Summary: The Apostle Paul's defence before King Agrippa
My text this evening is Acts 26 and verse 28, King Agrippa’s reply to Paul where he says, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian?” Now these eight little words have to be the saddest ever to grace the pages of the Bible. It strikes at the very heart of the problem of men and women living in today’s world. However, to understand this verse properly, we have to consider it in its context, and examine the events that lead up to this man making such a terribly sad statement.
What was the situation? Well the Apostle Paul had been kept prisoner for over two years in Caesarea by the Roman Governor Felix. However, Felix was replaced by another Governor named Festus, and straight away, before he can settle in, the Jews are in to see him, demanding Paul be delivered to them. In chapter 25 and verse 2, we learn that Festus had just taken office when the Chief priests and elders came to complain about Paul. They hated Paul. Why? - Because Paul had been one of them! Now he was preaching the Gospel, which they hated! Although he had been out of the way for two years, such was their hatred of Paul that as soon as a new governor was on the scene, they were in stirring up trouble. They wanted Festus to bring Paul to Jerusalem in order that they could lay in wait, ambush and kill him. HOWEVER, THE NEW GOVERNOR REFUSES TO CONDEMN PAUL.
Now not long after this incident, a special induction ceremony was held for the new Governor to celebrate his coming into office at Caesarea.
The Jewish King Agrippa comes to visit with his sister Bernice. Therefore, they come to pay their respects to the new Governor. “And after certain days King Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.” This was a sort of diplomatic visit, as it were. Now, it is while they were visiting that Festus brings up this matter of his prisoner Paul, who he had inherited from this predecessor and whom the Jews desired to kill.
Agrippa is interested in this, and asked Festus if he could hear Paul for himself. Festus readily agreed and “on the following day, when Agrippa come, and his sister Bernice, there was great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and the principal men of the city.” This meeting was not going to be some sort of cosy, quiet little interview between Agrippa and Paul. No, this occasion had a degree of pomp and ceremony about it. Festus, Agrippa, Bernice and everybody who was anybody in Caesarea was there!
However tonight, I want to concentrate on just three people who were there within this great assembly, namely, Paul, Agrippa and Bernice. These are the central characters in all the events that will follow, so it is very important that we discover just who these three people were in order to try and understand why Agrippa was “Almost a persuaded.”
Paul, we know well, because he wrote over half of the New Testament. Voltaire, the French philosopher, described him as “That ugly little Jew.” Now it is said that Paul was not much to look at physically; neither was he strong or attractive. However, when Paul spoke, people listened! His speech was not the flowing speech of the great orators or the feeble sound bytes of modern day politicians. No, His words in Acts 26 are not spoken lightly, just for the sake of saying it. His words were the words of life, the good news, the Gospel, and they were spoken to save the soul of this man Agrippa.