|Acts Chapter 26|
Translation by William E. Paul
by Charles Dailey
(Black underlined words match words in the Bible text.)
| This remarkable speech deserves some preliminary remarks from us. It is Paul's fourth opportunity to preach before large, unbelieving audiences in or near Jerusalem. The others were the crowd near the foot of the Tower of Antonia in chapter 22, before the Sanhedrin in chapter 23, and in the Court of Felix in chapter 24. |
F. F. Bruce says, "The construction of the speech is more careful than usual and the style more literary as befitted such a distinguished audience. The argument is calculated to appeal particularly to the mind of Agrippa, even if Festus did find himself completely out of his depth after the first few sentences."
It is remarkable how this pagan governor Festus provided the perfect forum for the most skilled presenter of Christian truth in the world.
The speech easily divides itself into six sections. They are:
1. The Introduction. 2-3
2. Paul's Jewish background. 4-8
3. His persecution of the Way. 9-11
4. His encounter with Jesus. 12-18
5. His obedience to the vision. 19-20
6. His arrest and help from God. 21-23.
|1) Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself." So, Paul motioned [to the assembly] with his hand [for attention] and began speaking in his defense:|| – King Agrippa is now in charge of the distinguished assembly. When he arose (vs. 30), the session ended. |
- Paul knew he would not be released, because he had appealed to Caesar.
- Was Paul's other hand chained? Vs. 29
|2) "King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate that I am able to defend myself before you concerning all the charges being brought against me by the Jews,|| – Agrippa was courteously addressed as King. He was the leading secular Jewish authority in the world. |
- Paul used apologeia - apologetics. He was defending himself.
- Paul did not identify with his countrymen.
|3) especially since you are an expert on all the customs and issues discussed among the Jews. So, for this reason I request that you hear [my response to them] patiently.|| – Agrippa was commended for his expertise on Jewish issues. But Paul did not flatter him. |
- Paul had been brief on previous occasions, but he intends to give a fuller response now before Agrippa and the large and distinguished crowd assembled.
|4) All the Jews know how I lived during my youth and my early days among [the people of] my nation, and [especially here] in Jerusalem.||– He carried his youthful reputation with him, even though he was well past middle age. It had followed him from Tarsus to Jerusalem when he moved there.|
|5) They know of my early background; if they were willing to, they could testify that I lived as a [faithful] Pharisee, [which is] the strictest sect of our religion.||– There was still a memory of Paul in Judea from the days when he worked with the Sanhedrin. His accusers are withholding information about his former strict ways as a Pharisee.|
|6) And now I am standing [here], being judged because [I believe that] God will fulfill the hope He promised to our forefathers.||– His dedication to the hope of Israel is why he is being judged right now.|
|7) This is the promise our twelve tribes [i.e., family groups], who earnestly serve God night and day, hope to see fulfilled. It is because [I advocate] this hope, O King, that I am being charged [with wrongdoing] by the Jews.|| – Paul speaks of the twelve tribes as a present reality. There is no "lost tribe" in the form of the Anglo-Saxon race or the Mormon Church. That theory is fiction. |
- Many in Israel were very earnest worshipers.
- He was the target of the Jews because he accepted the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel. The other reason is in vss. 20-21.
|8) So, why should you [Jews] consider it incredible for God to raise the dead?|| – Most Jews accept life after death. Why is he considered strange for believing in it? |
- There were Jews present from Jerusalem and the local Jewish community at Caesarea.
|9) I truly thought within myself [that it was right] to do many things which were opposed to the name of Jesus from Nazareth.||– He was opposed to the name - the authority - of Jesus from Nazareth.|
|10) So, I was doing this in Jerusalem, having received [my] authority from the leading priests. I both imprisoned many of the saints [i.e., God's holy people] and [even] voiced my approval when they were put to death [See 8:1].|| – Paul begins his personal experience at this point. |
- With the authority of the leading priests, he had thrown his full force into opposing the authority of Jesus.
- He had been in good standing with the leaders at Jerusalem for all of this opposition.
|11) I often persecuted them in the synagogues, [even] trying to get them to blaspheme [i.e., speak against God]. I had extreme anger toward them and [even] traveled to foreign cities [in my effort] to persecute them.|| – This opposition was frequent, not just a one-time event.|
- It can be seen that Jerusalem had many synagogues.
- He does not speak of success in getting them to blaspheme.
- His anger is hard to quantify. It was extreme.
- Damascus was not his first foreign target. Where else had he gone?
|12) "While on a journey to Damascus for this purpose, I was acting under the authority and directive of the leading priests.|| – Now he focuses on the journey that changed his life. |
- He was acting under the authority of the same group that was now accusing him. He was once one of them.
|13) [Then] along the road, about noon, O King, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me.||– The sun is very bright in that part of the world, so this light was extremely bright.|
|14) When we all fell to the ground I heard a voice speaking in the Hebrew [i.e., Aramaic] language. [It said], 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? You are only hurting yourself by kicking against the spurs [i.e., opposing the work of God].'|| – Paul heard the voice, the others did not hear words. |
- It is new information that the Lord spoke in Hebrew. This should impress Jewish listeners. It was not some Gentile plot.
- Jesus considered opposition to his people as opposition to himself.
- It is new information that Paul is hurting himself by his opposition.
|15) I answered, 'Who are you, sir?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting.|| – "Please identify yourself." |
- What a devastating revelation!
|16) But, get up onto your feet, for the reason I have appeared to you is to appoint you a minister and witness of both the things you have [already] seen of me and the things I will [reveal when] appearing to you.|| – Paul is being appointed to both minister and witness. |
- He is now qualified to be a witness of the risen Christ. This is the first step in his training.
|17) I will rescue you from the [Jewish] people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them,|| – Jesus will rescue him from the Jews (people) and Gentiles. |
- It is clearly stated that Gentiles were included in his commission.
- I am sending you - This made Paul an Apostle of Christ. An apostle means one who is sent.
|18) to open their eyes [to the truth] so they will turn from darkness to light and from the power [i.e., the influence] of Satan to God. [Then] they can receive the forgiveness of sins and the inheritance [of never ending life], along with [all] those who are set apart [for God] by trusting in Me.'|| – His own eyes were shut right now. The figure of speech must have been very meaningful to Paul. |
- Gentiles were to receive forgiveness of their sins plus an inheritance along with other believers.
- trusting - faith, is the means of salvation. This is different than being saved by good works, the thrust of Judaism.
|19) "As a result of this, O King, I did not disobey [the mandate of] this vision from heaven||– Paul kept the law of the heavenly vision.|
|20) but, [instead] declared to the people of Damascus first, [then] to the people of Jerusalem, and [finally to those] throughout all of the district of Judea, as well as to the Gentiles [everywhere] that they should repent [i.e., change their hearts and lives] and turn to God, doing deeds which demonstrate their repentance.|| – He began declaring - preaching - immediately. |
- people is probably used in the sense of speaking to Jews, both at Damascus and at Jerusalem.
- Obeying the mandate, he preached to Gentiles, too.
- Good deeds do not earn salvation, but demonstrate repentance.
|21) For this reason the Jews grabbed me in the Temple and attempted to kill me.||– Paul says that preaching to Gentiles is the reason the Jews wanted to kill him.|
|22) But I obtained help from God and so [I am able to] stand here to this day, testifying to both the common people and to those in prominence. [I am] saying only what the prophets and Moses said would happen,|| – His survival was an act of God. |
- This testimony is not limited to King Agrippa, but is for both the common people and the prominent.
- This message is the hoped-for outcome of Moses and the prophets of Israel.
|23) namely, that the Christ must suffer and be the first to rise from the dead [i.e., never to die again] and then proclaim the light [of the Gospel] to the [Jewish] people and to the Gentiles."|| – Isaiah 53 shows that Christ would suffer. |
- Psalm 16 shows he would rise from the dead.
- Christ is only the first to rise. All of us will follow.
- The message of light and hope is a cross-cultural message not limited to Israel.
|24) As Paul made his defense in this way, Festus said to him loudly, "Paul, you are crazy. All your education is driving you insane."|| – Luke was there listening. Festus now speaks up. |
- "You have been reading the Bible too much."
- There was no place in the Roman system of belief for a resurrection from the dead.
|25) But Paul replied, "I am not crazy, Your Excellency Festus; I am [just] speaking a message of truth and sound reason.|| – Paul respectfully rejects Festus' claim. |
- Paul is still the speaker and affirms the truth of his statements.
|26) I can speak boldly of these things because the King knows [they are true]. And I am convinced that none of these things are hidden from you, for none of them have been done in a corner [i.e., secretly].|| – Paul turns to Agrippa once again. |
- Agrippa knew the Scriptures and the teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
- There were now thousands of believers living in his own country.
|27) King Agrippa, do you believe [the message of] the prophets? [Yes] I know you do."|| – The defendant is examining the Judge. |
- Paul supposed Agrippa's honesty and answered for him.
|28) Agrippa said to Paul, "You expect to persuade me to be a Christian with such little effort [or, in such a short time]?"||– Agrippa the politician did not want to deny the prophets or agree with a crazy man. He diverted the question. - The name Christian, given by God at Antioch, was now used widely and was now on the lips of this Jewish king. - The question was cynical. It did not signal nearness of a personal decision.|
|29) Paul replied, "I wish to God that, whether it would take a little or a lot, not only you, but all those who hear me today, might become [Christians] like me, except [not] with these chains."|| – However, Agrippa may have been considering the claims of Jesus. Paul is saying, "Don't let your requirements of more effort on my part keep you from a decision." |
- The invitation was also to every listener in the great hall.
- Paul was somehow in chains.
|30) Then King Agrippa, [his wife] Bernice, Governor [Festus] and [the commanders and leading men of the city, 25:23] all rose up,||– The reference to chains made by Paul ended the court session.|
|31) and when they left [the room] they conferred with one another, saying, "This man is not doing anything deserving of the death penalty or [even] imprisonment."|| – Luke heard their conclusion. Paul was not guilty. |
- Paul had vindicated himself, but they did not respond to the story of his conversion to Jesus.
|32) Then Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been released if he had not appealed [his case] to Caesar."||– Setting him free now may have ended his life. He is safe in prison and will have a government-paid trip to preach to Caesar in Rome.|
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