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ACTS
The continued Life of Jesus through the Apostles

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

"King Convicted"
Key Verse = Acts 26:28

  1. Paul's Testimony - His Early Life
  2. Paul's Testimony - His Conversion
  3. Paul's Testimony - His Ministry
  4. Agrippa is almost persuaded



PAUL'S  TESTIMONY - HIS  EARLY  LIFE

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Acts 26:1-3
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(1)  Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself."
So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself:

Then Agrippa said to Paul: Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretching forth his hand, began to make his answer.

(2)  "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews,

I think myself happy, O king Agrippa, that I am to answer for myself this day before thee, touching all the things whereof I am accused by the Jews.

(3)  especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.

Especially as thou knowest all, both customs and questions that are among the Jews: Wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.


On receiving permission from the judge (in this case, unofficially Agrippa), one could speak. Paul's hand is stretched forth in customary rhetorical style; gestures were an important part of ancient training in public speaking.

Standard defense speeches varied somewhat in form but had general consistency, as exhibited here:
the exordium (address to the judge) Acts 26:2-3
the narratio (narration of events) Acts 26:4-18
the argumentio (proof of the case) Acts 26:19-23

Paul offers the exordium of the speech, in which it was customary to praise the judge (captatio benevolentiae). Paul is able to do so honestly; Agrippa's interest in the law was known, and his realm became a safe haven for Jewish practice after the Jewish-Roman war of A.D. 66-70.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press.)

King Agrippa was in charge and told Paul that he was free to speak. In his brief introduction, Paul sincerely gave thanks that Agrippa was hearing his case, because he, knew the king was an expert in Jewish religious matters. Paul did not mention it then, but he also knew that the king long believed the Old Testament prophets (Acts 26:27). Paul also hinted that his speech might be a long one and that he would appreciate the king's patience in hearing him out.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

Stretching out the hand was the usual posture of orators or public speakers. The ancient statues are commonly made in this way, with the right hand extended. The dress of the ancients favored this. The long and loose robe, or outer garment, was fastened usually with a hook or clasp on the right shoulder, and thus left the arm at full liberty.

It cannot be supposed that Paul expected that his defense would be attended with a release from confinement, for he had himself appealed to the Roman emperor, Acts 25:11. His design in speaking before Agrippa was, doubtless:
(1) To vindicate his character, and obtain Agrippa's attestation to his innocence, that thus he might allay the anger of the Jews.
(2) To obtain a correct representation of the case to the emperor, as Festus had desired this in order that Agrippa might enable him to make a fair statement of the case (Acts 25:26-27).
(3) To defend his own conversion, and the truth of Christianity, and to preach the gospel in the hearing of Agrippa and his attendants, with a hope that their minds might be impressed by the truth, and that they might be converted to God.

His defense, on former occasions, had been before Roman magistrates, who had little acquaintance with the opinions and customs of the Jews; who were not disposed to listen to the discussion of the points of difference between him and them, and who looked upon all their controversies with contempt. See Acts 24:25. They were, therefore, little qualified to decide a question which was closely connected with the Jewish customs and doctrines; and Paul now rejoiced to know that he was before one who, from his acquaintance with the Jewish customs and belief, would be able to appreciate his arguments. Paul was not now on his trial, but he was to defend himself, or state his cause, so that Agrippa might be able to aid Festus in transmitting a true account of the case to the Roman emperor. It was his interest and duty, therefore, to defend himself as well as possible, and to put him in possession of all the facts in the case. His defense is, consequently, made up chiefly of a most eloquent statement of the facts just as they had occurred.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

Sha’ul (Saul or Paul) began his defense, not in a judicial sense, for he is not being tried before Herod Agrippa II (see 25:13). Since he has already appealed to Caesar (25:11), it is before him that he will be making a formal defense in court. Rather, Sha’ul is “defending” his whole life, his Gospel, his Lord. From Sha’ul's (and Luke's) viewpoint he is doing even more than that: he is making use of an extraordinary opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to yet another kind of audience, the ruling elite (compare Luke 21:12-15). His hearers see him as a prisoner, but he sees himself as a bringer of Good News. That Sha’ul's picture of the situation is correct is seen in the responses of Festus (v. 24) and Agrippa (vv. 25-29), for they relate not to Sha’ul's guilt or innocence but to the Gospel message.

Sha’ul's speech may be outlined thus:
(1) (vv. 2-3) Introduction
(2) (vv.4-8) Sha’ul the zealous Pharisee
(3) (vv. 9-11) Sha’ul the zealous persecutor of Messianic Jews
(4) (vv. 12-18) Sha’ul confronted by Yeshua Jesus the Messiah
(5) (vv. 19-20) Sha’ul the zealous preacher of Yeshua
(6) (v. 21) Sha’ul's arrest by zealous unbelieving Jews
(7) (vv. 22-29) Sha’ul focusing his own zeal on the I-thou encounter of the moment, as he offers his hearers salvation through trusting Yeshua the Messiah
The pivot-point in Sha’ul's life, as well as in his speech, is part (4), his confrontation by Yeshua.
The pivot in the lives of his hearers is part (7), his present proclamation of the Gospel, with its choice between obeying God or not. Sha’ul's zeal, his single-minded pursuit of his purpose in life, contrasts with the effete and indifferent dilettantism of the Roman aristocrats, as portrayed in chapter 25 and in vv. 24-32 below.

By the Jews
By Jews; or possibly “by Judeans,” who are also Jews. But not “by the Jews,” as if “the Jews” were alien to Sha’ul; moreover, in the Greek there is no article [the] before “Ioudaioi” Jews here or in vv. 3, 4 or 7.

Agrippa himself was a Jew (his father Agrippa I wasn't but his mother was, since his mother's mother's mother was Mariamne, the Hasmonean princess and second of King Herod the Great's ten wives. The reason Sha’ul says he considers himself fortunate to be making his defense before him is that Agrippa, who is not only Jewish by birth but well informed about all the Jewish customs and controversies, will appreciate the situation. Sha’ul is talking to a landsman (Yiddish: “fellow Jew”) and knows he can dispense with the sort of detailed explanations that would be necessary to get himself understood by pagans. The irony of vv. 6-7 would be lost on Festus.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern.)

From the Amplified Bible
(1)  Then Agrippa said to Paul, You are permitted to speak on your own behalf. At that Paul stretched forth his hand and made his defense [as follows]:
(2)  I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that it is before you that I am to make my defense today in regard to all the charges brought against me by [the] Jews,
(3)  [Especially] because you are so fully and unusually conversant with all the Jewish customs and controversies; therefore, I beg you to hear me patiently.

Acts 26:4 & 5
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(4)  "My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know.

And my life indeed from my youth, which was from the beginning among my own nation in Jerusalem, all the Jews do know:

(5)  They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

Having known me from the beginning (if they will give testimony) that according to the most sure sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.


Five key statements summarize Paul's defense.
1. (vv. 4-11) "I lived a Pharisee"
2. (vv. 12-13) "I saw a light"
3. (vv. 14-18) "I heard a voice"
4. (vv. 19-21) "I was not disobedient"
5. (vv. 22-32) "I continue unto this day"
On Paul's youth in Jerusalem see Acts 22:3.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press.)

Paul's early life in Jerusalem was known to the Jews, so there was no need to go into great detail. He was a devout Pharisee (Philippians 3:5) and the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), and his peers had likely realized he would accomplish great things as a rabbi (Galatians 1:13-14, ("I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries" NIV). It was because of his convictions about the Resurrection and "the hope of Israel" that he was now a prisoner (see Acts 23:6; 24:15). Once again, Paul appealed to Jewish orthodoxy and loyalty to the Hebrew tradition.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

I lived as a Parush, a Pharisee. The Greek verb is in the aorist tense, which implies action accomplished in the past that has effects continuing into the present. Sha’ul lived as a Pharisee in the past, and he continued doing so after he became a believer.
Acts 23:6
I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!
Galatians 1:14
And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
Philippians 3:5 & 6
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
By emphasizing, for the benefit of the gallery (Agrippa already knew it; see vv. 2-3), that the P’rushim Pharisee are the strictest party of our religion, all the more does he imply that as a Messianic Jew he remained Torah-observant.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern.)

Three aspects of Paul's appearance before Felix and Agrippa stand out.
The first was the public nature of this hearing (25:23).
The first two had been legal trials; this time Paul defended himself in a formal audience before these two officials.
Second, both officials declared Paul's innocence.
Festus's preliminary comments to Agrippa indicated that the Jews' charges were religious rather than political. Before Paul spoke, Festus repeated the words of Lysias the tribune, declaring that Paul had done nothing "worthy of death" (25:25). After speaking to Paul, even Agrippa declared his innocence.
The third interesting aspect of this passage is the nature of Paul's defense.
Like the other two occasions, Paul proclaimed his innocence of any wrongdoing. In this case, however, he went on to share his own personal experience and to call Agrippa and all those who heard to faith in God.
(from Holman Bible Handbook. (c) Copyright 1992 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.)

See here what his religion was in his youth: His manner of life was well known. His education was neither foreign nor obscure; it was among his own nation at Jerusalem, where religion and learning flourished. All the Jews knew it, all that could remember so long, for Paul made himself remarkable betimes. Those that knew him from the beginning could testify for him that he was a Pharisee, that he was not only of the Jewish religion, and an observer of all the ordinances of it, but that he was of the most strict sect of that religion, most nice and exact in observing the institutions of it himself, and most rigid and critical in imposing them upon others. He was not only called a Pharisee, but he lived a Pharisee. He was of the better sort of Pharisees; for he was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, who was an eminent rabbi of the school of house of Hillel, which was in much greater reputation for religion than the school or house of Samai. Now if Paul was a Pharisee, and lived a Pharisee,
(1) Then he was a scholar, a man of learning.
The Pharisees knew the law, and were well versed in it, and in the traditional expositions of it. It was a reproach to the other apostles that they had not had an academic education, but were bred fishermen, ch. 4:13. Therefore, that the unbelieving Jews might be left without excuse, here is an apostle raised up that had sat at the feet of their most eminent doctors.
(2) Then he was a moralist, a man of virtue.
If he lived like a Pharisee, he was no drunkard nor fornicator; and, being a young Pharisee, we may hope he was no extortioner; but he was, as touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. He was not chargeable with any instance of open vice and profaneness; and therefore, as he could not be thought to have deserted his religion because he did not know it (for he was a learned man), so he could not be thought to have deserted it because he did not love it, or was disaffected to the obligations of it, for he was a virtuous man, and not inclined to any immorality.
(3) Then he was orthodox, sound in the faith
He was a Pharisee, in opposition to a Sadducee; he received those books of the Old Testament which the Sadducees rejected, believed a world of spirits, the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the rewards and punishments of the future state, all which the Sadducees denied. They could not say, He quitted his religion for want of a principle, or for want of a due regard to divine revelation; no, he always had a veneration for the ancient promise made of God unto the fathers, and built his hope upon it.
Now though Paul knew very well that all this would not justify him before God, nor make a righteousness for him yet he knew it was for his reputation among the Jews that he was not such a man as they represented him to be. Though he counted it but loss that he might win Christ, yet he mentioned it when it might serve to honor Christ. He knew very well that all this while he was a stranger to the spiritual nature of the divine law, and to heart-religion, and that except his righteousness exceeded this he should never go to heaven; yet he reflects upon it with some satisfaction that he had not been before his conversion an atheistical, profane, vicious man, but, according to the light he had, had lived in all good conscience before God.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

From the Amplified Bible
(4)  My behavior and manner of living from my youth up is known by all the Jews; [they are aware] that from [its] commencement my youth was spent among my own race in Jerusalem.
(5)  They have had knowledge of me for a long time, if they are willing to testify to it, that in accordance with the strictest sect of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.

Acts 26:6-8
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(6)  And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.

And now for the hope of the promise that was made by God to the fathers, do I stand subject to judgment:

(7)  To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews.

Unto which, our twelve tribes, serving night and day, hope to come. For which hope, O king, I am accused by the Jews.

(8) Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?

Why should it be thought a thing incredible, that God should raise the dead?


Two of the most basic future hopes of most Jews were the
Resurrection of the bodies of the righteous
Restoration of the twelve tribes at the same time

Ancient courtrooms counted arguments from probability more heavily than they counted what we would consider hard evidence (such as reliable witnesses); Paul must thus counter the supposition that a resurrection is improbable by reminding his hearers of God's power and that resurrection is rooted in the most basic Jewish hope.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press.)

It was because of his convictions about the Resurrection and "the hope of Israel" that he was now a prisoner (see Acts 23:6; 24:15). Once again, Paul appealed to Jewish orthodoxy and loyalty to the Hebrew tradition. It is worth noting that Paul mentioned "our twelve tribes." While it is true that the ten northern tribes (Israel) were conquered by Assyria in 722 B. C and assimilated to some extent, it is not true that these ten tribes were "lost" or annihilated.
Jesus spoke about all twelve tribes (Matthew 19:28)
"When the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
So did James (James 1:1 )
James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad
And the Apostle John (Revelation 7:4-8)
I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:
of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.
And Revelation 21:12
Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.
God knows where His chosen people are, and He will fulfill the promises He has made to them.

The pronoun "you" in Acts 26:8 is plural, so Paul must have looked around at the entire audience as he spoke.
The Greeks and Romans, of course, would not believe in the doctrine of the Resurrection (Acts 17:31-32),
nor would the Sadducees who were present (Acts 23:8).
To Paul, this was a crucial doctrine, for if there is no Resurrection,
then Jesus Christ was not raised
and Paul had no Gospel to preach.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

How ironic! An informed Jew like Agrippa can appreciate the irony; this is why Sha’ul calls his attention to it by addressing him directly. Agrippa himself may not cherish the hope of resurrection, but he knows very well that our twelve tribes do.

Why do you people consider it incredible that God raises the dead? There is a tendency among liberal scholars to regard Yeshua's resurrection not as an event in verifiable human history but as a subjective event in the realm of faith. This is not the Bible's approach at all. J. Warwick Montgomery writes,
“On the Areopagus [Paul] presents Christ's resurrection as the capstone of his case for the truth of the gospel (Acts 17:19-31). In 1 Corinthians 15 he blends kerygma [proclamation] with apologia [proof] by offering a list of eyewitness testimonies to the evidential fact of the resurrection. In his stand before Agrippa and Festus, he not only assumes that these sin-blinded sinners can evidentially arrive at the facility of the resurrection (‘Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?’).
But also appeals to a common ground of evidential knowledge (‘The king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner’ [v. 26 below, KJV])...Christian [and Messianic Jewish] faith is not blind faith or credulity; it is grounded in fact. To talk about a real but un-provable resurrection is as foolish as to talk about supra-historical or spiritual resurrections. They are all cop-outs — sincere, certainly, but terribly harmful in an age longing to hear the meaningful affirmation, ‘He is risen.’”
(Faith Founded on Fact, Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1978, pp. 78-79).
For more, see 1 Corinthians 15:2-8&NN.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern.)

1 Corinthians 15:3-8
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
vs. 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
vs. 5 and that He was seen by Cephas,
vs. 5 then by the twelve.
vs. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep
vs. 7 After that He was seen by James,
vs. 7 then by all the apostles.
vs. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

From the Amplified Bible
(6)  And now I stand here on trial [to be judged on the ground] of the hope of that promise made to our forefathers by God, [Acts 13:32,33.]
(7)  Which hope [of the Messiah and the resurrection] our twelve tribes confidently expect to realize as they fervently worship [without ceasing] night and day. And for that hope, O king, I am accused by Jews and considered a criminal!
(8)  Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

Acts 26:9-11
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(9)   "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

And I indeed did formerly think, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

(10)  This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.

Which also I did at Jerusalem, and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority of the chief priests: and when they were put to death, I brought the sentence.

(11)  And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

And oftentimes punishing them, in every synagogue, I compelled them to blaspheme: and being yet more mad against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities.

If Paul refers to more executions than Stephen's, members of the Sanhedrin or unofficial courts may have voted for their execution while the procurator was in Caesarea, but the executions themselves, like Stephen's, were illegal. Thus Paul's account here paints his accusers, for whose cause he once worked, in a rather anti-Roman light.

Pliny, governor of Bithynia in the second century, noted that former Christians could easily be moved to worship the gods, but complained that genuine Christians could not be forced to do so, even on the pain of death. Pagan rulers who had earlier tried to force Jews to abandon their ancestral customs had encountered the same resistance, which pagan officials generally considered obstinate.
(From IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press.)

Many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth

Many saints imprisoned Acts 8:3
As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.     (NKJV)
Acts 9:1-2
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.     (NKJV)
 
 
Approved those put to death Acts 7:58
And they cast him (Stephen) out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.     (NKJV)
Acts 22:4
I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.     (NKJV)
 

Compelled them to blaspheme

Compel eenángkazon (NT:315) to necessitate, compel, drive to, constrain, whether by force, threats, etc., or by persuasion, entreaties, etc., or by other means
Blaspheme blasfeemeín  (NT:987) to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile,

To blaspheme the name of Jesus by denying that he was the Messiah, and by admitting that he was an impostor. This was the object which they had in view in the persecution. It was not to make them blaspheme or reproach God, but to deny that Jesus was the Messiah, and to reproach him as a deceiver and an impostor.

Paul here commences the account of his conversion, and states the evidence on which he judged that he was called of God to do what he had done. He begins by saying that it was not because he was originally disposed to be a Christian, but that he was violently and conscientiously opposed to Jesus of Nazareth, and had been converted when in the full career of opposition to him and his cause.

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK FROM 400 A. D. BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Homily 52 - Acts 26:1-12
Agrippa said to Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself." (ch. 26:1.) From his great desire to hear, the king permits him to speak. But Paul speaks out forthwith with boldness, not flattering, but for this reason saying that he is happy, namely, because (Agrippa) knew all. "Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself. 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. Especially because I know thee to be expert in all questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently." (v. 2, 3.) And yet, had he been conscious of guilt, he should have feared at being tried in the presence of one who knew all the facts: but this is a mark of a clear conscience, not to shrink from a judge who has an accurate knowledge of the circumstances, but even to rejoice, and to call himself happy.
"I beseech thee," he says, "to hear me patiently." Since he is about to lengthen out his speech, and to say something about himself, on this account, he premises an entreaty, and (then) says: "My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews: which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee." (v. 4, 5.) Then how should I have become a seditious person, who when young was (thus) testified of by all? Then too from his sect: "after the most strictest sect" says he, "of our religion I lived." "What then, if though the sect indeed be worthy of admiration, thou art evil?" Touching this also I call all to witness-touching my life and conversation.
"And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 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. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" (v. 6-8.) Two arguments he lays down for the Resurrection:
1. One, the argument from the prophets: and he does not bring forward any prophet (in particular,) but the doctrine itself as held by the Jews:
2. The other and stronger one, the argument from the facts-(especially from this,) that Christ Himself held discourse with him.
And he lays the ground for this by (other) arguments, relating accurately his former madness. Then too, with high commendation of the Jews, he says, "Night and day," says he, "serving (God) look to attain unto." So that even if I had not been of unblemished life, it is not for this (doctrine) that I ought to be brought to trial:-"for which hope, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews." And then another argument "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" Since, if such an opinion had not existed, if they had not been brought up in these dogmas, but they were now for the first time brought in, perhaps some one might not have received the saying. Then he tells, how he persecuted: this also helps the proof: and he brings forward the chief priests as witnesses, and the "strange cities,"
(from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

From the Amplified Bible
(9)    I myself indeed was [once] persuaded that it was my duty to do many things contrary to and in defiance of the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
(10)  And that is what I did in Jerusalem; I [not only] locked up many of the [faithful] saints (holy ones) in prison by virtue of authority received from the chief priests, but when they were being condemned to death, I cast my vote against them.
(11)  And frequently I punished them in all the synagogues to make them blaspheme; and in my bitter fury against them, I harassed (troubled, molested, persecuted) and pursued them even to foreign cities.



PAUL'S  TESTIMONY - HIS  CONVERSION

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Acts 26:12 & 13
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(12)  "While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

Whereupon when I was going to Damascus with authority and permission of the chief priest,

(13)  at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.

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 that were in company with me.


This is the third account in the book of Acts of Paul's conversion (Acts 9:1-31 & Acts 22:4-21):

At "midday" or "noon" (NIV), see 22:6. Paul uses clearly Jewish language for a theophany, a revelation of God's glory.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press.)

Not content to limit his work to Jerusalem, Paul had asked for authority to visit the synagogues in distant cities. His zeal had driven out many of the believers and they had taken their message to Jews in other communities (Acts 8:4). Paul considered himself an enlightened man; for, after all, he was a Jew, a scholar (Acts 22:3), and a Pharisee. In reality Paul had lived in gross spiritual darkness. He knew the Law in his pre-conversion days, but he had not realized that the purpose of the Law was to bring him to Christ (Galatians 3:24 "the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ"). He had been a self-righteous Pharisee who needed to discover that his good works and respectable character could never save him and take him to heaven (Philippians 3:1-11 "though I also might have confidence in the flesh...Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection"). The light that Paul saw was supernatural, for it was the glory of God revealed from heaven (compare Acts 7:2, 55-56). It actually had blinded Paul for three days (Acts 9:8-9), but his spiritual eyes had been opened to behold the living Christ. But seeing a light was not enough; he also had to hear the Word of God.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

Some details in the reports differ (see the comparison in chapter 9 of this study).
 
In chapter 9 and 22 - The light shone around Sha’ul In chapter 26 - The light shone around all of them.
In chapter 9 and 26 - They all heard the voice but did not understand the words. In chapter 22 - It does not mention that they heard a voice.
In chapter 9 - Sha’ul fell to the ground. In chapter 26 - They all fell to the ground.

Each telling, having its own purpose and being directed to a particular audience, emphasizes different aspects of what happened. Here is a composite consistent with all three versions.
1. The light surrounded both Sha’ul and his companions.
2. They all saw the light, but only Sha’ul saw Yeshua.
3. They all heard some sort of sound, but only Sha’ul heard distinct words.
4. All fell to the ground, but Sha’ul's companions got up again.

Understood as what it is described as being, a supernatural event, no further explanation is needed. But some who do not believe in supernatural events have attempted to “demythologize” Sha’ul's “conversion experience” as a combination of coincidences, psychotic or epileptic seizures, and embellishments. (The very term “conversion experience” subtly prejudges the matter by focusing on subjective aspects, whereas in all three reports Sha’ul emphasizes the objective.)

Phillip Goble, in his one-man play, The Rabbi From Tarsus (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1981), depicts Sha’ul in a Roman dungeon at the end of his life, with his physician and chronicler friend Luke peering down at him through a hole in the roof. Paul is dictating information for the book of Acts:

“Now let me pause to clear up one thing, Luke — for the benefit of the scoffers you must refute. What exactly made me switch...not religions, but vocations, from that of persecutor to that of advocate and apostle? What was the problem, Doctor? Are the scoffers right? Was it really just a case of sunstroke? Nervous collapse? Hallucination? Guilt catharsis? ‘What is truth for you, Saul, is not truth for me,’ they say. ‘There are natural explanations for everything.’”

(Paul reclines on the stone bench like a man talking to his psychiatrist.)

“Yes, yes, Doctor. Here is the natural explanation. One day, on the road to Damascus, while I tried to enforce the Law of Moses, piously serving my God with all my heart,

I — the arrestor — was arrested...by a naive superstition.
Quite naturally, a meteor just happened to blaze across the sky.
At the very same time, it just happened to thunder, so that the other rabbis quite naturally did see and hear something.
At the very same time — clumsy me — I just happened to fall off my horse.
And at the very same time, I just happened to hallucinate with a nightmare vision, complete with face, fire and voice,
that just happened to be my enemy,
who just happened to want me to go to work for him!
— among people who just happened to be my enemies, the Gentiles.
At the very same time, I just happened to have tissues form over both my eyes with a purely accidental case of coincidental cataracts.”
(Rising)

“Yes, Doctor, there are natural explanations for everything, if one has enough bad blind faith to go his own way. (Many, like Nero, are lords of their own lives who want to go their own way, even if it may lead to hell.) But, Luke, I had to trust God, and like any other disciple, take a step of faith into the mikveh waters and into the Damascus synagogue.”

(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern.)

From the Amplified Bible
(12)  Thus engaged I proceeded to Damascus with the authority and orders of the chief priests,
(13)  When on the road at midday, O king, I saw a light from heaven surpassing the brightness of the sun, flashing about me and those who were traveling with me.

Acts 26:14 & 15
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(14)  And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'

And when we were all fallen down on the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew tongue: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the goad.

(15)  So I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

And I said: Who art thou Lord? And the Lord answered: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.


Falling down was a common response to such revelations in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition. The "heavenly voice" (which some segments of Judaism thought had replaced prophecy) was often thought to speak in Hebrew or Aramaic. "Kicking against the goads" was a Greek proverb about fighting a god, possibly originating with the classical Greek playwright Euripides. It is not cited in the other accounts of Paul's conversion, but it is appropriate in an address to Agrippa, who had an ample Greek education.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press.)

"Kicking against the goad" was a common proverb. It is taken from an ox that being pricked with a goad kicks and receives a severer wound. Blass observes that Paul's mention of this Greek and Latin proverb is an indication of his culture. Besides he mentions (not invents) it here rather than in Acts 22 because of the culture of this audience.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Paul's companions had seen the light, but not the Lord; and they had heard a sound, but they could not understand the words. They all fell to the earth, but only Paul remained there (Acts 9:7). Jesus Christ spoke to Paul in the familiar Aramaic tongue of the Jews, called him by name, and told him it was futile for him to continue fighting the Lord. In that moment Paul had made two surprising discoveries:
1. Jesus of Nazareth was alive
2. He was so united to His people that their suffering was His suffering!

Paul was persecuting not only the church, but also his own Messiah! How encouraging it is to know that God in His grace speaks to those who are His enemies. God had been dealing with Paul, but Paul had been resisting Him, kicking against the "goads." What were these "goads"?
1. Certainly the testimony and death of Stephen (Acts 22:20).
2. Plus the faithful witness of the other saints who had suffered because of Paul. .
3. Perhaps Paul had also struggled with the emptiness and weakness of Judaism.
4. His own inability to meet the demands of the Law.
Even though he could now say he was "blameless" in conduct and conscience (Acts 23:1; Philippians 3:6 "concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless"), yet within his own heart, he certainly knew how far short he came of meeting God's holy standards (Romans 7:7-16 "I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet.' But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire.").
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

In what Christ said to him we may observe,
1. That he called him by his name, and repeated it (Saul, Saul), which would surprise and startle him; and the more because he was now in a strange place, where he thought nobody knew him.
2. That he convinced him of sin, of that great sin which he was now in the commission of, the sin of persecuting the Christians, and showed him the absurdity of it.
3. That he interested himself in the sufferings of his followers:
Thou persecutest me,
and again, It is Jesus whom thou persecutest.
Little did Paul think, when he was trampling upon those that he looked upon as the burdens and blemishes of this earth, that he was insulting One that was so much the glory of heaven.
4. That he checked him for his willful resistance of those convictions: It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks, or goads, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.
5. That, upon his enquiry, Christ made himself known to him. Paul asked, "Who art thou, Lord? Let me know who it is that speaks to me from heaven, that I may answer him accordingly?" And he said, "I am Jesus; he whom thou hast despised, and hated, and vilified; I bear that name which thou hast made so odious, and the naming of it criminal."
Paul thought Jesus was buried in the earth, and, though stolen out of his own sepulcher, yet laid in some other. All the Jews were taught to say so, and therefore he is amazed to hear him speak from heaven, to see him surrounded with all this glory whom he had loaded with all possible ignominy. This convinced him that the doctrine of Jesus was divine and heavenly, and not only not to be opposed, but to be cordially embraced: That Jesus is the Messiah, for he has not only risen from the dead, but he has received from God the Father honor and glory; and this is enough to make him a Christian immediately, to quit the society of the persecutors, whom the Lord from heaven thus appears against, and to join himself with the society of the persecuted, whom the Lord from heaven thus appears for.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All Rights reserved.)

See how the Lord Jesus identifies Himself with His people. What we do to any believer, we do to Jesus. Listen to His words:
Matthew 25:40-46
And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'
Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'
Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'      (NKJV)

From the Amplified Bible
(14)  And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew tongue saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you continue to persecute Me [to harass and trouble and molest Me]? It is dangerous and turns out badly for you to keep kicking against the goads [to keep offering vain and perilous resistance].
(15)  And I said, Who are You, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting.

Acts 26:16-18
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(16)  But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.

But rise up, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared to thee, that I may make thee a minister, and a witness of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things wherein I will appear to thee.

(17)  I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you,

Delivering thee from the people, and from the nations, unto which now I send thee:

(18)  to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'

To open their eyes, that they may be converted from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a lot among the saints, by the faith that is in me.


It should be pointed out that verses 16-18 comprise one sentence in the Greek.
Also of importance for these three verses is the number of Old Testament allusions that Paul makes.

Acts 26


Old Testament


vs. 16 Rise and stand Ezekiel 2:1 Stand on your feet
vs. 17 I will deliver you Jeremiah 1:7 I am with you to deliver you
vs. 18 To open their eyes Isaiah 42:7 To open blind eyes
vs. 18 Turn them from darkness to light Isaiah 42:16 I will make darkness light before them


(from the UBS New Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies.)

A Minister
Hupeereteen  (NT:5257) - An under-rower
One who is under the guidance and authority of another; an assistant, or servant. So Paul was to act solely under the authority of Jesus Christ; and tug hard at the oar, in order to bring the vessel, through the tempestuous ocean, to the safe harbor.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The word minister in "an under-rower" and refers to a lowly servant on a galley slip. Paul had been accustomed to being an honored leader, but after his conversion he became a subordinate worker, and Jesus Christ became his Master.

A Witness
Martura  (NT:3144) - A martyr.
Though this word literally means a witness, yet we apply it only to such persons as have borne testimony to the truth of God at the hazard and expense of their lives. In this sense, also, ancient history states Paul to have been a witness; for it is said he was beheaded at Rome, by the command of Nero.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The Gentiles to whom I now send you
The Lord had promised to be with Paul and protect him; and He also promised to reveal Himself to him. Paul saw the Lord on the Damascus road, and again three years later while in the temple (Acts 22:17-21). Later, the Lord appeared to him in Corinth (Acts 18:9) and in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11), and He would appear to him again. No doubt it was a surprise to Paul after his conversion to hear that the Lord was sending him to the Gentiles. He had a great love for his own people and would gladly have lived and died to win them to Christ (Romans 9:1-3), but that was not God's plan. Paul would always be "the apostle to the Gentiles."

Acts 26:18 describes both the spiritual condition of the lost and the gracious provision of Christ for those who will believe. The lost sinner is like a blind prisoner in a dark dungeon, and only Christ can open his eyes and give him light and freedom (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  (NKJV)

But even after he is set free, what about his court record and his guilt?
The Lord forgives his sins and wipes the record clean!
He then takes him into His own family as His own child and shares His inheritance with him! What must the sinner do? He must trust Jesus Christ ("faith that is in Me"). Paul had to lose his religion to gain salvation! He discovered in a moment of time that all of his righteousnesses were but filthy rags in God's sight, and that he needed the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 64:6).

But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.  (NKJV)

(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

An inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me
It will be observed that
Faith is here made the instrument of salvation
at once in its first stage, "forgiveness of sins,"
and in its last, admission to the home of the sanctified;
and that the faith which introduces the soul to all this is emphatically declared by the glorified Redeemer to be a faith resting upon Himself - "Faith, even that which is on Me."
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Paul had to lose his Jewish religion, that basis of the hope of the Jew on his genealogy and the keeping of all the rules and regulations that comes with the Law, in order to gain salvation that is based on acceptance of the sacrifice of God, His son Jesus the Messiah. That doesn’t mean that Paul had to give up his Jewish beliefs in the Law of Moses, but he had to give up the idea that salvation is by any other way than the Lamb of God.
Paul the Learner

Five Great Blessings of the Gospel:

1.

Open the eyes
 

(Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 1:8; Revelation 3:18; Matthew 13:15-16)
2. Turn people from darkness to light
(Acts 26:18; Luke 1:79; John 3:16-20; Colossians 1:13)
3. Deliverance from Satan's power
(Acts 26:18; Luke 4:18; Colossians 1:13; 1 John 5:18)
4. Forgiveness of sins
 
(Acts 26:18; 2:38; 3:19; 13:38-39; Matthew 26:28;
Ephesians 1:7)
5. An inheritance
 
(Acts 26:18; 20:32; Ephesians 1:11-18; Colossians 1:12-13;
1 Peter 1:4)
(from Dake Annotated Reference Bible © 2007 by Dake Publishing. All rights reserved in U.S.A. and Other Countries.)

From the Amplified Bible
(16)  But arise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, that I might appoint you to serve as [My] minister and to bear witness both to what you have seen of Me and to that in which I will appear to you,
(17)  Choosing you out [selecting you for Myself] and delivering you from among this [Jewish] people and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you — [Ezekiel 2:1,3.]
(18)  To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me. [Isaiah 42:7,16.]



PAUL'S  TESTIMONY - HIS  MINISTRY

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Acts 26:19 & 20
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(19)  "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not incredulous to the heavenly vision:

(20)  but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.

But to them first that are at Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and unto all the country of Judea, and to the Gentiles did I preach, that they should do penance, and turn to God, doing works worthy of penance.


I was not disobedient
When Paul had asked, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6) he meant it sincerely; and when the Lord told him, he obeyed orders immediately. 'He began right at Damascus and it almost cost him his life (Acts 9:20-25).
(The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

This verse contains a summary of his labors in obedience to the command of the Lord Jesus. His argument is that the Lord Jesus had from heaven commanded him to do this, and that he had done no more than to obey his injunction. The word "then" in this verse is supplied by our translators, and is not necessary to the proper explanation of the passage. It would seem from that word that he had not preached "to the Gentiles" until after he had preached "at Jerusalem and throughout all the coasts of Judea," whereas, in fact, he had, as we have reason to believe, before then "preached" to the Gentiles in Arabia (Acts 9:23). The statement here, in the original, is a general statement that he had preached at Damascus and at Jerusalem, and in all the coasts of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, but without specifying the exact order in which it was done.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

Fulfilling in his ministry the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8 ("you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth").

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus: --
 
I. His Character Before His Conversion
1. He was a moral man (Philippians 3:6 "concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless").
Yet he needed conversion.
The necessity of conversion arises from the depravity of human nature, and not from a greater or less degree of immorality.
2. He was a Pharisee.
He was zealous for his religion, made long prayers, and did many deeds of charity.
3. He was a hater of Christ, notwithstanding his morals and his zeal.
So still men will attach such undue merit to their own actions, that salvation through Christ alone becomes offensive.
4. He was a persecutor of the people of God.
As from love to Christ springs love to His people, so from hatred to Christ springs the spirit of persecution to His people. The spirit of Saul is inherent in the human mind (Galatians 4:29 " But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now").
II. The Evidences Of The Truth Of His Conversion
1. Penitence.
He fasted three days. What a change from the haughty Pharisee! If God the Spirit has changed our hearts, we shall have a deep sense of sin. We shall "look on Him whom we have pierced and mourn."
2. Prayer.
The prayer which evidences conversion is humble, sincere, fervent, and offered only in the name of Christ.
3. Humility.
From this time the man who had previously said "I thank God that I am not as other men," felt himself to be the chief of stoners, and less than the least of all saints.
4. Faith.
Ananias was sent to baptize him -- to initiate him into the Christian faith.
5. Love.
We have seen his enmity to Christ and His people. Now they form the objects of his warmest affections. With regard to Christ, he could sincerely say, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord," etc. With regard to the people of God, "I endure all things for the elects' sake."
6. Obedience.
"Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"
III. The Ways Of God Manifested In His Conversion
1. Sovereignty.
Was there ever a more unlikely subject? God accounts for his conversion on this principle. "He is a chosen vessel unto Me" (Acts 9:15).
2. Power.
What but the power of an almighty arm could have wrought so wonderful a change?
3. Mercy.
1 Timothy 1:12-17 (":although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy"). And who shall despair of mercy when Saul of Tarsus obtained it?
4. Wisdom.
How were the designs of the devil and the malice of men here defeated? Not by destroying the enemy, but by converting him.
Application:
1. Let the true convert strive to gain more adoring thoughts of God's ways towards him, and aim to become more holy and live more to the glory of God.
2. Let the unconverted guard against mistaken notions of conversion, and seek the influences of the Spirit, to create within them a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within them.
3. Let the careless and the obstinate be sure that their damnation will be just, if they live and die in the neglect of a God so gracious, and a salvation so great.
4. Let the sceptic consider the unreasonableness of his objections to the gospel.
(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
(from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.)

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK FROM 400 A. D. BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Homily 52 - Acts 26:14-20
"It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks," and shows the mercifulness of God, that, though being persecuted He appeared (to men), and did that benefit not to me only, but also sent me as teacher to others: and shows also the prophecy, now come to pass, which he then heard, "Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee." Showing all this, he says: "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 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. 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. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 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.
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 persecutes thou Me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art Thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutes; 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: delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 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 ?(v. 9-18):-observe how mildly he discourses-God, he says, said (this) to me, "that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are-sanctified by faith that is in Me."
By these things, says he, I was persuaded, by this vision He drew me to Himself, and so persuaded me, that I made no delay. "Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." (v. 19, 20.)
(from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(19)  Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision,
(20)  But made known openly first of all to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout the whole land of Judea, and also among the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works and live lives consistent with and worthy of their repentance.

Acts 26:21-23
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(21)  For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.

For this cause the Jews, when I was in the temple, having apprehended me, went about to kill me.

(22)  Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come —

But being aided by the help of God, I stand unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other thing than those which the prophets, and Moses did say should come to pass:

(23)  that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."

That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise form the dead, and should shew light to the people, and to the Gentiles.


A Roman aristocrat like Festus may dislike Paul's mission to move Gentiles to repent, but he would not understand the Jewish opposition. Agrippa II, who had pagan friends and knew well the mounting animosity of Judean Jewry against Gentiles, would understand Paul all too well, and it is to him that Paul directs these words.

Paul begins marshaling evidence at this point that the faith he represents is in continuity with the Old Testament religion tolerated by the Romans as an ancient and ethnic religion.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press.)

The one word that best summarizes Paul’s life and ministry is "witnessing" (see Acts 26:16). He simply shared with others what he had learned and experienced as a follower of Jesus Christ. His message was not something he manufactured, for it was based solidly on the Old Testament Scriptures.
We must remind ourselves that Paul and the other apostles did not have the New Testament but used the Old Testament to lead sinners to Christ and to nurture the new believers.
Acts 26:23 is a summary of the Gospel, and each part can be backed up from the Old Testament. See, for example, Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and Psalms 16:8-11 (For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption
.). Paul could even defend his call to the Gentiles from Isaiah 49:6 (I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.) (see also Acts 13:47). Jesus was not the first person to be raised from the dead, but He was the first one to be raised and never die again. He is "the first-fruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). In his message in the temple, when Paul got to the word Gentiles, the crowd exploded (Acts 22:21-22). That is the word Paul spoke when Festus responded and loudly accused Paul of being mad. How strange that Festus did not think Paul was mad when he was persecuting the church! (Acts 26:11) Nobody called D. L. Moody crazy when he was energetically selling shoes and making money, but when he started winning souls, people gave him the nickname "Crazy Moody."
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

I stand...saying nothing but what the Prophets and Moshe Moses said would happen. Yeshua had done the same (Luke 24:25-27&N, 44-45), showing how the Tanakh pointed to himself (See 54 Tanakh prophecies and their New Testament fulfillments). Sha’ul dealt particularly with two questions still raised by many Jewish hearers of the Gospel:
1. Why must the Messiah suffer and die? and,
2. How are the Gentiles included with the Jews as equal sharers in God's promises?
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern.)

The topic of the gospel ministry is of God.
Note the very careful and emphatic endeavor of the apostle to state the perfect identification of the great subject of his own personal ministry, with the arrangements of the early economy (vers. 5-7; Acts 22:14,15). The only difference between the law and the gospel consisted not in nature but in degree.
That was the type, this was the antitype
that was the shadow, this was the substance
that was the prediction, this was the fulfillment
that was the first fruits, this was the harvest
that was the dawning of the morning, this was the splendor of the day.
Now, the one grand topic that is here mentioned is that the excellency of the two united dispensations of Divine mercy is found in the person and work of Christ. In the Mosaic economy, the various arrangements which there were made were all concentrated in Christ; and Moses delivered Codes by which the attention of mankind was to be directed to Him. Ceremonies, sacrifices, predictions, and events were all made to offer one united testimony to Him (Luke 24:25-27, 44). Here is Christ --
1. In His mediatorial humiliation. "That Christ should suffer."
It was fixed in the eternal purposes that the Messiah, when He came in the fullness of time, should be given to suffering and to death, and accomplish the object of the great sacrifice for sin which, through the medium of faith, should be the one ground of pardon and eternal salvation. From the creation of the world this great object was declared. All the victims whose blood was shed upon the Patriarchal and Jewish altars were only so many signs and symbols of that great offering which, in the fullness of time, was presented on the summit of Calvary. And if we refer to the prophets,
Did not David speak of the sufferings of Christ?
(Psalms 22. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?").
Did not Isaiah speak of Him who was to be wounded for our transgressions?
(Isaiah 53:5 "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.")
Did not Daniel testify that the Messiah should be cut off, but not for Himself?
(Daniel 9:26 "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;")
Did not Zechariah tell of Him who was to be pierced?
(Zechariah 12:10  ("then they will look on Me whom they pierced.")
The great doctrine of the Atonement by the sufferings of Christ is one upon which both men and angels delight to dwell. It is a doctrine which graces all the perfections of Jehovah. It is a doctrine which chases away the clouds of despair, and sheds around the tomb the brightness of life and immortality.
2. In His mediatorial glory. "And that He should be the Firstborn that should rise from the dead."
The types of the resurrection of Christ might be found in the ceremonial law, more particularly in the reappearance of the high priest on the great day of annual atonement. That this was one great topic of the prophetic writings must be evident to every person reading Acts 13, and one which occupied much space in the ministry of the apostles. That Christ, in our text, should be said to be the first to rise, cannot be considered in the sense of priority in point of time; for it is well known that several persons were raised before; and therefore it must signify a priority in point of dignity and importance. He is elsewhere called the Firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence, signifying that He was more illustrious and dignified than anyone restored, or to be restored, from the abodes of the sepulchre. With regard to the precise purposes for which Christ's resurrection in His mediatorial capacity was accomplished, He rose --
(1) To testify to the fact of His Messiahship.
His resurrection was a proof beyond dispute that He really was all that He professed, and that He really deserved all that He demanded.
(2) To proclaim the acceptance of His sacrifice.
(3) To give a pledge of the resurrection of His people.
Christ is the First fruits of them that sleep.
3. In His mediatorial influence. "And that He should show light unto the people and to the Gentiles" Light, in this application, is a figure frequently used in the Scriptures (Isaiah 49:6). And when Simeon held the infant Redeemer in his arms, he said, "Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation,...a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of Thy people Israel." Here, it will be observed, that light is the emblem
of knowledge opposed to ignorance,
of holiness opposed to impurity,
of happiness opposed to misery;
and these blessings are held through the administration of our gracious Messiah to be imparted to the nations of the earth.       (J. Parsons.)
(from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.)

And that he should be the first
This declaration contains two points:

(1) That it was taught in the prophets that the Messiah would rise from the dead.
On this, see the proof alleged in Acts 2:24-32; 13:32-37.
(2) That he would be the first that should rise.
This cannot mean that the Messiah would be the first dead person who should be restored to life, for Elijah had raised the son of the Shunammite, and Jesus himself had raised Lazarus, and the widow's son at Nain. It does not mean that he would be the first in the order of time that should rise, but first in eminence; the most distinguished, the chief, the head of those who should rise from the dead. In accordance with this he is called (Colossians 1:18) "the beginning, the first-born from the dead," having among all the dead who should be raised up the pre-eminence of primogeniture, or what pertained to the first-born. In 1 Corinthians15:20 he is called "the first fruits of them that slept". This declaration is therefore made of him by way of eminence:
(a) As being chief, a prince among those raised from the dead;
(b) As being raised by his own power (John 10:18);
(c) As, by his rising, securing a dominion over death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:25-26); and,
(d) As bringing, by his rising, life and immortality to light. He rose to return to death no more. And he thus secured an ascendancy over death and the grave, and was thus, by way of eminence, first among those raised from the dead.
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Also, He is the first to be raised from the dead and continues to live forever. Everyone throughout the Scriptures who were raised from the dead, faced death again and are still dead and buried — except Jesus, who did not and will not ever die again (Revelation 1:18 "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.").
Paul the Learner

From the Amplified Bible
(21)  Because of these things the Jews seized me in the temple [enclosure] and tried to do away with me.
(22)  [But] to this day I have had the help which comes from God [as my ally], and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, asserting nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses declared would come to pass —
(23)  That the Christ (the Anointed One) must suffer and that He, by being the first to rise from the dead, would declare and show light both to the [Jewish] people and to the Gentiles.



AGRIPPA IS ALMOST PERSUADED

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Acts 26:24 - 26
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(24)  Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!"

As he spoke these things, and made his answer, Festus said with a loud voice: Paul, thou art beside thyself: much learning doth make thee mad.

(25)  But he said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.

And Paul said: I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I speak words of truth and soberness.

(26)  For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.

For the king knoweth of these things, to whom also I speak with confidence. For I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him. For neither was any of these things done in a corner.


Beside yourself
Maínee (NT:3105) - to rave as a "maniac"
You are going mad!

Mad
Manían (NT:3130) - craziness
Festus thought that Paul's "much learning" of the Hebrew Scriptures to which he had referred was turning his head to madness (wheels in his head) and he was going mad right before them all. The old word mania (our mania, frenzy, cf. maniac)
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Festus gives the usual answer that educated Romans gave to concepts so foreign and barbarian to them as resurrection. In Greek circles, madness was sometimes associated with prophetic inspiration, but Festus, a Roman, undoubtedly means it less charitably.

Paul had been addressing King Agrippa, but the emotional interruption of the governor forced him to reply. He reminded Festus that the facts about the ministry of Jesus Christ including His death and resurrection, were public knowledge and "not done in a corner." The Jewish Sanhedrin was involved and so was the Roman governor, Pilate. Jesus of Nazareth had been a famous public figure for at least three years, and huge crowds had followed Him. How then could the governor plead ignorance? Festus had not interrupted because he really thought Paul was mad. Had that been the case, he would have treated Paul gently and ordered some of his guards to escort him to a place of rest and safety. Furthermore, what official would send a raving madman to be tried before the emperor? No, the governor was only giving evidence of conviction in his heart. Paul's words had found their mark, and Festus was trying to escape.
(The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

The reasons why Festus thought Paul mad were, probably:
(1) His great earnestness and excitement on the subject.
(2) His laying such stress on the gospel of the despised Jesus of Nazareth, as if it were a matter of infinite moment. Festus despised it; and he regarded it as proof of derangement that so much importance was attached to it.
(3) Festus regarded, probably, the whole story of the vision that Paul said had appeared to him as the effect of an inflamed and excited imagination, and as a proof of delirium. This is not an uncommon charge against those who are Christians, and especially when they evince unusual zeal. Sinners regard them as under the influence of delirium and fanaticism; as terrified by imaginary and superstitious fears; or as misguided by fanatical leaders. Husbands often thus think their wives to be deranged, and parents perceive their children that, and wicked people assume the ministers of the gospel to be crazy.
The frivolous — think it proof of derangement that others are serious, anxious, and prayerful.
The rich — that others are willing to part with their property to do good.
The ambitious and worldly — that others are willing to leave their country and home to go among the Gentiles to spend their lives in making known the unsearchable riches of Christ.
The really sober and rational part of the world, they who fear God and keep his commandments; they who believe that eternity is before them, and who strive to live for it — are thus charged with insanity by those who are really deluded, and who are thus living lives of madness and folly. The tenants of a madhouse often think all others deranged but themselves;
but there is no madness so great,
no delirium so awful,
as to neglect the eternal interest of the soul for the sake of the pleasures and honors which this life can give.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

Festus could no longer contain himself. Sha’ul had not even been talking to him, but to the King, whom he had addressed no less than four times. Perhaps Festus thought Sha’ul was wasting the king's time with nonsense and felt embarrassed at having arranged the session, so that he was trying to excuse himself by pre-empting the critic's role. A more likely explanation of his interruption is that he was troubled by the Gospel message itself and attempted to blunt its impact by discrediting its proclaimer. The same tactic is often used today by hearers of the Gospel, both Jewish and Gentile, who would rather not relate seriously to it.

One hears much about “deprogramming” people whose beliefs and practices, like Sha’ul's, have suddenly changed. One justification offered by deprogrammers and those who hire them is that the person being deprogrammed is out of his mind,...crazy — exactly what Festus thought of Sha’ul. It is true that sometimes transformations of belief-systems turn out for the worse. But can that justify capturing an adult Jew whose life has noticeably improved because he has come to faith in Yeshua and subjecting him to involuntary psychological manipulation and abuse, in order to change him from being a supposedly crazy believer in the Gospel into a supposedly sane unbeliever?

One such horror story is reported by the person to whom it happened, Ken Levitt, writing with Ceil Rosen, in the book Kidnapped For My Faith (Glendale, California: Bible Voice, 1978). Fortunately these ill-advised and illegal efforts usually fail, since faith is not acquired by force, and people do not trust Yeshua the Messiah because they are crazy but because they are convinced that the Gospel is true.

Sha’ul senses that the level of his discourse has been beyond Festus' spiritual capacity. Sha’ul does not have time to explain everything to him just then. Rather, aware that he wishes to be well thought of by his superiors, Sha’ul can relieve Festus' anxiety by assuring him that Agrippa will not think Sha’ul insane
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern.)

Note: ‘…Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.’  (KJV)

THE TEACHER
I am not talking about Gamaliel the Jewish teacher of Paul. Yes, Paul was trained in the Scriptures according to the Pharisee tradition. But it was not until he received the Holy Spirit [the Teacher] that he really understood the relationship of the scriptures to the Key which is Jesus Christ.
1. The Problem
The Bible was written by different men throughout many centuries. These men did not have a full understanding of just what they were writing. The Bible calls this Divine Knowledge;
Isaiah 28:9-10
"Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little."      (NKJV)
The Bible is like a big picture puzzle without a picture on the cover of the box to show you what it looks like. You begin to read a chapter and all of a sudden it seems to change subject, and so you continue to read and again it changes subjects and so on.
You become confused and give up.
2. The Solution
You can memorize the scriptures if you have the ability to do so, but you still have a difficult time putting the pieces together to form a perfect picture. You can listen to many different theologians and read many different books on the subject, but still you only have a partial understanding of what is being said. In Acts 8:29 we find that the Holy Spirit told Philip to join himself to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch. And Philip asked the question, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ His answer was, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" Acts 8:31. And of course Philip could bring the pieces of the puzzle together and show him Jesus who is the key. With out this understanding which is given by the Holy Spirit [the Teacher] all you see is the history of the Jewish people in the Old Testament with many difficult passages that cannot be explained. "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."  John 16:13
3. The Result.
The result will be found in doing the following:
(a) Receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in other tongues according to
Acts 2:38.
(b) Study — "Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth."
2 Timothy 2:15 (AMP)
(c) Remembering — "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.."
2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
(Paul the Learner)

The charge "done in a corner" had long been used to deride philosophers who avoided public life. By the second century Christians were often charged with being secretive (although sometimes they were meeting secretly to avoid being arrested), but Paul argues that Christian claims are public facts, dismissed or ignored by others only because of the others' bias.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press.)

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK FROM 400 A. D. BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Homily 52 - Acts 25:21-29
I therefore, who instructed others also concerning the most excellent way of living, how should I myself have become the author of sedition and contention? "For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. 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." (v. 21, 22.) See how free from flattery his speech is, and how he ascribes the whole to God. Then his boldness-but neither do I now desist: and the sure grounds-for it is from the prophets that I urge the question, "Whether the Christ was to suffer:" then the Resurrection and the promise, "Whether He, as the first to rise from the dead, should show light unto the people and to the Gentiles." (v. 23.)
Festus saw the boldness, and what says he? For Paul was all along addressing himself to the king-he was in a manner annoyed, and says to him, "Thou art beside thyself, Paul:" for, "while he thus discoursed, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself: much learning doth make thee mad." (v. 24.) What then says Paul? With gentleness, "I am not mad," says he, "most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness." (v. 25.) Then too he gives him to understand why, turning from him, he addressed his speech to the king: "For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him: for this thing was not done in a corner." (v. 26.) He shows, that (the king) knows all perfectly; at the same time, all but saying to the Jews, And ye indeed ought to have known these things-for this is the meaning of that which he adds, "For this thing was not done in a corner.
(from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(24)  And as he thus proceeded with his defense, Festus called out loudly, Paul, you are mad! Your great learning is driving you insane!
(25)  But Paul replied, I am not mad, most noble Festus, but I am uttering the straight, sound truth.
(26)  For the king understands about these things well enough, and [therefore] to him I speak with bold frankness and confidence. I am convinced that not one of these things has escaped his notice, for all this did not take place in a corner [in secret].

Acts 26:27 - 29
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(27)  King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe."

Believest thou the prophets, O king Agrippa? I know that thou believest.

(28)  Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian."

And Agrippa said to Paul: In a little thou persuadest me to become a Christian.

(29)  And Paul said, "I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains."

And Paul said: I would to God, that both in a little and in much, not only thou, but also all that hear me, this day, should become such as I also am, except these bands.


But Paul did not forget King Agrippa, a Jew who was an expert in these matters. When Paul asked if Agrippa believed the prophets, he was forcing him to take a stand. Certainly the king would not repudiate what every Jew believed! But Agrippa knew that if he affirmed his faith in the prophets, he must then face the question, "Is Jesus of Nazareth the one about whom the prophets wrote?" Festus avoided decision by accusing Paul of being mad. King Agrippa eluded Paul's question (and the dilemma it presented) by adopting a superior attitude and belittling Paul's witness. His reply can be stated, "Do you think that in such a short time, with such few words, you can persuade me to become a Christian?" Perhaps he spoke with a smirk on his face and a sneer in his voice. But he certainly spoke his own death warrant (John 3:18-21, 36).
(The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

Do you believe the prophets?
The prophecies respecting the character, the sufferings, and the death of the Messiah.
Agrippa was a Jew; and, as such, he of course believed the prophets. Perhaps, too, from what Paul knew of his personal character, he might confidently affirm that he professed to be a believer. Instead, therefore, of waiting for his answer, Paul anticipated it, and said that he knew that Agrippa professed to believe all these prophecies respecting the Messiah. His design is evident. It is:
(1) To meet the charge of derangement, and to bring in the testimony of Agrippa, who well understood the subject, to the importance and the truth of what he was saying.
(2) To press on the conscience of his royal hearer the evidence of the Christian religion, and to secure, if possible, his conversion. "Since do believe the prophecies, and since I have shown that they are fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth; that he corresponds in person, character, and work, with the prophets, it follows that his religion is true."
Paul lost no opportunity in pressing the truth on every class of people. He had such a conviction of the truth of Christianity that he was deterred by no rank, station, or office; by no fear of the rich, the great, and the learned; but everywhere urged the evidence of that religion as indisputable. In this lay the secret of no small part of his success. A man who really believes the truth will be ready to defend it. A man who truly loves religion will not be ashamed of it anywhere.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

You almost persuade me
Agrippa could not deny that he believed the prophecies in the Old Testament.
He could not deny that the argument was a strong one that they had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
He could not deny that the evidence of the miraculous interposition of God in the conversion of Paul was overwhelming; and instead, therefore, of charging him, as Festus had done, with derangement, he candidly and honestly avows the impression which the proof had made on his mind.
The arguments of Paul had been so rational; the appeal which he had made to his belief of the prophets had been so irresistible, that he had been nearly convinced of the truth of Christianity. We are to remember:
(1) That Agrippa was a Jew, and that he would look on this whole subject in a different manner from the Roman Festus.
(2) That he does not appear to have partaken of the violent passions and prejudices of the Jews who had accused Paul.
(3) Agrippa's character, as given by Josephus, is that of a mild, candid, and ingenuous man. He had no particular hostility to Christians; he knew that they were not justly charged with sedition and crime; and he saw the conclusion to which a belief of the prophets inevitably tended. Yet, as in thousands of other cases, he was not quite persuaded to be a Christian.
What was included in the "almost"; what prevented his being quite persuaded, we know not. It may have been that
the evidence was not so clear to his mind as he would profess to desire;
or that he was not willing to give up his sins;
or that he was too proud to rank himself with the followers of Jesus of Nazareth;
or that, like Felix, he was willing to defer it to a more convenient season.
There is every reason to believe that he was never quite persuaded to embrace the Lord Jesus, and that he was never nearer the kingdom of heaven than at this moment. It was the crisis, the turning-point in Agrippa's life, and in his eternal destiny; and, like thousands of others; he neglected or refused to allow the full conviction of the truth on his mind, and died in his sins.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

"In short, you're trying to convince me to become Messianic (Greek Christianos, usually rendered “a Christian”). The word “Christian” referred to Gentile believers, since the Jewish believers were called Natzratim. Agrippa's remark shows that he has become aware of Sha’ul's evangelistic purpose. But his use of the word “Christianos” instead of “Natzrati” may carry a mildly twitting overtone: “you're trying to convince me to become a Gentile as well as a believer in Yeshua” — a response heard to this day from Jewish people presented with the Gospel. No Messianic Jew wants an unbelieving Jew to stop being Jewish and become a Gentile, he only wants him to trust in Yeshua. This is what Sha’ul implies in his answer: refusing to relate to Agrippa's term “Christianos,” he instead points with earnest intensity to himself as an example of the kind of faith he covets for Agrippa and for all the rest of his audience.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern.)

This appeal placed Agrippa in an uncomfortable dilemma. As a representative of Rome and a colleague of Festus in the administration of government, he did not wish to appear to Festus to share Paul's insanity, and therefore it would have been unpleasant to agree with Paul and admit that he believed the prophets. On the other hand, to deny that he believed the prophets would have seriously impaired his influence with the Jews. Agrippa therefore parried Paul's appeal with the response. In short, you are trying to make me play the Christian.
The Greek phrase is very difficult and literally translated says, In a little you are persuading me to make a Christian.
In a little may mean either, "in a little time" or "in brief."
To make a Christian may mean either to become a Christian or to play the role of a Christian.
The translation of the AV is certainly incorrect; Agrippa was not on the point of becoming a Christian. His remark may be a sarcastic parry of Paul's appeal: "In a short time, you think to make me a Christian!" (RSV). However, the rendition suggested above (that of F. F. Bruce) makes Agrippa brush aside Paul's appeal by replying that Paul is not going to make Agrippa play the role of a Christian and try to persuade Festus of the correctness of his prisoner's position.

Paul took Agrippa's light comment seriously and replied solemnly, whether in short or at length (literally, in a little or in a great deal) he wished that all men who heard him might become Christians as he was - with the exception of the chains he was wearing because he was a Christian.
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1962 by Moody Press. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(27)  King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? [Do you give credence to God's messengers and their words?] I perceive and know that you do believe.
(28)  Then Agrippa said to Paul, You think it a small task to make a Christian of me [just offhand to induce me with little ado and persuasion, at very short notice].
(29)  And Paul replied, Whether short or long, I would 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.

Acts 26:30-32
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(30)  When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them;

And the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them.

(31)  and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, "This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains."

And when they were gone aside, they spoke among themselves, saying: This man hath done nothing worthy of death or of bands.

(32)  Then Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."

And Agrippa said to Festus: This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed to Caesar.


The king stood up
Festus and Agrippa knew that their prisoner had a compassionate concern for them, and they could not easily escape his challenge. The best thing to do was to end the hearing, so the king stood up; and this told everybody that the audience was over. Both Agrippa and Festus declared that Paul was innocent of any crime deserving of death. Luke continues to accumulate these official statements so that his readers will understand that Paul was an innocent man (see Acts 16:35-40; 18:14-15; 23:29; 25:25). In fact, Paul might have been set free, had he not appealed to Caesar. Was he foolish in making his appeal? No, he was not for it was the appeal to Caesar that finally ended the repeated accusations of the Jewish leaders. They knew they could not successfully fight against Rome.

What Agrippa and Festus did not understand was that Paul had been the judge and they had been the prisoners on trial. They had been shown the light and the way to freedom, but they had deliberately closed their eyes and returned to their sins. Perhaps they felt relieved that Paul would go to Rome and trouble them no more. The trial was over, but their sentence was still to come; and come it would. What a wonderful thing is the opportunity to trust Jesus Christ and be saved! What a terrible thing is wasting that opportunity and perhaps never having another.
(The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries.)

Because Paul had used his Roman right to appeal to Caesar's tribunal, Agrippa and Festus can only refer him there with a letter specifying their own opinion. This appeal had earlier saved Paul's life (25:3), and now it provides him free passage to Rome (19:21) and a public forum for the gospel there.
(From IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press.)

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK FROM 400 A. D. BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Homily 53 - Acts 26:27-32
And Agrippa, said to Paul, thou persuades me to be a Christian." What is ? "Within a little, "And Paul said, I could pray to God," , (that is) "I could pray to God," for my part, not "in little" (but "in much"): he does not simply pray, he prays (not briefly, but) with largeness-"that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were such as I am." Then he adds, "except these bonds;" and yet it was matter of glory; true, but looking to their notion of it, therefore says he, "except these bonds." (v. 27-29.) See how again also they pass sentence in his favor, and after having said, "Thou art beside thyself," (v. 24) they acquit him, as undeserving not only of death, but also of bonds, and indeed would have released him entirely, if he had not appealed to Caesar. But this was done providentially, that he should also depart with bonds. "Unto bonds," he says, "as an evil doer." (1 Timothy 2:9.) For if his Lord "was reckoned among the transgressors" (Mark 15:28), much more he: but as the Lord did not share with them in their character, so neither did Paul. For in this is seen the marvelous thing, the being mixed up with such, and yet receiving no harm from them. (John Chrysostom A.D. 400)
(from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Excerpts from "The Apostle: A Life of Paul"

Many of the distinguished audience may have grown increasingly embarrassed at this bold discourse which, if taken seriously, must overturn the entire domestic existence of the King and Queen, but it was Festus who broke in on Paul.

Paul was in full course: "...That is why the Jews seized me in the Temple and tried to do away with me. But I had God's help, and so to this very day I stand and testify to small and great, saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses foretold: that the Christ must suffer, and that he, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim the dawn to the people and to the Gentiles - "

"Paul, you are mad! You are mad!" Festus shouted, his manners before royalty entirely forgotten. Up to that minute he had supposed they were arguing about whether Jesus was dead, as the Jews said, or still living. It suddenly broke in on Festus that Paul was actually claiming Jesus had come alive again after being killed...

"I am not mad, Your Excellency," Paul replied mildly. "What I am saying is sober truth. The King is well versed in these matters, and to him I can speak freely. ... King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do!"

Then Agrippa spoke: "In a short time you think to make a Christian out of me."

"Short or long," Paul echoed, "I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such ad I am - except for these chains!"

At Paul's dramatic rejoinder, with its tremendous conviction that happiness for king and commoner lay only in the love of Jesus Christ, Agrippa rose from his throne to end the audience. The Queen and all the company rose too. Royalty and Governor withdrew, and only on reaching the private quarters did they admit how impressed they had been, telling each other that Paul had done nothing worthy of death or prison, and could have been released had he not appealed.

Agrippa and Bernice continued ruling together until the Great Rebellion seven years later, which the Queen strove to prevent. They left for Rome, where Bernice eventually became the mistress of the Emperor Titus, the general who had captured Jerusalem, slaughtered its inhabitants and leveled the Temple and city to dust.

(From "The Apostle: A Life of Paul," by John Pollock; RiverOak Publishing, a division of Cook Communication Ministries)

From the Amplified Bible
(30)  Then the king arose, and the governor and Bernice and all those who were seated with them;
(31)  And after they had gone out, they said to one another, This man is doing nothing deserving of death or [even] of imprisonment.
(32)  And Agrippa said to Festus, This man could have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to Caesar.



(End of Chapter Twenty Six)

 

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