By Steve Springer
In Acts 26, Luke records a familiar scene of Paul testifying before King Agrippa regarding the accusations made against him by the Jews. There are many lessons that can be drawn from this section of Scripture but I would like to examine the characteristics of those who are present.
1. King Agrippa is described as one who is a pompous dresser (25:23). He was one who was familiar with Jewish customs and beliefs (26:3). He seemed to be a fair man in his judgment of Paul’s case. He let Paul speak on his own behalf. He also did not “play the crowd” with his rulings. Agrippa did not appear to be a man of wickedness and deceit as have been many of those in authority throughout history.
2. Festus was a newly appointed public official; he appears to be a true politician. He was willing to do the Jews a pleasure (25:9), even if an innocent man had to die. He wanted to take Paul to Jerusalem to be judged. Jerusalem was where the “heart and core” of Paul’s accusers dwelt. Festus was a scheming politician.
3. Paul was a man appointed by Christ to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (26:17). He had zeal in doing God’s work. He told of his experiences in persecuting Christians, bringing them into bondage. He told of his determination to put Christians in prison, not only in Jerusalem, but also in other cities as well. He also implied that he had been in high standings with the chief priests (26:12). When Paul saw the risen Christ, he realized he was wrong in his works (26:19), and had a repentant heart.
As Paul testified in his defense, he told of his past and why the Jews now were against him. He simply believed what had been taught about the coming Messiah by the prophets of old. As he spoke, Festus, the politician, interrupted and told Paul that he was crazy for believing in the resurrection of Jesus. Paul was the only one in the room who believed in Jesus, which was filled mostly with Jews and/or those of Jewish persuasion. Note the reply from Paul (Acts 26:25-27), “But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; But speak forth words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom I also speak freely; For I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in corner.” Showing his conviction and zeal, Paul states that he is not crazy and knew what he is saying. Paul then asked Agrippa to answer whether or not he believed the prophets. Not waiting for Agrippa’s reply, Paul said, “I know you do.” Agrippa’s well known response was, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (26:28).
What if, when Festus told Paul he was “beside himself” and did not know what he was saying, Paul had not replied? What if Paul just thought to himself that Agrippa will not believe me just as everyone else in this room does not? What if Paul had decided to say only the things necessary to save his own life? What if Paul had thought that Agrippa was already religious enough or that he was involved with a false religion as were the others in the room and deserved their spiritual fate?
If Paul had not said what he did in verses 1-27, Agrippa would not have been “almost persuaded.” Paul’s deep faith in God and burning desire to convert the lost motivated him to convert the lost, even trying to convert the lost officials who were judging his case. The intensity of his faith in Christ was felt by King Agrippa who was “almost persuaded” on that occasion.
If a person tries to set a piece of wood on fire, he needs to have a strong enough flame that a sprinkle or two of rain will not put it out. If the fire burns strongly enough, it will not only withstand the rain but also catch the wood on fire. What about our fire of faith? Is it strong enough that we do not have to bring it in when it begins to sprinkle a little bit? Can it withstand the “sprinkle” of criticism by fellow workers, rejection by those strangers to whom we speak about Jesus, and abuse by those unbelieving scorners? If not we need to strengthen our fire for the Lord.
Paul exhorted Christians to persevere with these words: “Finally brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10-13).
On many occasions, Paul’s preaching resulted in someone’s salvation. Although his preaching did not convert King Agrippa, it did not release Paul from responsibility for his soul (see Ezek. 3:17-19). King Agrippa faces judgment as one who heard, but rejected, the word of God’s grace. Paul faces judgment free from the blood of King Agrippa. But, what would Paul’s condition have been if he had said nothing? And, what is our condition when we say nothing to our family, friends, and work associates whom we see every day?
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 18, p. 558
September 20, 1990