Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Acts 26 – Paul on Trial Before Agrippa

After at least two years as a prisoner of Rome, Paul has appealed to have his case heard before Ceasar. As a legal citizen of Rome, this is his right, and he is now on his way to standing before him.

It was to governor Festus that Paul made his appeal. Before sending him away, Festus asks for the cousel of King Agrippa, giving Paul an opportunity to share his message of the coming Kingdom to a person of influence yet again.

Paul makes his case boldly, telling his own personal history of joining the Way after having been a violent persecutor of them. He again emphasizes that what he preaches is faithful to the tradition he grew up with. He has no desire to undermine or subvert the Jews or their faith. It is corruption that sets the religious elite against him, not orthodoxy. They have been able to use faith to keep people under control. What Paul preaches sets people free, and this has made him a threat.
Acts 26:19-23 (ESV)
  19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Paul's defense and testimony are so strong that even King Agrippa seems to waver toward faith by it. Paul appeals to Agrippa's foundation of belief in the prophets, through whom Jesus and the coming Kingdom is revealed.

Acts 26:27-29 (ESV)
27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Paul's chains are temporary. The Kingdom is eternal. In the light of eternity and true justice, Paul was more free standing before these men in his chains than these kings were in their robes and vestments and corruptible power. Their chains were greate than his, and Paul's invitation was for them to be free.

Citizens of the Kingdom seek the freedom of all those enslaved by the spirit of Empire. None are more enslaved by empire than those who think they hold power within it. None are more in need of love than those consumed by hatred. None are more in need of the message of freedom than those who would keep people in chains. It is they who are truly bound. The Kingdom extends it's love and freedom even to its enemies. It is its enemies who need it most.

Acts 26:30-32 (ESV)
30 Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”


v2 – Paul makes a third defense in secular court. He is very good at defending himself.
Paul’s defense is reasonable, but bold. He tells the true testimony of his experience, even though it is fantastic. He also appeals to the Hebrew scriptures for evidence on his behalf.
v29 – He’s sharing the gospel.
v32 – Did he know this? We can only speculate, but suppose he did this on purpose for the opportunity to share the gospel with Caesar?

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