Acts 26:1 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:
7 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 the Jews.
8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
Finally, Paul was going to be able to answer for himself. He had listened in on talk about him. He knew the Jews had slandered him. He knew that Festus had talked of him. Now he would speak for himself.
In verse 2 Paul began by showing that he was not intimidated by the setting he was in. It did not matter to him who he stood before. He trusted God to guide him and give him the right words to speak. It is always good to hear from the accused person directly. This is again why we do not need lawyers to hide behind, if we know the Lord. The judges and the politicians need to hear the truth. They know the constitution as well as the lawyers do. They have their own spin on the constitution just as the lawyers do. However, none of them know the Scriptures. Some of them may have heard some perverted verse here and there. However, they do not know the Scriptures nor do they regard the Scriptures. It is important for them to hear the truth from someone who actually believes the truth.
Paul would give an accurate defence on the matters at hand. He was going to address the false accusations of the Jews.
In verse 3 Paul reminded Agrippa that he was familiar with the customs and questions of the Jews. He was in charge of the area of Judea. He was in charge of the Temple and of appointing the high priest. We see just how severely corrupted the Jewish religion had become. Not that many years prior, Jesus had entered the Temple and cleansed it and declared that it was His Father’s house. It was obviously no longer God’s house. It would be destroyed in a few years and there would be no Temple for hundreds of years. Paul was going to give an accurate account of God’s law rather than the distortions of the Pharisees.
In verse 4 Paul made it clear that his life was not a secret life. Being trained as a Pharisee, he had been around some of the big names in Judaism. As a trained Pharisee, he had been very active in trying to silence anyone who would speak the truth.
In verse 5 Paul reminded the Jews present, that they knew he had lived as a very devout Pharisee. He took his false religion very seriously. Even as a lost man, Paul had some good character traits. He was not interested in sitting on the sidelines and just being a spectator. He was convinced that Pharisaism was right and so he was going to push that as hard as he could.
In verse 6 Paul reminded all that he was standing accused of the hope of the promise God made to the Jews even in the Old Testament times. In verse 8 that promise was of the resurrection of the dead. It was a well known teaching that God would and could raise the dead. Job wrote about the resurrection of the dead.
Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God was raised from the dead as the firstfruits of those who are saved. The lost will also be raised one day to face the judgment of God. They will not want that judgment and that is why some of them chose to deny the resurrection. If there is no resurrection, then there is no accountability.
In verse 7 Paul was seeking to keep Agrippa coming along in his mind with what was going on. He did not want Agrippa to doze off or get distracted. He engaged him in his testimony and helped Agrippa to face the facts as well.
In verses 9-11 Paul talked of his past. He spoke of his zeal for false religion. He did many things that were contrary to the will of God. He fought against faith in Jesus Christ. He fought against it in Jerusalem, which was the heart of Judaism. He was instrumental in locking up many saints. He had authority from the chief priests to do that. He was even there to give his approval against those who were put to death. Paul was formerly an evil man. He was just like those who were now standing and accusing him.
In verse 11 Paul admitted that he tried to force true saints to blaspheme against God. He tried to get them to deny their faith in God. He admitted that he was filled with anger against true saints. He was relentless in his persecution of them. As much as he could, he made life difficult for true saints.
That was Paul’s background. It was important for Agrippa to know this so that he could contrast this with who Paul was now. The false religious leaders were still just as relentless against the truth. Agrippa needed to know they were just as wrong in their zeal as he had been prior to his salvation.
King Agrippa needed to know that when a person gets saved it is an amazing event. I call it a miracle. The change that takes place is not what lost people would call “normal”. It was strange to them. We will see that it seemed strange to Agrippa as well as to others in that audience.
True Christians do not boast of their wickedness. They praise God for the deliverance from the bondage of sin that He provides through His gift of salvation. True Christians are thankful for the forgiveness of God. They know they cannot go back and change the past. They will wish they had not been so wicked and foolish. They try to warn others not to follow that ungodly way.
As Paul would continue his testimony he would speak of God’s mercy in confronting him in his sin and of his willingness to humble himself and be saved. That is the important message that many need to receive today as well.