By Larry Ray Hafley
Acts 26 records the confrontation of Paul the apostle with Agrippa the King. It is a classic meeting. On the one hand we see a lowly preacher and prisoner, a slave of the King of Kings. On the other we see a young king in all his pomp and power, a King of slaves. The sermon Paul preached has been strained and screened twice through the sieve of the Spirit. First, Paul spoke as the Spirit gave him utterance on that grand occasion (Matt. 10:18-20). Second, of all the sermons that fell from the lips of the apostle to the Gentiles, this i’s one of the few selected and preserved; therefore, the words of Paul before that august assembly are worthy of weighty consideration and contemplation.
However, we leave that happy task for you. Our purpose is not to reflect upon Paul’s discourse. Rather, we want to pay particular attention to the final judgment of Paul made by King Agrippa. He heard the speech. He was supposed to listen to Paul in order to assist Festus in filing formal charges against the apostle (Acts 25:24-27). But when the accused had concluded his “answer,” the King said, “This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar” (Acts 26:31, 32). Two facts make Agrippa’s conclusion astounding and astonishing; first, the content and nature of the sermon and, second, the person of Agrippa, who he was.
Paul preached the gospel of promise and prophecy, “saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come” (Acts 26:22). This gospel included and incorporated the promise made to the patriarchs, the fathers, which is the hope of Israel (Acts 26:6-8). Evidently, the King believed the prophets, for he surely cherished the hope and promises (Acts 26:3, 27). Paul argued that the gospel was a message of “truth and soberness” (Acts 26:25). It must not be viewed as foolishness and falsehood if it is truth and soberness. Agrippa’s verbal acquittal of Paul revealed his disposition toward the basic facts of the gospel, i.e., they are true and sensible.
King Agrippa was the great grandson of the Herod of Matthew 2 who tried to slay the baby, Jesus. He was the great nephew of the Herod who had John the Baptist executed. His Father was the Herod who slew the apostle James with the sword and who imprisoned Simon Peter (Acts 12). His very family was steeped in the blood of Christians. His Father said the apostles were worthy of death (Acts 12), but Agrippa said that Paul was not worthy of death, that he might have been set free. Thus, did Agrippa repudiate his sire’s view of the gospel and its ardent advocates, the apostles. Perhaps Agrippa did not recognize the fact that his favorable vindication of Paul was a condemnation of his family’s persecution of the way of Christ. He acknowledged the truth, but he did not obey it. He believed the apostles should not be bound for their preaching of the prophets. In this, he assuredly differed from the threatenings and slaughter which were so ominously breathed out by his ancestors and predecessors. How ironic; How sad!
There are many modern day Agrippas in attitude. They love to listen to the word of God. They acknowledge the doctrine of the Lord. They will speak in defense of it, but they have never been obedient to it. Oh, how tragic! especially since Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt. 12:30).
If you are one of these, please answer the question of Jesus, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say” (Lk. 6:46)?
Truth Magazine XXI: 34, p. 53
September 1, 1977