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Paul Tells Agrippa About his Early Life
Though Festus had the full authority of Rome behind him, it was Agrippa who told Paul he was permitted to speak. Paul stretched out his hand and began by saying he was happy to make his defense before the king, especially because Agrippa would have been familiar with Jewish teachings and customs. He begged the king to be patient, apparently planning to speak at some length.
Though born in the city of Tarsus, Paul stressed that he was brought up in Jerusalem and was well known among the Jews. Some of his accusers may well have remembered the zealous young Pharisee from his school days and time as a persecutor. He told Agrippa that he was now being judged "for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers," a likely reference to the promised Messiah. Of course, the hope that Messiah brought was of the resurrection of the dead. Paul argued that this very hope was sought by all the tribes of Israel. In fact, he said their daily earnest service was based upon that very hope. Yet, Paul claimed the essence of that hope was the basis of the Jews' accusations against him! The apostle simply asked King Agrippa, "Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?" This question seems to show that his accusers were primarily of the Sadducees ( Act_26:1-8 ).
Paul's Description of His Actions as a Persecutor
When Paul took actions to stop the teachings about Jesus and His followers, he was directed by his conscience. Just as Agrippa's family had pursued an end to the life of Jesus, Paul had pursued an end to the teachings of Jesus. Many of those set apart for God's service, or saints, were shut up in prison in Jerusalem because of Paul's actions. When Luke reports that Paul said, "and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them," it appears the apostle is saying he voted to condemn them as a member of the Sanhedrin. He further said that he punished them in every synagogue, even going to cities outside Jerusalem, in an effort to get them to speak against the name of Jesus ( Act_26:9-11 ).
Paul's Account of His Conversion and Life Following
On his way to Damascus in pursuit of more Christians, Paul reported that he saw a great light, which was brighter than the sun, coming out of heaven at midday and surrounding the persecutor and his companions. After the group had fallen to the ground, a voice spoke to him in Hebrew, saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads." Naturally, Paul asked the Voice to identify Himself. He identified Himself as Jesus of Nazareth and told Paul to stand up because He intended for him to minister and witness for Him both as to the things he had seen and would see. The Lord promised to protect Paul from harm coming either from the Jews or the Gentiles, to whom he was being sent. The apostle's purpose was going to be to open their eyes to their own sinfulness, means of receiving remission and the great inheritance available to those set apart by their faith in Jesus ( Act_26:12-18 ).
Naturally, Paul could not disobey a voice from heaven, so he preached the gospel in Damascus and Jerusalem, both to the Jews and Gentiles. Notice, his preaching included the necessity of repentance, a turning toward God and living a life showing the works of repentance. Such preaching enraged the Jews and caused them to seize him in the temple and try to kill him. It was only by God's help, according to Paul, that he was still alive to tell Agrippa that Moses and the prophets had said the Christ would suffer, rise from the dead and spread the good news among Jews and Gentiles ( Act_26:19-23 ).
Festus interrupted with a loud declaration that Paul had gone crazy from too much learning. It seems Paul's failure to defend himself, instead focussing on converting his judges, was incomprehensible to the governor. Paul responded with proper respect for Festus' position, simply saying he was not crazy but spoke the truth. The apostle went on to note that the events surrounding and following Jesus' life were done in the open for all to see and had to be well known to King Agrippa. The apostle then asked Agrippa if he believed the prophets. Paul answered for him, perhaps sensing, or through the Spirit knowing, what the King was thinking. Of course he believed the prophets.
Agrippa recognized that Paul was using a concise argument intended to persuade him to follow Jesus as the Christ. Paul expressed his true desire that Agrippa, along with everyone else who heard his voice, would be converted to the point of zealously following the Lord just as he did. Agrippa, Festus and Bernice then rose and left the room. Their judgment was clear, Paul had done nothing worthy of death or chains. King Agrippa stated that Paul could have been released had it not have been for his appeal for the case to be heard by Caesar ( Act_26:24-32 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 26". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12