The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
PAUL BEFORE KING AGRIPPA
- Chapter 26 is a continuation of chapter 25. Having appealed to Caesar, Paul was not required to defend himself before King Agrippa, but he did it as an opportunity to witness to him.
- Festus referred to the meeting as an "examination" (25:26), not a trial.
- In his defense, Paul showed great tact and courtesy (26:2, 3), yet he was also bold in presenting the Gospel to Agrippa.
- W. Graham Scroggie said, "What a Christian gentleman he was, dignified, gentle, courteous!" (The Acts of the Apostles).
- Paul appealed personally to King Agrippa (26:2, 7, 13, 19, 27).
- It may seem strange that Paul said that immoral King Agrippa was an "expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews" (26:3), but Agrippa was a Jew, and according to the famous Jewish historian Josephus, Agrippa was the president of the temple and its treasures.
PAUL DESCRIBED HIS RELIGIOUS BACKGROUND
- Paul began his speech by explaining his life as a strict Pharisee (26:1-5). In Acts 22:3, Paul told the Jews that he was born in Tarsus, and brought up in Jerusalem at the feet of the famous teacher Gamaliel.
- As a sincere Jew, Paul believed in the promises God made to his fathers (26:6). Paul said in Acts 13:32 and 33, "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again..."
- The hope of Israel was a major theme in Paul's preaching (26:6, 7; cf. 24:15; 28:20).
- The hope of Israel included the hope of resurrection (24:15).
- This "hope of the promise" included the hope of the coming Messiah, who died and rose from the dead (26:7). Our Lord's resurrection was central to Paul's preaching (26:8, 23; cf. 25:19; 13:29-35; 17:2, 3; 23:6), and it was central in all apostolic preaching.
- Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses" (Acts 2:32).
- Paul asked King Agrippa, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible (not to be believed) with you, that God should raise the dead?” (26:8). To Paul, the resurrection of Christ was not "incredible" because it was an accomplished fact with overwhelming evidence.
- Paul referred to the twelve tribes of Israel in Acts 26:7. People speak of the "lost tribes of Israel," but the Bible doesn't. James 1:1 says, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad..."
- Revelation chapter 7 and chapter 14 refer to the hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel, and then twelve tribes are mentioned by name: Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin (Rev. 7:4-8).
- In his misplaced zeal, Paul thought he had to "do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (26:9). These "many things" included shutting up many of the saints in prison (26:10).
- And when the Christians were put to death, Paul gave his voice (vote) against them (26:10).
- Some Bible teachers say this "vote" was an official vote, and therefore Paul had been a member of the Sanhedrin. This seems likely since he had received authority and a commission from the chief priests (26:10, 12).
- Paul punished the despised Christians often in every synagogue, and compelled (he persuaded them by using force) them to blaspheme. Paul was exceedingly mad (full of rage) against them, and persecuted them even unto strange cities.
- "Strange cities" refers to "foreign cities." Paul went out of his way to persecute Christians.
PAUL DESCRIBED HIS CONVERSION (26:13).
- The most fascinating and
the most famous of all religious conversions was the conversion of Saul of
- In fact, even
Biblically-illiterate worldlings are familiar with the phrase, "the road to
Damascus," used in reference to a dramatic conversion (cf. Acts
- In addition to references
in his epistles, Paul's conversion is recorded three times in the book of Acts
(Acts 9, 22, 26).
- Paul explained to King
Agrippa that his dramatic change of life could only be understand by his
encounter with the Lord (26:13-15).
- There on the road
to Damascus, Paul recognized that Jesus Christ was the Lord whom he
had been persecuting (26:14, 15).
- "To kick against the pricks (iron goads used to prod
oxen)" (26:14) was an old proverb, meaning it is useless to resist. Here it means it is useless to fight
- Paul explained how the Lord made him a minister and a
witness, and commissioned him to go to the Gentiles, "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..." (26:16-18).
- Acts 26:18 should be compared to what Paul wrote in II
Corinthians 4:3, 4 -- "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are
lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which
believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image
of God, should shine unto them."
- In verse 18 we see conviction, repentance, conversion,
illumination, deliverance, pardon, and sanctification.
- Paul was quick to obey, immediately preaching the
Gospel "first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the
coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles" (26:19, 20).
- Genuine Gospel preaching emphasizes repentance
(26:20). This is a missing note
in much preaching these days.
Consequently, churches are filled with worldly, unsaved
- Paul said in Acts 20:21, "Testifying both to the Jews,
and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our
Lord Jesus Christ."
- Because Paul was now preaching the Gospel, the Jews
caught him in the temple, and tried to kill him (26:21).
- Paul was able to press on because he obtained help
from God (26:22).
- Once again, Paul stressed that his doctrine was in
accordance to what the prophets and Moses said should come (26:22,
PAUL PRESSED FOR A DECISION
- Though Paul had been preaching to King Agrippa (cf. 26:2, 7, 13, 19), it was Festus who interrupted his speech (26:24).
- In response to Festus' comments, Paul calmly said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 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" (26:25, 26).
- Then Paul pressed King Agrippa for a decision (26:27).
- Then King Agrippa uttered those famous words -- "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" (26:28).
- Evangelist John R. Rice said this: "I imagine that if the Lord should allow me to go to hell to interview those who had a chance to be saved, I might there find King Agrippa. Well, he would have no crown, no robe, and no titles. Now he would be only a poor, doomed soul. I imagine that I might say to him in hell, ‘Agrippa, what a shock to see you here in hell!’
- "And Agrippa might answer, ‘Yes, just think! I heard Paul the apostle preach! He stood before me…and pleaded with me to be saved. Oh, just think! I heard Paul the apostle preach and still I was never saved, and I came to hell!"
- Then Dr. Rice went on to talk about others in hell who had great opportunities such as Felix and Judas Iscariot.
- We might also add Festus, and Bernice, Agrippa’s sister, who was involved in an incestuous relationship with him.
- We might add the others that got up to follow King Agrippa out the door (26:30).
- By getting up and leaving they were saying: "We have all heard enough. We are not interested in getting saved. We do not want Jesus."
- How foolish to pass up an opportunity to get saved!
- How foolish to procrastinate -- "almost persuaded..."
- I heard a true story about a man who was advised by a surgeon to have his finger cut off because of a serious infection. The man cried and argued until the doctor said, "Sir, you’d better hurry up and make up your mind because this infection is deadly."
- The infection started spreading rapidly and the man started getting very weak. Finally, he told the nurse, "O.K. Tell the doctor to come in and cut off my finger."
- The surgeon returned and said, "Your condition is much worse now. Now we will have to take off your whole hand."
- The patient said, "Oh, please give me time to think this over, Doc. I hate to lose my whole hand!" The doctor replied, "We have no time to waste. We must move quickly." But the man kept procrastinating and so the doctor left the room.
- After a while, the man told the surgeon, "O.K. Go ahead. I think I’m ready now." But by this time they discovered that the disease was spreading even more rapidly and he would have to have his arm amputated. He stalled some more, causing more precious time to be wasted. Several people pleaded with him to have the necessary surgery.
- Finally, he said: "Alright. Do what you have to do," and they brought him into the operating room. But by this time the disease had ravaged his whole body and he soon died.
- Sin is like an incurable disease. Sinners foolishly wait until it spreads all over and then they die and go to hell!
- They are like King Agrippa – almost persuaded but lost!
- Paul gave a good reply to Agrippa (26:29), but it didn't do any good. By rising up, King Agrippa signaled the meeting was over. The king and his associates agreed that Paul was innocent (26:29-32; cf. 23:29; 25:25; 28:18).
- Paul was in bonds, i.e. chains (26:29). It has been pointed out that in reality it was Paul the prisoner who was free, and it was Agrippa and Bernice and Festus who were bound.
- P. P. Bliss, the great hymnwriter, once heard a preacher end a sermon on Acts 24:25 by saying, "He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost."
- P. P. Bliss was very much impressed with the thought, and immediately set about composing what proved to be one of his most popular songs.
- Later on, in 1874, Evangelist D. L. Moody preached to a great congregation in England and William Gladstone the Prime Minister was in the audience.
- At the close of his sermon Mr. Moody asked the congregation to bow their heads, while he had Ira Sankey sing "Almost Persuaded."
- Later on, Ira Sankey said, "The stillness of death prevailed throughout the audience of over fifteen thousand, as souls were making their decisions for Christ."
Almost persuaded now to believe;
Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say,
Go, Spirit, go Thy
Some more convenient day
On Thee I’ll call.
Almost persuaded, come, come today;
turn not away;
Jesus invites you here,
Angels are lingering near
Prayers rise from hearts so
O wanderer, come!
Almost persuaded, harvest is past!
doom comes at last!
Almost cannot avail;
Almost is but to fail!
sad, that bitter wail—
Almost, but lost!