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Bible Commentaries
Acts 26

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

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Verses 1-32

Act 26:1-32

THE PROMISE IS FOR ALL:

LESSONS FROM THE BOOK OF ACTS

Notes For Lesson Twenty-Four:

True & Reasonable

(Acts 26:1-32)

Paul has been given the opportunity to appear before King Herod Agrippa II, in a hearing that the governor hopes will help with his report to Rome concerning Paul’s appeal. Paul uses this occasion to tell of his own conversion to Christ, and to present facts that he describes as "true and reasonable", in the hope that the king and his court will consider the gospel.

Paul’s Source of Hope (Acts 26:1-8)

Before going back over the well-known story of his conversion, Paul takes a moment to express his basic perspective and his hope in Jesus. As we see so often in Acts, he emphasizes the fact and the significance of the resurrection. He also wants to make sure to demonstrate the connection between the historical Jewish religion and the new covenant in Christ that he is proclaiming.

As always, Paul knows and takes into account his audience (Acts 26:1-3). It is one of the points of interest of the book of Acts to see how Paul approaches preaching the gospel in so many different ways, while always putting forth the same important truths. He does not always persuade his listeners, but that is not due to any defects in his preaching; rather, it simply shows that God always allows everyone to use their own free will to decide whether or not they wish to respond to the gospel. In this case, Paul knows that King Agrippa is thoroughly familiar with all of the various Jewish customs and controversies, and so he can assume a degree of familiarity that was not there when he defended himself before the Roman governors.

Paul emphasizes his hope in what God has promised (Acts 26:4-8) . He recounts his upbringing as a strict Pharisee, and makes the important connection between the historical Jewish religion and the gospel. He again says truthfully that he is on trial because of his hope in the promises of God. All the promises God had given his people through the years had been fulfilled in Christ. In indicating this, Paul is both preaching the truth and defending his own actions, as a Jew truly faithful to his upbringing. Christianity did not contradict Judaism, but fulfilled it. It is, in fact, Paul’s accusers who refuse to put their faith in their own God and his promises. Anyone who truly understood God’s promises could not help but realize, as Paul did, that God raises the dead. Many of God’s promises imply this, and without it, many of the promises lose much of their force.

For Discussion or Study: Consider Paul’s frequently stated or implied point that connects God’s historical promises to the Jews with the resurrection of the dead. Study and explain why the two are so closely related, and consider the importance of this point for us.

Paul’s Testimony About Jesus (Acts 26:9-23)

After this introduction, Paul moves on to describe what changed his mind and heart, and what converted him from a hateful persecutor of Christianity into a devoted believer in Jesus willing to endure anything for the sake of the gospel. In his personal testimony, Paul also describes the calling and commission God gave him to take the gospel to the Gentiles. This is now the third time that Acts has related the same basic narrative, thus emphasizing its importance.

Once more, Paul tells of his old life and his conversion (Acts 26:9-18). It was probable that the king knew of Paul’s activities as a former persecutor of believers in Christ, but Paul wants to make sure that he remembers it. So he emphasizes in detail his previous opposition to the gospel, which will make clear that only an extraordinary experience could have changed him. He then tells of his trip to Damascus, and of how Jesus appeared to him. His account of his conversion makes a point of bringing out the themes of light and darkness, sight and blindness, with the important parallel in the message of God’s forgiveness that Paul was chosen to preach. Paul also makes clear the plans that from the first God called him to preach both to Jews and Gentiles.

Now reaching a crucial part of his statement, Paul describes his ministry (Acts 26:19-23). He shows that what he has been doing - which has aroused so much opposition - is merely in obedience to God and to the ministry God prepared for him. The essence of Paul’s message was the call to repent and turn to God. This was often accepted more readily by the Gentiles, who usually knew that they did not have God, than it was by the Jews, many of whom complacently felt that they had already done everything that God required of them. Yet Paul indicates that he began his ministry by preaching to the Jews of Damascus and Jerusalem before moving on to preach among the Gentiles. Then, Paul emphasizes that his testimony is for small and great alike, for the kings and rulers just as much as it is for anyone else. Just as the gospel is not for one nation alone or for one race alone, it is not only for one class or for one social group. It is a universal message, and Paul understood that as well as anyone who has ever lived. Paul sums up by re-iterating that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law, and combines this with his description of Jesus as "the first to rise from the dead".

For Discussion or Study: Compare Paul’s statement to Agrippa with his appearances before Roman officials. What are the similarities and differences in approach and content? In this speech, how many ways does Paul emphasize that the gospel is the fulfillment of the law? How many implications of the resurrection does he mention?

Festus & Agrippa Respond (Acts 26:24-32)

Paul’s message unsettled both of his key listeners, although in different ways. To Festus, with his Roman mind-set that saw only orderliness and logic, Paul simply seemed crazy. Agrippa, more at home in dealing with religious matters, was convinced that Paul had proved his innocence, but Agrippa was unwilling to give a personal response to the gospel.

Festus must have listened to Paul with increasing skepticism, so when he hears Paul again mention the resurrection, the full measure of his incredulity comes out (Acts 26:24-25). He cannot help thinking that Paul is insane. At least he gives him some credit, in assigning the blame for his alleged insanity to incessant study. His mind will only deal with tangible things, so the ideas taught by Paul make no sense, and indeed seem crazy. Yet this is not the fault of Paul or of the gospel, but is instead a revealing sign of Festus’s own refusal to open his eyes to spiritual truths. Skeptics often take the focus off of their own insecurity and closed minds, by mocking or deriding the things of the gospel that cannot be explained in purely physical terms. Paul, for his part, does not insult or even correct Festus personally, despite having ample grounds. Instead, he calmly affirms that the gospel is "true and reasonable", as long as you look at it from the right point of view. Unless someone is afraid to admit the existence of a higher intelligence or of spiritual reality, the gospel answers so many questions and solves so many problems that there is no reason not to accept it as truth.

Paul then turns to the king (Acts 26:26-29). Reminding him that Christianity is no secret, and that Agrippa is not only familiar with the facts of the gospel but has an interest in the prophets and the rest of the Jewish religion, which formed the basis of the gospel, Paul asks the king how he will respond. While not negative or hostile, the king is taken aback, and is afraid to commit himself. Instead, he tries to defuse Paul’s enthusiasm, and this attempt leads to Paul’s memorable statement that whether "short time or long", he hopes the king and the others present will accept the gospel.

If nothing else, Paul’s innocence has become obvious (Acts 26:30-32). Agrippa’s own comments indicate that, if it were up to him, Paul could be freed at once. There could be a slight tone of regret in thinking that Paul’s own appeal makes a further trial unavoidable, and yet Paul would certainly not have regretted taking the action* that ensured a trip to Rome.

*Besides Paul’s obvious desire to go to Rome, he also could not have known that, at almost the same time as he made his appeal, Emperor Nero was rebelling against the influence of his best advisers and would quickly become the notorious despot that he is now remembered as. Until AD 59, Nero had been generally popular and reasonable.

For Discussion or Study: In what ways are the reactions of Festus and Agrippa typical of common responses we see today from those who are reluctant or unwilling to believe the gospel? How can Paul’s responses help us in dealing with these responses?

- Mark W. Garner, August 2002

Questions on Acts

By E.M. Zerr

Acts Chapter 26

  • · What permission was given Paul?

  • · State the manner of calling for attention.

  • · Ten why Paul felt happy at this moment.

  • · How many of the accusations does he intend to answer?

  • · Is verse three said in flattery?

  • · On what ground were these things said by Paul?

  • · Where did he spend the days of his youth?

  • · What did the Jews know as to his religion?

  • · Because of what is he now judged?

  • · Who had received this promise?

  • · How did it affect the twelve tribes?

  • · What should not be thought incredible?

  • · Had Paul’s thoughts always been correct?

  • · In what way had they differed from the present?

  • · How had he shown his interest formerly?

  • · Did he do so on his own authority?

  • · In what way did he join in death of saints?

  • · In what buildings did he punish them?

  • · What did he compel them to do?

  • · How did he show his madness against them?

  • · To what special place did he journey?

  • · What did he carry with him?

  • · Were they from the same people now accusing him?

  • · On the way what did he see?

  • · At what time of day?

  • · What indicates the superior brightness of the light?

  • · Who fell to the earth?

  • · Who heard the voice?

  • · Compare this with Acts 9:7.

  • · In what language did the voice speak?

  • · What was the nationality of the men with Paul?

  • · State the accusation the voice made against Paul?

  • · How could he do this to one living in Heaven?

  • · What was Paul told to do?

  • · For what purpose had the Lord appeared to him?

  • · To what people was he to be sent?

  • · That they might receive what?

  • · From what and to what must they be turned?

  • · How did Paul respond to the heavenly vision?

  • · Where did he do his first preaching?

  • · In what other places did he preach?

  • · What kind of works did he require?

  • · Tell what all this caused the Jews to do.

  • · By what did he continue to the present day?

  • · To what writings does he refer for support?

  • · How was Christ the first to rise from the dead?

  • · Who interrupted Paul’s speech?

  • · Of what did he accuse him?

  • · Repeat the reply.

  • · To what circumstances does he refer for proof?

  • · What question was asked of Agrippa?

  • · Why refer to the prophets?

  • · Repeat the statement of Agrippa.

  • · In his reply to Agrippa why the exception made?

  • · What private verdict was formed by the hearers?

  • · Why was Paul not set at liberty?

Acts Chapter Twenty-Six

Ralph Starling

Paul speaks before Agrippa with great confidence,

Knowing his knowledge of Jewish events.

Paul recalled all his life he was a faithful Jew.

A fact that his accusers very well knew.

And, more, as a Jew, a strict Pharisee,

Willing to persecute Christians to the N’th degree.

One problem was his belief in a resurrection.

That brought about this terrible insurrection.

I knew that it was promised by our Fathers,

But with Christ’s resurrection I was sorely bothered.

I thought it my duty to do many things

To stop those Christians for what they maintained.

With letters of permission I left a mission,

To Damascus to put Christians in prison.

On the way a bright light blinded me;.

I heard Jesus say, “Why are you persecuting me?”

He told me to the Gentile I was to minister.

King Agrippa, I knew I had to surrender.

When Paul mentioned Christ from the dead,

Festus called out, “Paul you have gone mad”

King Agrippa I know you believe what I have stated.

He answered,” Almost a Christian I am persuaded.
Paul replied, “Noble Festus, I am not mad,

These things are not hidden and are not bad.”

Going aside, they firmly agreed,

He’s unworthy of bonds and should be set free.

But having appealed to Caesar,

Perhaps Caesar can make it easier than we.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 26". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/acts-26.html.
 
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