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Paul Defends Himself before Agrippa

26

Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to defend himself:

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

4 “All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. 5They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I have belonged to the strictest sect of our religion and lived as a Pharisee. 6And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, 7a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency, that I am accused by Jews! 8Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

9 “Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. 11By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

Paul Tells of His Conversion

12 “With this in mind, I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. 14When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ 15I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. 17I will rescue 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, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul Tells of His Preaching

19 “After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance. 21For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: 23that the Messiah 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.”

Paul Appeals to Agrippa to Believe

24 While he was making this defense, Festus exclaimed, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!” 25But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. 26Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?” 29Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

30 Then the king got up, and with him the governor and Bernice and those who had been seated with them; 31and as they were leaving, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.”


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Ac 26:1-32. Paul's Defense of Himself before King Agrippa, Who Pronounces Him Innocent, but Concludes That the Appeal to Cæsar Must Be Carried Out.

This speech, though in substance the same as that from the fortress stairs of Jerusalem (Ac 22:1-29), differs from it in being less directed to meet the charge of apostasy from the Jewish faith, and giving more enlarged views of his remarkable change and apostolic commission, and the divine support under which he was enabled to brave the hostility of his countrymen.

1-3. Agrippa said—Being a king he appears to have presided.

Paul stretched forth the hand—chained to a soldier (Ac 26:29, and see on Ac 12:6).

3. I know thee to be expert, &c.—His father was zealous for the law, and he himself had the office of president of the temple and its treasures, and the appointment of the high priest [Josephus, Antiquities, 20.1.3].

hear me patiently—The idea of "indulgently" is also conveyed.

4, 5. from my youth, which was at the first … at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning—plainly showing that he received his education, even from early youth, at Jerusalem. See on Ac 22:3.

5. if they would—"were willing to"

testify—but this, of course, they were not, it being a strong point in his favor.

after the most straitest—"the strictest."

sect—as the Pharisees confessedly were. This was said to meet the charge, that as a Hellenistic Jew he had contracted among the heathen lax ideas of Jewish peculiarities.

6, 7. I … am judged for the hope of the promise made … to our fathers—"for believing that the promise of Messiah, the Hope of the Church (Ac 13:32; 28:20) has been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead."

7. Unto which promise—the fulfilment of it.

our twelve tribes—(Jas 1:1; and see on Lu 2:36).

instantly—"intently"; see on Ac 12:5.

serving God—in the sense of religious worship; on "ministered," see on Ac 13:2.

day and night, hope to come—The apostle rises into language as catholic as the thought—representing his despised nation, all scattered thought it now was, as twelve great branches of one ancient stem, in all places of their dispersion offering to the God of their fathers one unbroken worship, reposing on one great "promise" made of old unto their fathers, and sustained by one "hope" of "coming" to its fulfilment; the single point of difference between him and his countrymen, and the one cause of all their virulence against him, being, that his hope had found rest in One already come, while theirs still pointed to the future.

For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews—"I am accused of Jews, O king" (so the true reading appears to be); of all quarters the most surprising for such a charge to come from. The charge of sedition is not so much as alluded to throughout this speech. It was indeed a mere pretext.

8. Why should it be thought a thing incredible … that God should raise the dead?—rather, "Why is it judged a thing incredible if God raises the dead?" the case being viewed as an accomplished fact. No one dared to call in question the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, which proclaimed Him to be the Christ, the Son of God; the only way of getting rid of it, therefore, was to pronounce it incredible. But why, asks the apostle, is it so judged? Leaving this pregnant question to find its answer in the breasts of his audience, he now passes to his personal history.

9-15. (See on Ac 9:1, &c.; and compare Ac 22:4, &c.)

16-18. But rise, &c.—Here the apostle appears to condense into one statement various sayings of his Lord to him in visions at different times, in order to present at one view the grandeur of the commission with which his Master had clothed him [Alford].

a minister … both of these things which thou hast seen—putting him on a footing with those "eye-witnesses and ministers of the word" mentioned in Lu 1:2.

and of those in which I will appear to thee—referring to visions he was thereafter to be favored with; such as Ac 18:9, 10; 22:17-21; 23:11; 2Co 12:1-10, &c. (Ga 1:12).

17. Delivering thee from the people—the Jews.

and from the Gentiles—He was all along the object of Jewish malignity, and was at that moment in the hands of the Gentiles; yet he calmly reposes on his Master's assurances of deliverance from both, at the same time taking all precautions for safety and vindicating all his legal rights.

unto whom now I send thee—The emphatic "I" here denotes the authority of the Sender [Bengel].

18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light—rather, "that they may turn" (as in Ac 26:20), that is, as the effect of their eyes being opened. The whole passage leans upon Isa 61:1 (Lu 4:18).

and from the power of Satan—Note the connection here between being "turned from darkness" and "from the power of Satan," whose whole power over men lies in keeping them in the dark: hence he is called "the ruler of the darkness of this world." See on 2Co 4:4.

that they may receive forgiveness … and inheritance among the sanctified by faith that is in meNote: Faith is here made the instrument of salvation at once in its first stage, forgiveness, and its last, admission to the home of the sanctified; and the faith which introduces the soul to all this is emphatically declared by the glorified Redeemer to rest upon Himself—"FAITH, even THAT WHICH IS IN Me." And who that believes this can refrain from casting his crown before Him or resist offering Him supreme worship?

19-21. Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision—This musical and elevated strain, which carries the reader along with it, and doubtless did the hearers, bespeaks the lofty region of thought and feeling to which the apostle had risen while rehearsing his Master's communications to him from heaven.

20. showed … to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem—omitting Arabia; because, beginning with the Jews, his object was to mention first the places where his former hatred of the name of Christ was best known: the mention of the Gentiles, so unpalatable to his audience, is reserved to the last.

repent and return to God, and do works meet for repentance—a brief description of conversion and its proper fruits, suggested, probably, by the Baptist's teaching (Lu 3:7, 8).

22, 23. having obtained help—"succor."

from God—"that [which cometh] from God."

I continue—"stand," "hold my ground."

unto this day, witnessing, &c.—that is, This life of mine, so marvellously preserved, in spite of all the plots against it, is upheld for the Gospel's sake; therefore I "witnessed," &c.

23. That Christ should suffer, &c.—The construction of this sentence implies that in regard to the question "whether the Messiah is a suffering one, and whether, rising first from the dead, he should show light to the (Jewish) people and to the Gentiles," he had only said what the prophets and Moses said should come.

24. Festus said with a loud voice—surprised and bewildered.

Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning doth make thee mad—"is turning thy head." The union of flowing Greek, deep acquaintance with the sacred writings of his nation, reference to a resurrection and other doctrines to a Roman utterly unintelligible, and, above all, lofty religious earnestness, so strange to the cultivated, cold-hearted skeptics of that day—may account for this sudden exclamation.

25, 26. I am not mad, most noble Festus, but, &c.—Can anything surpass this reply, for readiness, self-possession, calm dignity? Every word of it refuted the rude charge, though Festus, probably, did not intend to hurt the prisoner's feelings.

26. the king knoweth, &c.—(See on Ac 26:1-3).

27-29. believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest—The courage and confidence here shown proceeded from a vivid persuasion of Agrippa's knowledge of the facts and faith in the predictions which they verified; and the king's reply is the highest testimony to the correctness of these presumptions and the immense power of such bold yet courteous appeals to conscience.

28. Almost—or, "in a little time."

thou persuadest me to be a Christian—Most modern interpreters think the ordinary translation inadmissible, and take the meaning to be, "Thou thinkest to make me with little persuasion (or small trouble) a Christian"—but I am not to be so easily turned. But the apostle's reply can scarcely suit any but the sense given in our authorized version, which is that adopted by Chrysostom and some of the best scholars since. The objection on which so much stress is laid, that the word "Christian" was at that time only a term of contempt, has no force except on the other side; for taking it in that view, the sense is, "Thou wilt soon have me one of that despised sect."

29. I would to God, &c.—What unequalled magnanimity does this speech breathe! Only his Master ever towered above this.

not only … almost … but altogether—or, "whether soon or late," or "with little or much difficulty."

except these bonds—doubtless holding up his two chained hands (see on Ac 12:6): which in closing such a noble utterance must have had an electrical effect.

30-32. when he had thus spoken, the king rose—not over-easy, we may be sure.

32. This man might have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to Cæsar—It would seem from this that such appeals, once made, behooved to be carried out.




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