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ACTS CHAPTER 26
Acts 26:1-44.26.23 Paul, in the presence of Agrippa, declareth his life from his childhood, his wonderful conversion, and call to the apostleship, and his preaching of Christ according to the scripture doctrine.
Acts 26:24-44.26.29 Festus chargeth him with madness: his modest reply, and address to Agrippa, who confesseth himself almost a Christian.
Acts 26:30-44.26.32 The whole company pronounce him innocent.
This stretching forth of his hand was:
1. To obtain silence of others whilst he spake; or:
2. To show his innocence, whilst he uses this modest confidence; or:
3. As other orators, when they begin to speak, move their hands. The providence of God wonderfully procures Paul a liberty to publish the gospel, and to make his case and religion known.
I think myself happy; Paul thought it to be his advantage to speak before Agrippa, who could not be unacquainted with the law or the prophets, by which St. Paul would have his case determined.
Before thee; though Agrippa was not as judge in this place, yet his opinion and judgment could not but prevail much with Festus.
This is not flattery, but a plain confession of what was true; for Agrippa, by reason of his birth and breeding, could not be wholly ignorant of those things in question;
1. About the Messiah;
2. About the resurrection;
3. About the giving of the Holy Ghost.
I beseech thee to hear me patiently; it being a matter that concerned religion, and the life and liberty of a man, nothing but ignorance or impiety could take him off from attending unto it.
Paul appeals to his enemies, the Jews themselves, whether they could tax him with any enormity whilst he was of their persuasion; whereby he vindicates his holy religion from being the sink and offscouring of other religions, as some would make it; as also to intimate, that it was his religion which made him so hateful unto them, and not any ill practices done by him.
This heresy, sect, opinion, or way of the Pharisees, St. Paul rigthly commends, if we consider it comparatively with the other sects of the Sadducees and Essenes: he had called this before, Acts 22:3, the most exact manner of the law of the fathers; for it is certain it was more learned and strict, and came nigher to the truth in many things, than the other did.
I stand; the posture of such as are held for guilty.
The hope of the promise; St. Paul brings in the discourse of the resurrection, which, as hath been observed, is the foundation of all religion, 1 Corinthians 15:14; Acts 23:6; Acts 24:15; and now it is called
the hope of the promise, because God’s promise did raise them up to this hope: for God having promised to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, gave them rather less than others in this world; neither had they any propriety in all the Promised Land, but only to a burying place; whence they might certainly infer, that there was another life to be expected, in which God would make this his word good. Paul was also
judged for the hope of the promise, taking this hope for the salvation which Christ did purchase, and Paul preach, which was also promised unto the fathers, though mostly under types and obscure representations. The sum is, Paul was judged for one of those two articles of our faith, viz. the resurrection of the body, or a life everlasting.
Twelve tribes; so St. Paul still reckons them, notwithstanding that ten tribes had been led captive, without returning again to this day. Yet,
1. There were many left by the king of Assyria in their own land; and though for a while they joined themselves unto the Samaritans rather than to the Jews, yet a century or two before our Saviour’s time they returned to the Jewish religion and worship, at least very many of them.
2. Though the ten tribes never returned (as tribes) entirely back again, yet many of them doubtless had that love for their religion and country, as they took all opportunities of coming back.
3. At their first defection in Jeroboam’s time, God touched the hearts of a great many, who rather changed their habitation than their religion.
So that St. James might well dedicate his Epistle to the twelve tribes, for there were some who at the dispersion were scattered out of every tribe.
Instantly serving God day and night; now these, with great intention and earnestness of desire, (as when any stretcheth himself to his utmost length to take hold of aught), endeavoured to obtain that very salvation which God had promised, and the gospel revealed.
This St. Paul seems to have spoken in regard of Festus, and many others there present, who were heathens; or to any of the Sadducees, if any such were amongst them: as for Agrippa, He believed the prophets, Acts 26:27, and had out of them learned and observed this promise, Acts 26:7. However, God did not leave himself without a witness to testify so much unto all, as should make the doctrine of the resurrection credible, whensoever it should be revealed unto them. The works of creation evidence it; for he that can give life unto that which had it not, can restore it unto that which had it: and the works of providence attest it; in every spring there is a resurrection of such plants or trees as seemed dead; nay, the bread which we daily feed on, was made of that grain, which was not quickened except it died, 1 Corinthians 15:36.
The name of Jesus; the religion which teacheth Christ is to be worshipped, and his name to be magnified.
Jesus of Nazareth; so they called our Saviour, of which see Acts 22:8.
The saints; the professors of the religion of the holy Jesus, who are called to be saints, Romans 1:7, and have him for the great example of holiness, who fulfilled all righteousness; and from him they have the Spirit of holiness; being sanctified in him, 1 Corinthians 1:2; and whosoever hath not his Spirit, he is none of his, Romans 8:9.
I gave my voice against them: Paul was not one of the council, nor, that we read of, in any office or place to judge any person; besides, the Jews are thought to have had no power of life and death; and that St. Stephen was slain rather in a popular tumult, than legally: but Paul may be said to do this, by carrying the suffrages or sentence to the Roman man president, or any others, to get it executed (for so the words will bear); and howsoever, by his approving, rejoicing at, and delighting in their condemnation, (which was indeed giving his voice, as much as he could, against them), this was verified.
Paul confesses that he compelled them to blaspheme, either:
1. By the torments he made them to be put unto; or:
2. By his own example; for he confessed that he had been a blasphemer himself, 1 Timothy 1:13.
This blasphemy was either:
1. Denying of Christ to be the Messiah; or:
2. Cursing or execrating of Christ, and acknowledging that he was justly condemned.
I persecuted them even unto strange cities; drove them out of Jerusalem and Judea; and, according to what Paul then believed, he drave them from the worship of the true God, and said in effect, as David’s adversaries when they expelled him from Jerusalem, Go, and serve other gods, 1 Samuel 26:19.
With procuratory letters recommending him to the Jews abroad, and deputing him as their agent.
At mid-day; this appeared at noon-day, that it might not be suspected to be a dream or fancy.
Above the brightness of the sun; our Saviour’s face in the transfiguration did shine as the sun, Matthew 27:2, and he was yet on earth in his mortal body; how much more resplendent must it have been now, when he appeared from heaven with his glorious body! And if the righteous shall shine as the sun, Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43; how much more does their Prince and Saviour! See concerning this history, Acts 9:3, &c., and Acts 22:6, &c.
In the Hebrew tongue; whereby it appears, that Paul spake not now before Agrippa in the Hebrew tongue, as he did before the Jews at Jerusalem, Acts 21:40.
It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks: this is a proverb borrowed from the Greeks, as some think, but used in many languages, denoting any who endeavour such things as will ruin or detriment themselves: and so do all persecutors; for they cannot harden themselves against God, his truth, or servants, and prosper, Job 9:4. Not to speak of other pricks, there is never an attribute in God, nor ever a faculty in their own souls, but they kick against, and will be themselves at last pricked by.
The foot is trod upon on earth, and the Head cries out out from heaven, as Acts 9:5.
Stand upon thy feet; as Daniel was bidden by the angel, Daniel 10:11, to mitigate his consternation and fear.
Of those things in the which I will appear unto thee: St. Paul accordingly had many visions and revelations, Acts 28:9; Acts 23:11; 2 Corinthians 12:2; as he was more abundant in his sufferings for Christ, so in consolations from Christ, 2 Corinthians 1:5.
From the people; from this people of the Jews, so in some copies it is expressed; howsoever, by the antithesis,
and from the Gentiles, it is plainly to be understood: and God undertakes no less hereby, than to deliver Paul, and all his faithful servants, from all evils and enemies. But how is this performed? And where is the promise? St. Paul was sorely persecuted by the Jews, and at last put to death by the Gentiles. But so long as it would be a mercy, and a true deliverance to Paul, God wrought many such for him; and that, rather than fail, miraculously too; no chains, no iron gates could detain him. When he had finished his course, and done the work he was sent for, it would not have been a deliverance, to have been kept longer from his reward, and the prize he had ran for.
To open their eyes; the eyes of their minds, that they might know God, and their duty towards him. Our Saviour assures Paul, that he should do that for the souls of men which he should find effected in his own body, being made to see. Now though this be only the work of God, yet, to honour the ministry, he is pleased to attribute it unto his ministers, as being the instruments he ordinarily worketh it by; and who are hence called co-workers with God, 2 Corinthians 6:1.
To turn them from darkness to light; this was signified by the glorious light which came from the body of our glorified Redeemer, which appeared unto him.
The power of Satan; so are all sins, for by them Satan rules in the children of disobedience, Ephesians 2:2.
That they may receive forgiveness of sins; thereby intimating, that their former sins (how grievous soever) should not hinder their salvation, who received the gospel in the love and power of it.
By faith that is in me; by faith which purifieth the heart; but this may be referred, either to our being sanctified, or to our receiving of the inheritance, for both are by faith; and as without faith we are no better, and do no better, so we shall receive no better, than other men.
I was not incredulous, I believed God, and yielded to his call, as Isaiah 1:5, which cannot be counted a fault in me; and yet this is all that can be charged upon me.
Showed first unto them of Damascus; nigh unto which place he was first converted, taking the first opportunity to preach Christ: out of the abundance of his heart his mouth speaking.
And turn to God: as sin is a turning from God, so repentance is a turning (or rather returning) unto God.
Do works meet for repentance; such as became a true penitent; for as we must show our faith by our works, James 2:18, so we must show our repentance by our works also: for to say we are grieved for sin, and we hate sin, and yet to live in it, is but to deceive ourselves, and (what in us lay) to mock God.
By violent hands and indirect means, as we see, Acts 21:31, and as they had done unto our Saviour, Acts 5:30, where the same word is used.
I continue unto this day: that Paul, continued till then alive, notwithstanding all the fraud and force of his enemies, is acknowledged by him to be from God; from whence he infers towards his justification, that what he had done was but in a becoming gratitude towards that God who had maintained him in life unto that very day.
Witnessing both to small and great; witnessing to all sorts, princes or people; implying, that the truths of the gospel, and the things of God, concerned Agrippa as well as the meanest of his auditors; and indeed with God there is no respect of persons, and that we are all one in Christ Jesus, Galatians 3:28.
The prophets and Moses; Moses was himself also a prophet, but he is here made especial mention of, because of his excellency above the other prophets, (unto whom God spoke face to face), as also because he was the lawgiver to the Jews, and to whom, upon all occasions, they pretended to yield obedience.
The sufferings of Christ were taught by Moses in all the commands about sacrifices, and more plainly by Isaiah in all the 53rd chapter Isaiah 53:1-23.53.12; insomuch, that this was acknowledged by Tryphon, disputing with Justin Martyr, although the generality of Jews, both then and now, do stiffly deny it. The carnal Jews do not like to hear of a spiritual kingdom.
The first that should rise from the dead; Christ was the first that did rise to an immortal life; others that were restored to life, died again: besides, Christ is deservedly called the first, by reason of his dignity and eminency, and in that he rose as a head and fountain of life to others, even to all that live and believe in him.
Show light; all the word of God is light; but especially the gospel, which discovers a plain and open way unto salvation.
Unto the people, and to the Gentiles; to both Jews and Gentiles, as Acts 26:17.
Thou art beside thyself; this was the opinion of Festus concerning Paul, and such is the opinion of carnal and worldly men concerning such as are truly godly; as the prophet who came to Jehu was counted a mad fellow, 2 Kings 9:11, and the friends of our Saviour thought him to be
beside himself, Mark 3:21. And it cannot be otherwise; for good men and bad men have quite different apprehensions concerning most things; and what one calls good, the other accounts evil; and what is wisdom to the one, is madness to the other.
Much learning doth make thee mad; much study many times increasing melancholy, which a sedentary and thoughtful life is most exposed unto. Paul is reckoned to have been skilful in the Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, and Latin tongues; to have been well read in the poets; and certainly he was an excellent orator, as appears all along in his defence he made for his doctrine, and his life: but there was yet somewhat more than all this; Festus might feel a more than ordinary effect from Paul’s words, and not knowing of the Spirit by which he spake did attribute it to his learning, or madness, or to any thing but the true cause of it.
St. Paul with all meekness makes his reply to the governer, and not taking notice of his sharp censuring of him, returns an answer in most respectful terms unto him; as his blessed Master, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, 1 Peter 2:23.
Soberness, in contradiction to madness; modestly waiving the reflection, and denying the charge Festus had laid upon him.
Agrippa, being educated in Judea, could not but hear of the life and doctrine, death and resurrection, of our Saviour; as also of the miracles done by him, and by his disciples; for, as our Saviour says, he ever taught openly, John 18:20.
A rhetorical insinuation, that could not but much affect the king, and leave a sensible impression on his heart. St. Paul answers the question which he had propounded, and that in favour of Agrippa; or rather blames himself for making that a question; but his cryptical inference would then be, If you believe the prophets, why do you not believe Christ of whom they prophesied?
Some think that these words were spoken ironically, or scoffingly; as if Agrippa had said: Thou wouldst have me in so short a space (for so εν ολιγω may be translated) to be brought to profess Christ: some think it unlikely that such a one as Agrippa would speak so plainly as we translate it, in such a place, before such an auditory: but the danger seems not to have been so great from these words; and if it had been greater, who knows the power of that conviction under which Agrippa at that time was? And Paul’s rejoinder do suppose the words to be spoken in the sense we read them.
Paul, knowing how little it would avail any to be almost a Christian, wisheth their perfection in that profession, that they might not, with the Laodiceans, be neither hot nor cold, Revelation 3:16; nor, with the Israelites, halt between God and Baal, 1 Kings 18:21.
Except these bonds: some think that by bonds St. Paul means only his guard wherewith he was surrounded; but it is certain that St. Paul was bound, in the most literal sense, with chains, as Acts 24:27; and he wishes his auditors all the good that was in him, and to be freed from all the evils that were upon him.
Agrippa, Festus, and the queen, together with the governor’s council, although they had heard this excellent discourse from, the most learned apostle, like the blackamoor or leopard, they cannot change their spots, or skin, Jeremiah 13:23; having sinned against former manifestations of God’s will, this, for aught we read, became ineffectual unto them.
Gone aside; either to their houses, or to some apartment nigh to the tribunal. They acquit Paul; for as yet Nero had not made those bloody laws, whereby the profession of Christianity was made capital.
These judges and great men do, by their opinion concerning Paul, condemn the Jews, whom they declare to have no cause for the prosecuting of him; and so those caitiffs returned to Jerusalem, not only with their labour for their pains, but being branded by the sentence of so many eminent personages, not to say tormented with the guilt of so foul a fact in their own conscience. Such honour have all persecutors! But, withal, these great men seem to be self-condemned, in that they own Paul’s innocence, and yet dare not set him free for fear of the Jews; for as for this excuse from his appealing to Caesar, it bound up them indeed from condemning Paul till Caesar had heard him; but they could not be bound by it from acquitting or freeing of him; for Paul might have withdrawn his appeal, and enjoyed his liberty, if they had pleased, at any time: but what popularity, or self-ends, put them upon, they are willing to varnish over with pretence of lawfulness and necessity.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Acts 26". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent