Acts 25:12-26:32 by Robert Dean
Imagine standing before the President of the United States and the Queen of England and having a chance to tell them what you believe about God. What would you say? Listen to this lesson to hear how the Apostle Paul defended his faith before rulers and kings. Marvel as he lays out the story of his meeting with the resurrected Christ and how he turned from killing Christians to spending the rest of his life telling the good news. Hear the meaning of repentance and the new responsibilities that change brings. Just as God provided for all the details of Paul's life, be assured that He is protecting us and working out every aspect of our lives today.

Paul's Defense
Acts 25:12–26:32

Paul has made two points in versed 11. If he is guilty then he doesn't mind paying the price, but if he is innocent then no one should turn him over to the Jewish leadership. First of all it would be illegal. Paul as a Roman citizen should not be subject to the justice of the Sanhedrin, and second, if he was released to them he would not be given justice but would be executed.

At this point Paul has recognized that Festus is not going to do anything any better than Felix had done, that he is not going to release him but would probably just continue to keep him in jail. Paul wants to move things forward and so he appeals to Caesar. This causes Festus to go into a conference with his council. This is not the Sanhedrin because the Sanhedrin wouldn't have any power or authority over an issue involving Roman law. Paul's appeal has a specific legal term. It is called a probocatio. It was the citizen's right to appeal to Caesar for judgment.

Acts 25:12 NASB "Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, 'You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.'"

At this point this is set. There is nothing that can be done to change this because Paul has claimed his right as a Roman citizen; it has been evaluated by the council and Festus has ruled on it. What happens next is not another form of an appeal but what we see with the appearance of Agrippa and his sister Bernice is that Festus is trying to figure out what in the world he is going to charge Paul with. The problem for Festus is that he has to have a significant enough charge to bring against Paul, and at this point he doesn't believe he has one. So when Herod Agrippa and Bernice visit he is going to bring them into the situation to see if they can come up with a charge that he can use before the Roman legal system. The charges he has seen so far just have to do with the religious issues among the Jews and nothing at all to do with Roman law. He has to come up with something.  

Acts 25:13 NASB "Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus."

One of the reasons Festus brings this to them is because they are Jewish, they have a background in the situation in Israel and, in fact, even Herod Agrippa II had somewhat of a reputation as being a pious Jew. So he is not just as bad as his grandfather Herod the Great or his father Agrippa I. He had some involvement and interest in Jewish religious matters. Now Festus is seeking his opinion. 

Herod Agrippa I was also known as Marcus Julius Agrippa. He was the brother of Drusilla who was married to Felix. He is the brother also of Bernice. He was educated in Rome and was very sympathetic to Roman policies. He was only 17 years old when his father died and then he was brought up to be the ruler of basically what had been Herod Phillip's kingdom. He didn't immediately become king; that took a little time. He was trusted by the Romans and allowed to appoint the high priest. He tended to meddle in the affairs of the high priest and it angered the Jews. He also angered them by building a palace that overlooked the temple compound and which again they felt was Rome meddling in their affairs.  

What we see here in the background is that Herod Agrippa is really interested in being informed on this case and finding out more about the apostle Paul.

Acts 25:14 NASB "While they were spending many days there, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, 'There is a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix; [15] and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him.'"

Again he is recognizing that those who were hostile to Paul are the religious leadership from the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. At that time they didn't bring any evidence, they just asked for a sentence of condemnation against him. They are seeking the death penalty. The Jews did not have the judicial authority to bring the death penalty because they were under the authority of Rome. They had to appeal to Rome in order to pass the death penalty. Festus is not at all sure that Paul has done anything wrong to begin with and if he has done anything wrong it certainly was not worth of the death penalty.

What the Jews wanted really went contrary to Roman law. Again, this shows an example of how people who have rejected the Scripture and are under conviction of the truth don't really care what the rules are or what authority says, they are reacting against the truth of God. It is just another example of Romans 1:18ff that men who are unrighteousness are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. They have rejected the truth of God and now they are suppressing that truth. Once again, when Paul is present this just opens the door into the cellar where they have managed to push God and suppress the truth, and God is threatening to come out, so they are reacting in anger. We see examples of that today in many different ways. When people in the culture hear from Christians who speak out a little bit then these opposing forces really react in hostility and make all sorts of claims that aren't true.

The principle we see here is that negative volition isn't rational. It is irrational and it operates on fear and anger, not on objectivity or evidence.

Acts 25:16 NASB "I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges."

Again we see this irony that this pagan legal system is what is protecting Paul and protecting his life. They are doing it right where as those who ought to know truth and ought to know what is right are the ones who want to subvert the law and subvert righteousness.

Acts 25:17 NASB "So after they had assembled here, I did not delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought before me. [18] When the accusers stood up, they {began} bringing charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting, [19] but they {simply} had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive."

He reduces this down to the basic issue. And notice, it no longer has anything to do with what was going on on the temple mount. Remember that back in chapters 22 & 23 the charge was that Paul had brought a Gentile into the temple. Now that issue is left behind, not even mentioned, and what is mentioned is the issue of resurrection. So these charges that are brought against Paul don't have anything at all related to Roman law. The only conclusion that Festus can come up with is that there is absolutely no violation of the law whatsoever. Festus just doesn't have the courage to release Paul, and because he has been so cowardly Paul has had to appeal to Rome, to Caesar.

Festus uses an interesting term when he talks about "their own religion". The Greek word is deisidaimonia, and the way it was often used in Rome was that it referred to superstitious beliefs. But in this particular situation where Festus is talking to Herod and Bernice he wouldn't be using it in that kind of a manner, he would be using it in a more literal sense which as to do with religion.   

Acts 25:20 NASB "Being at a loss how to investigate such matters, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these matters. [20] But when Paul appealed to be held in custody for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar."

He is rehearsing all of this because he is hoping that Agrippa is going to enable him to come up with a legitimate charge to present against Paul.

Acts 25:22 NASB "Then Agrippa {said} to Festus, 'I also would like to hear the man myself.' 'Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him.'"

He uses an interesting word here. The Greek verb is an imperfect tense—continuous action in past time. But sometimes it has different nuances. Sometimes as in this case here it is what is called in grammar a desiderative imperfect. Desiderative is from the noun desire and it has to do with a use of the imperfect to express someone's wish or desire. It is translated correctly, "I would like to hear…" He has been wanting for some time to hear Paul speak. Paul's reputation has gone before him and so he wants to hear Paul and his defense. 

We shift gears in the next four verses and see the opportunity for Paul to come before Agrippa. It is an opportunity for great pomp and circumstances. They want to show off their human authority before the apostle and Luke emphasizes this for us. 

Acts 25:23 NASB "So, on the next day when Agrippa came together with Bernice amid great pomp, and entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in." 

Acts 25:24 NASB Festus said, 'King Agrippa, and all you gentlemen here present with us, you see this man about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me, both at Jerusalem and here, loudly declaring that he ought not to live any longer.'"

He makes the point right up front that the issue for the Jews has to do with Paul's punishment, that this is a capital crime and that Paul should be executed.

Acts 25:25 NASB "But I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death; and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him."

So if the charges that were brought against him were capital and he can't find anything worthy of death then basically what we find here is that Festus is admitting that Paul is innocent. There is no legitimate charge against Paul. 

Acts 25:26 NASB "Yet I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord [Nero]. Therefore I have brought him before you {all} and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write."

Neither Augustus nor Tiberius allowed themselves to be addressed as "My lord." This was a term that Nero took for himself and shows that he already has a desire to be worshipped as deity. Festus is going along with that and referring to him as My lord.

Festus is now passing the buck to all of these in power hoping that they will come up with some sort of legitimate charge.

Acts 25:27 NASB "For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him." Actually he can't do that. It is not absurd or unreasonable as the NKJV translates it; he can't do it. He has to present a charge if this is going to go up the line to Nero.

This isn't a legal defense because this isn't a trial, but Paul is going to take this opportunity to present his case to these leaders, and the opportunity to present the gospel to them. He addresses King Agrippa in a way showing respect, but he is not flattering the king.

Acts 26:1 NASB "Agrippa said to Paul, 'You are permitted to speak for yourself.' Then Paul stretched out his hand and {proceeded} to make his defense [apologia]: [2 ]  'In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today …'

Agrippa was well respected in many ways in the Jewish community, even though he had angered them at times, and he was more respected than either his father or his great grandfather. He was also respected because he was considered a pious Jew. He did know a lot about Judaism and practiced it to some degree. Josephus gives us evidence as well that Agrippa was very knowledgeable about Judaism.

Acts 26:3 NASB '… especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among {the} Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.'"

Then Paul starts to describe his pre-salvation status.

 Acts 26:4  NASB  "So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my {own} nation and at Jerusalem; [5] since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived {as} a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion."

He is emphasizing his respect for the Law of Moses, his respect for the traditions of the fathers, and his respect for all of the religious customs of the Jews.

Acts 26:6 NASB "And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; [7] {the promise} to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve {God} night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews."

He zeros in on the doctrinal issue. It is not just a matter of theological dispute, it is focusing on the promise of the fathers. Herod would have understood this, being a student of Judaism. He understood the conflict between the Sadducees (who didn't believe in miracles, didn't believe in angels, didn't believe in resurrection) and the Pharisees.

Remember that the promise to Abraham was that he would live in the land that God had given him and that he would own the land. In Abraham's lifetime the only piece of land he had was the cave in Hebron where he buried Sarah and where he himself was buried, and later Isaac and Rebecca were buried, and Leah was buried. Paul is alluding to this because according to the Old Testament if Abraham was going to possess the land (and he never possessed it when he was physically alive) then, as Jesus also argued, Abraham would be resurrected in the future so that God's promise would be fulfilled. This was the hope that Israel had that there would be this future destiny where all the Jews would be in the land. This was the promise given to the twelve tribes.    

Acts26:8 NASB "Why is it considered incredible among you {people} if God does raise the dead? [9] So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth."

He then points out his prior persecution of the church and his antagonism to Christianity. 

Acts 26:10 NASB "And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them."

Paul was complicit in the death of numerous Christians, not just Stephen. He was a murderer, hostile to Christianity, and guilty of numerous crimes against Christ.

Acts 26:11 NASB "And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. [12]   While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, [13] at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. [14] And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'"

The second line there of v.14 is talking about the fact that Paul is under conviction. And the more he has come under conviction the more hostile he has become to Christianity. If we were to evaluate the apostle Paul the day before he saw the Lord Jesus Christ we would think that this was one individual who would never be saved. That would be our judgment, and that would be wrong.

Often in our lives as we run into people who are hostile to the gospel—maybe even family members and friends—we never know how God is going to work in their lives and really drive the gospel home. Too often it is easy for us to just give up. Rather than creating more of a conflict we back away from it. But that is not what is happening in terms of the Lord Jesus Christ and the way He is working on Paul. Finally there is this crisis point and the Lord appears to Paul and challenges him.  

Acts 26:15 NASB "And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting."

Immediately Paul recognizes something about who this is that is appearing. He is not recognizing the Lordship of Christ. He is recognizing the authority of the one who is speaking to him. The word "lord"—kurios—was often used the way we use the word "sir". It was more of a polite response recognizing someone to be respected.  

Acts 26:16 NASB 'But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear [reveal] to you; [17] rescuing you from the {Jewish} people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you."

The Lord has commissioned Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a ministry to Jews. It is just that his primary focus was to the Gentiles.

Acts 26:18 NASB "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light …" That is what repentance is. It is turning from the false to the true; turning away from idols and turning to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And how did he open their eyes? By giving them the gospel. That is all we can do to open people's eyes. God the Holy Spirit has to open them internally but He doesn't do it apart from our giving the gospel. We give them the gospel and then the Holy Spirit uses that to open their eyes. "… and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me."

Every unbeliever is under the dominion of Satan. We live in a world that is a manifestation of the angelic conflict, and that is very real. The trouble is that we have a lot of Christians who aren't well taught biblically about spiritual warfare, and they think that what spiritual warfare is is just a battle with demons. Spiritual warfare is learning to grow spiritually and making the right decisions. It is learning to think biblically. It takes place between the ears, not outside of our body.

Acts 26:19 NASB "So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, [20] but {kept} declaring both to those of Damascus first, and {also} at Jerusalem and {then} throughout all the region of Judea, and {even} to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance."

Most of the time the word "repentance" is used in relation to Israel and has a background in Deuteronomy chapter thirty. There are two places in Acts when the word "repent" relates to Gentiles, and we understand it in context because it means to turn to God the same way it is used in relation to Israel in Deuteronomy 30 and the same way that it is used in the statement of Jesus to Paul in verse 18 here. Paul's mission was to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light. It is not remorse, although that may accompany it, but primarily it is a mental, attitude shift of focus from the false to the true, from idols to God, and then believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Repentance is what happens at salvation, but then the question is: After you are saved, then what? We don't perform the deeds consistent with repentance in order to get saved; we already are saved. But now that we are saved we are a new creature in Christ, in a new family relationship to God and have new responsibilities. Those new responsibilities means that we are now to live as we should in light of our new situation. In other words, now that we have turned to God we are to live a new way.  

Acts 26:21 NASB "For this reason {some} Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death." He points out that this is a theological issue, not a legal issue in terms of Roman law.

Acts 26:22 NASB "So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place."

He grounds what he is teaching in the Word of God.

Now he summarizes the Old Testament: that what Moses and the prophets said was that the Messiah was to suffer.

Acts 26:23 NASB "that the Christ was to suffer, {and} that by reason of {His} resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the {Jewish} people and to the Gentiles." The focal point here is that the Messiah would be brought back to life, the sign being the sign of Jonah: three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish.

At this point he has presented the gospel to Agrippa, he has presented it to kings, to all the rulers, and now Festus interrupts him.

Acts 26:24 NASB "While {Paul} was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, 'Paul, you are out of your mind! {Your} great learning is driving you mad.'" The typical response from unbelievers is that we are irrational when in fact they are the ones who are irrational.  [25] "But Paul said, 'I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth.'"

Notice Paul's subtle appeal to Herod. Acts 26:26 NASB "For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. [27] King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.'" Paul is putting the king on a spot and is asking him to make a decision in relationship to the gospel.

Acts 26:28 NASB "Agrippa {replied} to Paul, 'In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.'" This is a strict translation but it doesn't indicate what is really going on. He is not making a statement that Paul was about to but that Paul wished to. In another sense, he is saying, "You are trying to convince me to become a Christian." He is not saying, "You are close but you haven't quite closed the deal, and because you haven't closed the deal I am not going to be come a Christian." That is not the sense of this imperfect tense. He is saying, "You have tried/attempted to persuade me to become a Christian."  

Acts 26:29 NASB "And Paul {said,} 'I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.'"

This brings the interview to an end.

Acts 26:30 NASB "The king stood up and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them, [31] and when they had gone aside, they {began} talking to one another, saying, 'This man is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment.' [32] And Agrippa said to Festus, 'This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.'"

In a real sense what Paul has done by appealing to Caesar is bringing about what God has promised him, and that is that he would take the gospel to Rome. He would be heard in Rome and before Caesar, before kings, and he would proclaim that.