Read: Acts 26:1-32
Consider: The apostle Paul had been in prison for over two years when he was brought before King Agrippa, who had come to Caesarea to visit the governor, Porcius Festus. Paul had already stood trial on two previous occasions, firstly before Felix and then before Festus. On both occasions they recognised that Paul had done nothing deserving of death, yet neither dismissed the case against him; Felix had felt pressured by the Jews, while Festus was bound by Paul’s appeal to be heard by Caesar.
Festus admitted to Agrippa that he was at a loss as to how to investigate the charges brought against Paul by the Jews (Acts 25:20). This led directly to King Agrippa stating that he would like to hear Paul himself (25:22).
Paul recognised that Agrippa was ‘… well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies (26:3), so he was able to speak openly and plainly about the Jews’ belief in the Messiah and he told Agrippa that ‘… it is because of my hope in what God promised our ancestors that I am on trial today (26:6). Paul took the opportunity to speak of his conversion on the road to Damascus and his calling to preach the good news about Jesus. He was unwilling to play down the death and resurrection of Jesus, despite it seeming ridiculous to his listeners’ ears. His defence was along two lines. Firstly, he reiterated that he was 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’ (26:22-23). Secondly, he presumed that King Agrippa knew about the crucifixion of Jesus and the claim that he has been raised from the dead ‘… because it was not done in a corner’ (26:26). In other words, it would have been well known amongst the Jews, as well as the Romans. Putting these two things together he was showing that Jesus fulfilled what the OT prophets had foretold.
The injustice of the Jews’ charges against Paul is shown by the view expressed at the end of the hearing against Paul that: This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment (26:31). However, King Agrippa stated: This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar (26:32).
Perhaps you are thinking at this point that Paul was foolish to have appealed to Caesar, thereby tying the hands of both Festus and Agrippa. While imprisoned in Rome and writing to the believers in Philippi, he was able to say: Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear (Philippians 1:12-14). God was able to use for good something we might consider was not in Paul’s best interests.
Pray: Father, we acknowledge that what we might consider bad can be used positively by you, to spread the good news of the gospel far and wide. May this give us a fresh perspective on the situations we face day-by-day. Amen