Acts 25:13-26:18 Paul Before Agrippa-Saved For A Purpose.
Paul, as a Roman citizen, had appealed to Caesar to have his case ruled on by a higher court – King Agrippa over Festus (vv. 13-14 Cf. 24:27). This situation began with what was a religious charge of the apostate Jewish leadership (v. 15 Cf. 24:1; 25:2-3). Festus reminder Paul’s accusers that the Roman practice was to let the defendant face his accusers and answer the charges against him (v. 16). To this end, Festus had held court to deal with the case (v. 17), but soon discovered that the charges were related to questions of their own religion, and not under the purview of the state (vv. 18-19), and thus asked if Paul therefore wanted to take up the case in Jerusalem (v. 20). However, clearly in that environment Paul could not expect to get a fair trial, so he appealed to Augustus, the Highest court of appeal for a Roman citizen (v. 21).
Having been brought up to date, Agrippa and Bernice wanted to hear from Paul himself (v. 22). They entered the auditorium with all pomp and ceremony, and by contrast Paul also entered from his confinement (v. 23). Festus confirmed that the apostate Jews wanted the death penalty for Paul (v. 24), but also that he found no grounds for this, and instead accepted Paul’s appeal to Caesar, and hence their gathering (v. 25). Festus, as much as anyone, was desirous of a judgment from Agrippa, for it seemed unreasonable to him to send a prisoner to Caesar when he could not draw up any charges which warranted the case going any further (vv. 26-27). Agrippa gave Paul an opportunity to answer for himself, and so Paul used this to trace not only his own history, but also that of the growth of the Christian community (26:1).
Paul was delighted that he had this opportunity to present his case before Agrippa, to answer the charges against him, especially since Paul regarded him as one who was “an expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews.” (v. 3a). Therefore, he begged for his patience (v. 3b). His accusers knew of Paul’s background, living according to the strict sect of the Pharisees (vv. 4-5), who did believe in the resurrection, but were opposed to Paul because he preached the hope of the resurrection and eternal life in Jesus the Christ (vv. 6-8). Paul also admitted to working with the chief priests in persecuting Christians for this belief, even asking them to deny Jesus the Christ – which is blasphemy (vv. 9-11). Paul then testified to his conversion, by this same Jesus, on the road to Damascus to persecute the Lord’s people (vv. 12-13 Cf. 22:6-16).
Paul then goes into some detail of the Lord’s encounter with him. It is interesting that Paul makes the point that the Lord Jesus, whose “mother tongue” was Aramaic, spoke to Paul in his mother tongue of Hebrew (v. 14a). It is likely that Jesus was fluent in both languages, and perhaps more, but in keeping with all his encounters with people, he discoursed with Paul according to his person. From the outset, Paul was asked why he was persecuting the people of the Lord, even as he thought that he was engaged in God’s work. When Jesus said that it was hard for Paul to kick against the goads, it is clear that he had been working on Paul for some time, but Paul was being stubborn in resisting him (v. 14b). When Paul inquired who was talking to him, Jesus revealed his identity to Paul, and that Paul was really persecuting him (v. 15).
However, Jesus also had a purpose for this encounter with Paul, and ultimately his conversion, and that was to proclaim his kingdom reign among the Gentiles. Paul, as with us all, are saved for a purpose. Conversion is not an end in itself, as we are called to be kingdom builders, and heralds of the kingdom of Jesus the Christ. Paul was destined to be a minister and witness to the things he had seen concerning the Lord, and the things which the Lord would also reveal to him (v. 16). So he also learned here that he would be a prophet to proclaim and put into writing, the revealed will of Jesus the Christ. To this end, the Lord promised to deliver him from the apostate Jews, and to send him to proclaim this same gospel to the Gentiles, that their eyes might be opened to turn to the light, being delivered from the darkness of Satan (v. 17).
This deliverance would not come through human instruments of oppression, such as Paul was engaged in, but rather, it would come through the preaching of the good news of the forgiveness of sins, with “an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (v. 18) There is a lot packed into this verse. First of all, the forgiveness of sins is not an end in itself, and the gospel does not stop here. The gospel includes an inheritance. Secondly, those who are heirs are those who give evidence also of sanctification – again, forgiveness is not an end in itself, but shows itself in this sanctification. Thirdly, and first in order of priority, none of this happens if faith is not given as a gift, whereby one can look to Jesus for this life in Him. This faith, and forgiveness, will show itself in the life lived by his people. We are saved for a purpose.