Read: Acts 26:1-32
Consider: Today’s reading from Acts concerns Paul’s defence before King Agrippa. We need to backtrack a little to discover the context for this incident in Paul’s life.
So what led up to Paul’s arrest? The sequence of events were:
Paul was beaten by the Jews for being in the temple at Jerusalem (Acts 21:27-36);
Paul speaks to the crowd in Jerusalem (21:37 – 22:29);
Paul is brought before the Sanhedrin (22:30 – 23:11);
Paul is transferred to Caesarea because of a plot to kill him (23:12-35);
Paul’s trial before Felix (24:1-27);
Paul’s trial before Festus (25:1-12);
Paul before King Agrippa (Acts 25:23 – 26:32).
This series of events took place over a prolonged period of time. Notice from Acts 24:27 that Paul must have been in prison in Caesarea for two years until Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus. Festus could not find anything in the charges brought against Paul that was worthy of death (25:25). We are told that his reason for consulting Agrippa was because he did not wish to send Paul to Rome without the charges against him being clearly articulated (25:27). This is where we pick up the story.
When speaking before King Agrippa, Paul says: And now it is because of my hope in what God had promised our ancestors that I am on trial today (26:6). He refers to this ‘hope’ being what all the Jews were anticipating being fulfilled. What Paul is referring to is the long expected Messiah, that the Jewish nation knew was foretold in the OT Scriptures and which Paul and the early Christians recognised as being fulfilled by Jesus. I particularly like what Paul says in Acts 26:22-23 – But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to both great and small alike. 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.
It is clear that King Agrippa was sympathetic to Paul, as the conclusion reached was that he had done nothing deserving death or imprisonment (26:31). This confirmed what Festus had concluded himself (25:25). However, the problem for Paul was not over, as Agrippa said: This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar (26:32). So events were to lead to Paul being taken to Rome to stand before Caesar.
What can we learn from Paul’s defence before Agrippa? Paul started by speaking of what was clear in the Scriptures; that the Messiah’s coming was expected by all the Jews. He linked this to what would have been known and spoken of about the life and death of Jesus, linking him to the fulfilment of these OT prophesies. Only then does Paul move on to speak of his own personal experience, first opposing and persecuting the early Christians, then moving on to his conversion and commissioning by Jesus to take the message of God’s forgiveness to the world.
It is important when speaking of our faith to base what we say on the Bible and to reveal Jesus from its pages. We also need to take time to ascertain what those we are speaking to understand about Christianity. We should then be able to build upon what they know, or even to correct the views they hold. Personal experience is also a vital part of witnessing for Christ and gives us the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about the relationship we have with Jesus.
Pray: Father, when we are speaking of our faith, help us to use Scripture correctly to show what we believe about mankind’s need for repentance and forgiveness Help us to explain that salvation is only to be found in Jesus and to show that our personal relationship with Jesus moulds how we live day-by-day. Amen