Festus had a problem. His prisoner Paul had appealed to Rome. The Jews were demanding Paul be sent to Jerusalem, and it looks like he was well aware of how that would conclude. So he had to send Paul to Rome to face his charges. Undoubtedly he was relieved to have this monkey off his back and to be able to pass the buck onto someone else. If the Jews complained, he could just point out that he was legally obligated by Roman law to do what he did.
But there was just one wrinkle. All of the accusations which the Jews leveled against Paul were in one of two categories: 1) Not credible. Their allegation that he was inciting sedition had no evidence to back it. 2) Not interesting. Rome didn’t really care about religious disputes. As long as the tax money came in and the streets were quiet, they had no interest in questions about theology. He had to give something in his report that could explain why Paul was being sent.
But Festus was lucky in that he could bring in a consultant. King Herod Agrippa (not the same Herod which you’ve read about in Scripture) was nearby, and he was part Jewish. He had some familiarity with Jewish law and tradition and culture, so he could provide some input into Paul’s case and could possibly help Festus in how to word the report.
That’s where we come to chapter 26 where Paul meets King Agrippa. This is not an official trial by any means, just an informal hearing to listen to what Paul had to say for himself. A lot of this we’ve already heard before: Paul’s fanatical devotion to stamping out the sect known as followers of Jesus, his encounter with that same Jesus on the way to Damascus, and his special calling and special mission. I’d like to focus for a little bit on how Paul describes his mission in vss. 17-18. These verses are so packed with truth. Each little point is a sermon in itself:
• Who was doing the sending. Not any man nor a group of men. This was the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God. If any missionary or any pastor or any evangelist has been called by anyone else besides the Lord himself, then that “called” person needs to quit and do something productive. If you aren’t sent by the Lord, you’re not going to end up any place that’s pleasant.
• To open their eyes. Every person outside of Christ is utterly blind to spiritual truth. It’s not an issue of ignorance that just needs the proper information. The Holy Spirit—using a human witness—opens spiritual eyes which were just as blind as Paul was on that road.
• Turn them from darkness to light. What an image! Every person outside of Christ is bound forever in the Kingdom of Darkness. They don’t know what’s going on, and outside of God’s intervention through his children they never will. But once we come in and share the Good News, they’re carried out of that darkness into his glorious Light!
• And from the power of Satan to God. Another way of saying the last phrase, really. All of Adam’s children are under Satan’s power. How sadly ironic that we’re all born in slavery to the one who hates us the most! Most of us spend our entire lives serving the Enemy of our souls! But then the Light of the Good News comes and we switch kingdoms and sides. And we’re now Under New Management.
• That they may receive forgiveness of sins. In case you didn’t know it already, that’s the only obstacle to everything else we’ve mentioned. You can’t be transferred from Satan’s Kingdom to God’s until your sins are forgiven. And there’s only place where that can take place.
• And a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. Remember what the word “sanctified” means? I actually wish we could just substitute the phrase “set apart,” since that’s a lot clearer to most folks. When you become a believer, you’re set apart not only from the rest of humanity but even from the rest of the Church. There’s a place in the Body which only you can fill. You were made for that place, and that place was made for you. You’re as unique as a snowflake, as unique as a fingerprint.
This was what Paul was called to. Even when he met Jesus and the details concerning salvation were being straightened out, the Lord made it clear to him what this was all about. Hopefully we’re clear about that as well, both in our lives and in our message.
Today, go over each phrase which I pointed out. Take a moment to thank the Lord for the truth contained in that little group of words. Ask him to set that truth on display in your daily life. For example, you might say Thank you Lord for opening my eyes to the truth about you.