Paul’s defence before Agrippa
And Agrippa said to Paul: You are permitted to speak for yourself. Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defence.
2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, that I am to make my defence before you this day concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews; 3 especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews. Therefore, I beg that you hear me patiently.
4 My manner of life from my youth, which was from the beginning among my own nation and at Jerusalem, do all the Jews know; 5 having knowledge of me from the first (if they are willing to admit it) that after the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand here to be judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; 7 to which our twelve tribes earnestly serve night and day, hoping to attain the promises. And concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, O king! 8 Why would any of you think it incredible that God raises the dead?
9 I truly thought that I should do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And this I did in Jerusalem, and I shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them. 11 And in all the synagogues I often punished them, trying to force them to blaspheme, and being furiously enraged at them, I persecuted them even in foreign cities.
12 Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 but at midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining around me and those that journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the cattle prod. 15 And I said: Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said: I am Jesus whom you persecute. 16 But arise, and stand upon your feet. For to this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a servant and a witness both of the things in which you have seen me, and of the things which I will reveal to you. 17 Delivering you from the people of the Jews and from the Gentiles, to whom I send you, 18 to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God; to the end they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those that are sanctified by faith in me.
19 Therefore, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision; 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to their repentance. 21 For this cause the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 Therefore, having obtained the help that is from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses did say should happen: 23 That the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
24 And as he thus made his defence, Festus said with a loud voice: Paul, you are mad. Your much learning is turning you mad. 25 But Paul said: I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but speak words of truth and soberness. 26 For the king knows of these things, to whom also I speak freely. For I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him. For this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe. 28 And Agrippa said to Paul: You almost persuade me to become a Christian. 29 And Paul said: I will pray to God, that whether in a little time or a longer time, not you only, but also all that hear me this day might become as I am (apart from these chains).
30 And the king rose up and the governor and Bernice and they that sat with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they spoke to each other, saying: This man does nothing worthy of death or of imprisonment. 32 And Agrippa said to Festus: This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed to Caesar.
26:4 If Paul grew up in Jerusalem from his youth, he would surely have met Jesus and seen the miracles which He performed in Jerusalem at the feasts. He may even have seen the crucifixion.
26:6-8 The hope of resurrection from the dead is the hope which the Jewish fathers had. The promise that Abraham would personally inherit the land of Canaan and live there for ever required a resurrection of Abraham from the dead. The core of the Christian hope was taught to the Jewish fathers through the promises made to Abraham and David (Gal. 3:8). The New Testament Gospel of the Kingdom of God is in perfect harmony with the message of the Old Testament- see vv. 22,23.
26:8,9 Note the connection between these verses. Paul is saying that the greatest proof that Christ had risen from the dead was the change in character which had occurred within him. This was “the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:10); and it works within us too. The death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth aren’t just facts we know; if they are truly believed, there is within them the power of ultimate transformation.
26:11 Paul’s progressive appreciation of his own sinfulness is reflected in how he describes what he did in persecuting Christians in ever more terrible terms, the older he gets. He describes his victims as “men and women” whom he ‘arrested’ (Acts 8:3; 22:4), then he admits he threatened and murdered them (Acts 9:3), then he persecuted “the way” unto death (Acts 22:4); then he speaks of them as “those who believe” (Acts 22:19) and finally, in a crescendo of shame with himself, he speaks of how he furiously persecuted, like a wild animal, unto the death, “many of the saints”, not only in Palestine but also “to foreign [Gentile] cities” (Acts 26:10,11). He came to be every more confident of his salvation, as he came to realize the more his own sinfulness. And this is surely a pattern for us all.