Lesson 50: Paul Before King Agrippa
Acts, Lesson #50. Paul had appealed to Caesar and was ready to go to Rome - just waiting on arrangements. Let's read v.13-21. Get your eyes on the print! "And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix: about whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elder of the Jews, informed me, desiring to have judgment against him. To whom I answered, it is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him. Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded die man to be brought forth. Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters. But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar." O.K., Agrippa was the king of Galilee. He wanted to get acquainted, party a little and talk some business. Bernice was apparently Agrippa's sister not his wife. Bernice was a young widow and a sister to Drusilla, the young girl who was living with Felix, the former governor (Acts 24). Both girls were known for their beauty. This Agrippa was the great grandson of Herod the Great, who killed the babies in Bethlehem of Judea (Matt.2). Agrippa had some Jewish blood, also. Acts 24:24 said his sister Drusilla was a Jewess. Agrippa grew up at the very time Christianity had come into being. One of his uncles had John the Baptist's head cut off. Another Herod was in power in Galilee when Jesus was crucified. Pilate, the governor of Judea, sent Jesus to that Herod (Luke 23) who was in Jerusalem at that time. But when Jesus would not answer him, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. So, Festus' guest, Agrippa, knew a lot about Jewish-Christian relations. It was his father that had the apostle James beheaded (Acts 12). As a matter of fact, Agrippa's family-tree was heavily stained with the blood of Christians. Festus, on the other hand, was an import and knew practically nothing about Jewish-Christian relations. He had somewhat of a dilemma on his hands for he did not know what to write to Nero about Paul's case.
Let's read v.22. "Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. Tomorrow, said he, thou shalt hear him." Now, this was not an official, formal trial because Paul had already appealed to Caesar. Therefore, Paul's accusers would not be there. The hearing was scheduled for information purposes. Festus was totally ignorant of the customs and questions of the Jews. Agrippa must have laughed up his sleeve just a little at the governor's ignorance, because, Agrippa had cut his teeth on these customs and questions. That word "Augustus" (v.21) hi the KJV is simply another title for the Emperor - like the word "Caesar." So, the Augustus was Nero.
Now, v.23-27 sets the state for Paul's appearance before the two governors. Let's read v.23. "And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus' command Paul was brought forth." Get the picture? Now, get the audience firmly in mind. Don't overlook those words, "with great pomp." The place took on a real ceremonial flavor. Then the visiting royalty, Agrippa and the beauty Bernice, must have been escorted into that "place of hearing" as it's called. Bernice must have been wearing the latest of fashions. Agrippa was given a special seat. The chief captains were military men. Also, some were principal men of the city of Caesarea. And don't forget Festus with his fancy robe and that big royal seat. Quite an assembly! When everyone was seated, Festus told the guards to bring Paul. And, can you imagine those guards coming down to Paul's dark dingy prison cell and saying: "The governor wants you upstairs." Paul's first thought must have been: Rome her I come! But then he was escorted, chains and all, down hi front of this assembly. He must have magnetically attracted every eyeball in that room.
Then Festus, stood up or tapped his little gavel. Let's read what he said (v.24-27). "And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O King Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him" With these words, apparently Festus sat down, which indicated Agrippa may now begin his questions.
Let's read v.l of Acts 26. "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:" O.K. , Agrippa more or less permitted Paul to say whatever was on his heart. And you know what that would probably be. Agrippa made no requirements; I suppose thinking he might steer Paul's direction as the need arose. Paul began to speak in v.2 and he continues down through v.29. The longest sermon Paul ever preached, recorded in the N.T. And, that's what it was - a sermon. He was instant in season and out of season. He set out, then and there, to convert King Agrippa. he just ignored Festus. Paul knew Agrippa had a little background to build on, so Paul very skillfully, began to make his solicitation.
I'm going to read the entire chapter hi one block. Lef s do it together. You read as I read. Are you ready? V.2, Paul speaking: "I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the dungs whereof I am accused of die Jews: especially because I know dice to be expert in all customs and questions which are among die Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, which was at die first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all die Jews: which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of die promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of die Jews. Why should it be diought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise die dead? I verily diought with myself, that I ought to do many tilings contrary to die name of Jesus of Nazaredi. Which dung I also did in Jerusalem: and many of die saints did I shut up hi prison, having received authority from die chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished diem oft hi every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against diem, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from die chief priests, at midday, O long, I say hi the way a light from heaven, above die brightness of die sun, shining round about me and diem which journeyed whh me. And when we were all fallen to die earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying hi die Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest uiou me? It is hard for dice to kick against die pricks. And I said, Who are thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon uiey feet: for I have appeared unto thee for diis purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in die which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from die people, and from die Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from die power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among diem which are sanctified by faith that is hi me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto die heavenly vision: but showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all die coasts of Judea, and then to die Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For diese causes die Jews caught me hi the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto diis day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which die prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and dial he should be die first that should rise from die dead, and should show light unto die people, and to die Gentiles. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make dice mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness, for the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely, for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: and when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar." Now, you may want to re-read that a time or two. This very well might be the greatest speech Paul ever made. We don't have much to compare it to, of course. He preached much longer sermons - at Troas til midnight. He disputed two whole years in the school of Tyrannus at Ephesus. But, considering the circumstances, from a jail cell to the pomp of royalty within a few minutes. Yet, he took that young king around the bases in about five or six minutes. If Paul would have had a half-day with Agrippa, he surely would have baptized the man and had him preaching his first sermon. But Agrippa got away real quickly. Thafs Satan's most effective tool. There's no way that Word can germinate until it gets into your heart. It's quick, sharper than any two-edged sword. It's powerful. It doesn't take a very big seed but it takes a lot of soil. Your heart is spiritual soil. And, there's a lot of fertile soil in this old world. Most of it, just growing up in weeds. Agrippa began to see that seed would germinate and grow even in his heart. But, he was afraid! He was afraid it would compete with those riches and pleasures of this life. And, he knew, if he wasn't planted he wouldn't grow. So, he snipped it in the bud right there, he got that soil and seed separated real quickly. Jesus said: "I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go ye cannot come" (John 8:21). Jesus made it clear. If you do not take up that life, you will die in your sins, and you will not go where he is. It's just that simple. Agrippa rejected the message.
O.K., let's redo Paul's sermon! Get your eyes on it. V.2-3,1 would call the introduction, the attention getter. King Agrippa, I'm just happy you are letting me answer for myself. I'll tell you everything those Jews have accused me of doing. I feel like I'm talking to an expert, you'll understand. So listen real close. That's the way I would paraphrase v.2-3. Now, can you see in a left-handed sort of way, Paul implied to Agrippa: You, king Agrippa have enough intelligence to understand this. Governor Festus here is kind of dense, he doesn't understand. Paul was a master at identifying with his audience. V.4-5 are one sentence. Agrippa, those people who accuse me, have known me all my life, as a kid at Jerusalem and then many years as a devout Pharisee. If they were here, they couldn't honestly impugn my religious conduct. Perhaps Paul knew Agrippa leaned (at least) toward the sect of the Pharisees. So in essence, Paul was saying: Agrippa, you and I are in this thing together! V.6-8 (I'm paraphrasing), Agrippa, you know how loyal and how righteous our ancestors were! Because of the very promise God made to our ancestors, I am delivered here to this judgment seat Agrippa, why I'm sure you believe, God can raise the dead. There's nothing incredible about that. O.K., can you see, Paul closed the gap just a little more? In v.6 he referred to "the promise God made to our fathers." Paul that's terrible, if they are trying to put you to death for obeying God's instruction. And, then in the back of mind, Agrippa must have thought, now is this really on the level? Then skillfully Paul began to lay any doubts to rest. Paul admitted (v.9) at one time he didn't believe in Jesus of Nazareth either. He fought that doctrine. In V.10-11, Paul describes the extremes he went to, in order to destroy those who embraced the Christian religion. Can't you just see the question developing in Agrippa's mind: Well why did you change Paul? You see Paul went just far enough to develop that question in a very natural way. Then Paul proceeded to answer that very question in v.12-18. Paul told Agrippa about his conversion on the road to Damascus. The miraculous part about the bright light and then the voice, and what Christ's instruction was to Paul. And, Paul managed to include what Jesus said they must do (v.18) "to turn them from darkness to light." See that? "They may receive forgiveness of sins." How Paul" "...by faith that is in me," i.e., in Christ. See that (v.18)? Then v.19, "Where upon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision..." Now, whafs Agrippa thinking? "Why, Paul, you shouldn't have been disobedient, if that's the way it happened." Can you see how Paul developed that conclusion in Agrippa? Just step by step. Notice now, Paul is just one on one with Agrippa, as if nobody else were present. He ignored Festus completely. Agrippa was right on the edge of his seat and thinking: "What did you do, Paul?" So, guess what? V.20-23 answers that question. And, he also incorporates repentance into v.20. The Jews caught Paul in the temple (of all places). Paul says he was teaching nothing except what Moses and prophets had said. That's in the end of v.ll. Can you see how Paul was leading Agrippa right down to what it takes to become a Christian? Now, notice the way it ends! Festus must have been getting a little bored. He blurted out "with a loud voice' (v.24). Paul, you are mad! But, notice how Paul handled that. Just a simple, soft denial (v.25) and then Paul goes right back to Agrippa. Why the king knows about these things (v.26). He wants me to speak freely, most of these things are just common knowledge, he knows! Something must have happened at that point. Either Paul sensed from Festus' action that he was going to call a halt to the proceedings or possibly Agrippa gave an affirmative nod ("that's right"). If it was Festus, then Paul was under pressure to reach an abrupt ending. If it was Agrippa, then Paul may have played a hunch that he could engage the king into more affirmative verbal agreement, which is nearly always the first step in response to the gospel. Whatever the case, Paul tried to prick the king's heart a little deeper, make him take a stand. V.27 is pretty strong question. "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?" Now, how do you interpret king Agrippa's response (v.28)? "Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian!" Two general meanings have been derived from that simple answer. Some think he was taunting Paul just a little. That is, he said it in a satirical way, meaning: Paul, do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian with a short hide sales pitch like that? Others think Agrippa was sincere, admitting Paul was getting to him. I really see no reason to doubt that Agrippa was sincere. If he had said it in a satirical way, I believe Luke would have explained that. It really makes no difference as it is not a matter of faith anyway. We know Agrippa did not obey the gospel, at least not then. Thus, Paul lost that case! But, let me tease your imagination, just a moment. May I? Suppose or imagine, for a moment that Agrippa did obey the gospel. And, was very zealous to serve Christ and promote the gospel. Now, I have a question. How would that have affected future generations? What about his children? Grandchildren? And something like 60 generations since that time? What do you think? Like I said, it's just a teasing thought; because, Agrippa didn't obey. But, in your case, it could be real. So, why not now? Not only would you save your own soul, you would influence every generation that follows us by your potent example. Give it some thought! Jesus died for you. Who could reject such a friend? If you haven't been baptized into Christ, don't you think it is about time you should be? All spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Jesus said: "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17). Are you persuaded? Or are you almost persuaded? There are generations of difference. I leave the thought with you. But, please, don't you leave the thought quickly, like Agrippa did. In v.29, Paul made a plea, very much like I have made to you, to all that were present. From the context in v.30, it would appear that even as these words were being spoken, the two governors began to make their departure from the assembly, as a means of ignoring Paul's plea. When they had gone aside, V.-31-32 gives a brief sketch of their conversation. Paul is innocent they admit. Now, after it's too late, two governors, in private, lament that it happened. But an appeal to Caesar could not be revoked. Is there a lesson hi this? It could have been! Agrippa said: "This man might have been!" (v.32). I say: Agrippa could have been, it would be interesting to read that letter Festus must have written to Nero. But, inspiration did not see fit to preserve that for us. May I tell you: You are a fantastic person! I mean it! Very few people are willing to endure and study as you are doing. There's not a book in the N.T. longer than this book Do you know what Jesus said about you? Ifs recorded in Matt. 5:6. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." What more motivating words, could Jesus have said?