Acts – Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 24
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|We saw last time that Agrippa wants to hear from Paul. He is going to get his chance. Paul is going to have an opportunity to share his witness before King Herod Agrippa II.|
Ephesians 1:1; Acts 25:23-26:32
Paul: The Messenger – Part 12
Turn with me to Acts 26. We saw last time that Agrippa wants to hear from Paul. He is going to get his chance. Paul is going to have an opportunity to share his witness before King Herod Agrippa II. Let’s go back to 25:23 and try to catch the flow of what’s happening here. “And so, on the next day when Agrippa had come together with Bernice [that’s his sister, by the way] amid great pomp, and had entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.”
Now this is a big deal. King Agrippa II is an important man. Festus is the governor of that area. King Agrippa I was the King of all Judea. The Romans changed that, so they had governors from that point on. Felix was the first governor, then Festus was next. King Agrippa II was ruler over most of Palestine. So this was a great big deal with a lot of pomp and circumstance.
It is in the midst of all this that Paul is brought in. Verse 24 reads, “And Festus said, ‘King Agrippa and all you gentlemen here present with us, you behold this man about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me, both at Jerusalem and here, loudly declaring that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death; and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. Yet I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord.’” In other words, he had nothing to send along with him as accusations. “Therefore I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write. For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him.”
Now we’ve got a real funny scenario going on here. Nobody has been able to charge Paul. Paul’s been in jail for two years. That was against Roman law to begin with. You can’t hold a Roman citizen who has not even been accused and tried properly. He’s been beaten. He’s been accused by the Jews. They don’t know what they are doing. So we’ve got a real chaotic situation. King Agrippa has come to hear what Paul has to say.
We saw last time how God uses persecution, especially when it turns into prosecution. In this study we want to glean something from what Paul says before Agrippa. We are going to change the whole direction. Paul is going to give his defense now before this great King of all of Palestine. Remember Ephesians 1:1. That’s the verse we started all this on: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Because he’s an apostle, because it’s all by the will of God, Paul has been beaten, falsely accused, imprisoned, chained and is now standing in a Roman court between two of the highest officials of all of Judea: Festus, the governor of Judea and King Agrippa.
There may be times in your life and in my life when we are told to defend ourselves. Most of the time we should live letting God defend us for Himself. In other words, we should live a surrendered life and let God take care of the results. However, there are probably going to be times in our life when we are called on to defend ourselves. You cannot make a formula out of the book of Acts. It is a narrative about Paul’s life, but you can bring principles out of it. It is something to put inside the mind to remember in case you are ever called on. We can learn some things from Paul: how he handled himself; how he handled his own defense; and what God did as a result of it.
There are about five things I want to show you in this passage. First of all, he waits until he is asked to speak. Look at verse 1 of chapter 26. “And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You are permitted to speak for yourself.’” Those are the words Paul had wanted to hear for two years. He has been visiting with Felix, but has not had an opportunity since the court trial before Felix two years ago to even defend himself. He was patient enough to wait until he was asked to defend himself. One of the ways you can always tell when someone is guilty is they are always going around defending themselves. Any of you who have children know that. They will walk in, and you can just look at them, and they say, “I didn’t do anything.” You know immediately that something is wrong. They are already defending themselves.
But Paul had no axe to grind. As a matter of fact, Paul lived with a clear conscience. Look back in 24:16. He says this to Felix. “‘In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.’” When you live that way, you don’t have to defend yourself. If there is no guilt, why worry about it. It says in Proverbs 28:1, “The wicked flees when no one is pursuing.” You find that is not the case with Paul. Paul is a man who has waited patiently. Now he has been asked to defend himself, so he takes that opportunity. He is not a man who runs around trying to defend himself before others. He knew he was innocent before God and before men, therefore, he did not have to rush to defend himself.
Let me just share this one more time because it comes up over and over in Paul’s life. If you live daily surrendered to Christ, transparent, that’s another thing that shows you are filled with the Spirit of God. When you are transparent, you have nothing to hide. People know your faults. People know your strengths. People know that when they see something good in you, it is not coming from you. It is coming from the Lord Jesus Christ who empowers you. You walk with your sins confessed up to date.
Miss Bertha Smith was part of the Shantung Revival. This precious lady was one of those people who was constantly dealing with sin and the blackness of what sin is and of the consequences of sin. One time I said to her, “Miss Bertha, some people in the church don’t act like Christians. I’m not going to judge them. I’m not sure they are Christians or not, but they sure don’t act like it.” She said, “Young man, do you know what it means to judge someone?” I had learned being around Miss Bertha that you don’t ever agree with her. You say, “No, ma’am. I don’t know.” Let her tell you. That’s what she is going to do anyway. I said, “No, ma’am. What does it mean to judge someone?” She said, “When you judge someone, you seek to expose them. That’s the motive of your heart. When you discern something, you want reconciliation. The only difference is your motive.”
Many people have discerned something about someone else, and they love to tell it so they can expose them. They have judged that individual. Others have recognized the same thing, but for the purpose of reconciliation, have come before the Lord and abandoned themselves in prayer that God might bring reconciliation in that person’s life. There is a big difference.
There was one thing she would always ask me when we would go into church. “Young man, are your sins confessed up to date?” The Lord let her live for 100 years, and she would always ask you, “Have you got your sins confessed up to date?” When you live that way, you don’t have to defend anything. Someone can walk up to me and say, “I don’t like this about you.” I love what my friend Bill says: “Friend, you’re doing good if that’s all you don’t like about me. If you’ve got about an hour, I’ll tell you a whole bunch of other things you probably won’t like about me, but I’m also going to tell you what you might like about the Christ who lives in me.” That’s the way it goes. You don’t have to defend yourself.
Paul was very patient, and he waited until he was asked to defend himself. He had no axe to grind. He had no guilt. He had a clear conscience before God. He didn’t run around as if he had to defend himself.
Secondly he shows his respect for authority. We find this in verses 2 and 3. This follows a pattern in Paul. We have already seen this with Felix back in chapter 24 when he appeared before him, but notice what he does here. “In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.” If you are not careful, that looks like he is trying to flatter King Agrippa. Go back to 24:10 and notice what he said to Felix during his trial two years before. It says “And when the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.’” Now, in both situations that had nothing to do with flattery. In Felix’s situation, he was just glad to be before someone who was in authority, someone who had a legal position so that he could give his testimony. The word “cheerfully” means “non-threatening.” In other words, he shared it with no guilt at all. He shared exactly what had taken place.
With King Agrippa, it’s even more imperative that we understand what Paul is saying. Agrippa, remember, was a proselyte Jew. He knew the customs of the Jews, and he believed in God. He believed the Old Testament. He understood Moses. He understood the prophets. So, therefore, for the first time, Paul is before someone who can fully understand what’s going on. It’s the first time he can weave in his testimony and have it come across the right way. So Paul is just tickled to death. He says, “I am glad that you are an expert.” The word “expert” is the word gnostes. It comes from ginosko, which means “to know by learning or experience.” It refers to one who knows because of experience. Agrippa had experienced everything in the Jewish faith. He knew everything that Paul would bring up. He was the perfect man to be before, so Paul simply says, “I am tickled to death. I am happy to be before you, Agrippa, because you understand what is going on.”
Remember in Romans 13, which we looked at earlier, shows us that Paul really respects positions of authority. Right now the primary issue is not that Agrippa knows Christ. That will be the issue before he finishes, but the primary issue to Paul right now is that Agrippa, above all of them, understand what is going on in his life. He can make the right kind of defense.
I don’t know about you, but when I get on an airplane, the primary burden in my heart is not that the pilot know Christ. The primary burden in my heart is that the pilot knows how to fly the plane. Before we land I may have the burden to share Christ with him, but when I get on the plane, my first concern is, “Does he know how to fly this thing?” I mean, it won’t fly any other way. That is kind of what Paul is saying here. “Agrippa, I’ve got some things to share with you, but my burden right now is to tell you, I am glad you know what you are doing because I need someone like you to share my defense before.”
The third thing Paul does is going to take us a little longer to show, but I want you to see this because it is so woven into this thing. It is ingenious what happens here. So often we read these verses and say, “Let’s go on to chapter 27,” and we miss the skillful weaving of God in something that is going on in Scripture. God really gets hold of Paul right here. The third thing He does is, He helps him very skillfully get right to the point. If ever you have to defend yourself, don’t dabble around. Get right to the point and the heart of the matter. I’m sure Agrippa appreciated that, and I know that Paul enjoyed doing it. It was the Holy Spirit of God who led him to do this.
Look at verse 4: “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem.” What is he saying? He is saying, “Listen, these people who are bringing accusations against me, they are no strangers. They know me. It’s not like I am someone from some other country. I grew up in Jerusalem. I grew up among them. They know me.”
What did they know about Paul that he wanted Agrippa to understand? Verse 5 tells us: “since they have known about me for a long time previously, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.’” This is very, very important. You think Paul is just giving a defense that means nothing. Oh, no. It is very ingenious. The Holy Spirit of God is leading him. He wants Agrippa to understand that he is a Pharisee. Why? There were two sects in the Sanhedrin. There were the Sadducees, and there were the Pharisees. The Pharisees was the group that was the most prevalent and in the majority. When Martha was asked by Jesus, “Martha, don’t you believe I am the resurrection?” Martha says, “Oh, I know that there’s going to be a resurrection someday.” She had been taught by the Pharisees, because the Pharisees believed in the hope of the resurrection of the dead. Now he was going somewhere with this that was very ingenious. You cannot sit down and plan this out. This is the Holy Spirit of God giving him the direction as he shares. He is getting right to the heart, right to the point of the matter.
He knows Agrippa understands the Pharisees. He knows Agrippa understands what all this represents. He knows that Agrippa would know that Paul believed in the hope of the resurrection. He was a Pharisee. Look at verses 6 and 7. He builds off of that. Once he has introduced the fact that he is a Pharisee, and that everybody knew that about him, nobody could say differently.
In verse 6 it says, “And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews.’” Now notice what he is saying here. He is saying, “This whole thing is absurd. And, Agrippa, for the first time, I have a chance to speak before someone who understands this. You know what is going on. I lived as a Pharisee. I believed as a Pharisee. Now I am being tried because of the hope I hold to as a Pharisee. I am being tried by Pharisees.”
Did you catch all that? Paul is saying, “It’s absurd. The Jews are trying me for something they themselves believe. They believe in the coming Christ. They just don’t believe it is the same one I believe has already come. They also believe in the hope of the resurrection of the dead. Don’t you see, Agrippa, how absurd this trial really is?” He is referring to the belief of the Pharisees.
Go back to 24:15. Make sure you understand what I am talking about here. There was something unique about the Pharisees that the Sadducees did not have. They held to the belief in the hope of the resurrection: “having hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and of the wicked.” Now if there is going to be a resurrection, there are going to be rewards. The Jews believed in that. The Pharisee believed in that. Why is that important?
Let me ask you a question. First of all, who accused him of believing in the hope of the resurrection? So far they’ve accused him of preaching against the Law, preaching against the Temple, and preaching against their own race. Nobody has said in my Bible—unless you’ve got a different translation—“Oh, King Agrippa or Festus or Felix, Paul has been preaching the hope of the resurrection, and we want to bring him to trial.” Nobody has said that. Paul said this. Paul said, “I am being tried for the hope of the resurrection.” What is he doing? Is he sneaking up on the blind side? No, it’s the Holy Spirit of God giving him wisdom. Here is the key. Paul is about ready to network his testimony. He is laying the groundwork for it very beautifully. He is saying, “Technically we all agree on the same thing. Agrippa, you understand the hope of the resurrection. You understand the Pharisees. You understand where I come from. You know that I’ve always believed this way. Listen, Agrippa, I have met Jesus, and He is the hope of the resurrection.” That’s what he is trying to get to. He just hasn’t gotten there yet. He has to build layer upon layer to get to his point.
Agrippa would have paid no attention to him had he not brought up the fact that he was a Pharisee. He would have paid no attention to him if he hadn’t brought up the hope of the resurrection. He’s going somewhere with that. Every Jew believed that one day there would be a resurrection of the righteous and of the wicked. However, the Jews had rejected Christ, and by rejecting Christ, they now have no hope of the resurrection. He hasn’t gotten to that yet, but that’s where he is headed. It’s beautiful. The Holy Spirit gives him the wisdom to get right to the heart of the matter.
Why was he drug out of the temple over in Jerusalem? It wasn’t because he had preached against the Law or the temple, but because he had preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and because he had preached it not only to the Jew, but also to Gentiles. That was the bottom line. That’s the whole thing. They brought up all these false charges because of that.
Paul is trying to get to the heart of the whole thing. “Agrippa, listen to me. Don’t pay attention to what they are saying. Here is the bottom line. They are accusing me of believing in the hope of the resurrection. Pharisees are accusing me, a Pharisee, for believing in the very thing all of us believe.” It is an absurd trial. He is trying to show him that. Technically, they all agree on the same thing.
You see, embodied in Christ Jesus is the hope of the resurrection. There is no resurrection, in a righteous sense, of those who believe in God until they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they can be resurrected in the right way. Now there is a resurrection of the wicked. That doesn’t depend of whether you believe or don’t believe. But the Jews are looking forward to the hope of the resurrection. There is no hope in that resurrection until you have met the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, there must have been a crowd of pagans there in 26:8, because Paul turns and asks them a question. He says, “Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?” He stops for a moment and says, “Wait a minute. What’s this whole problem about being raised from the dead anyway?” This set up the foundation to give his testimony. Hopefully I didn’t lose you in that. He gets right to the point. The heart of the matter is his preaching the gospel and preaching it to the Gentiles. We know that all the way back to chapter 21, but the Jews have not admitted that. They have falsely accused him of everything else. Paul is trying to get to that, but with Agrippa Paul is trying to bring up the things that Agrippa understands. Agrippa would understand the resurrection of the dead. Agrippa would understand the Pharisees believe that. He would understand where Paul is coming from. Paul is about to explain himself.
This is the fourth thing. He begins to weave in his testimony. Have you ever been somewhere and someone asked you to defend your faith? Look at 1 Peter 3:15 for a second. I want to make sure that we are all ready at all times. This is the way we are supposed to be all the time: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and with reverence.” We are told that we are always to be ready. Because of that, we had better be surrendered, because it’s only the Holy Spirit who will give you the avenue in which to build a foundation. He will use the knowledge of the person you are talking to so you can present the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s got Agrippa, not Festus, not Felix. He’s got a man who understands everything Paul is talking about.
So Paul, carefully and skillfully, led of the Spirit, lays a foundation on the hope of the resurrection. Now he can weave in the testimony of what took place in his life about the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at 26:9: “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” There was a time in Paul’s life when he was just like his accusers. Paul brings this out. In other words, “Agrippa, I understand what they are doing. I’m not mad at them. I used to be just like them.”
Then in verse 10 he begins to list what he used to do. “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death, I cast my vote against them.” We know for a fact through the book of Acts that Paul stood there when Stephen was stoned to death. He approved of it. He is saying, “Agrippa, I used to be this way. I understand where they are coming from. I believe like you believe. I believe like the Pharisees believe. Something happened to me.”
Look at verse 11: “And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.” Paul is trying to tell Agrippa, “Agrippa, please understand where I am coming from.” Then he goes on and says in verse 12, “While thus engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun.” The Greek term there literally means “supernaturally brighter than the sun.” It was noon time. It was the time of day when the sun was the hottest and highest. Paul said, “I saw a light that was far beyond the light of the sun,” verse 13 continues, “shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.”
Can’t you see Paul? He is trying to get Agrippa into the context of this thing. “Agrippa, I used to be like you. I didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ. I didn’t believe He had resurrected from the dead. I used to go out and persecute people who believed that. I was just like my accusers. I was a Pharisee, very zealous of the law. But, O Agrippa, what are you going to do with me? One day I met the One who I said had never resurrected.”
Look at verse 14. “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’” Paul probably said to himself, “I thought I was persecuting the saints.” Hey, folks. Any time you mess with God’s people, you’d better look out, because you are messing with God Himself. You don’t mess with God’s people. God said, “Why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” That is a beautiful phrase. It has the idea of kicking something, and it hurting you. You kick it again, and it digs in deeper. You just keep on kicking against the very thing that is tearing your heel up. In other words, “Paul, you are fighting against the wrong thing. Everything you are doing is working against you, not for you.”
Verse 15 reads, “And I said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.’” You’ve got to get into this. Paul was saying, “I am a Pharisee. I believe in the hope of the resurrection. I have never seen anyone resurrected, but I believe in the hope of the resurrection. Who is this Jesus? I don’t know, but He is causing us trouble. I’ll go out and persecute these people who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And he did, and he did, and he did. Now he is going to a foreign city to do the same thing. The One Paul said couldn’t be the Christ, because he didn’t believe He had resurrected, meets him on the road and introduces Himself to him. Now I don’t know about you, but that might change my mind just a little bit.
You see, the whole thing is building brick by brick here. It says in verse 16, “But arise [Jesus is speaking here] and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you.’” There he goes again. He is saying, “I’ve got a ministry to the Gentiles He gave me. I didn’t go get it. He gave it to me: “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”
Now, I want you to look at verses 19-21. This, to me, is really important. Look at what he says to Agrippa. “Now, Agrippa, this is what happened. I was a Pharisee. Agrippa, I am just being honest with you. I’m being transparent with you. I believe in the hope of the resurrection, but now I believe in the embodiment of the One who brings that hope of the resurrection. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Consequently, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death.”
You know what I think he is saying here? “King Agrippa, is this what I am on trial for? Are you putting me on trial because I was out doing what I thought was right? The resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, in whom I now believe, stopped me in my tracks, turned me around and gave me a ministry to the Gentiles. He gave me a ministry of a new covenant, a covenant that is not even known by the Jews. It’s not from the Old Testament. It’s a brand new covenant built on better promises. Is this what I am on trial for? Can you condemn a man for that?” He gets right down, folks, to where it is.
Whenever you are called to defend yourself, if you are surrendered to God, you don’t have an agenda to defend. Basically all you have to do is tell people why you are what you are. If they want to condemn you for your walk with God, if they want to condemn you for meeting Christ and surrendering to Him, that’s their problem. Paul is just simply saying, “This is why I am what I am. I didn’t plan it. God just did this in my life.”
I want to try and make an application here if you can hang with me for a second. So often we feel like we have got to defend everything we do. Do you ever live that way? You feel like you’ve got to please someone. You’ve got to say it just right. I think God is finally bringing me into a freedom in my walk to where I can say to you and anyone who asks me, “I am what I am by the grace of God. I met Him and He changed my heart. This is where I am, being renewed in my mind. This is what I believe. This is why I believe it. Condemn me if you please, but I don’t think that’s worthy of condemnation. This is just what God is doing in my life.” That’s all you’ve got to say. A man with no agenda has nothing else to add to it.
Paul says, “I met Him. He changed me. He put me on the road. Agrippa, that’s about all I know. Are you going to condemn me for that? You know why I’ve got the ministry to the Gentiles. He told me to go to the Gentiles. Do you think I don’t believe in the hope of the resurrection anymore? I believe in the One who is the hope of the resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ. King Agrippa, this is the bottom line, isn’t it? Isn’t it, King Agrippa? You don’t believe Christ is the Messiah. You don’t believe He came, died on the cross and was resurrected. Your whole religion won’t allow you to believe in the suffering Savior. Yet all of your scriptures teach you that is exactly what He is going to do. Agrippa, if you want to condemn me, condemn me. I am here only because God stopped me in my tracks, changed me and redirected my life.”
If you had to go on defense tomorrow, what would you defend? What you would have to add to the baggage you bring along with you? Can you just simply say, “I am what I am by the grace of God”? You don’t know how many times I have been called on to defend myself in the area of being a pastor. So many folks think I am the weirdest person to ever hit the pastorate. I am serious. I know that is probably right. I have had people come to me and ask, “Why don’t you visit? Why don’t you go to the hospitals? Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that?” I have to say, “I am what I am by the grace of God. He knew long before you knew how odd and how weird I am. I have nothing to defend if my heart is clear and my conscience is right before God and before man. I can’t stop now and start trying to appease everybody who disagrees. I’ve got to be what God has called me to be.”
“King Agrippa, don’t you understand? The reason I am what I am is because of something He did in my life.” What are you defending in your life? Are some of you going through life and wondering why you are not as ministerially gifted as somebody else? You try to have a ministry so you will be like everybody else. Do you know what is going to happen? It will go right down the tubes. Finally one day, you just have to come to the place where you say, “God, if you had wanted me to do that, you would have gifted me to do it. God, if you had wanted me to be out there, you would have gifted me to be out there. God, I am going to stop comparing myself to everyone else. Here is what my testimony to the world from this day on: I am what I am by the grace of God. If God wants something different, He is going to have to tell me, but right now, I’m just going to learn to enjoy Him.”
That’s all Paul is saying. Paul is trying to tell Agrippa that he has no agenda. God stopped him. God arrested him. He is ministering to the Gentiles because God said, “You go minister to the Gentiles.” That’s the only defense he has. What other defense is there, folks? What other defense is there? Are you all with me on that? I’m telling you, every church I go to, I’m finding people in such bondage, it saddens me. They are not like somebody else. They can’t just simply go back and, like Paul, get right to the point. Paul said, “This is what God did. This is what I am, and that’s all I’ve got to say. I’m not mad at you. I’m not mad at them. I’m just who I am, minding my own business and trying to do what God tells me to do.” When you learn to live that way, you are going to be freer than you’ve been in a long, long time. If you start trying to please men, you are going to end up in a mental ward somewhere. I mean, it’s not going to last long. Learn to be what God has caused you and called you to be. Stop trying to be somebody else.
Paul got right to the point. He didn’t reiterate chapter 9. He didn’t reiterate chapter 22. He brought in some other things. He is basically saying to Agrippa, “Are you going to condemn me for what I’ve done? Are you going to try me for being a person who has experienced God?”
Well, he has waited to speak. He has shown respect for authority. He has gotten right to the point, and now he has woven in his testimony. It wasn’t somebody else’s. It was his testimony, which gives him a platform to say, “This is why I do what I do, and this is really the basis of all the accusations. This is where they are coming from.”
There is one more thing. He does something that is really appealing to Agrippa, because Agrippa knows the Old Testament. He backs up everything he said about the suffering Savior and the hope of the resurrection with Old Testament scriptures. Look in verse 22: “And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place.” Can you believe this? They didn’t have the New Testament. He couldn’t turn to the epistles because he wrote them. He is going back to the Old Testament, and he lets Agrippa know. “Agrippa, I have not said one single thing to you that every scripture you believe in the Old Testament already has said.
Verse 23 continues, “that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” In other words, Paul was saying, “Listen, you have skipped the parts of the scriptures that would have told you this.” You see, by virtue of what they believed, not what was taught by scripture, but what was taught by the tradition of men, when Christ came, the true Messiah came, He would set up His kingdom on this earth. Suffer? Are you kidding? He was coming to rule and coming to reign. Now we believe He will also do that. They somehow conveniently overlooked Isaiah and some of the prophets who talked about when He comes, He will be afflicted for our transgressions. He is the one who will suffer for our transgressions.
Do you remember resurrection morning in Luke 11? Two disciples were on their way to Emmaus. They were discouraged, and the Lord Jesus just sort of skirts up beside them. “How’s it going, boys?” “Not too good. You new around here?” “Well, not really.” “Haven’t you heard what’s going on this weekend?” “Ah, tell me.” “Haven’t you heard, they put Christ on the cross and crucified Him?” “Well, kind of.” He didn’t really say that, but I was thinking, you know they didn’t realize who they are talking to. Yeah, He kind of knows what’s going on. He has been through it. He goes along with them, and finally He says, “Oh, foolish men. You are slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have said.” He said “ALL” that the prophets have said.
Paul is telling them, “You’ve picked and chosen and picked and chosen. You have overlooked what the Old Testament has laid out, that Jesus, when He came died for our transgressions, He resurrected, and one day He will return to establish His kingdom on this earth. Agrippa, are you going to condemn me for what your own Bible says? Are you going to condemn me for what the Old Testament says? The prophets agree with me. Moses agrees with me. Agrippa, I had an experience, and you are going to have to deal with it. Whatever you do it’s fine with me, but this is my defense. I was a Pharisee. I believed in the hope of the resurrection. But I met the One who is the hope of the resurrection, and, Agrippa, I’ve never been the same. Keep me in jail for two more years, I’ll tell you the same thing. Make up your mind. What are you guys going to do with me?”
In verse 24 Festus had to step in. He can’t handle it. He’s just a Roman. He doesn’t understand what Agrippa does. “And while Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.’” He can’t handle it, but neither can the Jews who are there. Can people handle your testimony when all you do is say, “This is what God has done. I don’t have anything else to say. I can back up everything I say by what God’s Word has to say. Are you going to condemn me for this? Are you going to put me on trial for this?” To me, that’s the bottom line.
I love how the Holy Spirit helped him to wait to speak, to respect the authority he speaks to, and then he doesn’t waste any time. Boom! He gets right to the point. Immediately he builds a platform, and then immediately he weaves in his testimony and draws that bottom line. “The prophets agree with me. Moses agrees with me. Now, Agrippa, what are you going to do with what I am doing?”
Do you know what Agrippa says to him? Look at verse 28: “And Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’” I love it! He sat there and couldn’t see a thing wrong with him. Look at verse 32: “And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’” Agrippa was saying, “He hasn’t done anything wrong.” That’s exactly what Paul wanted to hear. He wanted it said in public so that everyone would know that if something happened to Paul, it was not because he had done something wrong. It is because in his life he had done everything that was right. Now Paul could say, “If I die, I die.” That’s no problem, as long as people know it was because I obeyed his Lord.
Live that way, folks. Live that way so no one can accuse you. The word “blameless” is a key word here. Don’t live so people can suspect and suspicion things in your life. Live sold out to God. Then when you are put on the line for your defense, all you have is Him. That’s enough or anybody. If they condemn you, they condemn you.
If you condemn me, that’s fine. That’s your problem. As long as I know my conscience is clear with God, I know it’s got to be clear with men. What happens as a result of that doesn’t bother me a bit. Paul says in Philippians, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Do you know what’s wrong with people in America? People in America have too much to defend because they have other agendas that are not His. When we are called on the line, there is so much garbage and baggage to deal with people have reason to suspicion and mistrust us. Just be transparent. Bail out and do what God says. God will cover the rest.