is the person who is a Christian. "I know that thou believest" The inference is that Agrippa needs to turn his professed belief into action-- accept that the prophets pointed to Jesus Christ.

Verse 28

Acts 26:28 "And Agrippa {said} unto Paul, With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian"

"With but little persuasion" We do not know for sure in what tone of voice or in what attitude (sincerity, irony, or sarcasm) the above statement was made. Various translations give different spins on this response: "In a short time you think to make me a Christian!" (RSV). "You think it will not take much to win me over and make a Christian of me" (NEB). "You are doing your best to persuade me to become a Christian" (Mon). "You think it a small task to make a Christian of me" (Amp). "A little more and you will be making me a Christian" (Ber). "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian" (NASV).

Stott is probably on the right track when he observes, "Too embarrassed to give Paul a direct answer to a direct question, and too proud to allow him to dictate the topic of their dialogue, he takes evasive action with an ambiguous counter-question. A murmur went round the audience as people discussed exactly what he meant. It was "variously represented as a trivial jest, a bitter sarcasm, a grave irony, a burst of anger, and an expression of sincere conviction"" (Stott p. 376). Agrippa probably thought that this response would silence Paul or catch him off guard, but note how Paul quickly, without missing a beat turns it into an even greater incentive to obey.

Verse 29

Acts 26:29 "And Paul {said}, I would to God, that whether with little or with much, not thou only, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except these bonds"

"Whether with little or with much" "This was a direct answer to Agrippa"s words "in a little". Paul is saying, "With one sermon or a hundred, with little effort or great"" (Reese p. 886). If the response by Agrippa had been filled with sarcasm ("you think to convert me with one sermon?"), Paul"s response quickly dulled such a pointed remark. Paul once again puts Agrippa on the defensive. After all, what is wrong with being convinced by one good sermon? Is that embarrassing? Or is it more embarrassing to need 100 sermons to convince you? But note that Paul does not mind. Whether Agrippa needs one lesson or 100, he still wants him to become a Christian. "Not thou only" Which should remind Agrippa that God wants everyone saved and that God doesn"t have any favorites. "But also all that hear me this day" Even men like Festus, who had just called him a mad man. "Might" The language of freewill. "Become such as I am" Paul was 100% sold on the validity of the gospel message. In contrast to modern denominational preachers who try to argue that any sincere religious person will end up in heaven, or that one can be saved without becoming a Christian, Paul was convinced that only one lifestyle, and one faith (Ephesians 4:5) was acceptable to God. "Except these bonds" Paul did not have a spirit of revenge, and neither did he wish that the tables were turned and that Agrippa or Festus were in prison and he was free.

Verse 30

Acts 26:30 "And the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them"

"The king rose up" Signaling the end of this discussion. "The governor" Festus. "Bernice" (ber NIH see). The oldest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, who ruled Palestine A.D. 37-44. This was the sister of Agrippa II. "Bernice eventually became a mistress to the Roman emperor Vespasian, then of his son Titus. Bernice and her sister Drusilla (Acts 24:24) were two of the most corrupt and shameless women of their time" (Nelsons p. 147).

Verse 31

Acts 26:31 "and when they had withdrawn, they spake one to another, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds" The unanimous conclusion was that Paul was innocent (Acts 25:25). Acts 26:32 "And Agrippa said unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar"

"If he had not appealed unto Caesar" Robertson notes, "But Paul only appealed to Caesar after Festus had tried to shift him back to Jerusalem and had refused to set him free in Caesarea. Festus comes out with no honor in the case" (p. 455). "We may suppose that Festus, with the aid of Agrippa, composed the letter to the emperor explaining the charges the Jews made against the prisoner, and also perhaps included a recommendation that Paul be dismissed. If there was such a statement, it makes it easier to explain the mildness of Paul"s treatment that he finally reached Rome this first time. (Acts 28:16; Acts 28:30-31)" (Reese p. 887).


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 26:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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