King Agrippa, Bernice and Festus convene to hear Paul’s defense. Also present were “prominent men of the city” and the “military tribunes.” This was a packed house just waiting to hear what Paul had to say for himself.
King Agrippa allowed Paul to act as his own advocate. He considered Paul capable of mounting his own defense. Festus’ account of Paul’s behavior during his previous confrontation with the Jews had convinced him of this.
Paul was very pleased to be presenting his case before King Agrippa as this man knew ALL about the Jewish nation and its beliefs. King Agrippa was the grandson of Herod the Great and, although he wasn’t Jewish by blood, he ruled over the Jews as their king. Agrippa is not the Herod who heard Jesus’ case though; he is that Herod’s son.
Paul laid out his early life and his education for King Agrippa. He shares the he was educated and lived “according to the strictest part of our religion I lives as a Pharisee” (verse 5). Paul stresses that the only reason for being on trial now was because he actually BELIEVED the promises of God that the Pharisees accepted as truth.
This would be why he was able to split the Sanhedrin earlier. The Pharisees actually believe PART of what Paul is preaching. The belief that there is life after death. That there is a resurrection.
The Pharisees did agree with Paul on this point but they didn’t agree as to when and through Whom that resurrection would come. THAT was the dividing line. THAT was the heart of the debate.
Paul fully accepts that he too once held the same beliefs that those accusing him now hold. They didn’t accept that Jesus would be the one through Whom redemption and resurrection would come. He shares his own encounter with Jesus to explain his change of heart and mind.
There is one section in Paul’s testimony that I hadn’t heard in his previous retellings. That part is where he is haring that God will be “delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles” (verse 17). God had certainly delivered Paul MULTIPLE times from the hands of the Jews while he was on his missionary journeys. He was still in process of delivering him from the Jews who were accusing him now. He was also delivering him from the hands of the Gentiles at that moment. But through Paul’s testimony that day God was also offering everyone in this assembly deliverance from Satan.
Without Paul’s captivity these men would not have heard the message of freedom. Freedom from Satan. Freedom from sin. Freedom from everlasting punishment. If they would only listen and believe. I wonder how many accepted that offer of freedom.
For this calling from God, Paul was arrested in the temple and nearly killed by the Jews. They were still trying after more than two years later. Paul was faithful to carry out his mission no matter what the opposition.
“To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (verses 22-23).
This help and this hope were the ONLY reasons Paul could go on every day. Chains, freedom, hunger, or danger; none of it mattered as long as he was doing what God called him to do. Paul got to give one of the most prestigious “alter calls” that day because of his obedience. “I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains” (verse 29).
Father God, You stood with Paul through it all! Every day You encouraged him. He held onto Your promises and never gave up. Even when things looked bleak he trusted Your promises. I wonder what his thoughts were as he was being beaten by the Jews. Did he KNOW that he would be safe? Did he call out to You for help? Did he wonder if You were listening? Did he ever ask You to “wind Your watch” like I have done?
I know that not everything that happens in my life is a direct part of Your plan. I know that sometimes the bad stuff that happens is part of my own natural consequences. But watching Paul’s story also reminds me that nothing that happens in my life is out of Your control. You use the tough stuff as well as the easy things to bring me to where I need to be. Thank You for ALWAYS having my life firmly in Your hands; not matter how it looks to me. If it weren’t for Paul’s appeal to Caesar, King Agrippa would have set him free. But that wasn’t part of YOUR plan. So to Caesar he would go.