Summary: He explains why he was particularly pleased to be able to state his case to King Agrippa. Of all the high officials residing in the country, nobody knew better than the king the history, principals, and passions that motivated the Jewish people.
July 31, 2016
Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe
Lesson: IV.F.5: Paul Before Agrippa (Acts 26:1-32)
1 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
2 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:
With regard to both its form and its content we have here the high point of the speeches of Acts. It is the most polished of all the speeches, adorned with rare words and marked by an elaborate, even grandiose, style. The credit for this must go largely to Luke and yet Paul still makes himself heard. As for content—at Antioch we had his gospel for Jews (13:16-41), at Miletus his message for Christians (20:18-35), but here we have his Good News for all the world, proclaimed out of his own experience of God’s grace.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. As guest of honor, it fell to Agrippa to invite Paul to speak, and it was to him especially that Paul addressed his remarks (2, 13, 19, 27).
Having received Agrippa’s permission to speak, Paul acknowledged it with a hand salute, one that showed his respect and recognition of Agrippa’s rank. He gave the man his title, too—“king.” Paul was a great believer in respecting constituted authority and in rendering honor where honor was due (Romans 13:1-7). A man holding the position might be a scoundrel and his private life a scandal, but Paul acknowledged the office and recognized that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” Insolence toward those in authority, civil disobedience, and disrespect toward governing officials were as foreign to Paul as they are to the Bible.
3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
“Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews.” This is the third time Paul’s conversion experience is recorded in the book of Acts, which gives us some idea of the importance attached to it by the Holy Spirit. It is the second time Paul himself tells the story. His testimony is not as much from the heart as it is carefully reasoned. Paul begins by speaking of his countrymen (Jews), and then talks about his conversion, and finishes up with his cause. He was pleased to be able to state his case to such an imposing group, so he probably had spent lots of time in prayer and preparation.
He explains why he was particularly pleased to be able to state his case to King Agrippa. Of all the high officials residing in the country, nobody knew better than the king the history, principals, and passions that motivated the Jewish people. Paul described Agrippa as an expert on those matters. Of all government officials in the country, Agrippa could be expected to appreciate that Israel’s messianic hope had found its answer in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the message Paul preached (no matter how hostile entrenched official opposition might be) was no strange cultish aberration but the consummation of Israel’s noblest and most deeply imbedded ideals. Luke again emphasizes that Christianity is to be judged not as a new religion but as a particular community within Judaism (9:1-19; 18:13; 21:39; 23:6; 24:5, 14). Festus might not be able to understand that, but Agrippa could.
“Wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.” Paul did not promise to be brief. The occasion was too important for some hop, skip, and jump approach. The king and the court needed to know the deep issues involved in the gospel message that had caused such a stir among the Jews. Paul therefore pleaded for the king to be patient.
No doubt what we have here in acts 26 is Luke’s summary of Paul’s actual speech, which in all probability was considerably longer at the time it was given.
4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
Paul begins the third narration of his conversion with the words, “My manner of life from my youth.” Evidently the young Saul of Tarsus had made a name for himself in Jerusalem even as a youth, long before he had become famous in other ways. He had made his mark. In the first place, he had come from a well-two-do and influential family. As a disciple of Gamaliel he had attended the most prestigious rabbinical college in the world of his day, and there his natural talents, intellectual abilities, his courage, independence, force of character, and personal charm made their irrefutable mark. It would not take a person like Paul long to be taken note of as a young man of promise. Like his new-found Master and Lord, Saul of Tarsus as a youth, in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions (Luke 2:46), would doubtless cause all who heard him to be astonished at his understanding and answers.