ACTS - CHAPTER 26
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself.
Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:”
“I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this
day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
“Especially because I know thee to be expert in all the customs and
questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
This wasn’t flattery on
Paul’s part. Agrippa, being a Jew, was
well qualified to judge whether Paul was guilty of any crime against them or their
“My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own
nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews.”
The better manuscripts have and
between “nation” and “at Jerusalem,” making it clear that Paul’s early life
had been amongst the Jews in Tarsus, and then later in Jerusalem where he had studied
the law under Gamaliel.
“Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the
most straitest (strictest) sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.”
“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto
“Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly (earnestly) serving God day
and night, hope to come. For which
hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.”
The hope or expectation of
the fulfillment of the promises made by God to their fathers through the prophets was
that He would send the Messiah, the seed promised to Eve; but what they failed to
understand was, that as the prophets had also foretold,
the Messiah must first die as the Lamb of God to make atonement for sin, rise
from the dead, and then come again in power and glory as the Lion of Judah to
establish the millennial kingdom.
Jewish thought had become so
focused on the Messiah as the Lion of Judah that they ignored the equally valid
prophetic truth that He must come first as the Lamb.
Their second error was their
failure to see that the Jesus they had rejected and crucified, but Who had risen
again, was the Messiah, His birth, life, death, and resurrection fulfilling every
detail foretold by the prophets. It was
Paul’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah (that revelation having been given him
by the Lord Himself on the Damascus road) that had aroused their fury, and led them
to seek his life. The Jewish leaders
couldn’t bear to think that Paul had been given a revelation which God had denied
them; nor were they willing to admit that they had been wrong in crucifying the
Messiah, even though the prophets had foretold not only their rejection of Him, but
also the unusual manner of His death, see Ps 22:16, for the Jewish mode of execution
was by stoning, not crucifixion. Those
same prophets had also foretold His resurrection.
There is nothing more
difficult than to persuade religious people that they are sinners, and that they
cannot be forgiven until they make that confession and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ
The reference to the twelve
tribes, incidentally, refutes the error that 10 tribes are lost.
There are no lost tribes. All are
known to God, Who in the Tribulation will reveal the tribal identity of every Jew .
“Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise
What is equally, if not more
incredible, is that the Jews, of all people, should have doubted it, for their father
Abraham believed it, see Heb 11:19 relative to the offering up of Isaac,
“Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also
he received him in a figure.” Why did
Abraham have that faith? It was because
of Isaac’s birth, for he was given to Abraham and Sarah when humanly speaking it
was impossible for them to have a child because of their age, see Heb 11:11-12.
Both of them had the sense to realize that it was no more difficult for God to
raise Isaac up from death that day at Moriah, than to have brought him out of two
bodies as good as dead.
The necessity of Christ’s
resurrection is related to the promises God had made to the fathers, for they had
died without seeing the fulfillment of those promises.
If therefore God’s promises to them were to be kept they must be
resurrected, and Christ’s resurrection was the proof that God could and would
resurrect those OT saints also. Paul was
on trial for believing that the promises to the fathers would yet be fulfilled
through the death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of
Jesus of Nazareth.”
“Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up
in prison, having received authority from the chief priests: and when they were put
to death, I gave my voice against them.”
I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme (speak
against God); and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto
This continues to reveal the
murderous nature of the opposition of organized religion against God and those who
are His. This venomous persecution of
those who belonged to Christ was by those who claimed to be God’s representatives,
and the sole custodians of divine truth. In
the aptly named dark ages from about 500 till 1500 AD the same murderous work was
carried on by the harlot “church” headquartered in Rome, and which still rules
most of Christendom. No one should be
deceived. The hatred of the Roman church
so called, against true believers is no less bitter today, the laws of most countries
being the only thing preventing the same persecution and slaughter of true believers.
It was that same devilish hatred of God which motivated the Jewish leaders and
Saul in the Apostolic age, and which will motivate the beast in the coming
In the final analysis,
however, the sinister power behind all hatred of God and His people, is the
adversary, Satan, men and institutions being but his instruments.
Its being said that he
compelled them to blaspheme doesn’t necessarily mean that he succeeded.
In fact we are told that “the tense of the Greek word indicates that Paul
failed in his attempt to bring them to blasphemy.”
“Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the
“... with authority and
commission,” means that he was authorized and sent by the chief priests as their
agent, and since he couldn’t have carried on his evil work without their authority,
it means that they were more culpable than he.
“At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the
brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.”
“And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me,
and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
The light is generally
accepted as being the effulgence of the divine glory.
“Why persecutest thou
me?” reminds us that the Lord counts what is done to His own as having being done
to Him. The pricks are usually taken to refer to prickings of conscience,
which if correct, indicates that he had at least some qualms about what he was doing,
as well he might when he watched men and women die willingly for no reason other than
refusal to deny One they believed to be the Son of God Who had died to make atonement
for their sins.
I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said,
I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”
“But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this
purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast
seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;”
“Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I
However strongly the
unbelieving Jews might have denied the resurrection of the Jesus they had crucified,
Paul was one who would never again doubt it. It
was that same Jesus Who spoke to him that day, and it is interesting to note that as
far as is known, Paul is the only unbeliever (he wasn’t yet saved) to whom the
risen Christ revealed Himself. In the
period between His entombment and His ascension, He had revealed Himself only to
believers. And the Lord had a purpose in
demonstrating the reality of His resurrection to Paul.
As the Apostle to the Gentiles he must be able to affirm the resurrection of
the Jesus Whom he was now being commissioned to present to them as Savior, for as
already noted, belief in the Lord’s resurrection is an essential part of saving
faith, as it is written in Ro 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the
Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,
thou shalt be saved.”
As has also been noted
already, some have suggested that the revelation given Paul was to furnish him with
the same qualification as was possessed by the other Apostles, i.e., that they must
have been witnesses of His resurrection.
That further revelations
were to be given Paul is certified by the words “... and of those things in the
which I will appear unto thee.”
The promise of deliverance
from “the people (the Jews),” and from “the Gentiles,” indicates the fierce
opposition that Paul would experience from both parties in the course of his
ministry, and reminds us that nothing reveals man’s hatred of God and His people
more than the preaching of the gospel. The
fact that we experience so little of that hatred is an eloquent testimony to our
delinquency in spreading the good news.
As Paul’s witness began
with his own conversion, so is that of every believer.
However much we may lack the ability to preach, there is no one who can’t at
least relate the details of his own conversion, and thereby lead another to the
And relative to protection,
we too can walk in the peaceful assurance that perfect love and wisdom combine to
ordain or permit the circumstances of our lives, all of them being woven together by
our Father for His glory and our eternal blessing.
“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the
power (dominion, control) of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of
sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified (made holy) by faith that is in
Because Adam was the federal
head of the human race, his sin is imputed to all his descendants, so that we are
born into this world spiritually blind, and therefore in spiritual darkness, and
under the dominion of Satan the god of this world, our earthly lives to be
followed by eternal existence first in hell and then in torment in the lake of fire.
It is to make possible our deliverance from this terrible state of darkness,
bondage, and death that Jesus Christ has died and risen again.
Faith in Him as Savior brings us God’s pardon for all our sins, gives us
spiritual sight, brings us out of darkness into light, from death to life, from the
cruel dominion of Satan into the loving lordship of Christ.
It saves us from hell, and fits us for heaven.
But more, it guarantees us an inheritance “incorruptible, and undefiled, and
that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God
through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” 1 Pe 1:4-5.
All these blessings are
bestowed on the man who puts his faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly
“I was not disobedient”
makes it very clear that there was no compulsion in all of this.
Paul was free to choose whether to enter Christ’s service, or remain in
slavery to Satan, for Scripture makes it very clear that God will neither compel a
sinner to be saved, nor a believer to serve. Whether
we as believers will serve Christ is as much a free-will choice as is the decision to
trust Him as Savior.
“But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout
all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn
to God, and do works meet for repentance.”
“Repent” is to have a
change of heart, to turn around; and the need to “do works meet for repentance”
is simply to demonstrate by a changed lifestyle that there has been genuine
repentance and faith in Christ, though it must be emphasized that it is repentant
faith alone that brings salvation, and not the good works which are but the evidence
of a genuine conversion.
“For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill
Time hasn’t changed
anything. The Jew is still violently opposed to the gospel, and will remain
so until the Tribulation judgments will have brought the repentance and conversion of
a believing remnant, which will be the new Israel that will enter the Millennium to
enjoy the blessings promised by the prophets to the fathers, the believing amongst
those fathers enjoying even better blessings in heaven with Christ.
26:22. “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day,
witnessing unto small and great, saying none other things than those which the
prophets and Moses did say should come:”
“That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise
from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”
In spite of his having been
rescued from the mob by Lysias, Paul knew that his Deliverer was God using Lysias as
His instrument, and he was careful here to give God the glory.
And faithful to his commission he continued to be God’s witness, preaching
the gospel to any who would listen, regardless of their social state.
Nor was he preaching some new thing. The
prophets had already foretold the salvation of Jew and Gentile alike, through faith
in the Jesus Who had demonstrated by His miraculous birth, sinless life, vicarious
death, and resurrection, that He was the One of Whom the prophets had written.
Relative to His being the
first to rise from the dead, others had been resurrected, but had died again: Jesus
was the first to rise never to die again.
“And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou
art beside thyself; much learning doeth make thee mad.”
Festus knew little of the
Scriptures. It was different with
Agrippa: he did know, and he didn’t charge Paul with madness.
“But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of
truth and soberness.”
“For the king (Agrippa) knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak
freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this
thing was not done in a corner.”
To the natural mind the
truths of the gospel are foolishness, as it is written, “For the preaching of the
cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power
of God,” 1 Cor 1:18. Read also all of
1 Cor chapters 1 and 2.
He further refuted Festus’
charge by declaring that Agrippa, with his knowledge of the Scriptures, knew that
everything Paul said was confirmed by those same Scriptures.
Scholars disagree as to what
is referred to in the statement, “this thing was not done in a corner,” some
taking it to refer to Paul’s life and testimony, but there seems little doubt that
it refers to the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That was an event so well known that no one could be ignorant of it, note, for
example, the question addressed to the Lord by the two on the road to Emmaus, “Art
thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to
pass there in these days?” Lk 24:18.
“King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.”
A man may believe all that
is written concerning Christ, but he cannot be saved until he also believes that His
miraculous birth, sinless life, vicarious death, and His resurrection were all to
make atonement for the sins of those who would confess their sin, repent, and trust
in Him as Savior.
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
This translation suggests
that Agrippa was indeed almost persuaded to become a Christian, while other
translations indicate that he was, in fact, saying, “Do you think that I can be
thus easily induced to become a Christian?” It
matters little which is correct, though Paul’s words in verse 29 indicate that the
first is the more likely. The sad fact
is that there is nothing on record to offer any hope that this man who had the great
privilege of hearing the gospel from the lips of the Apostle Paul, ever became a
believer, so that for two thousand years he has had unlimited opportunity to bewail
his folly in the torment of hell, and having before him eternity in which to continue
his bitter lament. There is a special
bitterness connected with the death of one who has known the gospel, yet has died in
unbelief. The story of Agrippa’s folly
has been the means of turning multitudes to Christ, but it stands also as a warning
that one may be almost persuaded, yet perish.
“And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear
me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”
Paul had a burning passion
for the salvation of men, so much so that even in the midst of a legal examination
upon which his very life depended, he preached the gospel with a zeal which revealed
his comprehension of the dreadful results attending the death of the unbeliever.
Compared to the loss of other men’s souls, the preservation of his own life
was of little importance. More power
would attend our own proclamation of the gospel were we convinced of that same truth
relative to our own lives.
“And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and
Bernice, and they that sat with them:”
“And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This
man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.”
As it was with the servant
so had it been also with the Master, Pilate declaring to the Jewish leaders
concerning Christ, “I find no fault in this man,” Lk 23:4, and repeating that
same truth in verse 14.
“Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if
he had not appealed unto Caesar.”
What was conveniently
glossed over was that Paul’s appeal to Caesar had been compelled by the failure of
Festus to acquit him, and his determination instead to win favor with the Jews by
handing him over to them, even though he knew perfectly well that they were
determined to kill him in spite of his innocence.
But God was in control, and
it was His will that Paul be His witness in Rome also.