Acts 26 Caesarea Prison, Agrippa

Tod Kennedy, October 28, 2001

Main points of application or “So what?” from Acts 26

  1. Combine God’s love and authority orientation, and humility will result. Paul was good at this (Acts 26.1-3).
  2. It is often helpful to relate the good news about Christ to the Old Testament predictions and develop the gospel  theme through biblical history. This demonstrates that the Christian message is rooted in real history and is not a fanciful human message. Jesus (John 8), Peter (Acts 2 and 3), Stephen (Acts 7), Paul (Acts 13, 24, and 26), and others all said the Old Testament predicted Jesus as the savior. Paul believed in Christ when he realized that Jesus was the Messiah of the Old Testament (Acts 26.14-16).
  3. Are you willing and able to clearly state God’s message before people of power and authority? Paul spoke to governors, kings, and the Roman emperor (Acts 26.22-23).
  4. God purpose does not end with our salvation from the penalty of sin. He has a plan for us; He puts us into service for him just like he did Paul (Acts 26.16-18 and Ephesians 2.10).
  5. Israel has a future—individual and national resurrection. God will keep his promises to Israel (Acts 26.6-7),
  6. The resurrection of Jesus matters. It proved that he is God, our savior (Acts 26.14-16).
  7. Paul’s broad message was repent, turn to God, and do good works (Acts 26.20). He called people to harmony with God and holy living. But, these were not requirements for eternal salvation. When the how of eternal salvation was the message, Paul said “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved” (Acts 16.31; Acts 26.18; Romans 4.5; Ephesians 2.8-9).
  8. Christians are sanctified people—made acceptable to God—and as such we are forgiven people and heirs of God’s blessings (Acts 26.18).

Summary Outline

  1. Acts 26.1-3. Paul began his defense with the recognition of Agrippa’s authority and his knowledge of Jewish life. With Agrippa’s permission, Paul reasonably and passionately told his story. He knew that Agrippa was familiar with Jewish history and traditions.
  2. Acts 26. 4-11. Paul then moved into the second part of his defense, his pre-salvation life.  He began by pointing out that as a youth he had lived among the Jewish people, both at Tarsus and in Jerusalem. Later on he became a Pharisee. Remember that he had been educated by Gamaliel: Acts 22:3, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today.”  If the Jews would speak up, they would confirm what Paul said. Paul gave a short digression in verses 6-8. The Old Testament taught that the Jews—all twelve tribes— had a future. That future included a future resurrection. He had mentioned this earlier in his defense before Felix (Acts 24.15-16). The God of Israel is quite able to raise the dead, so he asked the question, “Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?” After his digression about the resurrection hope of Israel he continued  to note that he had, as a Pharisee, done everything that he could to stop the spread of Christianity. He got the proper authority from the chief priests and had believers arrested (Acts 22:10).  He promoted the execution of Christians (Acts 22:10). He verbally attacked believers in the synagogues and elsewhere, even in cities outside of  Judea  (Acts 22:11).
  3. Acts 26.12-15. Paul then moved to the time he believed in Christ as savior. While Paul was on his way to Damascus (which is north of Jerusalem) to continue his assault on believers, Jesus appeared to him. Paul at first did not know that it was Jesus. He only knew that the Lord appeared to him. The Lord identified himself as Jesus and asked why Paul kept persecuting him. Paul had been persecuting Jesus by attacking believers and their recognition that Jesus was indeed God’s Messiah. Up to this point Paul had rejected Jesus as being God’s Messiah. At this point Paul believed that Jesus was God’s Messiah and all that that meant. This was Paul’s day of salvation from the penalty of sin. Paul later gave the way of salvation in Acts 16.31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” John 20. 30-31 is John the apostle’s statement of the requirement for salvation: “That you may believe the Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”
  4. Acts 26.16-18. The Lord Jesus did not end with granting Paul eternal life. He had a plan of spiritual service for Paul. At this point Paul told the court that Jesus gave him a job to do. Jesus appointed Paul as a minister (uJphrevth” huperetes, under rower, servant) and a witness (mavrtu” martus, witness) to Jesus Christ. Jesus would even give Paul more revelation to write—New Testament doctrine.  He would use Paul to remove spiritual blindness about God’s kingdom of light and Satan’ kingdom of darkness so they may receive forgivenss and a spiritual inheritance—all by faith in Jesus. Furthermore, along the way, Jesus would deliver him any lasting attacks by the Jews and Gentiles. Paul would be able to finish his life for the Lord. Paul later confirmed, just before he was executed, that he had completed his course (2 Timothy 4.7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”).
  5. Acts 26.19-21. Paul continues his defense by telling Agrippa and the court that he has been doing just that—witnessing to Jews and Gentiles that Jesus is the Messiah. Mankind should repent and turn to God. Repentance is not part of the salvation requirement. Paul and others use repentance for the broad idea of changing one’s mind toward God. Both unbelievers and believers repent. The call to repentance is a call to harmony with God. Salvation from the penalty of sin is by faith alone in Christ alone (Acts 26.18, “by faith in me,” and Acts 16.31, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”). Paul went on to say that “performing deeds appropriate to repentance” were part of the Christian life, but were in no way required for salvation from the penalty of sin nor were they proof that one was a Christian. Jews reacted to Paul’s message and so he now stood under arrest before Agrippa.
  6. Acts 26.22-28. Paul reaffirmed that his message had its roots in the Old Testament—the Prophets and Moses. The Old Testament said that the Christ would suffer and die and then arise from the dead and then proclaim salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. Festus could endure Paul’s message no longer. He broke in and said that Paul was out of his mind. Paul then used Agrippa as a witness that what Paul had been saying was indeed true to the Old Testament. Agrippa was caught in a vice. He could not deny the basic Old Testament doctrines for fear of making the Jews mad, but on the other hand he could not side with Paul for the same reason. Agrippa’s decision: he did not answer Paul’s summons; he avoided the issue.
  7. Acts 26.29. Paul made a final plea that Agrippa and all who heard him would someday became like he—a believer in the Christ—, except that he did wish arrest or suffering on them.
  8. Acts 26.30-32. Agrippa, Festus, and Bernice agreed that Paul was not guilty of imprisonment or death. He would have been set free had he not appealed to Caesar. By appealing to Caesar Paul had set in motion Roman law. Agrippa and Festus thought that Paul had wrongly appealed to Caesar. They likely imagined that Paul would be sorry for his decision. Paul had confidence that God would continue to use him and bless him even though he had to go to Rome. He probably recalled what the Lord promised him the night following his hearing before the Sanhedrin: “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to my cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.” (Acts 23.11).

Dictionary of Bible Doctrine

  1. Inheritance for believers
  2. Old Testament taught resurrection
  3. Repentance