[Nov 19]--Before Agrippa, Part Two

Acts 26:19-32

I don’t have any cute story or Star Trek reference to start out with today, so let’s just get back into Paul’s speech before Agrippa and those assembled with him.

Paul testified that he immediately obeyed the vision which God had given him. Yeah, that’s no joke. Do you remember the first city he preached in? Damascus. The city he had been heading towards in order to persecute Christians was now the site of something truly to behold: The one who'd been breathing out threats against the followers of the Way now boldly preached the Good News about Jesus. In fact, he had to be let down in a basket outside the city wall in order to avoid his would-be killers.

Then Paul wrapped up his address by specifically answering one of the major charges against him. His adversaries had claimed that he was blaspheming against the temple and against the Law of Moses. Of course even if the charges were true, Rome wouldn’t be interested in settling a dispute about Jewish theology. But just to be clear to his hearers, Paul wanted them to understand that he still completely believed in the Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament. In fact, he was more orthodox than many of his accusers. The very rulers of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees, who completely rejected any Scripture outside the books of Moses. Unlike them, Paul believed in it from Genesis 1:1 to the last verse of Malachi.

The point where he parted ways was how to respond to Jesus of Nazareth. To the ruling establishment in Jerusalem, he was a false messiah who deserved death. To Paul, Jesus was the fulfillment of the Scriptures. When Moses was talking about the Prophet like him who would someday come, to Paul that was referring to Jesus. When God through Isaiah predicted a suffering Servant who would suffer and die and then rise again, there was no mystery in Paul’s mind as to whom that was talking about.

At this point Festus interrupted him and claimed that Paul was off his gourd. Of course it sounds crazy. To a man without the Spirit, none of this makes sense. But apparently Festus wasn’t the main person Paul was addressing. His response to Festus was basically “I’m not saying anything beyond what the prophets say. The King (Agrippa) knows what I’m talking about. He knows the prophets and that I’m not just pulling stuff out of my head. Don’t you believe in the prophets, King Agrippa?” This is why he referenced the prophets so much. Agrippa, as half-Jewish, was at least passingly familiar with the Scriptures, so that was Paul’s connection point.

I love and respect the KJV. It’s what I was raised with, but we’ve improved on translation in the last 400 years. If you read Agrippa’s response in the KJV, it makes it sound like he “almost” became a Christian. That’s not what the Greek is saying at all. He’s actually mocking Paul. The NIV's rendition of verse 28 is a lot more accurate: He was discounting the possibility that in one short speech Paul could convince him to believe in Christ.

I love Paul’s answer to that: “I don’t care how long it takes. I won’t be satisfied until you and everyone in the room is a believer in Jesus just as I am.” Can I submit that I think that Paul might be utilizing a sense of humor here? “However long it takes, I’d like everyone in this room to be just like me. Minus these chains, of course.” I can actually imagine the slight grin on his face as he said that. If so, it would make sense to me, since it never hurts to use some humor to get past peoples’ guard.

Every lost person he encountered was an opportunity to lead another person to salvation. Have you figured out yet that this was pretty important to him?

The interesting thing about this is what they said about him after he left the room. Festus knew, Agrippa knew, the Jews knew, and Paul especially knew that keeping him in custody was all completely based on a sham from beginning to end. Personally I have reason to doubt Agrippa’s assessment of Paul’s legal situation. Yeah we all knew he was innocent, but political corruption insured that he was never going to get out of confinement alive as long as he stayed around here. But no matter what happened or who had what plans, it didn’t really matter. The Lord had determined and promised that Paul would be going to Rome, and nothing in Heaven or on Earth or in Hell was going to keep that from happening.

Lord Jesus, this is a great time to recognize that your word is true. Heaven and earth will pass away before one syllable of your word falls to the ground. Please help me to live like that’s true.

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