Paul has no fear, even before very powerful Roman and Jewish leaders who have his fate and life in their hands. Here he boldly speaks to King Agrippa. ◊
Recall that Paul had his first come to Jesus moment way back in ACTS Chapter 9. There we read of his incredible conversion experience where Jesus Christ literally confronts Paul directly on the road to Demascus.
As we know, Paul was never the same after that.
After the full account of that experience is laid out in Chapter 9, the author of ACTS, Luke, the doctor and historian, replays the details in Paul’s own words in Chapter 22 and now again in Chapter 26 as Paul shares his testimony of faith and his own defense statements before authorities who have kept him in custody and put him on trial.
In this case here in Caesarea, Paul is moving his way through the legal processes that will end up sending him to Rome itself on a path to see Caesar Nero. He is now before King Agrippa, the Jewish leader who has been asked kindly by Romans governor Festus to review this confounding prisoner, Paul.
Paul Before King Agrippa
Now Paul gets his chance to speak:
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.”
So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
Paul appeals to Jewish heritage and his own legacy as a Jewish Pharisee with Jewish hope in God:
“The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
Paul speaks of his vehement opposition to the Christian faith and it’s leader, Jesus:
“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
Then Paul speaks of that afternoon on the road to Demascus:
“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and 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 goads.’
“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Then Paul describes his response to these instructions:
“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.”
Paul concludes with a statement that he is only fulfilling the prophecies of the prophets and Moses for all world:
“I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
“I Am Not Insane”
At this juncture, the Roman governor has heard enough. He simply cannot fathom such apparent nonsense from an otherwise intelligent man. It must be the same feelings some people have about the claims of otherwise intelligent Christians they know:
At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
Paul counters that he is not insane, but rather speaking truth. And that King Agrippa knows exactly what he’s talking about:
“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
The Governor and King share final words in agreement with each other:
The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”
Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
A Bold Lesson
Paul has no fear. He is clearly frustrated but has no fear of very powerful people before him who have the human power to free him, keep him imprisoned, or worse.
He knows what he saw, heard, and experienced in his personal encounter with Jesus Christ. No one is going to talk him out of that and he does not fear the consequences of boldly speaking the truth and conducting the job he was tasked to do.
The powerful people before him can do nothing but stand in awe of a reasonable man who defies logic in a logical world. Both Festus and Agrippa know that Paul does not deserve the treatment he is receiving, but the Roman process demands that he be transferred to Rome to see the Emperor.
Time to ship him off to Italy.
How would you respond if you were in Paul’s situation?
“I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” – Acts 26:26-27