Acts 26:2 “I think myself happy…”
Commentaries wrote at length that Paul wasn’t being flattering or complementary, but just stating the facts regarding Agrippa’s background. I don’t think he would have been untruthful in his statements, but I also think he was wise enough to grease the wheels when it was appropriate. He didn’t have to say anything about this at all. He could have just said thank you and started his defense.
3 “…you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews…”
Commentaries say Agrippa was Jewish, probably spent his early years in Rome, but would have been familiar with the Jewish law. One stated that the historian Josephus said Agrippa had the office of president of the temple and was responsible for the appointment of the High Priest. He obviously did have such knowledge as Paul makes reference to it.
4 “…all the Jews know”
Paul wasn’t raised in obscurity. He was raised in the middle of Jewish religious life. All the Jews he’s had problems with should know him and his background. I wonder if that information is one reason they have such a problem with him. Extreme jealousy or perhaps a sense of betrayal by one of their own.
6 “…the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers”
The ultimate promise God first made through Abraham, the promise of a savior for all mankind. Paul understands that Jesus is the complete fulfillment of that promise. This is it, the whole reason for their existence as a nation.
8 “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?”
If you believe in God, why would you think it impossible that He could raise the dead? Not to mention the fact that Jesus did indeed raise the dead several times during His ministry here. And the Jewish council knew about it. They even sought to kill Lazarus because he brought attention to Jesus.
10 “…when they were put to death…”
So Paul was partly responsible for people dying for the cause of Christ. I know he was part of the group, but I’ve wondered exactly what role he felt he played in the martyrdom of early Christians. Commentaries can’t agree whether Paul was actually ever a member of the Sanhedrin or other Jewish councils. There’s also the question of how the death sentences were carried out since only the Romans were supposed to have the power to execute. Consensus seems to be that the martyrdom of Stephen was due to a mob action and probably not legal. All the other instances of imprisonment and death would have involved orders by the Jewish council which were presented to the Roman governor for action. This would have been where Paul participated. He was carrying such letters to Damascus when Christ appeared to him.
11 “…compelled them to blaspheme…”
Tried to get them to deny Christ.
13-14 “…shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground…”
Often wondered about the particulars of this. So the light hit all of them and forced them all to the ground. All heard the noise of Christ speaking, but only Paul was able to discern the words. I wonder what ever happened to Paul’s companions on this trip. Did they become believers or did they pass off what happened as just a weird occurrence.
15-18 Very detailed version of what Christ said to Paul on the road. Some points are not mentioned anywhere else. One commentary I checked thought Paul may have been condensing things Christ said to him over several years into this one announcement. I don’t agree with that assessment. I think it more plausible that Paul is here relating all of the details of what Christ said to him which are relevant to his argument. The fact that other places in the scripture don’t have all the details simply shows that we are given what is needed at the time. Paul may not have related everything that happened that day to anyone, it being such a personal experience.
24 “…Festus said with a loud voice…”
I get the feeling Festus is feeling left out. He may feel he’s on the hot seat as he allowed this whole situation to go this far, not to mention that Paul has been addressing Agrippa and not him. Whether you believe what Paul has been saying on a philosophical level or not, he hasn’t been saying anything spectacular. Thus far it’s just a tale of a man who’s had a vision from his God who told him to go and do certain things. Festus seems to be overreacting.
28 “…You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
Much has been discussed regarding this statement by Agrippa. Commentaries don’t agree on what was meant. Some take it that Agrippa was sincere, that the arguments Paul made almost convinced him to become a Christian. Others take it that he was saying, you expect me to become a Christian on such few words of explanation. Most interpret what Paul says afterward by their view of what Agrippa said. My college Bible instructor had a different take on it, which I think the text supports, both what Paul says and what Agrippa says afterward. Agrippa is not being persuaded on the question of what Paul is saying, he has no intention of changing. His statement is one of reference to Paul’s presentation and enthusiasm. You’ve done such a good job explaining and with such boldness, you almost make me want to become a Christian.
29 “…I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”
Paul’s reply. If he truly thought that Agrippa was saying he was nearly or almost persuaded, I can hear him instantly asking what else Agrippa needs to be convinced. But he doesn’t say that. He refers to the situation of being or not being a Christian which is what Agrippa said. Yes, Agrippa, you are correct. I’m not just making a defense for myself, I’m presenting the message to get people to accept Christ, to actually respond to the Gospel.
31-32 “…This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains…This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
No further discussion about Paul’s message, no statements on wanting to hear him further, just comments on Paul’s legal standing based on his defense. This along with Paul’s reply tells me Agrippa was just listening to Paul and his defense. He wasn’t convicted or persuaded of anything in the message itself. He probably thought Paul was convinced of the truth of what he said, but that meant nothing to him. While I don’t adhere to the idea that Agrippa was in any way actually considering accepting Christ, it is still sad when anyone hears the Gospel and either has no interest or rejects it so easily.
I hope you enjoy reading and studying His word. May it accomplish what He desires. Please feel free to comment or post questions. Thanks for reading!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.