Acts 26

25:1-7 Paul charged before Festus (successor of Felix: Acts 24:27).
25:8-12 Paul’s response and his appeal to Festus to take his case to Caesar.
25:13-27 Festus consults with Agrippa (visiting in Caesarea) re: Paul’s case.
26:1-23 Paul’s testimony.

Acts 26:15-23
26:15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting [to persecute Jesus’ disciples was to persecute Jesus (cf. Matt. 25:40)],’ the Lord replied.

26:16 ‘Now get up [cf. commissioning of Ezekiel (Ezek. 2:1,3) and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:7-8)] and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint [a divine appointment] you as a servant [under-rower: lowest echelon of rowers on a slave galley; word also used in 1 Cor. 4:1] and as a witness [from root word for “martyr”] of what you have seen of me [refers to Paul’s vision of Christ on the Damascus road] and what I will show you [Jesus’ subsequent appearances to Paul (cf. Acts 18:9; 22:17-21; 23:11].

26:17 I will rescue [to take out, to choose] you from [divine protection] your own people [Jews] and from the Gentiles. I am sending [as an authoritative representative; derived from same Greek root that means “apostle”] you to them [Gentiles]

26:18 to [Paul’s ministry objectives] [1] open their eyes [spiritually] and [2] turn them from darkness [spiritual] to light [spiritual], and [3] from the power of Satan to God [cf. Col. 1:13-14], so that [results of salvation] [1] they may receive forgiveness of sins and [2] a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me [cf. Eph. 2:19].’

26:19 “So then, King Agrippa [cf. what Ananias said about Paul in Acts 9:15; others in the room were listening to Paul as well (cf. 26:30)], I was not disobedient [Paul obeyed and followed the call of God] to the vision from heaven.

26:20 [Paul crossed geographical boundaries to share gospel] First to those in Damascus [Acts 9:8-25], then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea [Acts 9:26-29], and to the Gentiles [Paul crossed racial barriers to share the gospel] also, I preached that they should repent [to change one’s mind about sin and about God] and turn to God and prove [true repentance evident in changed life] their repentance by their deeds [do good deeds because we are saved, not to obtain salvation].

26:21 That is why the Jews seized [to lay hands on] me in the temple courts and tried to kill me [cf. Acts 21:31; 23:12-15].

26:22 But I have had God’s help [aid; cf. Acts 26:17] to this very day, and so I stand [emphasizes Paul’s stability and fidelity] here and testify [witness] to small and great alike [Paul crossed social barriers to share the gospel; gospel for all people]. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets [e.g. Isa. 53] and Moses [the law] said would happen [Paul’s message in harmony with the law and the prophets]

Paul spoke in his own defense before King Agrippa and also used the opportunity to share his personal testimony. Like Paul, every Christian should be prepared to share his or her personal testimony with others. Paul saw himself as one in debt or under obligation to all who do not know Christ (see Rom. 1:14), whether small or great. He was willing to cross geographical and social barriers because he understood that the gospel is for all peoples. And, Paul affirmed that his message was securely anchored in what the prophets and Moses said would take place.

26:23 that the Christ would suffer [difficult for Jews to accept suffering Messiah] and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles [emphasizes that the gospel is for all people].”

The first-century Jews did not expect the Messiah to suffer. However, the prophets and Moses said that the Messiah must suffer. The suffering of Jesus on the cross was indeed so great that it was beyond description. In fact, a new word was invented to describe the kind of suffering experienced during crucifixion—the word excruciating. This word literally means “out of the cross.”

Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and was the first to rise from the dead never to die again. As the resurrected and living Lord He proclaimed light to Jews and Gentiles alike—a reminder that the gospel is for all peoples.

26:24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind [cf. 2 Cor. 5:13; Mk. 3:20-21], Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane [a way of saying that Paul was out of touch with the real world; cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-25].”

Confused by all of the talk about Moses, the Messiah, and a resurrected man, Festus shouted, You’re out of your mind, Paul! Festus had earlier told Agrippa about this “dead man whom Paul claimed to be alive” (Acts 25:19). Perplexed, Festus concluded that Paul had spent so much time with his head buried in Old Testament scrolls that he had lost touch with reality. After all, any sensible person knows that people don’t rise from the dead.

26:25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied [Paul’s courteous reply left the door open for witnessing to the governor in the future]. “What I am saying is true and reasonable.

When Festus ridiculed Paul and what he was saying about Jesus, the apostle rejected the governor’s statement but in a respectful manner, leaving the door open for witnessing in the future. Paul courteously replied to the governor that he was not out of his mind. He asserted that his testimony was true and reasonable. In fact, the words he was speaking had eternal implications for those listening.

Festus knew that Paul was not mad. And, as governor, he would not have sent a madman to be tried before Caesar. It is possible that his nervous outburst indicates he was under conviction. When people ridicule us, our efforts to witness to them, or the gospel, we still need to show them respect so they will still be open to further witnessing.

26:26 The king is familiar with these things [the basic facts of Paul’s message], and I can speak freely [openly, boldly] to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner [this was a common Greek idiom in Paul’s day; Christians openly proclaimed the gospel; Christianity was a very public movement].

Paul did not argue with Festus. Instead, he turned his attention back to Agrippa to whom he had been speaking boldly. The Jewish king knew about these matters, that is, the basic facts of Paul’s message. The Christian movement and its message were not something done in a secluded corner or in secret. Christianity had been fully public since the day of Pentecost when three thousand people converted to faith in Christ in Jerusalem.

Although Christianity had started small, it was no longer a small movement but rather one that was spreading throughout the Roman Empire. Paul’s own ministry had been done in public and subject to scrutiny. Surely these things had not escaped Agrippa’s notice.

26:27 [Paul put Agrippa on the spot and pressed for a decision] King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets [who had foretold Christ’s coming]? I know you do.”

Paul, becoming increasingly bolder in his witness, began to press for a decision. Addressing the king, he asked, do you believe the prophets? Before Agrippa could answer the question, Paul answered it for him: I know you believe the prophets. Agrippa did know what the prophets had written about the messiah. He could have corroborated all that Paul had said. Paul’s question now forced Agrippa to take a stand. If he believed the prophets and what they had written about the messiah, then he must either affirm or deny that Jesus is the one about whom the prophets wrote.

26:28 Then Agrippa [perhaps felt uncomfortable] said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time [rapidly] you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

Agrippa found himself in an awkward position. Denying the prophets would have put him at odds with his Jewish constituency. Affirming his belief in the prophets would have forced Agrippa to deal with Paul’s claims concerning Jesus. So, instead of answering Paul’s question, Agrippa, like a seasoned politician, evaded it by asking another question.

People under conviction often find ways to resist the truth. Like Festus, Agrippa heard the gospel and yet stopped short of making any decision concerning Christ. His reply indicates he would not be as easily persuaded to become a Christian as Paul’s other converts had been. Sadly, the king missed this opportunity to gain something he would never lose—eternal life.

26:29 Paul replied, “Short time or long [the important thing was to make a decision for Christ] — I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am [free in Christ; a Christian], except for these chains [perhaps Paul lifted his manacled hands; messenger was bound but message could never be bound].”

When Agrippa rejected Paul’s witness and refused to become a Christian, Paul continued by expressing concern for the king. Paul politely replied that whether easily or with difficulty, the most important thing was to eventually become a Christian believer. And, Paul’s concern was not only for the king, but for all the people who were present in the room that day.

The only thing that Paul did not wish for those listening to him was that they end up in chains. When people reject our witness and refuse to become Christians, we are to express genuine concern for them and do nothing that will make further conversation impossible.

26:30 The king rose [thus ending the dialogue; shrugged off opportunity to receive Christ], and with him the governor [Festus] and Bernice and those sitting with them.

Agrippa ended the dialogue. Perhaps he did so because he was uncomfortable or under conviction. He had certainly heard enough to advise Festus about Paul’s case. Sadly, rather than making a decision concerning Christ, the king and all those in the room got up and walked away. Ironically, by refusing to make a decision concerning Christ, they faced a sentence greater than any sentence Paul would ever face.

26:31 They left the room, and while talking with one another [Festus and Agrippa], they said, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”

When they had left the room, Festus and Agrippa, the two highest ranking officials, talked with each other. They concluded that Paul had not violated any Jewish laws worthy of either death or chains. Paul had already been declared innocent by the Pharisees (Acts 23:9), by Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:29), and by Festus (Acts 25:25).

Only Paul’s enemies continued to insist that he had done something worthy of death. Soon, Paul would sail for Rome and away from his murderous enemies. His appearance before governors and kings was a fulfillment of Jesus’ words (Luke 21:12). Paul would continue to faithfully share the gospel with people from all walks of life until the day of his death.

26:32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Note: Sharing the gospel with secular people.
S = Secular people have little or no interest in the gospel but need to hear it.
E = Every person deserves an opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the gospel.
C = Communicate the gospel in terms secular people can understand.
U = Use your personal testimony to explain what Christ has done for you.
L = Love others regardless of how they respond to your witness.
A = Always leave the door open to future witnessing opportunities.
R = Refuse to give up on the salvation of any person.

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