Have you read Acts 26 lately? Amazing! We can learn so much from the life of Paul. Reading this chapter where Paul has opportunity to share his testimony again, the circumstances that led up to the opportunity and Paul’s steadfastness and conviction are both encouraging and convicting. Reading this chapter has caused me to ask myself some-hard questions about my own life’s journey with Jesus and my own conviction to stand for truth, follow Jesus and take every opportunity for testimony about Jesus. I would like to share with you what stood out for me in Acts 26, what I have learned and the questions I am asking myself in hopes that you will ask yourself these same questions.
Let’s start with a summary of Acts chapters 24 and 25 to understand the context and events leading up and the circumstances under which Paul shares his testimony.
Paul is in prison in Caesarea. He is brought before the governor Felix as he has been accused by the Jews of being a plague, a creator of dissention among all the Jews throughout the world, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes and trying to profane the temple. Paul defends himself before Felix the governor and shares about faith in Christ (the Way).
After hearing these things and having more accurate knowledge of the Way, Felix delays his decision regarding Paul’s case. He sends for Paul more often and converses with him. As Paul reasons with Felix about righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come, Felix becomes frightened declaring, “Go away for now. When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” Felix desires to release Paul however, after 2 years, Felix is succeeded by Festus and leaves Paul in prison because he wanted to do the Jews a favor (people pleasing).
Festus learns about Paul being in prison in Caesarea from the Jews in Jerusalem and goes to Caesarea and sitting on the judgement seat, he commands Paul to be brought. The Jews had come down from Jerusalem and stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove. Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor (people pleasing), asks Paul if he was willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before Festus concerning the accusations.
Paul declares, “I stand at Caesar’s judgement seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know.”
To do wrong (adikeo) means to do injustice, to act criminally or unrighteously, to violate any human or divine law, to mistreat others, an illegal action. Adikeo consists of offending legally, general wrong-doing, social injustice, and inflicting hurt or damage on individuals. In his appeal to Caesar, Paul declares his innocence.
Festus agrees to send Paul to Caesar stating, “You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go.” This is a fulfillment of the words of Jesus in Acts 23:11 where Jesus says to Paul, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”
King Agrippa and his sister Bernice come to Caesarea to greet Festus and Festus lays Paul’s case before the king telling him that he could not find any evidence to justify that Paul be put to death and therefore has nothing to write to Caesar. So he asked King Agrippa to hear Paul so that after he examines him, he might have something to write stating, “For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.”
Now Acts 26...
Paul is standing before Festus, the governor of Caesarea, King Agrippa, Bernice, commanders and prominent men of the city of Caesarea and is permitted to speak by King Agrippa (26:1). I am reminded of Jesus’s words in Mt 10:18, “You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.”
King Agrippa ruled over Northern Palestine at the time. He was the great-grandson of Herod the great. Yes, the same Herod who wanted to kill Jesus in Matthew 2! Interesting J
In vss. 4-11 Paul has just shared his pre-conversion life of doing many things contrary to the name of Jesus, putting the saints in prison, consenting to their death, persecuting them and then shares in vs. 12 that he was on a journey to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests to do these same things. Then Paul goes on to share his conversion where he is clearly given his mission by Jesus (vss. 13-18) As I read these verses I thought, wow, what a shift in authority and commission! From a persecutor of the saints to an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Read the first verse of the first chapter of every subsequent letter Paul writes to the churches.
Paul says to King Agrippa in vs. 19 that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision and proceeds to share his post conversion life reciting to King Agrippa what he has been doing to fulfill the mission Jesus gave him.
The following verses and statements by Paul really stood out to me and the hard questions followed:
Vs. 20-“repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” The question that came to me which has been coming to me often lately was, “What are you doing with so great a salvation?” What I am doing with so great a salvation is partially answered in my last blog called, “How are you going to respond to so great a salvation?” I encourage you to read it.
-Vs. 22-Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come-
The word witnessing (martureo) means giving evidence, attesting, confirming, confessing, bearing record, speaking well of, giving a good report, testifying, affirming that one has seen, heard, or experienced something. In the NT it is used particularly for presenting the gospel with evidence. The English word “martyr” comes from this word, suggesting that a witness is one willing die for his/her testimony!
Paul is willing to die for his testimony. And now an even harder question, “Are you?” “Am I?”
Vs. 23-“that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” Paul understood the OT Scriptures in a new light: Jesus is the Messiah and His kingdom included the Gentiles. Paul preached Christ crucified (1 Co 1:23). Paul is obedient to his mission that was given to him by Jesus back in vss. 16-18. Another question. “Are you being obedient to the mission given to you by Jesus? The mission given to the church by Jesus in Mt 28:19-20?” It is called the great commission.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. (Mt 28:19-20 NKJV)
Now the rest of the chapter. After making his defence, Festus accuses Paul of being mad however Paul says that he is speaking the words of truth and reason. Paul has an interaction with King Agrippa in vss. 26-29 where Paul puts King Agrippa in an embarrassing situation. Agrippa attempts to escape from his dilemma by responding to Paul with an insincere and cynical comment: “In a short time you think to make me a Christian?” Everyone who heard Paul share his testimony agreed that he is doing nothing deserving of death or chains. Then, in the last vs. of the chapter, Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
God’s plan will be fulfilled! Paul must go to Rome! Read the rest of Acts to see what happens as a result of Paul’s obedience to follow Jesus and what He has said to do and where to go. You will read about salvations, deliverance’s, healings and many hearing the gospel of the Kingdom of God!
Are you willing to follow Jesus wherever He leads taking every opportunity to testify about how Jesus has changed your life and share the gospel regardless of how difficult it will be, even leading to prison or even death? Am I?
These are questions that we must seriously ask ourselves and they must be honestly answered. The world is going to get worse and we must decide that we are going to take a stand for Jesus, not waiver in our convictions and be willing to persevere in following Jesus in obedience, sharing the gospel of the Kingdom and testifying about our King Jesus, even unto death!
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. (Rev 12:11 NKJV)
This is what I wrote on July 26, 2021-I am making a decision to be obedient to the mission given to me by Jesus. I will do the works befitting repentance; not wasting so great a salvation. I declare that I am willing to die for my testimony. Jesus died for me. I must be willing to die for Him.
What are you?
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches...” Rev 2:7