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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Acts 26

 

 

Verses 1-28

Three times we have in Holy Writ a graphic report of the conversion of Paul. This may be accounted for partly from its being one of the most remarkable events of early sacred history, Paul having had a greater effect upon the Christian Church than any other living man. At the same time I think it teaches us that the Holy Spirit sets especial store by the facts connected with this very remarkable conversion. If he gives it three times, in the sacred volume, we ought to give it a triple attention, and see if we cannot learn therefrom.

Acts 26:1-3. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: I think myself happy, king Agrippa. because I shall never answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews. 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.

With what courtesy does he speak! Paul is bold; but see how he is all things to all men! And he begins an address for his life with great adroitness and skill; teaching us that we are to use all the courtesies of life to those to whom they belong, and never to cause needless irritation. There is enough offence in the Cross of itself, without our being offensive when uplifting it.

Acts 26:4-7. My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews, which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers. 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.

For the Pharisees did hold very firmly the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and Paul often instances this, as being the very thing, though no longer a Pharisee, to which he was glad to give witness.

Acts 26:8-11. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 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. 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.

He had the courage of his convictions. Believing a thing, he did not let it lie idle. He regarded the Christians as a pestilent sect, and, therefore, he hunted them down. He abhorred the name of Jesus of Nazareth as that of an imposter, and, therefore, he determined that no stone should be left unturned to overthrow his power.

Acts 26:12-14. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests. 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. 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.

Not “It is hard for me to bear it,” but “It is hard for thee”; as if, though conscious of being persecuted, our Lord. in that divine unselfishness which is so natural to him, forgot the kicks that were given to him, and only thought of the injury which Saul was doing to himself, when, like an ox that strikes cut against the goad, he injured himself.

Acts 26:15-28. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 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: delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 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. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 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. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. 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: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 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. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul,

Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.


Verses 1-32

Acts 26:1. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:

I do not suppose Agrippa imagined that Paul would take all the liberty that he did; but inasmuch as the king had said to him, “Thou art permitted to speak for thyself,” Paul, who, even when he was permitted to speak for himself, did not forget that he was the servant of God, and used that liberty as the servant of God, and so took the opportunity to seek to impress the truth upon the conscience and heart of the king. Thus Paul answered for himself:-

Acts 26:2-3. 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: 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.

It is always well to try to be on good terms with the person whom you wish to impress with the truth of the gospel. Paul therefore did not begin bluntly, as some foolish people would have done, but he addressed the king most courteously and respectfully. I think I see the little man, as he doubtless was. Paul the man with feeble eyes, and with no great bodily presence to command attention, yet bravely stretching out his hand, and, like a preacher, thus addressing Herod Agrippa:-

Acts 26:4-7. My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 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.

The Jews still had hope concerning the promise of the Messiah, and all the promises in God’s covenant with them; and Paul says that for the sake of this hope he had been led to do that which had now brought him as a prisoner before the king. Notice that the fiction concerning “the ten lost tribes” has no foundation in Scripture. There are no lost tribes, several of them are mentioned by name in the New Testament; the apostle James writes “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” and here Paul speaks of them as “our twelve tribes.” The Jews whom we have among us at this day belong to all of the twelve tribes, as they will tell you if you ask them. There are no lost tribes yet to be discovered, neither are we, as a nation, those ten tribes that are supposed to have been lost. We are Gentiles, and not Jews. The apostle speaks here concerning the hope of the whole nation of the Jews. We who have believed in Jesus are the inheritors of that grand hope, as we have understood it aright, and have realized that it is fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only-begotten Son of God.

Acts 26:8. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

That great fact of the resurrection of Christ is the corner-stone of the temple of truth, the key-stone of the arch of the gospel. The apostles made this truth very prominent in their preaching, and here Paul began his address with it. It was the great difficulty of the Christian religion at that period, so Paul went straight to it at once.

Acts 26:9-10. I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem:

For Paul was the kind of man who, if he thought he ought to do anything, he always did it. Even in his unregenerate state, his conscience, unenlightened as it was, swayed him; but now, with an enlightened conscience, he looked back upon that part of his life with deep regret, and he did not fail to acknowledge and mourn the wrong that he had ignorantly done to the Lord Jesus Christ and his faithful followers.

Acts 26:10-11. 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. And punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

Paul was a whole-hearted man; whatever he did, he did intensely; so that, when he did wrong, he did it with a kind of madness. Such a furious hatred of Jesus of Nazareth was upon him that all Judaea was not large enough for the indulgence of his persecuting malice against the saints, so he “persecuted them even unto strange cities.”

Acts 26:12-14. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 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. 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.

He was like a stubborn ox kicking against the goads; and the harder he kicked, the more the sharp points of the goads pricked him.

Acts 26:15-18. And I said. Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 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; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 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.

Part of this address was spoken to Paul by Ananias when he came to open his eyes, hence some have thought that Paul here mixed up what was said to him by Christ, and what was said by Ananias, yet all the while recognizing it as being virtually all one message from Christ; but I think not so. I believe that Paul would have us understand that the Lord Jesus Christ actually said to him, on the road to Damascus, all that we have recorded here; and that when Ananias came to him, he, without having heard what the Lord had said to Paul, said the same thing to him; and this would be a kind of sign and token to the apostle that what was said to him was really a message from God. How often this happens under every true gospel ministry! The very thing that you were talking about while on your way to the service will be spoken to you by God’s servant in the house of prayer. That which you were reading before you came here may be the very subject selected for our present consideration, for God has a wondrous way of making one of his calls tally with another, so that the two meeting without any collusion on our part shall confirm and establish one another, and the more deeply impress the heart of the hearer.

Acts 26:19-23. Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 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. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other thing than those which the prophet and Moses did say should come: 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.

Paul stuck to the Scriptures, and to the gospel revealed in them, and was not a teller-out of his own thoughts, and ideas, and notions; but he was a herald proclaiming what his King bade him say, and telling out what the grace of his Master made him only too glad to say.

Acts 26:24; Acts 26:23. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the word of truth and soberness.

He had been “mad” once, as he had just confessed; but he had recovered from that madness. Now how calmly he replies to the taunt of Festus; there is nothing of anger or resentment about his dignified answer, “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.”

Acts 26:26-27. 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. King Agrippa,

Now the apostle comes to close grips with the king:-

Acts 26:27-28. Believest thou the prophet, I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

A great deal of effort has been put forth to prove that Agrippa did not say anything of the kind, but that he was only laughing at Paul when he ironically said, “Are you going to make me a Christian so easily as this?” If so, the reply of Paul was singularly inappropriate; but taking Agrippa’s words to be as they appear here, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,” Paul’s answer can be well understood.

Acts 26:29. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

And in so speaking he adroitly hinted how unfairly he was chained before his judges, and yet how he wished ill to none, but only wished good to all.

Acts 26:30-31. And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: and when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.

He had impressed Agrippa most favourably, and it is quite clear that the King was not jesting with him; he was at least convinced that Paul had done “nothing worthy of death or of bonds.”

Acts 26:32. Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

But it was not God’s purpose that Paul should be set at liberty; he must go to Rome, and must there, before the emperor himself, bear witness which he could not bear as a free man, but which the emperor must hear when Paul was brought before him as a prisoner who had appealed to him, and must therefore be heard in person.

This exposition consisted of readings from Acts 25. and Acts 26; and 1 John 4.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Acts 26:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/acts-26.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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