The Road to Rome
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
This is not a trial. Paul’s legal fate now rests in the hands of Emperor Nero. This is an opportunity for Paul to share his testimony of how and why he stopped being a Pharisee and came to call Jesus, Lord.
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:
The word “happy” is the Greek word makarios and it means blessed.
So, what is the difference? Happy is dependent upon positive circumstances, things that are external to the person. Your family is doing well, your friends all love you, your business is prosperous, positive external stimuli bring happiness to a person.
While blessed is internal, flowing from within the person. The world around you can be falling apart, but within, you are still blessed. Why? It is because of your connection to God and His grace. The circumstances are not relevant because you have the promises of God. His promises, believed, surpass all things, even death.
Paul is not happy, he is blessed because he is about to share his connection with God which rises above all circumstances.
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.
The word “expert” is gnostos in the Greek and it comes from the word ginosko, to know by experience. Paul is saying King Agrippa is acquainted with the customs (ethos = habits or laws) and the questions (zetema = debates about the Law).
“Patiently” is the Greek word makrothymos, which means endurance, forbearance.
Helps Word-studies: makrothymṓs (an adverb) – patiently; literally, showing passion that is under control.
Up to this point members of the Sanhedrin have shown some passion, but it has not been under control.
Verse 3 is also the figure of speech protherapeia or conciliation. It is when, as a precaution, you secure indulgence for something you are about to say.1
My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
Paul received his early training “at the feet” of Gamaliel. The Talmud says this of Gamaliel, “Since Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, there has been no more reverence for the law, and purity and piety died out at the same time.” Gamaliel was considered one of the greatest teachers in all of Judaism. He died in 52 A.D.2
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers:
Promise is singular in this verse. So, what is this promise spoken of by Paul? It is the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection from the dead has always presented issues for those who do not believe the words of God.
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
Jesus was “declared” to be the son of God by two methods, the flesh and the spirit. “Declared” is horizo in the Greek. Horizo means to be appointed, designated, determined, to be marked out.3
Paul is saying that he is being judged because he believes the promise God made to their fathers, that the Messiah would come, and that God would raise him from the dead.
And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise, which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
This is the main thrust of Paul’s defense. He is believing a promise God has made. By this statement Paul once again separates the beliefs of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Pointing a metaphorical finger at the Sadducees because they do not believe in the resurrection from the dead.
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.
All of Israel, all twelve tribes, held this hope of the coming Messiah, earnestly (ekteneia) serving God. “Serving” is the Greek word latreuo, which means observance of the rites instituted from the Law for worship.4
Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
“Incredible” is apistos in the Greek, which is unbelievable.
These verses (6-8) are the core of Paul’s defense. He believes the promise God gave to their fathers that the Messiah would come and that God would raise him from the dead. All of Israel has held this hope. “But these Judeans, the Sadducees, want to judge me for believing God.”
Acts 26:6-8 sits like a parenthesis. You can read from verse five to verse nine without losing the context and verses 6-8 expand upon a belief the Pharisees hold but the Sadducees reject.
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 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.
The word “voice” is the Greek word psephos and it means to vote, or to vote by pebble.5
Helps Word-studies: psḗphos, a pebble used in ancient elections to vote; hence, a vote. People in ancient times often voted by casting stones. A white stone typically meant "yes" and a black stone "no."
The Sanhedrin would vote by pebbles. A white pebble would be innocent, and a black pebble would indicate guilt. Paul is stating that while he persecuted those who believed in Christ, he was a member of the Sanhedrin.
The set up of the Sanhedrin goes back to Moses. God told Moses to gather seventy men, these men were to help Moses by sharing the burden of judgments. Their standard was to be the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.
So, the Sanhedrin consisted of seventy-one men. The seventy God told Moses to assemble and one more to represent Moses.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
When the qualifications for the Sanhedrin are viewed other questions about the life of Paul arise. The qualifications are these: “Every judge was required to have the following seven attributes: wisdom, humility, awe of heaven, a loathing for money (even his own), a love for truth, the love of the people at large, and a good reputation.
In addition, to be appointed to the greater or lesser Sanhedrin, one had to have achieved distinction in Torah knowledge and possess some knowledge of intellectual disciplines such as medicine, mathematics, calendar, astronomy, astrology and the teachings of idolatry, so that he would know how to judge cases concerning those fields. He could not be too old or childless when appointed, since someone with a family is more likely to be sympathetic and merciful.”6
These qualifications show us that the Apostle Paul was a very unique man. It will surprise some to learn that Paul was married and had a child, but those are the qualifications for a member of the Sanhedrin. We know Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin because he voted concerning guilt or innocence.
1 Corinthians 7:7-8
For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.
“To the unmarried and to the widows. It is possible that by “the unmarried” (masculine plural) the apostle means only men since widows are added and since virgins receive special treatment later (1 Corinthians 7:25) and in 1 Corinthians 7:32 is the unmarried man. It is hardly likely that Paul means only widowers and widows and means to call himself a widower by (even as I).7
As far as I know, there is no mention of what happened with his child and no mention of how Paul became a widower. But we can see from Corinthians that Paul identifies himself with widowers and widows.
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.
“Punished” is the Greek word timoreo and means to avenge honor.8
“Compelled” is anagkazo and it means to force through threats.9
“Blaspheme” is blasphemeo meaning to revile, to speak evil of.10
“Exceedingly” is perissos and it means beyond measure, abundance.11
“Being mad against” is the Greek word emmainomai meaning rage.12
All of this is to say, Paul, as a Pharisee, had the same mindset, the same attitude, the same desire for violence that the Sanhedrin has toward him now.
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
To “kick against the pricks” is in reference to the goad used to motivate an ox who is plowing or pulling a cart. When the oxen would not move or moved in the wrong direction, a stick or pole, with a sharp point at the end, would be used to goad the animal along. When the animal disagreed, he would kick against the goad, against the prick.
Jesus is using this orientalism to say Paul was kicking against attempts to get him to change direction.
When were the other times Jesus tried to get Paul to change direction? I do not have that answer. Some have made educated guesses and they may be accurate. But the certainty of God’s Word does not substantiate any other attempt to have Paul change direction.
My opinion is, that an educated guess today in one year, or two years, or five years down the road can become an unsubstantiated doctrine and honestly, Christianity already has an overwhelming number of unsubstantiated doctrines. Consider three days and three nights from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning.
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
When Nathan confronted David about Bathsheba and Uriah, David was floored with the realization of what he had done (1 Samuel 12). I cannot speak for what went through Paul’s mind with the realization he was persecuting the Messiah, but I know how overwhelmed my mind would be in this situation.
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
“For this purpose,” (in verse 16) begins with the Greek word eis. Eis is a preposition that shows the motion toward an object with the goal of reaching the object. The goal of Jesus is for Paul to become his minister, hyperetes and a witness, martus.
Helps Word-studies: hypērétēs (from hypó, "under" and ēressō, "to row") properly, a rower (a crewman on a boat), an "under-rower" who mans the oars on a lower deck; (figuratively) a subordinate executing official orders, operating under direct (specific) orders.
Why would Jesus need to make Paul a minister?
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
One of those gifts Jesus gave was that of an apostle. First, an apostle is a sent one. An apostle brings new Light to his generation. An administration, the Administration of Grace, was committed to the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:9). Doctrine and practice that had not been seen, heard, or known, before Paul functioned as an apostle.
This understanding of an apostle can also be seen with the twelve apostles Jesus selected during his earthly ministry. Although one needed to be replaced, but with certain conditions (Acts 1:21-22). The twelve carried a new message to their administration. It was new Light to Israel and to the nations (Matthew 28:19-20).
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
How Paul was going to be a witness was by opening the eyes of people, with the spoken words of God and the written words of God, so that people could turn from darkness (Satan), to Light (God). From the power (exousia = authority) of the Adversary to the authority of God. Receiving remission of sins (aorist tense = one-time event in the past) and inheritance (a portion in Christ) in those who are sanctified (made holy - perfect tense, a completed action) because they believed in Jesus the Christ.
As you can see, Jesus is asking Paul to do an about-face. Not only to turn his life one hundred and eighty degrees, but Jesus is also asking Paul to learn God’s Word like it has never been previously known by one of Adam’s descendants.
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
Immediately, Paul begins his walk as a doulos of Jesus Christ, he obeys.
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
Not works for salvation but showing your change of Lord from the authority of the Adversary to the authority of God. The Greek word for “meet” is axios.
Helps Word-studies: áksios (an adjective derived from aksō, "to weigh") properly, to weigh in, assigning the matching value ("worth-to-worth"); worthy, i.e. as the assessment in keeping with how something "weighs in" on God's balance-scale of truth.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Salvation is by the grace of God! In every administration since the Garden, salvation is by God’s grace. Then, after you have received salvation, let others see it in your walk, in your speech, in your works. Let the scales be balanced with God’s salvation on one side and your lifestyle on the other, let the scales be balanced.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The works come after the salvation.
For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:
Because I believe Jesus is the Christ and the Judeans did not believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, they have seized me and attempted to kill me. But God has been there to assist my need so that I could continue to witness to all about what Moses and the prophets have spoken.
“Obtained” is the Greek word tugchano.
Helps Word-studies: from tyxō, "become ready" properly, to strike (hit the mark, "spot on," "hit the bullseye"; to light upon, fall in line with; "happen to find oneself" in the scene of life the Lord has already prepared.
Paul does not see that the Roman soldiers saved him from the mob or the Sanhedrin, but that God prepared for his deliverance. Like the arrow hitting its mark, God’s deliverance was there to help Paul.
That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew [katangello = proclaim] light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.
Between the unbelieving world and theologians pushing their misinterpretations of God’s Word the subject of Christ’s resurrection or resurrections in general is very confusing to the average Christian.
And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
Festus decides to interrupt Paul and proclaim his own opinion. King Agrippa had given Paul permission to speak for himself. Festus just broke the protocol of the King.
But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
“Soberness” is the Greek word sophron and means a sound mind or whole thoughts. Then Paul, in the first part of the next verse, reminds Festus of what King Agrippa said about having permission to speak.
For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
I speak freely before the King; your opinion is not needed Festus. The boldness of Paul comes from what Jesus said to him on the road to Damascus, “delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles.”
None of these things are hidden from the King for they were not done in a corner. God boldly raised His son from the dead and to this there are many witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
Paul challenges the believing of King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? If the King did believe the prophets his response to Paul would have been different.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
The word “almost” breaks your heart. It is the Greek word oligos and it means small or little. In terms of time, it is short. In terms of quantity, it is little. In terms of size, it is small. In terms of salvation, King Agrippa is still spiritually dead.
And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
Felix had given Paul liberty (Acts 24:23), but now with Festus Paul is once again bound. He could be in handcuffs or chained to a soldier, but he is bound. Because Festus wants to give the Sanhedrin a favor.
And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
Some years ago, a man asked me if he could read something to me from the Bible. I told him it was okay. Then he said, here you read these two verses. I did not like his bait and switch tactic, but I read the verses anyway.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
When I was done, he said, very enthusiastically, “Isn’t that exciting!”
I responded, “If you think that is exciting, you need to get out more.”
I do not know what seeds may have been planted that day as Paul gave his testimony, but I know it is never wrong or out of place to share the Truth of God’s Word. You never know what seeds will take root.
1. Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, page 976, Dr. E.W. Bullinger
2. Who was Gamaliel in the New Testament? - BibleAsk
3. Strong's Greek: 3724. ὁρίζω (horizó) -- to mark off by boundaries, to determine (biblehub.com); G3724 - horizō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
4. G3000 - latreuō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
5. G5586 - psēphos - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
6. The Sanhedrin: The Jewish Court System - Chabad.org
7. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 7:8
8. G5097 - timōreō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
9. G315 - anagkazō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
10. G987 - blasphēmeō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
11. G4057 - perissōs - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
12. G1693 - emmainomai - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
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