Acts 26 Paul Before Agrippa
Summary

The official hearing before Agrippa is described in this chapter. Obviously, both the Roman and Jewish rulers realize that it makes no sense to send Paul to Rome without significant, sustainable charges against him. We might raise the question, why has Paul not been released seeing that there are no real charges? This is the third time (see chapters 9 and 22) for Paul’s conversion to be told in Acts. He then told of his post-conversion life as a preacher of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Upon hearing Paul’s defense, Festus responded that Paul was out of his mind. Agrippa responded, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Paul responded that he wished Agrippa was a Christian.

Paul's Defense Before Agrippa

26So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

2“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.

4“My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. 6And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

Question 1

What did Paul tell Agrippa that all the Jewish people knew?

9“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

Question 2

What had Paul become convinced of before becoming a Christian?

Paul Tells of His Conversion

12“In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language,[1] ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Question 3

What occasion did Paul cite (as previously) as a defense for his actions?

19“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Question 4

How does Paul say he responded to the heavenly vision he received?

24And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”[2] 29And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Question 5

How does each of the rulers react to Paul’s defense and what should they have done?

30Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

People
  • Paul
  • The defendant

  • Porcius Festus
  • The Roman governor

  • Agrippa II
  • The Jewish ruler

Places
  • Caesarea
  • Before the Roman governor

Paul's Defense Before Agrippa

26So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

Acts 26:1

The word “defense” is from the Greek word “apologia” referring to a presentation of reasons.

Actually, Paul’s innocence has already been acknowledged by the governor.

2“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.

Acts 26:2

There is a logical rhetorical organization to Paul’s apologia: a prologue, narration of circumstances, confirmation of innocence, refutation of charges, and concluding appeal.

Paul shows proper respect for Agrippa who is part-Jewish and who is known to be fair minded.

4“My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. 6And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

Acts 26:4

Paul presents here his resume to Agrippa defending his Jewish background.


Acts 26:6

The “promise” no doubt refers to God’s promises to Abraham concerning the hope of Messiah.


Acts 26:8

That “promise” includes the anticipation of resurrection from the dead.

9“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

Paul Tells of His Conversion

12“In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language,[1] ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Acts 26:14

Only here are we told that they “fell to the ground.” This was a real (not merely internal) event. “Goads” were sticks used by herdsmen to prod and direct animals.


Acts 26:16

There is no mention here of Paul’s blindness or of Ananias coming to him (see Acts 9 and 22).


Acts 26:18

Paul’s mission as an evangelist was to preach salvation to the Gentiles. Two primary blessings would accompany their repentance: forgiveness of sins and an inheritance. In the Greek text there

19“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Acts 26:20

Note three responses necessary: repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.


Acts 26:22

Notice Paul’s belief in God’s Providence to bring him to this point.


Acts 26:23

Before Christ proclaimed the complete gospel, he had to suffer and rise from the dead.

24And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”[2] 29And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Acts 26:25

“Truth” and “reason” might well be translated “true” and “prudent” in contrast to “mad.”


Acts 26:28

The word “Christian” is used only three times: here and in Acts 11:26 and>1 Peter 4:16.>

It is uncertain whether Agrippa is speaking seriously, with irony, or with sarcasm here.

30Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Acts 26:31

This is the third time Paul has been adjudged to be innocent of anything worthy of death or jail.

Perspectives

The Gospel of Christ is in fulfillment of the promised and prophesied hope of Israel.

Paul’s mission was to open the eyes of the Gentiles to the gospel so that they could receive the blessings of salvation in Jesus Christ.

The gospel would have made Agrippa become a Christian if he received and obeyed it.