Paul’s Defense Before King Agrippa
Book of Acts chapter 26
In our last lesson we saw as Paul had defended himself against Felix and against Festus of the false things that had been accused of him by the Jews and the high priest.
Festus had discovered that he had no real reason to send Paul before Caesar.
Another opportunity came when Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice arrived in Caesarea to pay their respects to him.
This Agrippa was the son of Herod Agrippa I. He had been appointed king of the region around the Sea of Galilee by the emperor Nero.
He was also known as Marcus Julius Agrippa and was only 17 when his father died and he was the last of the Herod Dynasty.
Let’s begin I looking back to some verses that we did not cover from last week:
*****Act 25:24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.
Act 25:25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.
Act 25:26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.
Act 25:27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.
Festus the governor was at a complete loss as to what to report to the Emperor. He actually had no reason to continue to hold Paul and neither would King Agrippa.
The Jews still demanded Paul’s life but he was required by Roman law in his report to Caesar to specify the crimes which to prisoner was accused and this he could not do.
King Agrippa was part Jew and knew much more about the Jews religion than Festus did and according to tradition he had made considerable study of his own of that religion.
So even though Festus, as the Roman official in charge of this occasion, deferred to Agrippa after Paul had been brought before them.
*****Act 26:1 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
Without asking Paul any questions he allowed Paul to explain what he had been doing and why he had been arrested.
*****Act 26:2 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:
Act 26:3 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.
Paul immediately acknowledged Agrippa’s title as King and said he was glad to answer all charges the Jews had brought against him.
Remember Paul had been accused of violating Jewish law.
Paul had been accused of desecrating the Temple.
And Paul had been accused of actually breaking Roman laws.
None of these things were true nor was there any evidence to prove such things.
We should not forget that the Herodians were Edomites, which were the descendents of Esau.
There is a great prophecy that was given to Esau by his father Isaac and I believe it was fulfilled by these Herod’s:
Gen 27:40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; [and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck].
So let’s hear Paul’s response:
*****Act 26:4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
Act 26:5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
Act 26:6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:
Act 26:7 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.
Many of Paul’s accusers were familiar with Paul’s early life. The phrase "manner of life" means not only how Paul lived but the real reasons for his actions.
The Greek word for "youth" not only means "young" but it also means "lack of experience".
Paul as a young adult, was being trained by Gamaliel to become a Pharisee and Paul knew that these Jewish leaders knew about all these things.
Paul had become a strict Pharisee and he observed all the Mosaic dietary laws and certainly all commandments as written by Moses.
But not only that, Paul had observed those things that had been added by the traditions of the Pharisees themselves.
That phrase "the most straightest sect" means that the Pharisees were uncompromising on their standards.
Then Paul mentioned the main issue from which he was being judged.
"His hope in God’s promise" was the hope of the "resurrection" of the Messiah!
That term "Messiah" is a Jewish title for Israel’s future King who would bring salvation at the end of the age or what we know as the "Millennial Kingdom".
This is the promise that all the prophets had presented to the fathers of Israel!
The Book of Galatians gives us a clear picture of how Paul understood the Old Testament Scriptures.
Gal 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
Gal 3:17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
Gal 3:18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Paul insisted that it was the"promise of this Messiah" that held together the scattered tribes of Israel as a nation.
And Paul insisted that he was accused, because he believed in this hope and in his belief that this hope was fulfilled in Jesus.
And that Jesus had demonstrated this truth by His own resurrection!
Paul also makes us recognize "that representatives from all 12 tribes were still in Judea" and were still adhering to their ancient religion.
"This gives us proof that there is no suggestion in the New Testament that there are 10 lost tribes somewhere else in the world"!
It is a fact that Israelites were scattered all over the world but there are no lost tribes of Israel!
*****Act 26:8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
The Sadducees did not believe in any "resurrection" but Paul still asked this simple question of King Agrippa.
All the Jews believed in a sovereign God so this would only be incredible if anyone but God or those that God empowered should claim to raise the dead for God only is the Creator of life!
Most every Jew of that time had no problem in believing "in creation" as written in the Book of Genesis.
To Paul it was a sad thing that the Jews, whose hope was in the coming of the Messiah and the promised resurrection, should now denied Jesus who had proved he was the true Messiah.
Most all, but the Sadducees, believed in the "doctrine of the resurrection" and many Pharisees including Paul had converted to Christianity yet the Jewish nation still rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
But we now know that they are blind to this fact.
Rom 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
Rom 11:8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
*****Act 26:9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Act 26:10 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.
Act 26:11 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.
Paul was not only a Pharisee but he had also been a zealous persecutor of the church. He had punished the believers and tried to force them to deny Jesus Christ and some of them he had even helped to send to their death.
But, Paul took full responsibility for his actions and Paul had voted in favor of the death penalty for all Christians.
Paul had been relentless in his persecution of the believers on Jesus Christ.
Paul had gone from synagogue to synagogue arresting or otherwise harassing those who embraced Jesus and His ways.
Paul said he was "exceedingly mad" and was "enraged" and it became Paul’s intention to eradicate Christianity not only from Jerusalem and not only from Israel but from all the world.
Sadly there are many today that have the same purpose because this is the purpose of Satan and all his followers!
*****Act 26:12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
Act 26:13 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.
Act 26:14 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.
Paul had been one of the reasons early Christians had left Jerusalem. His zeal had driven out many of the believers and they had taken their message to the Jews in other communities.
Paul gives us a vivid description of what he saw. The light that Paul saw was a supernatural light.
What Paul saw was a Shekinah glory of God!
Listen to the words of Isaiah:
Isa 60:1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
Isa 60:2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
Even at the brightness of noontime, the earth is a dark place when compared to the glory of God!
This actually blinded Paul for three days but the important thing was that Paul’s "spiritual eyes" had been opened, for he was beholding the living Christ.
Paul had written these words to the Corinthians:
2Co 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
2Co 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
2Co 4:5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
2Co 4:6 For God, [who commanded the light to shine out of darkness] , hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Paul had not only seen the Shekinah glory of God but he had also heard His voice!
Those that were with Paul had heard a sound but they had not understood the voice of God and they all fell to the earth but only Paul remained there.
To explain that phrase " kicking against a prick" we should understand that when an ox was too stubborn for the farmer, the farmer used a long, sharp, pointed stick. this was called an "ox goad". This encourage the animal to be obedient. If the animal kicked against the goad it would cause more severe wounds.
Jesus was using His heavenly "ox goad" to push Paul to conversion and the more that Paul resisted the more severe his wounds would be.
We know that Holy Ghost conviction can be very painful and in some cases will leave scars.
*****Act 26:15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
Act 26:16 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;
Act 26:17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
Act 26:18 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.
The very best thing we can do when we are under Holy Ghost conviction is to realize that it is Jesus calling us to repent.
We cannot understand the "Grace of God" until we realize God loves every sinner.
Paul was an enemy but God does speak to His enemies.
It is very clear in this passage that God had been dealing with Paul for some period of time "But" it is also very clear that Paul had been resisting all that time!
It should also be very clear in this passage that Judaism was not enough for salvation!
And it is just as clear that no religion of the Gentiles had any means of salvation!
And these things have not changed!
There is no means for evolution to bring anyone to the saving power of God!
All false religions are in fact under the power of Satan who leads all false religions!
It is the "god of this world" who have blinded the minds that believe not and the apostle Paul had been chosen by the Lord Jesus to open their eyes to the truth.
The Lord Jesus Christ died to deliver us all from the power of darkness and into the light of the glorious gospel!
The Bible teaches us:
Col 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
*****Act 26:19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
Act 26:20 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.
Act 26:21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.
Paul explained that he could not be disobedient to such a heavenly vision!
When Paul asked the Lord what he would have him do, he meant it sincerely and he obeyed immediately!
The changes Paul experienced involved such a radical change of his life that no one could understand at this time.
During Paul’s time in Damascus he preached mostly to the Jews that Jesus Christ was the true Son of God.
Later he went to Jerusalem where he continued to witness for Jesus and still later Paul preached to the Jews through out Judea.
Paul preached to the Gentiles primarily on his three missionary journeys after his meeting with Peter.
And Paul explained to Agrippa "that it was for these reasons" that the Jews caught him in the Temple and wanted to kill him.
*****Act 26:22 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:
Act 26:23 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 had had a great beginning with visions and voices.
Paul was sure in his mind and his heart that it was the Lord that had saved him throughout his ministry from those that would cause him harm.
For us the fact that Paul continued is proof of his conversion and evidence of the faithfulness of God!
Paul will say "by God’s grace" and God had enabled him to serve "by His perfect grace".
The book of Psalms teaches us:
Psa 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
And Paul himself knew this to be true:
1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Jesus Christ was the very first one to resurrect from the dead!
There had been some before him that had been raised from the dead, but only to a physical body!
Jesus was raised in a glorified body!
The church will be raised in glorified bodies!
The book of Romans teaches us this fact:
Rom 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Our Lord Jesus currently sits at the right hand of God in Heaven!
It is a fact that Christ Jesus suffered for our sins!
It is a fact that Christ Jesus sits at the right hand of God in control of this world we live in!
It is a fact that Christ Jesus will leave this position and descend back earth!
It is a fact that the dead in Christ will be resurrected from the dead and will join the Christians who are living at that time and will meet The Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds!
"This is the Rapture the church".
And it is a fact that after this time, Christ Jesus will return to the earth this will be the second coming of Christ!
We must be ready for the return of the Son of God!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about facts!
*****Act 26:24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
Act 26:25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
Is at this point that Festus interrupted Paul. Festus was a Roman and knew nothing of the Jewish Scriptures and probably cared even less, so all these words presented to Agrippa meant nothing to him.
He suggested that Paul must have gone mad through so much study of the Jewish fables.
But Paul was not speaking to Festus, he was speaking to Agrippa, and he knew that Agrippa understood his words.
Agrippa would also understand why the Jews were so incensed at the thought that Paul was leading the Gentiles to the Lord.
These Jews were more afraid that the Christian Gentiles would soon be known as God’s chosen people and they would lose all privileges with Rome!
Paul declared that his words were true and that word "soberness" means being of a sound mind!
None of these things had been kept secret in Jerusalem.
The death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ was common knowledge!
Paul had written to the Corinthians that there were more than 500 eye witnesses, of the resurrected Christ including himself.
There was no attempt to hide the resurrection of Jesus by the early Christians!
In fact it was and is the theme of every gospel message!
And it should be so today!
*****Act 26:27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
Act 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
By asking Agrippa if he believed the prophets, Paul wanted him to acknowledge that he believed what the Old Testament Scriptures taught about the Messiah.
But before he could respond to this question, Paul answered for him, declaring "I know that thou believest the prophets".
Agrippa may not of totally understood about all these matters but he was certainly aware of them as King of Judea and he responded.
Many have laughed at this response from Agrippa. Many have said he was being sarcastic to Paul.
BUT, by his use of the word Christian this cannot be true!
The term Christian was at that time only a term of reproach and Agrippa would not have considered it a title he would endure.
There will always be those that are "almost persuaded" but praise the Lord there will always be those that are "fully persuaded"!
And Paul said:
*****Act 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.
There may have actually been some that day that heard the words of Paul and were persuaded but all those we will meet Heaven and they can tell us of this day.
The apostle Paul had turned this trial into an example of effective witnessing.
He had done this with his own personal testimony and the truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Agrippa had resisted the divine will of God as many others do that reject the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
BUT, We know that being almost saved is still being 100% lost!