Summary: In times of upheaval, when our Christian Faith is attacked by unbelievers and scoffers, mature Christians are fortunate to be free to share their testimony of the power of God unto salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.
IN TIMES LIKE THESE -- FORTUNATE ARE WE WHO ARE FREE TO SHARE OUR CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY
In this year of our Lord 2020, may our foresight as well as our hindsight be 20/20!
May hindsight of our encounter with Christ be as persuadable as was the Apostle Paul’s when he got his chance to stand before the “movers and shakers” of the first century to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ! What a scene it must have been! All those dignitaries in their ecclesiastical and political garb, accompanied by pomp and ceremony as they entered the hearing room - Paul a prisoner in chains, accompanied by Roman guards!
Paul was being held in a Roman jail in Caesarea - away from Jerusalem for his protection from angry Jews who were plotting to kill him. He had already been found innocent by Felix the Roman governor who nevertheless kept Paul in prison to protect his rights as a Roman citizen - so that his case could be tried before Caesar to whom Paul had filed an appeal.
In the meantime Felix was succeeded by Festus who likewise wanted no part of a Jewish scheme to get rid of Paul – so when King Agrippa II visited Caesarea to pay respects to the new governor, and expressed a desire to meet Paul and question him, Festus jumped at the chance to “pass the buck” to a higher authority who was well-versed in Judaism.
Festus arranged a gathering of celebrities so that they all could be in on the questioning of Paul by the king and thereby hopefully gain some evidence of wrong-doing by Paul so that it could be included in his official letter of referral to the Roman emperor who, by the way, would not look kindly on Festus if he sent him a prisoner without prosecutable evidence.
Festus, like his predecessor Felix, knew Paul was innocent! And he was shocked to learn that Paul had already appealed his case to Caesar – which meant that Festus would have to come up with evidence to forward to Caesar.
So befuddled was Festus by the unusual predicament he found himself in, he must have figured that if he gave Paul a chance to speak in his own defense before the king, Paul would surely “step in it” and “hang” himself. However . . .
What all those officials and curiosity seekers were about to hear from Paul would “blow their minds” . . . stagger Paul’s accusers . . . stand forever - not as one man’s defense of himself but - as the greatest defense ever of the Christian Faith.
The Gospel would be defended by the “Defender of Defenders” - heretofore known as the “Hebrew of Hebrews” and the “Pharisee of Pharisees”. There was none like him! Paul began his defense by paying a compliment to the king and then laying the foundation for his defense – Acts 26:2-5 . . .
In Paul’s mind the real issue was the gospel - whether the gospel would be considered a legitimate fulfillment of the hope of Israel as promised by the LORD through Moses and the prophets, or, be written off as a “fairy tale” propagated by some kind of crazy “cult” as was being charged by those who hated Christians.
Angry opponents of the gospel had already disowned Christianity in general and Paul’s preaching in particular – calling Paul’s message a “counterfeit Judaism” which, they argued, MUST by all means be stamped out.
Since Paul himself was a Jew addressing a Jewish-minded king, he chose to deal with the accusations against him by pointing to his own example - himself a Jew whose practice of Judaism occurred in Jerusalem as an outstanding member of the strictest of Jewish religious-political parties: The Pharisees.
Q: Have these folks forgotten that Saul had been hailed by them as a “national hero” when hunting down Christians and harming them was “kosher”? No, they hadn’t forgotten!
Dishonesty, bred by hatred of who Paul has become, kicked in - and they want no part of his new-found religion. They want him gone from sight and out of mind! Any charge will do! Just get rid of this Jewish convert to Christianity and his preaching of the gospel of Christ.
Paul asks Agrippa a question (26:8) that actually references the key issue - bone of contention - between Paul and those Jews that have turned against him: “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?”
Belief in the resurrection of the dead was a fundamental premise of Judaism, so why condemn Paul for believing in the resurrection of Jesus?
By asking Agrippa this brilliant question, Paul called out his accusers for their hypocrisy . . . double standard . . . lying about the issues. Surely this fair-minded king would see through the shame of their opposition to a man once considered “one of them” - but whose eyes had been opened to truth and whose life had been radically changed! Well . . .