Acts 26 – 2019-10-10
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- CHAPTER 26 COMMENTARY
“It was a dramatic moment when the holy and humble apostle of Jesus Christ stood before this representative of the worldly, ambitious, morally corrupt family of the Herods, who for generation after generation had set themselves in opposition to truth and righteousness. ‘Their founder, Herod the Great’, wrote R.B. Rackham, ‘had tried to destroy the infant Jesus. His son Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, beheaded John the Baptist, and won from the Lord the title of “fox”. His grandson Agrippa I slew James the son of Zebedee with the sword. Now we see Paul brought before Agrippa’s son.’ […] But Paul was not in the least intimidated.”
vv.4-8: “Saul must have been a familiar figure in Jerusalem when as a young man he sat at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel (22:3). He is likely to have gained a reputation for scholarship, righteousness and religious zeal. Many Palestinian Jews still alive knew how he had lived as a child, first in Tarsus, then in Jerusalem. More than that, they had known him personally and could testify from their own experience that he had belonged to the strictest party in Judaism, that of the Pharisees (4-5). It was surely anomalous, therefore, that he should now be on trial for his hope in God’s promise to the fathers, which he and they shared, namely that God would send his Messiah (foretold and foreshadowed in the Old Testament) to rescue and redeem his people.”
v.14: It is hard for you to kick against the goads. “This proverb appears often in classical writings. Daniel Fuller explains that it was ‘often used by the Greeks to express the futility of striving against fate or against the gods, and its meaning to Paul on the Damascus road was that it was now futile for him to try any longer to work against Christ as it would be for an ox to kick against the plowman’s goad.’”
vv.14-15: “Surely, when the heavenly voice declared, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ at least two truths must have registered instantly in Saul’s consciousness. The first is that the crucified Jesus was alive and had thus been vindicated, and the second that the Jesus who identified himself so closely with the Christians that to persecute them was to persecute him, must regard them as being peculiarly his own people.”
v.17: “…I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles (17). A similar promise of ‘rescue’ was made to Jeremiah. This did not guarantee immunity to suffering. On the contrary, it was part of the vocation of prophets and apostles to endure suffering (cf. 9:16). But it did mean that their testimony would not be silenced until their God-appointed work was done.”
v.18: “The promise of forgiveness was part of the apostolic gospel from the beginning. So was belonging to the Messianic people (2:40-41, 47). For the new life in Christ and the new community of Christ always go together. What was specially significant in Christ’s commissioning of Paul was that the Gentiles were to be granted a full and equal share with the Jews in the privileges of those sanctified by faith in Christ, that is, the holy people of God.”
vv.14-18: “In this passage Paul insists that the center of his whole message is the resurrection. His witness is not of someone who has lived and died but of One who is gloriously present and alive for evermore. For Paul every day is Easter Day.”
“It is not so much what is actually said in this passage which is interesting as the atmosphere which the reader can feel behind it. Paul was a prisoner. At that very moment he was wearing his fetters, as he himself makes clear. And yet the impression given unmistakably is that he is the dominating personality in the scene. Festus does not speak to him as a criminal. No doubt he knew Paul’s record as a trained rabbi… Agrippa, listening to Paul, is more on trial that Paul is. And the end of the matter is that a rather bewildered company cannot see any real reason why Paul should be tried in Rome or anywhere else. Paul has in him a power which raises him head and shoulders above all others in any company. The word used for the power of God in Greek is dunamis; it is the word from which dynamite comes. The man who has the Risen Christ at his side need fear no one.”
“As for the trial before Agrippa, Paul was not overawed by the show of pomp and power which marked that occasion, or by the assembly of notable personages in court. […] But Paul made no attempt to ingratiate himself with the authorities. He wanted the king’s salvation, not his favour. So he did not stop with the story of his own conversion; he was concerned for Agrippa’s conversion too. Three times, therefore, Luke has Paul repeating the elements of the gospel in the king’s hearing. […] Each time Paul thus repeated the gospel in court, he was in fact preaching it to the court. […] Jesus had warned his disciples that they would be ‘brought before kings and governors’ on account of his name, and had promised that on such occasions he would give them ‘words and wisdom,’ Jesus had also told Ananias (who had presumably passed the information on) that Paul was his ‘chosen instrument’ to carry his name ‘before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel’ (9:15). These predictions had come true, and Paul had not failed.”
vv.26-27: “This challenge is for Agrippa to compare what the prophets foretold with what happened in Christ. The king is in a dilemma. As an expert on the Jewish Scriptures, he knows what Paul is speaking about. But he cannot afford to make connections between what he knows and what Paul is saying because then he will have to make a decision about Christianity. He therefore brushes off the challenge with an evasive comment…”
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 370.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 370-371.
 Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 593.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 372.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 373.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 374.
 William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976) 177.
 William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976) 180.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990) 379.
 Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 594.
- Acts 25:1-26:32 (ESV)
1 Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, 3 asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. 4 Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. 5 “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”
6 After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7 When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. 8 Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”
13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. 14 And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, 15 and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16 I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17 So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. 19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20 Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. 21 But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.”
22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”
23 So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.”
26 So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:
2 “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
4 “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5 They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who 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 in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”
30 Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
- It seems like Paul is a pawn in the hands of these governors at Caesarea and that he is forced to appeal to Caesar in Rome, but Jesus had already told him that he would go to Rome.
- Acts 23:11 (ESV) The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
- Meanwhile, Paul wrote many letters (the “prison epistles”) while in custody, enjoying a degree of personal liberty, as his friends were free to visit him and meet his needs (24:23). From this, what are some lessons regarding how God is leading Paul’s life and ministry?
- List all the officials for whom Paul becomes the topic of conversation. What does this say regarding what it looks like to be a Christian witness?
- Reflect on what God said to Ananias about Paul upon his conversion in Acts 9:15: “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.’” What is my response to God’s promise regarding how he wants to use me?