Standing for Christ (Acts 25:13-26:32)
Standing for Christ (Acts 25:13-26:32)
Pre-Trial Review (25:13-27)
When Festus hears of Paul’s “crimes” (vv. 17-19), he’s apparently surprised that the whole of the issue seems to be petty disagreements over religious matters. It was evident to him that the charge of treason was bogus, but he didn’t quite know how to handle it. So, he took advantage of Agrippa’s visit to pick his brain on the perplexing issue. From Paul’s perspective, he surely would have remembered the words of Jesus to His disciples, that their imprisonment would “lead to an opportunity for [their] testimony” (Luke 21:12-13). He also understood that he was not only speaking to Festus and Agrippa, but also that the words of his testimony that day would lay the groundwork of his trial with Caesar.
Paul’s Testimony Rehashed (26:1-23)
Paul’s address is made with respect and honor, recognizing Agrippa’s credentials and earning a hearing with him and the others. Not only is his argument made with respect, but it is also made by identifying with his hearers. He wisely sought to reach people through a point of commonality. He uses his own personal Jewish-ness to show that he was brought up in much the same way as them. In the same way, we see Jesus using different means of getting the attention of those with whom He speaks: with Nicodemus, He discussed theology; with the woman at the well, He discussed morals; with the rich young ruler, He discussed money. In each case, Jesus wisely meets them where they are in order to impact them. The content of Paul’s defense is simply that he is taking God at His word—believing the same God, the same Scriptures, and the same Prophets that the Jews claim to worship. Really, he was on trial for hope; he was expecting God to fulfill His promises! Hadn’t God promised to raise the dead? Paul was simply on trial for believing the Scriptures to be true! This same hope of the resurrection continues to be the heart of the Christian message.
Turning to his own personal history, Paul willingly and honestly admits that he once shared their errant view. He was once hostile towards Jesus and His people, seeking to lock them up and put them to death. He is honest and vulnerable about his past errors, which produced a personal warmth and removed unnecessary pretension. Not only does he talk about his past errant life, but he tells them about how God saved him and sent him out with the task of proclaiming the gospel. The most common way to share the gospel with someone is to tell them how God saved you. Paul also points out that being faithful to this call has cost him, since he has been persecuted and is now on trial for his obedience to the call to preach repentance and faith in Christ.
Pressed to Respond (26:24-32)
Festus had heard enough! He could not tolerate Paul’s insistence on calling the people to repent and to seek the living God. Despite Agrippa’s sarcastic response, Paul earnestly assures them that his hope is that all present would become Christians. He had preached the gospel of Christ to Agrippa, Bernice, and Festus, and now the courtroom fell silent. And the response?… Indifference—unfortunately, a response that is far too common for those who hear the gospel and yet fail to respond in faith and repentance.
- Paul earned a hearing by showing honor and respect to Agrippa. Are your gospel encounters marked by patience and respect, rather than a demeaning or threatening attitude? Consider the ways Jesus interacts with individuals in the Gospels. In what ways can you become more like Him in the way He speaks to lost individuals?
- Agrippa knew a lot of the facts about Christianity, and yet he refused to believe and repent. Are you responding to the facts you know about Christianity with genuine faith and repentance? In what areas of your life have you been negligent or outright unwilling to repent?