Acts 26



1 "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then

Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:"  And for then,

Authorized Version; his for the, Authorized Version; made his defense for answered

for himself, Authorized Version. Agrippa said. It was by the courtesy of Festus that

Agrippa thus took the chief place. It was, perhaps, with the like courtesy that Agrippa

said, impersonally, Thou art permitted, without specifying whether by himself or by

Festus. Stretched forth his hand. The action of an orator, rendered in this case still

more impressive by the chains which hung upon his arms. Luke here relates what

he saw. Made his defense (ἀπελογεῖτο - apelogeito); ch. 25:8; 24:10, note.


2 "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:"

That I am to make my defense before thee this day for because I shall answer for

myself this day before thee, Authorized Version; by for of, Authorized Version.


3 "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."

Thou art expert for I know thee to be expert, Authorized Version and Textus

Receptus.  Expert; γνώστην - gnostaen, here only in the New Testament, but

found in the Septuagint (Daniel, i.e. History of Susanna 42) applied to God,

τῶν κρυπτῶν γνώστης - ho ton krupton gnostaes -  expert on secrets - and

I Samuel 28:3 and II Kings 21:6, as the rendering of יִדֹּעְנִי, a wizard. It is seldom

found in classical Greek. According to the Received Text, which is that generally

adopted (Meyer, Kuinoel, Wordsworth, Alford, etc.), the accusative γνώστην

ὄντα σέ - gnostaen onta se – expert being you is put, by a not uncommon

construction, for the genitive absolute, as in Ephesians 1:18. The marginal

rendering, because thou art especially expert, seems preferable to that in the text.

Customs and questions. For the use of ἐθῶν - ethon – customs and ζητημάτων

 - zaetaematonquestions applied to Jewish customs and controversies, see

ch. 6:14; 16:21;  21:21, etc.; and 25:19, note.




The Conditions of Hearing to Profit (v. 3)


“Wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.” The occasion of these

words of the apostle may be justly viewed all round as a model occasion of

public speaking for the preacher, and of listening for the hearer. A certain

amount of result, and of very powerful result, was gained, though

confessedly not all that could have been wished. It is not the less to be

noticed that just that, however, was gained which may be supposed

obtainable by the faithful use of the best human means. And for the rest,

the work was stayed where, in the very truest sense, we are warranted to

say, “Permitte cetera Deo,” or the results belong to God. The occasion,

perhaps unintentionally enough, reveals the great standing conditions of

effective preaching and profiting hearing. There must be:




Ø      He must know his subject.

Ø      He must feel deeply his subject.

Ø      He must handle a subject which concerns his hearers, and is neither

above them nor beside their needs.

Ø      He must know the graces of speech, but specially that of respectfulness

and courtesy towards those whose ear he wishes to gain.


Who might command may sometimes better “beseech” (Philemon 1: 8-9), and so

much the more if one thing that he asks for is the thing so rare, so difficult,



  • THOSE PREPARED TO HEAR. Different considerations will

determine the question in what such preparedness may most truly consist.

We have here to do with only a certain human range of preparedness.


Ø      The hearer must be open, ready, willing to hear and capable of

understanding. Paul does not speak hollow words. He knows he

can make much greater progress with Agrippa than with Festus,

because Agrippa was really not unversed in matters of revealed truth.

Ø      The hearer must be prepared to give his mind patiently to the great

subjects that may be exhibited to him. They are what may well require


Ø      He must be honest to make decision and to take action on what he has

heard. So far Agrippa went a long way towards being “a good hearer”


Ø      If the case be such, he must be ready to give full public profession of

his decision. In this Agrippa failed. He and Festus only “talked

between themselves.”


4 "My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine

own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;"  Then from my youth up for for

my youth. Authorized Version; from the beginning for at the first. Authorized

Version; and at for at, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.  My manner

of life, etc. The same testimony of a good conscience as that in ch. 23:1 and 24:16.

The word βίωσιν - biosincourse of life occurs only here in the New Testament.

But we find the phrase, τῆς ἐννόμου βιώσεως - taes ennomou bioseos - the manner

of life according to the Law," in the Prologue to Ecclesiasticus and in Symmachus

(Psalm 38:6), though not in classical Greek. The verb βιῶσαι biosaito spend

life -  occurs in I Peter 4:2, and not infrequently in the Septuagint. From my youth up,

which was from the beginning among my own nation, etc., having knowledge of

me from the first (in v. 5). No appeal could be stronger as to the notoriety of his

whole life spent in the midst of his own people, observed and known of all. The

Textus Receptus implies that his youth was spent at Jerusalem, according to what

he himself tells us in ch. 22:3. The Received Text does so less distinctly. (For Paul's

account of his early Pharisaism, compare Galatians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:5-6.)


5 "Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the

most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee."  Having knowledge of

me from the first for which knew me from the beginning, Authorized Version;

be willing to for would, Authorized Version; how that for that, Authorized Version;

straitest for most straitest, Authorized Version. Straitest (ἀκριβεστάτην

akribestataen - strictest); see ch. 22:3; 18:26, etc. Sect (αἵρεσιν - hairesin); see

ch. 24:14, note. He does not disclaim being still a Pharisee. On the contrary, in the

next verse (v. 6) he declares, as he had done in ch. 23:6, that it was for the chief

hope of the Pharisees that he was now accused. He tries to enlist all the good

feeling that yet remained among the Jews on his side.




Paul a Pharisee (v. 5)


Very remarkable is the skill shown by the apostle in the adaptation of his

defenses before different rulers. This Agrippa prided himself upon his

Jewish knowledge, and would be quite familiar with the Jewish sects. The

offences charged against Paul related chiefly to Jewish ceremonial and

rights, so the apostle could make no answer which would influence

Agrippa so certainly as the answer given in the text, “After the most

straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” Agrippa would know that a

man born and brought up as a Pharisee was not in the least likely to offend

against the customs and rites which that body so jealously preserved.

Conybeare and Howson say, “Not only was Paul a Pharisee, but his fathers

and teachers belonged to this sect. This is nearly all we know of Paul’s

parents. We can conceive of the apostle as born in the Pharisaic family, and

as brought up from his infancy in the straitest sect’ of the Jewish religion.

His childhood was nurtured in the strictest belief, as he had before him the

example of his father who prayed and walked with broad phylacteries, and

were scrupulous and exact in their legal observances. He had, moreover,

the memory and tradition of ancestral piety, for he tells us that he served

God ‘from his forefathers.’ Everything, therefore, tended to prepare him to

be an eminent member of that theological party to which so many of the

Jews were looking for the preservation of their natural life, and extension

of their natural creed.” Compare Paul’s account of himself as given in

Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:5-6. We dwell on the fact of Paul’s Pharisaic

birth, education, and sympathies, in order to show:



ought to have been peculiarly acceptable to the Jews. The bias of his life

was wholly in favor of ceremonial Judaism. He might have been looked to

as one of the noblest champions of Mosaism. He did come out as a leader

of the party which persecuted the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. He had

never separated himself from the Jewish rites and ordinances. To the close

of life he maintained his Pharisaism. He pleaded, indeed, for liberty from

ritual bonds on behalf of the Gentile converts, but he did not take the

liberty for himself; so that, if the Jews had not yielded to blinding prejudice,

they might have found in this Christian Pharisee the conservator of all the

essentials of Mosaism. It should be clearly seen that Paul at once

admitted the new light that came from God, and jealously conserved the

old, which had also come from Him. No doubt the apostle saw that the

Jewish system would fade away, and give place to a spiritual religion for

which simpler forms would suffice; but it was no part of his mission to

hurry on the time of the passing away. His point was this — Jewish bonds

must not be laid on Gentile converts. Judaism cannot be aggressive; it must

keep well within its own lines and limits.



MADE AGAINST HIM. It made those charges seem ridiculous. One

brought up as a zealous Pharisee insultingly defiling the sacred temple was

simply absurd. Such a man could not have done such a thing. And the

assumption further was that the public teachings of such a man could not

be out of harmony with true Judaism. Men are true to themselves: they do

not make themselves ridiculous by such open inconsistencies. Paul may

plead in answer to all their charges, “I was, I am, a Pharisee.”




education established a strong conviction concerning three things.


Ø      The direct ruling and intervention of Jehovah, so that, at any time, any of

His servants might have direct and personal communications from Him.

The fathers and the prophets had received such revelations, and revelations

and visions may come to men still.


Ø      The importance of Holy Scripture, as given by inspiration of God.


Ø      And the expectation of Messiah, as fulfilling Scripture prophecy and

promise. It may easily be shown how those Pharisaic sentiments prepared



o        the vision at Damascus;

o        the key which that vision gave to Scripture, and especially to the

figure of Messiah presented in the Scripture.


Compare the difference of result if Paul had been by birth and education

a doubting, skeptical Sadducee.  True Christianity is the natural and proper

outcome of true Pharisaism.  Those who were loyal to the idea of the

theocracy, and to the Scripture as the human expression of the Divine will

and purpose, ought to have been led to a full acceptance of Jesus of

Nazareth as Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God. Illustrate and impress

that in a man’s early years is displayed the character that is to distinguish

his whole life; and that we are all greatly dependent on the tone of the

influences that surround our infancy and childhood. Manhood should not,

indeed, witness the mere continuance of childhood’s prejudices, it should

be the true and worthy development, adaptation, and application of

childhood’s principles.


6 "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God

unto our fathers:"  Here to be judged for and am judged, Authorized Version.

To be judged (ἕστηκα κρινόμενος - hestaeka krinomenosI stand being judged);

rather, I stand on my trial. The Authorized Version seems to give the sense well.

The hope of the promise. The hope of the kingdom of Christ, which necessarily

implies the resurrection of the dead. (see ch. 17:31)  This hope, which rested upon

God's promise to the fathers, Paul clung to; this hope his Sadducean persecutors

denied. He, then, was the true Jew; he was faithful to Moses and the prophets; he

claimed the sympathy and support of all true Israelites, and specially of King Agrippa.



 The Messianic Promise (v. 6)


The words of this verse include the whole expectation of a Divine

kingdom, of which the Christ was to be the Head, as well as the specific

belief in a resurrection of the dead.  It is said of the early revelations of

God, by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, “God, having of old time

spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers

manners” (Hebrews 1:1 - Revised Version). And the presentation of Messiah in

the Old Testament Scriptures has been likened to the painting of a great picture,

on which, during the many ages, many hands have worked. At first we have

but the barest outline figure, drawn by God Himself in the promise to our

first parents. (Genesis 3:15)  Then patriarch, lawgiver, judge, king, poet, and

prophet in their turn become artist-painters, and help to fill in the wondrous

outline, until in the later days of Isaiah the Messiah stands forth full and clear

before us, the suffering, conquering King. Dealing with the scriptural

promise of Messiah, the Prince and Savior, we note:


  • THAT IT WAS EARLY GIVEN. In the world’s very morning. In the

first hours of the world’s sin and woe. Almost before the shadow of man’s

sin could fall upon his life, God sent forth this great ray of hope.




Ø      For every generation;

Ø      for every new set of circumstances,

Ø      in ever-varied forms,

Ø      with a gracious advancing clearness and fullness.



would not take the Messianic figure as a whole, but chose the parts of it

which they preferred. And because men did not take the revelation in its

simplicity, but read it in the light of their circumstances, and especially of

their temporal necessities. So a nation whose liberty had been taken from

them only saw in Messianic promise a liberator, a Judas Maccabeus, a

triumphing prince, after the pattern indicated by Daniel.


Ø      Messiah is for men, not for Jews only,

Ø      for sinners, and not for an enslaved nation only.


7 "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."

Earnestly for instantly, Authorized Version; night and day for day and night,

Authorized Version; attain for come, Authorized Version; and concerning this

hope I am accused by the Jews, O King! for for which hope's sake, King Agrippa,

I am accused of the Jews, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Our twelve

tribes. Δωδεκάφυλον - Dodekaphulontwelve tribes - only occurs here, in the

Sibylline oracles, and in the prot-evangel. Jacob., 3, and in Clement's 1 Corinthians

55, but is formed, after the analogy of such words as δωδεκαετής, δωδεκάμοιρος,

δωδεκάμηνος, τετράφυλος, δεκάφυλος (Herod., 5:66), and the like. The idea of

the twelve tribes of Israel is part of the essential conception of the Israel of God.

So our Lord (Matthew 19:28; James 1:1; Revelation 7:4, etc.). Paul felt and spoke

like a thorough Israelite. Earnestly; ἐν ἐκτενείᾳ - en ekteneiain earnest, only

here and in II Maccabees 14:38 (where Razis is said to have risked his body and

his life for the religion of the Jews, μετᾶ πάσης ἐκτενίας - meta pasaes ektenias

with all vehemence, Authorized Version), and Judith 4:9, where the phrase, ἐν

ἐκτενίᾳ μεγάλῃ - en ektenia megalae - with great vehemency; with great fervency;

Authorized Version, occurs twice, applied to prayer and to self-humiliation. The

adjective ἐκτενής - ektenaesearnest - occurs in ch. 12:5; Luke 22:44; I Peter 4:8;

and ἐκτενῶς - ektenosearnestly - in 1 Peter 1:22. Serving (λατρεῦον - latreuon -  

offering divine service); i.e. serving with worship, prayers, sacrifices and the like.

The allusion is to the temple service, with its worship by night and by day

(compare Psalm 134:1; I Chronicles 9:33).


8 "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise

the dead?"  Why is it judged incredible with you, if for why should it be thought

a thing incredible with you, that, Authorized Version; doth for should, Authorized

Version. Why is it judged, etc. The use of εἰ - ei - if - is somewhat peculiar. It cannot

stand for ὅτι - hoti - that, but it is nearly equivalent to "whether," as in v. 23. The

question proposed to the mind is here whether God has raised the dead; and in v. 23

whether Christ has suffered, whether He is the first to rise. In the latter case Paul

gives the answer by his witness to the truth, affirming that it is so. In the former case

he chides his hearers for giving the answer of unbelief, and saying that it is not so.




The Hope of the Promise (vs. 6-8)


It is a thing of deepest interest and significance that we can note so clearly,

so repeatedly, what it was ever lay so close to the heart that craved the

better, that was not dead, that reached towards light. It was ever that one

transporting hope that grows out of the death and resurrection of Jesus,

the hope of future and eternal life, the vista of an abiding city, a heavenly

Canaan, and for their advantage “an house not made with hands, eternal

in the heavens”  (II Corinthians 5:1)  We learn here that, under whatever

various aspects and with whatever needful accompaniments:




PRONOUNCED WORK, DEATH. The hope of the promise was the

hope of eternal life and of heaven.






















OF JESUS. One of the correctest commentaries on the letter and the spirit

of this striking and beautiful passage and the similar parallel passages, is

found in the exquisite little poem of J. H. Newman, entitled “Moses seeing

the Land.”


“My father’s hope! my childhood’s dream!

    The promise from on high!

Long waited for!  its glories beam

    Now when my death is nigh.


“My death is come, but not decay;

     Nor eye nor mind is dim;

The keenness of youth’s vigorous day

    Thrills in each nerve and limb.


“Blest scene! thrice welcome after toil —

     If no deceit I view;

Oh, might my lips but press the soil,

    And prove the vision true!


“Its glorious heights, its wealthy plains,

    Its many-tinted groves,

They call! But He my steps restrains

    Who chastens whom He loves.


“Ah! now they melt... they are but shades...

    I die! — yet is no rest,

O Lord! in store, since Canaan fades

    But seen, and not possest?”




 The Credibility of the Resurrection (v. 8)


If it be an incredible doctrine, it must be so because to raise men from the

dead is physically impossible or morally unlikely in a very high degree. But:




Ø      The continuance of the spirit in existence after death is certainly not

impossible; indeed, it is the discontinuance which has seemed so

impossible that to many thinkers its permanency appears to be a necessity.

The difficulty, to many minds, is to understand how a spirit can be

dissolved and destroyed.


Ø      Its re-association with a human body of some kind is also possible, and to

almighty power and wisdom easy of execution. The same Divine strength

and skill which created and fashioned man as he is can surely continue his

existence and his powers under similar conditions to the present ones. He

who has made us what we are can make us again, more or less closely

associated with the bodily frame which is our present home and organ.

(I should think that it would be easier to remake us than having made

us in the first place!  CY – 2018)



ASSURE THE WORLD OF HIS DIVINITY, and of the heavenly origin

of the faith he taught, is credible enough. Granted that Jesus Christ was the

Son of God and Savior of the world, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, so far

from being incredible or even improbable, is positively demanded. 

(ch. 17:31)




what we have assumed, and that, therefore, Jesus Christ is Savior, Lord, and

Friend of believing, loving, and faithful disciples, it follows that He would

exert His Divine power and raise them to his heavenly kingdom, that they

might share His honor and His blessedness. The real difficulty is not in the

resurrection of Jesus Christ or in that of His disciples; it is in the assumption

which lies behind — the assumption that Jesus Christ was one who came

down from heaven to redeem a fallen race. That granted, everything else

follows necessarily. We maintain that:



INCREDIBLE IDEA. There is much within us and around us that points

to the presence of a holy and living Father of spirits. If we make our appeal

to our own hearts — and there is nothing higher than a living human heart

from which to argue to the Divine — we shall conclude that to restore His

fallen children by the sacrifice of Himself was just that very thing which

the infinite Father would do. There is nothing more probable, more credible

than that:


Ø      Redeeming love is a well-attested fact.

Ø      The resurrection of Christ is involved in that fact.

Ø      The resurrection of man is an inference from that.


o       Regard it as a certainty.

o       Prepare for it as an event in which we have all the deepest

personal interest.



The Incredibility of the Resurrection (v. 8)


This sudden appeal appears to be made for two reasons.


1. Because Agrippa professed to believe in the Scriptures, which certainly

contained records of resurrections (see I Kings 17:17-23; II Kings 4:18-37).


2. Because the Sadducee party was the one which was most active against

the apostle, and they were chiefly offended by his preaching the doctrine of

the resurrection, based upon the resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah.

Possibly Paul may have known that the doctrine of resurrection was a

stumbling-block and hindrance to Agrippa. Men in all ages have stumbled

at the difficulty of resurrection. It appears to be so contrary to the order of

nature; and, so far as human power and skill are concerned, death is so

manifestly an irremediable woe. But is resurrection incredible? Three

answers may be given.



credible enough if it can be adequately proved. And the test case must be

the resurrection of our Lord. It is not enough to dismiss this case as

miraculous; we must fairly consider the proofs of the fact. Review them as

given by Paul in I Corinthians 15., and set them alongside the historical

details given in the Gospels, showing the credibility of the witnesses, etc.

No fact of history can be received unless its testimony is accepted without




If we can accept greater, it cannot be unreasonable to accept it. St.

Augustine well expresses this point. He says, “It is a greater miracle to

make that which is not than to repair that which is. Why cannot God raise

us after we are turned into dust, who, if we ever were reduced to nothing,

could give us a being?” To create man is a greater miracle than to re-create

him; and we are not unreasonable in asserting that HE WHO CAN






fully given in works on the resurrection, and are familiarly used in sermons

on this topic. Especially may analogies be found in springtime resurrections

and insect changes. Science, too, finds analogies, for it discovers that

nothing really is destroyed, but all things reappear in other and varied

forms. It is but a beginning of argument on behalf of the sure and sublime

truth of the resurrection, but it is an important beginning to be able to say

It is not a thing incredible that GOD SHOULD RAISE THE DEAD!


9 "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to

the name of Jesus of Nazareth."  I verily. He gently excuses their unbelief by

confessing that he himself had once felt like them, and insinuates the hope that

they would change their minds as he had, and proceeds to give them good

reason for doing so. Contrary to the Name (Galatians 1:13; I Timothy 1:13).

Jesus of Nazareth. By so designating the Lord of glory, he avows himself a

member of "the sect of the Nazarenes" (see ch. 2:22;  3:6; 4:10; 10:33, etc.).


10 "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."  And this for which thing,

Authorized Version; I both shut up for did I shut up, Authorized Version

(with a change of order); prisons for prison, Authorized Version; vote for voice,

Authorized Version. I... shut up. The ἐγώ - ego – I - is emphatic. The verb

κατακλείω - katakleiolocks up, peculiar to Luke (see Luke 3:20) is much

used by medical writers. Were put to death; ἀναιρουμένων anairoumenon,

a word frequent in Luke's writings, and much used in medical works, as well as

gave ἀναίρεσι - anairesiassassination (ch. 8:1 ). The phrase κατήνεγκα ψῆφον

- katapherein psaephon – I deposit ballot - is unusual; φέρειν ψῆφον - pherein

psaephon - is the more common phrase, both in Josephus and in classical writers.

I my vote, etc. Not, as Meyer and others take it, "I assented to it, at the moment

of their being killed," equivalent to συνευδοκῶν - suneudokon – consenting;

endorsing of ch. 22:20; but rather," when the Christians were being punished

with death, I was one of those who in the Sanhedrin voted for their death."




Gradations in Guilt (vs. 9-10)


The old notion that, as sin is committed against an infinite God, it must

itself be an infinite evil, and that, therefore, all sins are equally heinous and

offensive, is held no longer. Its logic is unsound, and our moral sense

contradicts the theory. The fact is that the degrees of human guilt in the

multitude of actions men perform, under a vast variety of conditions, are

indefinitely numerous. Only The Omniscient God can possibly discriminate and

compute them. But there are some simple principles on which we may

safely rely for our spiritual guidance. We judge:



THE GUILTIEST OF ALL POSITIONS. “Doing things contrary to…

Jesus Christ,” when these things are done by an agent who knows what he

does, reaches the very summit of iniquity. This is the condemnation, that

light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,

because their deeds were evil. ” When men oppose themselves to Christian

truth because “their deeds are evil,” because “their craft is in danger,”

Because they hate THE LIGHT  which exposes their sin and robs them of

their gains or their enjoyments, then they stand in the very front rank of

criminality; they deliberately take up arms against their Maker; “They take

counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, Let

us break their bands asunder,” etc.; they say, “This is the Son; come,

let us kill Him,” (Luke 20:14)  Surely God will trouble these “with his sore

displeasure” (Psalm 2:3,5).



When men refrain from taking an active part against the cause of Christ

and His truth, doing “nothing contrary,” etc., they shun the very worst

possible thing. But when they attempt to take neutral ground, and either:


Ø      reject the claims which Christ makes on their personal subjection

(Matthew 9:9; 11:28-29, etc.), or


Ø      refuse to render the help they can bring to His cause (Matthew 21:30;

25:18, etc.), then they fall into great condemnation, and must “bear

their iniquity” (see Matthew 7:26-27; Luke 13:25-28; Judges 5:23).




not so guilty in his acts of persecution as he would have been, had he not

“thought that he ought to do many things contrary,” etc. He himself tells us

that this ignorance of his was a great mitigation of the sinfulness of his act

(see I Timothy 1:13). Our Lord also gave his own Divine sanction to

this truth when suffering the pangs of crucifixion “Father, forgive them;

for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).


Ø      Ignorance changes the character of the sin. What Paul was guilty of in

those days was not the deliberate attempt to crush the work of a Divine

Redeemer; he would have recoiled from so doing, had the act presented

itself thus to his mind. His mistake, his condemnation, was that he had not

fairly and impartially considered the claims of Jesus of Nazareth; that he

had blindly assumed that his teachers were right, guiltily neglecting all the

proofs which the Savior had given that he was the Messiah “that should

come into the world.”


Ø      It also greatly reduces its turpitude, not to have inquired as we should

have done — this is wrong and blameworthy. But it is not so serious an

offence, in the sight of God or of man, as willfully and wantonly to

conspire against the Lord, and to seek to positively hinder the coming of

His kingdom. It may rightly comfort those who, like Paul, have to look

back on offences which they have committed, when they can say, with him,

“I verily thought,” etc.; when it can be said to them, “Brethren, I wot that

through ignorance ye did it” (ch. 3:17).  (I recommend II Kings 5 –

Spurgeon Sermon – I Thought –  # 626 - this website – CY – 2018)



BLAME. It is conceivable that men may be so circumstanced that their

ignorance is absolute, and therefore wholly faultless. In this case there is no

guilt. But how seldom is it of this kind! Usually when we do “things

contrary” to truth, righteousness, God, we might have known better if we

had inquired more promptly or more purely.


“If I willfully keep my conscience in darkness and continue

                 in errors which I might easily know to be such by a little

                thought and searching of God’s Word, then my conscience

                can offer me no excuse for I am guilty of blindfolding the

guide which I have chosen and then knowing him to be blindfolded,

I am guilty of the folly of letting him lead me into rebellion against God.”


We may not excuse ourselves if we have kept out of our mind any light

we might have admitted. We may apply this to:


Ø      the doctrines we are accepting;

Ø      the leaders we are encouraging;

Ø      the business we are conducting;

Ø      the family we are training.

11 "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."  Punishing them oftentimes in all the synagogues,

I strove to make them blaspheme for I punished them oft in every synagogue,

and compelled them to blaspheme, Authorized Version; foreign for strange,

Authorized Version. In all the synagogues. Those in Jerusalem, as the contrast

of the foreign cities shows. (For the facts, see ch. 8:1, 3.) I strove, etc. The

"compelled" of the Authorized Version is the natural rendering of ἠνάγκαζον

aenagkazonI compelled (Matthew 14:22; Luke 14:23; ch.28:19, etc.); but it

does not necessarily follow that the compulsion was successful. It might be in

some cases, and not in others. Pliny, in his letter to Trajan, says that those who

were accused of being Christians cleared themselves by calling upon the gods,

offering to the image of the emperor, and cursing Christ, none of which things,

it is said, true Christians ("qui sunt revera Christiani") can be compelled to do

('Epist.,' 10, 95, quoted by Kuinoel). Mad against them; ἐμμαινόμενος αὐτοῖς

 emmainomenos autois, only here; but the adjective ἐμμανής - emmanaes - frantic,

is not uncommon in classical writers.




The Reckless Rushing to Assume the Moral Responsibilities of Others

                                    An Exceeding Madness (v. 11)


We are to understand this extraordinary verse to reveal rather what Paul

confesses it was in his heart to do, and in the nature of his own actions to

cause others to do, than what he succeeded in doing, in all respects. The

two or three touches give us a wonderfully and strangely vivid picture. And

suggest, not so much for Paul who confessed and forsook his evil way, but

for many others who do neither the one nor the other, how suicidal their

course, not uncontent with the weight of their own responsibilities, they

would presume to tamper with the conscience of others, and lade

themselves with some share in all that is most dread of the moral nature of

their fellows. Let us notice that those who will forcibly seek to interfere

with the moral and religious convictions of others do:

















AND DISASTROUS CONFLICT TO THEM. Against every one of these

courted responsibilities Christ’s own clearest warnings are offered, and His

calmest, most solemn judgments pronounced upon those who taught them.

            (For instance, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which

            believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about

            his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”  Matthew

            18:6 – CY – 2018)


12 "Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from

the chief priests,"  Journeyed for went, Authorized Version; with the authority...

of for with authority... from, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.

Commission; ἐπιτροπῆς - epitropaes - permission, here only in the New Testament.

But ἐπίτροπος - epitropos  is a "steward" (Matthew 20:8; Luke 8:3); and hence the

Roman procurator was called in Greek, ἐπίτροπος, and so were governors generally,

as those who acted with a delegated authority. The chief priests. In ch. 9:1 Saul is

said to have applied to "the chief priest" for authority. The high priest, as president

of the Sanhedrim, acted with the other chief priests (ch. 9:14).

13 "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."  On for in, Authorized Version; that for which, Authorized Version.

At midday. "About noon" (ch. 22:6). It enhanced the wonder of that light from

heaven that it should be seen above the brightness of the sun at midday, in such

a latitude.

14 "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."  Saying unto me in the Hebrew

language for speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus; goad for pricks, Authorized Version. I heard a

voice saying, etc. (see ch. 9:7, note). In the Hebrew language. This is an

additional detail not mentioned in ch. 9:4 or ch. 22:8; but recalled here,

as tending to confirm Paul's claim to be a thorough Jew, a Hebrew of the

Hebrews, and, moreover, to represent Christianity as a thing not alien from,

but rather in thorough harmony with, the true national life and spirit of Israel.

It is hard for thee to kick, etc. This, also, according to the best manuscripts,

is an additional detail not mentioned before. The proverb Πρὸς κέντρα λακτίζειν

Pros kentra laktizein - , to kick against the ox-goads, as the unbroken bullock

does to his own hurt, instead of quietly submitting, as he must do at last, to go

the way and the pace his master chooses he should go, is found in Pindar,

AEschylus, Euripides, Plautus, Terence, etc. The passages are given in

Bochart, 'Hierozoicon.,' part 1. lib. it. Acts 39; in Kninoel, and in Bishop

Wordsworth. The passage in Eurip., 'Baach,' 1. 793, 794 (750, 751),

brings out the force of the proverb, viz. fruitless resistance to a superior power,

most distinctly: "Better to sacrifice to him, than, being mortal, by vainly raging

against God, to kick against the goads." Saul had better yield at once to the

constraining grace of God, and no longer do despite to the Spirit of grace.

It does not appear clearly that the proverb was used by the Hebrews.

Dr. Donaldson ('Christian Orthodoxy,' p. 293) affirms that" there is no Jewish

use of this proverbial expression." And this is borne out by Lightfoot, who

adduces the two passages, Deuteronomy 32:15 and I Samuel 2:9, as the

only evidences of the existence of such a proverb, together with a rabbinical

saying, "R. Bibai sat and taught, and R. Isaac Ben Cahna kicked against him"

('Exereit. on Acts,' 9:5). It is, therefore, a curious question how this classical

phrase came to be used here. Bishop Wordsworth says, "Even in heaven our

Lord did not disdain to use a proverb familiar to the heathen world." But,

perhaps, we may assume that such a proverb was substantially in use among

the Jews, though no distinct evidence of it has been preserved; and that Paul,

in rendering the Hebrew words of Jesus into Greek, made use of the language

of Euripides, with which he was familiar, in a case bearing a strong analogy

to his own, viz. the resistance of Pentheus to the claims of Bacchus. This is to

a certain extent borne out by the use of the words θεομάχοι - thomachoi -

fighters against God and θεομαχῶμεν - theomachomen we may be fighting

against God (ch. 5:39;  23:9 the latter of which is twice used in the 'Bacchae'

of Euripides though not common elsewhere.  It is, however, found in

II Maccabees 7:19)


15 "And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou

persecutest."  The Lord for he, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.


16 "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;” Arise for rise, Authorized Version; to this end have I, etc., for I have, etc.,

for this purpose, Authorized Version; appoint for make, Authorized Version;

the things wherein thou hast seen me for these things which thou hast seen,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; the things wherein for those things

in the which, Authorized Version. For to this end have I appeared, etc.

On comparing this statement with those in chps. 9:6 and 22:10, 14-15, it appears

that in this condensed account given before King Agrippa, Paul blends into one

message the words spoken to him when the Lord first appeared to him, and the

instruction subsequently given to him through Ananias, and the words spoken

to him in the trance (ch. 22:17-21). This may especially be inferred from ch.9:6,

and again from comparing ch. 22:15 with this verse.


17 "Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now

I send thee,"  Unto whom for unto whom note, Authorized Version. Unto [the

Gentiles].  These seem to be the words heard in the trance reported in ch. 22:21,

the sequel to which, as contained in v. 18, the apostle would then have recited,

had he not been cut short by the furious cries of the Jews.


18 "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."  That

they may turn for and to turn them, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;

remission for forgiveness, Authorized Version; an inheritance for inheritance,

Authorized Version; that for which, Authorized Version; faith in me for faith

that is in me, Authorized Version. To open their eyes (compare Luke 4:18 and

the Septuagint of Isaiah 61:1; II Corinthians 4:4-6, etc.). That they may turn

from darkness to light (compare  Colossians 1:12-13; Ephesians 5:8; I Peter 2:9,

etc.). Remission of sins (see ch. 2:38; 3:19; 10:43).




Minister and Messenger (vs. 16-18)


The charge given by the manifested Savior to the stricken and awakened

Saul is one which, in a true sense, though in smaller measure, we can apply

to ourselves. We look at:



make thee a minister and a witness.” Paul was to be:


Ø      related to Christ as His servant, and to be

Ø      related to his fellow-men as their teacher.


We are to engage in every Christian work as those who carry with them

everywhere a sense of obedience to a Divine Master. We are to do and

say nothing which we feel that he does not desire us to do or to say.

We are also to feel that, in regard to our fellows, we are as those who have

a Divine message to deliver. If we are content to expound our own views,

to establish our own position, or to secure a large following for ourselves,

we fall miserably short of our true vocation; we are called to convey




MESSAGE. He was to bear witness “both of these things which he had

seen, and of those things in the which Christ would appear unto him”

(v. 16). Not only was he to narrate what he already knew, but he was to

convey and enforce the truths which were soon to be revealed to him. We

are to draw continually on this double source. We are:


Ø      to repeat the facts and truths with which past experience and study

have made us familiar; and also


Ø      to unfold those later and more mature views which our Lord will

be revealing to our open and inquiring minds.



“Delivering thee from the (Jewish) people, and from the Gentiles” (v.17).

He was to encounter serious perils and difficulties, but he would escape

the one and surmount the other. He would find himself opposed and

thwarted by the Jews and the Gentiles, by those who were “nigh” and by

those who were “afar off,” by the children of privilege from whom he

might have hoped to receive help, and by the sons of ignorance from whom

he might have expected to endure hostility. By whomsoever assailed, the

Divine Savior would be his defense. We, too, may expect to be opposed by

two parties — by those within and by “them that are without,” by the heirs

of privilege and by the aliens and strangers. If we are faithful and trustful,

we may safely cast ourselves on the care of our Divine Friend, who, if He

does not save us from, will assuredly save us in, the disappointments and

the sufferings which will threaten us as champions of His cause.




Ø      Spiritual illumination. Those to whom he was to go would turn “from

darkness to light,” their “eyes having been opened.”


o        Having been blind to the existence, or to the nature and character,

 or to the claims of God; or

o        blind to the worth of the human soul, or

o        to the true end and aim of human life, or

o        to the solemnity of death and judgment; or

o        blind to the excellency of holy service,


§         to the beauty of holiness,

§         to the blessedness of consecration and self-denial;

§         to understand, to rejoice in the truth, and

§         to walk in THE LIGHT!


Their experience in the spiritual realm would answer to his in

the material world who should awake from blackest night to

brightest day.


Ø      Deliverance. “From the power of Satan unto God” (v. 18). In

ignorance and sin men are the bondmen of the evil one, held in his cords,

subject to his sway. Delivered from the power of sin, they become the

freedmen of Christ; they walk in “the glorious liberty of the children of

God.” (Romans 8:21)   From a degrading bondage they are rescued,

 that they may rejoice in a holy, elevating freedom.




Ø      Forgiveness of sins.

Ø      Sanctification “that they may receive,” etc. (v. 18). Immediately on

the exercise of faith they were to receive the abounding mercy of God,

that forgiveness which means not only the not holding them under

condemnation, but also the positive reception of them into Divine favor,

the admission of them to the Father’s table, the reinstatement of them

into all the privileges of sonship. And gradually they were to rise into a

state of sanctification, leaving old and evil things behind, and reaching

forth to that which is before; attaining to the stature of Christian

manhood, becoming holy even as God is holy (I Peter 1:16).



that is in me.” Every blessing promised was and is to be attained by faith in

JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF!  Not the acceptance of a creed, nor admission

to a Church, nor submission to a ceremony, but a living faith in A LIVING

SAVIOUR, the cordial acceptance of Jesus Christ Himself as the

Divine Savior,  the rightful Lord, the all-sufficient Friend

of the human heart.



The Mission of the Gospel to the World (v. 18)


“To open their eyes,” etc.



Christ....having no hope...without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)


Ø      Darkness.

Ø      Intellectual.

Ø      Moral.


There are no exceptions. The light of our world and culture in

the United States is like the Greek and Roman worlds that were

turned by sin into grosser DARKNESS and SUPERSTITION.


Ø      The rule of evil spirits.


o       The power possessed by false teachers.

§         Hollywood;

§         the Media;

§         music; rap; etc.


o       The dominion of the senses.

§         sex

§         drugs


o       The reign of fear. 

§         “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for

looking after those things which are coming

on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall

be shaken.”  (Luke 21:28)




The Ascended Savior’s Description of His Own Work among Men

(v. 18)


From the suddenly opened window of heaven into the suddenly opened ear

of Paul, the ascended Jesus conveys in very brief the description of the

work His gospel is to accomplish in the heart and life of the saved. The

present description is fivefold. Each various representation of Christ’s

work in the world invites our grateful, loving attention. Each such fresh

representation throws fresh hues of beauty and of loveliness upon our own

appreciation of the work. Jesus says here that He sends Paul to do five

things for men, in His Name, by His warrant, through aid of His power.


  • TO RESTORE A FACULTY. Whatever things men see, who see not

Christ, Divine truth, the deep needs and grand opportunities of their own

souls, they see the unimportant instead of the all-important. This is not to

have the eye open, but shut.




LIGHT CAN SHOW. The power Jesus gives He satisfies. The craving He

implants He provides for. The hope He awakens He will not deceive. The

eye He opens shall not wander and grope and bemoan darkness, dimness,

vague mist, but field after field of higher light and Diviner prospect shall

feed its rejoicing sense.







PRESENT GIFT OF PARDON OF THE PAST. Of what a fearful load

will this at once relieve them! How dreadful the outlook still is made,

whatever it might be, if it is haunted by the visions of the past, nay, far

more, overtaken by the dead hand of the past, and stricken down in every

attempt of its own hand, because of the overwhelming arrears due! That

which might be the brightest future is dashed by memories only sometimes,

but much more by memories that come barbed with sternest actual pains

and with demands that cannot be satisfied.  (When God forgives, He

forgets!  “....their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.” Hebrews

10:17 – Thus we have no more conscience of sins [ibid. v. 2] – however

we do remember our sins and that is good since the purpose of memory

of sins is to forbid us repeating them again!  CY – 2018)




found beyond a doubt here, as truly as there can be, as there is a “heaven

on earth.” In its perfection it is to be found, when years upon years have

rolled; ever till then, holding out the thought of home, the haven of rest,

the heart of perfect peace, the Church of ravishing worship, the

unimaginable bliss of heaven, whatever that may be, and of

GOD HIMSELF!  How vast that contrast! What a change and growth

from the first to this fifth stage! Now first our eye needs to be opened,

then what will it be when each blessed one may say, “As for me, I behold

thy face in righteousness; I am satisfied, awake, with thy likeness?”

            (Psalm 17:15)  “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”

            (Psalm 138:8)


19 "Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly

vision:"  Wherefore for whereupon, Authorized Version. Disobedient (ἀπειθής

apeithaes - stubborn; disobedient); see Luke 1:17; Romans 1:30, etc. The turn

of the phrase is most skillful; as if he should say, "Can you blame me for obeying

such a heavenly message? How could I act otherwise, being thus directed?"

Vision (ὀπτασία optasia); Luke 1:22; 24:23; II Corinthians 12:1.  Found also

repeatedly in the Septuagint of Daniel and Wisdom of Solomon (compare the

use of  ὀπτανόμενος - optanomenos -  being viewed; being seen -ch. 1:3).


Paul was divinely sent and would be divinely cared for.




Christ’s Own Stress Laid on Faith in a Personal Object (v. 18)


“And an inheritance among them that are sanctified,” etc. The utterances of

the ascended Savior to the man who was to be in a double sense the great

first apostle of his religion to all the world cannot but be regarded by us as

invested with the very fullest interest. The philosophy of religion is simple

with Jesus; and He throws into clear prominence certain things, which may

surely mark for us the prominence we should give them. Notice:



CHRIST. “Faith, that which centers in me.” So we may justly expound the

words of Christ. Jesus speaks thus emphatically to protect against

mysticism, defeat, deviation.


Ø      Faith in a living person can mean nothing short of general trust in him

(unless particular qualification be expressed, e.g. faith in a person as a

financier, etc.) and great trust in him, unless some qualification of measure

be expressly stated, as is never done to Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ will

include, therefore,


o        trust in His teaching;

o        trust in His example;

o        trust in His loving, sympathetic guidance;

o        trust in all that He says, in all that in His providence He does;

o        trust in the worthiness of His service; as well as

o        trust on the part of the soul’s deepest demands for Him, in His last

“power to save.”


Ø      The service or office of faith is here suggested. It is not remarked on

here in its elevating influence on the individual character, and in its present

points of superiority over sight for such a nature as ours. But it is instanced

in its function as the link of connection, real, vital connection, between

Christ and any man. It has, in itself, elevating as are the conception and the

gradual training inherent in it, no sufficient, no sovereign, certainly no

saving, efficacy. It is nothing that is to be depended upon, of and in itself.

But it leads to One, unites to One, keeps an open communication with

One, and clings mightily to the end unto One, who is to be depended on,

with all the heart, and mind, and strength, and soul.


Ø      The great calm, peace, divinest content and foretaste of heaven’s own

happiness that are commanded by real trust should always be credited to

faith in Christ. If these fail and when they fail, it is not that faith fails of its

office, or that Christ fails of his goodness, but that men sever this golden

link awhile, or let this golden conduit pitifully leak awhile.



RELATION TO SANCTIFICATION. It appears from this pronouncement

of Jesus that “faith that is in Him” is responsible for our sanctification.

There is no limitation to the statement that sanctification depends on faith

in Jesus.


Ø      It rises out of that faith or trust already spoken of. Without the real and

living connection with Christ, there would be no entrance possible to the

knowledge and the privileges which come with Him.


Ø      It is fed the whole way along by the truth, the example, the guidance, the

sympathizing love, of Jesus.


Ø      It avails to take away that surest foe of all to sanctification, trust in self,

at one stroke, but a stroke that must be felt life’s length.


Ø      Up to the very last, it is that simplest, purest, most depending trust of

the soul on Jesus when it faces “the valley,” and “the river,” and “the

shadow,” and “the unknown,” which completes, so far as we can trace it at

all, the sanctification of man. If at that last moment the bond of faith should

break, alas! all would break. But in that last moment, what reason we have

to think that there is One who makes its strength equal to all the strain

which by any possibility could be put upon it!  (“ man is able to

pluck them out of my hand.”




it distinctly appears, is that of a prepared place for a prepared people. The

preparation is one; it is that of sanctification attained by faith only. The

way to “the inheritance,” therefore, cannot be found, except by the paths of

faith, the “faith that is in Christ.” And the review of the whole would teach

us that it were well-nigh impossible to summarize more forcibly and briefly

in one the offices of “faith that is in Christ.” His own is the emphasis here

given to it. And He shows that it runs like a golden cord through





The Heavenly Vision,  a Sermon to the Young (v. 19)


When Paul was “apprehended of Christ Jesus” on his way to Damascus, he

was yet a young man. He was still at the outset of his career; his life was

still before him. When that heavenly vision came, and he saw the Lord, he

himself and his whole life were absolutely changed. The current which had

surged so swiftly in one line then turned and flowed steadily and

uninterruptedly in the opposite direction. That vision from God

revolutionized, transformed his whole self and all his plans and hopes.

What visions have we now, and what influence have they on our hearts and

lives? We reply:



VISION FROM HEAVEN. We do not expect the miraculous now. God

may, and probably does, make known His will in ways that are outside and

above the ordinary and the natural; but we have no right to reckon on

these. He does come to us by the illuminating influences of His Holy Spirit,

and He thus elevates the mind, awakens the soul, subdues the will, renews

the nature, transforms the life. God visits us through various means, acts

upon us by many instruments, wins us in different ways. The heavenly

vision is sure to come during the days of youth, when the mind is more

open and the heart more tender; “for of such is the kingdom of God.”

(Luke 18:16)


Ø      It may take the form of a vision of Jesus ChristHis excellency and

claims. The young heart may see Him, as it had never before, as One who is

infinitely worthy of trust, of love, of service, of submission.


Ø      Or it may take the form of a vision of human life — its seriousness and

responsibility. The mind may awake to this great fact: having regarded

human life as nothing better than a thing to be enjoyed, or as an

opportunity for making money, or gaining a brief reputation, or attaining to

some social position, it comes to see, in the light of God’s revealing truth,

that it may be something immeasurably more and higher — that it may be

made a sacred opportunity of spiritual culture, of holy usefulness, and of

Divine service.


Ø      Or it may take the form of a vision of the human soul — its greatness

and value. It may suddenly become conscious of the fact that God has

created us for Himself, that we may possess His likeness, live His life, and

share His immortality; that within the humblest human frame resides a spirit

whose worth the wealth of a planet will not weigh.



There are other occasions in the course of human life when a decisive

choice is made; when it is resolved what vocation shall be pursued, what

life-companion taken, what country adopted for a home, etc.; but there is

no occasion which compares with this in sacred interest, in lasting issues. It

may be even said that “on this winged hour eternity is hung.” Obedience or

disobedience to the heavenly vision makes all the difference between

success and failure, between peace and unrest of soul, between life and



Ø      Obedience means:


o       becoming right with God;

o       spending a life in accordance with His will and in harmony

with our true and deeper cravings;

o       a title to everlasting joy in the future.


Ø      Disobedience means the sad and dark opposites of these:


o       remaining under God’s displeasure;

o       living a life at variance with His purpose and the true end

of man;

o       REJECTING THE OFFER OF eternal life.



     The Make of a Heavenly Vision, and Its Use (v. 19)


These words are part of Paul’s own description of his conversion. He has

been telling the fact, and explaining the manner and circumstances of it. In

fewest words he has spoken of the blinding light from heaven at midday,

but far above the brightness of a midday sun; of the voice which he heard

when prostrate on the earth; of its summons to him to rise, and to be ready

promptly to begin a career of activity and of danger perhaps, alike

unparalleled. Then calling it altogether a “vision,” and a “heavenly vision,”

he says, “I was not disobedient to it.” For three days he remained blind; for

three days, so complete was the mastery of mind over body, he did neither

eat nor drink. They led him by the hand to Damascus; there the Divine will

and purpose concerning him were further unfolded to him by Ananias; and

there he found a grateful shelter awhile with Christ’s disciples — those

very persons whom he had set out to discomfit and persecute. Twenty-seven

years, or thereabout, have now passed away, and looking back on

that time, Paul says — and the trial of those twenty-seven years amply bear

him out — “Whereupon... I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” It

will be instructive to notice:



VISION.” The charm of words often beguiles, sometimes misleads, and,

like distance, lends enchantment to the view. A heavenly vision — must

not every one covet it? Certainly every one would not covet this of Paul’s.

A “heavenly vision,” if given, must it not be irresistible? Will it not be made

of fairy forms, of rainbow colors, of angel movements, of seraphs music?

Poetry and dream, imagination and the refinedness of inspiration, — these

will be the material and make of it. But, no, it is not so; it was not so now.

A heavenly vision may be as practical, of matter as hard, of manner as

unceremonious and unwelcome, as the most ordinary reality of our

everyday vexed and harassed life. In this, every one of us finds occasionally

the hard knocks of hard facts, and so we may in a heavenly vision. And this

was the kind of which Paul here speaks. The light was bright, but not with

fancy’s brightness, but with blinding effect. For the rest, judge in one

moment the characteristics of the heavenly vision that, beginning with

blinding, goes on by giving the strong rider a heavy fall to the earth. No

dreamy whisperings succeed, nor strains seraphic, but summons short and

sharp, with his name twice repeated. The remonstrant and upbraiding

questions succeed, and fear and trembling and unknown astonishment are

the result. This sort of vision, whatever it may he called, is, according to

our general thought, not so much of heavenly as of earthly things. Yet

these were the facts of Paul’s vision, and equally fact is it that he terms it

heavenly. And here is our lesson, that the warnings from heaven, and the

persuasions that come from heaven, and the instructions that date from

heaven, may, while we stay here, savor and have to savor much of the

material and the methods of earth, so far as regards the instruments of

them. The heavenly vision shall best justify its name often for you, when it

apprizes you experimentally, not of the delicious sensations of angels, but

of the fear and trembling and anguished amazement that pertain to sinful

hearts and injured consciences. Paul was right; for his vision did come from

heaven, and it pointed up to heaven, and it led him back with it to heaven,

and an innumerable host of others also. Hard fare brought the prodigal

back to himself and home to his father; and it was so with Paul, severe and

unceremonious handling brought Paul to himself and his Savior and his

lifework; and it may be so with us, that hard blows and smarting wounds and

crowding cares may be the appointed means of calling us to ourselves, our

God, and our home. So also when these come to me, even me, me myself,

is it not the equivalent of the name named, and sharply named twice, “Saul,

Saul”? We often individually doubt our mercies, and fail to give God praise

for them; seldom do we fail to cry out individually because of our pains, or

to murmur at God because of them.


  • HOW PAUL SAYS HE TREATED IT. The treatment which Paul

returned for his most merciful, but so to call it rough, usage in this

heavenly vision, was prompt attention, practical obedience. The kindest,

gentlest providences you may so abuse that they turn into bitter, hard

experiences, and memories of pain and shame. The hardest, sternest

providences may be so accepted, so treated, that they become transmuted

into the brightest spots of memory, the happiest realities of a painful life,

and the undoubted points of departure for a new and holier life. Of what

seem the unlikeliest materials, it is possible to secure heavenly advantage

— by obedience to the convictions, the thoughts, the suggestions that

come of the pain and darkness and fearful care that were enrapt in them.

For what reason, however, does Paul say, I was ‘not disobedient,’“

instead of “I was obedient”?


Ø      Perhaps he chooses his expression of real, deep modesty before God.

“Disobedient,” he thought to himself, “I will no longer be,” and that

thought lingered still with him, though, as to being fully and adequately

obedient, “who is sufficient for it?” The twenty-seven years that have now

sped away have just done this for him, made him feel that to be perfectly

obedient will need an energy and an unfalteringness never seen below the

sun, except in the one Lord and Master Himself.


Ø      Or was the mode of Paul’s language rather due to the thought, perhaps

all but unconsciously felt, that disobedience was the broad road and wide

gate, whereat the many go in, the million to one and he had been long of

the number? But Paul would say, “Being ‘by the grace of God what I am,’

I would no longer be disobedient, nor ‘walk in their counsel.’ Use we then

our providences, though dark and stern, and let us not be unfaithful to their

suggestions. It will be a great step towards baulking the fruitfulness of evil,

and towards producing an abundant fruitfulness of good. To be not

disobedient may soon usher in the ambition and the joys of a real and

hearty obedience. The word may tremble on human lip, to say, “I have

been obedient,” but with a good conscience before man and God, Paul

prefers to say, “I was not disobedient.”

20 "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.  Declared for showed,

Authorized Version; both to them of Damascus first for first unto them of Damascus,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; country for coasts, Authorized Version;

also for then, Authorized Version; doing for and do, Authorized Version; worthy

of for meet for, Authorized Version. Them of Damascus first, etc. He enumerates

his evangelical labors in the order in which they took place: at Damascus first, as

related in ch. 9:19-22; then at Jerusalem, as in ibid. vs. 26-29; and then those on

a larger and wider scale, among the Jews of Palestine and the heathen in all the

countries which he visited. Throughout all the country of Judaea. This does

not allude to any preaching in the land of Judaea at the time of his first visit to

Jerusalem (ch. 9:26), because he says in Galatians 1:22, that at that time, viz.

before he went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, he was still "unknown by

face unto the Churches of Judaea." But he had opportunities later of preaching

in Judaea. For instance, the language of ch.11:29 suggests that such an opportunity

may have arisen when Paul and Barnabas carried up the alms of the Christians at

Antioch "unto the brethren that dwelt in Judaea." Another opportunity he

manifestly had when he passed with Barnabas through Phoenicia and Samaria to

Jerusalem, as related in ch. 15:3. Another, when he went from Caesarea to Jerusalem,

as related in ch. 18:22. Again, there was room for working among the Jews in

Palestine while he was staying at Caesarea "many days," and journeying to

Jerusalem, as we read in ch. 21:10, 15. So that there is no contradiction whatever

between the statement in this verse and that in Galatians 1:22. The clauses in this

verse are two:

(1) "both to them at Damascus, and at Jerusalem first;" and
(2) "and throughout all Judaea, and to the Gentiles."




The Mission and Burden of the Evangelist (v. 20)


Three great themes are here announced by Paul. They stand in close

relation with one another. The chain of truth and of highest duty is short,

of three links, but most strong and most useful. The apostle, describing his

own great work as the first evangelist to the wide world, describes for all

time and for all place the work of the evangelist. However far beyond

religion may go, may be taught, may develop itself to an opening eye, a

quickened imagination, a deepening heart, and an inspired outlook, it

begins here, and rests on these three things. The preacher of Christ to

humanity must preach:




Ø      Conviction of sin.

Ø      Deep sorrow for sin.

Ø      Confession of sin.



doubt, a crisis in the inner life, in the very man himself, called fitly the

turning to God. Let it be produced as it may; let it be concealed or

manifest as it may; let it be short and sharp and very defined to day and

hour, or the reverse; yet this is a fact in the moral spiritual history of one

called by Christ and obeying that call. So much so that the call itself shall in

part be worded thus: “Turn;” “Turn to God;” “Turn ye, turn ye; why will

ye die?” The reversal of the old life, old character, old principle of action,

cannot be more plainly asserted as a necessity.  (Ezekiel 33:11)



Christ will not allow profession, will not accept mysticism, does not

acknowledge vague dreaming, nor admit the idler.


Ø      Change from the old,

Ø      honest departure from the past, and

Ø       reality of a new future,


are His watchwords.

21 "For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me."

This cause for these causes, Authorized Version; seized for caught, Authorized

Version; essayed for went about, Authorized Version. For this cause. Here again

is a most telling statement. "I have spent my life in trying to persuade men to

repent and turn to God, and for doing so the Jews seek to kill me. Can this be right?

Will not you, O King Agrippa, protect me from such an unjust requital?" To kill me;

διαχειρίσασθαι - diacheirisasthai - to lay hands on me, here and in ch. 5:30 only in

the New Testament; not in the Septuagint, but in Polybius, and in Hippocrates and

Galen, of surgical operations.

22 "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:"  The help that is from God for help of God,

Authorized Version; stand for continue, Authorized Version; testifying for witnessing,

Authorized Version; nothing but what for none other things than those which,

Authorized Version. Help, etc.; ἐπικουρία - epikouriahelp; of assistance, here

only and in Wisdom of Solomon 13:18, still of Divine help; in medical writers

frequently, of aid from medicine and physicians; common also in classical writers,

of auxiliary forces. It is properly spoken of help and allies from without (Bengel).

I stand; i.e. I continue unmoved, steadfast, and, by God's help, not crushed by my

enemies. Testifying. The natural rendering of the Received Text μαρτυρόμενος

marturomenos - witnessing. The Textus Receptus μαρτυρούμενος marturoumenos

-  followed by ὑπὸ - hupo - would mean "borne witness to," "approved," as in ch. 6:3;

10:22, etc., and so Meyer understands it here. But μαρτυρύμενος makes much better

sense, and is much better supported by manuscript authority. It is in close agreement

with ch. 9:15 and 22:15, that Paul should thus "testify" to small and great.


23 "That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise

from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles."

How that the Christ must for that Christ should, Authorized Version; how that He

first by the resurrection of the dead should proclaim for that he should be the first

that should rise from the dead, and should show, Authorized Version; both to

for unto, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. How that (εἰ - ei - that); see v. 8,

note. Must suffer; παθητός - pathaetos - suffering only here and in profane Greek

writers. The exact meaning of παθητός is "liable to suffering," just as θνητος

thnaetos  (from θνήσκω - thnaeskodie; be dead; means "liable to death," i.e.

mortal.  But just as θνητός in use comes to mean "one who must die," so παθητός

means "one who must suffer;" and so we read in Luke 24:26, Οὐχὶ ἔδει παθεῖν τὸν

Ξριστὸν καὶ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν δόξαν αὑτοῦ - Ouchi edei pathein ton Spiston kai

eiselthein eis taen doxan hautou - "Ought not Christ to have suffered," etc.?

And so again in Luke 24:46 (Textus Receptus), Ἔδει παθεῖν τὸν Ξριστὸν καὶ

ἀναστῆναι ἐκ νεκρῶν - Edei pathein ton Spiston kai anastaenai ek nekron

It behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead, where the turn of

thought is exactly the same as here. The Vulgate renders it by passibilis.

The Fathers (Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr) contrast the state of Christ

in glory with His state in the flesh by the words ἀπαθής apathaes "impassible

and παθητός pathaetos -  passible. That He first by the resurrection of the dead

should proclaim, etc. Most commentators, from Chrysostom downwards, connect

the first with the resurrection. "First from the resurrection," equal to πρωτότοκος

ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν - prototokos ek ton nekronfirstborn out of the dead ones

(Colossians 1:18). As Meyer truly says, "The chief stress of this sentence lies

on πρῶτος ἐξ ἀναστάσεως - protos ex anastaseosfirst one out of resurrection.

The Authorized Version gives the sense by a periphrasis; only it must be well

understood that it was especially by being the first to rise, and so to bring life

and immortality to light, that Christ showed light to the people. (II Timothy

1:10)  The words may, of course, be construed as the Revised Version does,

but such a rendering is not in accordance with the spirit of the passage or the

analogy of other passages. CHRIST WAS THE FIRST TO RISE AND HE

WILL BE FOLLOWED BY THEM THAT ARE HIS! But it is not true to say

that He was the first to give light to Jews and Gentiles, and will be followed by

others doing the same. (For the sentiment, compare Luke 2:32.) Note on the

whole the enormous stress laid by Paul on the fulfillment of prophecy as a

proof of the truth of the gospel, following therein our Lord Himself

(Luke 24:25-27, 44-45).




The Penalty and the Resources of a Devoted Life (vs. 20-23)


There is no trace of egotism, in the offensive sense of the word, in this

simple sketch of the apostle’s course. He is simply telling the truth

concerning himself out of a pure heart. But in so doing he gives us the

picture of:




Ø      He began at the earliest possible time to carry out the Master’s will —

“showed first unto them of Damascus (v. 20).

Ø      He labored in the most difficult and dangerous sphere — “and at


Ø      He went wherever the guiding finger pointed — “throughout all the

coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles.”

Ø      He was not afraid of those who were high not disregardful of those

who were low “witnessing both to small and great” (v. 22).

Ø      He preached everywhere unpalatable but indispensable truth — “ that

they should repent… and do works meet for repentance” (v. 20).

Ø      He was undeterred by any obstacles from continuing in his career —

“I continue unto this day” (v. 22).


We are not all charged by our Master to do the kind of work for which Paul

was His chosen vessel;” but we are all called upon to devote our powers

to His holy service, our lives to His praise and glory; and it behooves us,

as it became him, to begin early, to accept whatever duty the Lord may lay

upon us, to shrink from no service because it seems uninviting or perilous

to be thorough in all we do for Him, and to persist through good and evil

report even to the end, until He shall take the weapon from out’ hand.


  • THE PENALTY OF DEVOTEDNESS. “For these causes the Jews

caught me,” etc. (v. 21). Paul’s faithful and fearless devotedness to the

will and the cause of Jesus Christ led him into the utmost danger, and

caused him the severest losses and trials. The less of consecration the less

of persecution; the more of the one the more of the other. So, in some

degree, now. “Yea, and all that wilt live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer

persecution” (II Timothy 3:12). All are not expected to face the same

trials. The apostle had his own difficulties to surmount and dangers to

front. The missionary has his; the minister has his; the reformer has his. The

Christian man in everyday life has his own penalties of devotedness to pay.

Enthusiastic zeal, perfect purity, unswerving truthfulness, incorruptible

fidelity,these qualities, and such as these, cannot be continually

manifested without calling out and calling down the hostility,

condemnation, and opposition of the world. If we take not up the cross

thus and follow Christ, we are “not worthy of Him.”




Ø      The help to be had of God: “having obtained help of God” (v. 22).

Christ appeared to him at Jerusalem, at Troas, at Corinth, and sustained

him by special visitations. All along his path he had the upholding hand

 of the Almighty about him.


Ø      Consciousness of integrity. There was no ground for this hatred of him,

this relentless persecution. He was not really the renegade his enemies took

him for. His conduct could be fully justified by their own authorities; he

had been saying “none other things than these,” etc. (vs. 22-23). He had

a conscience void of offence toward man as well as toward God; he was as

guiltless before his own countrymen as he was before Caesar. Here we

have two sources of strength under those persecutions which are the

inevitable outcome of our fidelity.


o        Divine sustenance:

§         the guidance of the heavenly Father,

§         the watchful care of the Divine Savior,  and

§         the comfort of the Holy Ghost.


o        Consciousness of rectitude — the feeling that we are

saying and doing “none other things” than the Word of God

will justify, and than those who abuse and injure us would

themselves approve if they would only judge us with an open

and impartial mind.





A Good Confession (vs. 22-23)


If Festus and Agrippa had known half of what Paul had been passing

through since his journey to Damascus was so peremptorily stopped, they

would well understand why he interposes the acknowledgment, so full of

dependence and of humble gratitude, “Therefore having obtained help of

God, I continue unto this day” Paul takes credit to himself for neither his

work, nor suffering, nor safety. These are all due to his sovereign “Leader

and “Commander” and Protector. But he makes a good confession indeed,

one, if true — and none deny its truth — most worthy of imitation, of all

and every one who would in any measure be a follower in his work. He

claims justly, and not boastfully, but for manifestly other reason, that he

has maintained:







Paul wishes to lay stress on this, that he had been to the Law and the

testimony and the prophets;” and had been true to them; had not gone

beside nor beyond them, and had not fallen short of them, as his people

and opponents were, in fact, guilty of doing.



were the four grand truths imbedded in the Law, enshrined in the

testimony, and many a time bursting out like hope’s own light from the

prophets. These were:


Ø      the death,

Ø      the resurrection, of Christ;

Ø      the “great Light” He would be to “His people,”

to all the world.



GOD.” In a lower sense, no doubt, but in a very true sense, Paul had done

and suffered the things that none other could, “save God were with him.”




Paul’s Message Compared with Prophecy (vs. 22-23)


Reference to and support from Holy Scripture was a characteristic feature

of the apostle’s public teachings and preachings. To understand the

importance of this feature of his work we should take into consideration

not only the general views entertained of Scripture as the revealed and

authoritative Word of God, but also, and more particularly, the sentiment

concerning Scripture cherished by pious Jews. It is almost impossible to

exaggerate in speaking of their reverence for it. It was their final court of

appeal. It was the voice of their God to them. It was the ground of their

hope that Messiah, the Deliverer and Prince, would come. It may also be

noticed that they much more readily found Messianic references in

prophecy and promise than we can do; and we find it difficult to see the

points which even the New Testament writers make, probably because our

characteristic logical and critical qualities of mind differ so materially from

the figurative and imaginative characteristics of the Eastern mind. How

Paul used appeals to Scripture, and especially Scripture prophecy, may be

illustrated from his speech at Antioch in Pisidia (ch, 13:16-41), and

from his Epistles. Further illustration of the method, as peculiar to the

apostles and Christian teachers, may be found in Peter’s speech at

Pentecost, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. In our text Moses is mentioned

with the prophets, because there were some who placed the Pentateuch in

a higher rank than the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul gives

the leading points of his preaching, and affirms, what he would be prepared

quite fully to illustrate and to prove, that these points are not really new,

but have been all foreshadowed and declared by Jehovah’s prophets. He

takes three topics.


1. Messiah was to suffer.

2. Messiah was to rise from the dead.

3. Messiah was to be the Light of life to both Jew and Gentile.


  • MESSIAH WAS TO SUFFER, or should be capable of suffering. “The

great body of the Jews had fixed their thoughts only on the prophetic

visions of the glories of the Messiah’s kingdom. Even the disciples of Jesus

were slow to receive any other thought than that of conquest and triumph.

It was not until they were led, after the Crucifixion and the Resurrection,

into our Lord’s own school of prophetic interpretation, and l aught to

recognize the under-current of types and prophecies that pointed to A


were able to receive the truth.” Show:


Ø      the prophetic figure of a suffering Messiah from Psalm 22. and Isaiah

53, with references to passages in Jeremiah and Lamentations; and:


Ø      point out how precisely the historical facts of our Lord’s sufferings fit

into the preparatory prophecy.



prophecies on this point from Psalm 16:10; 30:3; 41:10; 118:7;

Hosea 6:2, etc. Show how the fact of His resurrection answers to the

prophecy. Aid may be found in Peter’s speeches recorded in Acts 2.

and 3.



AND GENTILE. This had been one of Paul’s strongest points, and he

had abundant Old Testament references to show that Messiah’s mission

was not limited to Jews. Refer in illustration to Psalm 45.; Isaiah 11:10;

42:1, etc. Show that the apostle could direct attention to the fact that God

had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles by the vision given to Peter

at Joppa, and the admission of Cornelius to the Church. He could also

plead that in the Gentile cities God had attended the preaching of His

gospel with the power of the Holy Ghost, and Churches among the

Gentiles had been founded on the faith of Christ. So prophecy had been

fulfilled; it was satisfied in Jesus of Nazareth, who suffered for our sins,

rose again for our justification, and is preached in all the world as the



24 "And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul,

thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad."  Made his

defense for spake for himself, Authorized Version,  (ἀπολογουμένου

apologoumenou - defending as v. 2); saith for said, Authorized Version;

mad for beside thyself, Authorized Version; thy much for much, Authorized

Version; turn thee to madness for make thee mad, Authorized Version.

With a loud voice. Another detail, betraying the eyewitness of the scene described.

Thou art mad (μαίνῃ - mainaeyou are being mad); ch. 12:15; John 10:20;

I Corinthians 14:23. Much learning (τὰ πολλά γράμματα ta polla grammata

the much writings; scripture).   So John 7:15, "How knoweth this man letters

(γράμματα)?" is equivalent to Whence hath this man this wisdom? (Matthew 13:54).

And ἀγράμματος - agrammatos - in ch. 4:13 is "unlearned." The excited interruption

by Festus shows that he was unable to accept the truths enunciated by the apostle.

The ideas of fulfilled prophecy, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of a

crucified Jew giving light to the great Roman world, were “foolishness unto him,"

(I Corinthians 1:23) because he lacked spiritual discernment. He thought the

apostle's glowing words must be the outcome of a disordered mind. Turn thee

to madness (εἰς μανίαν περιτρέπει - eis manian peritrepeiinto madness is

deranging). The word μανία - mania - mania occurs only here in the New Testament.

But it is the technical name in medical writers for the disease of μανία, and is also

common in classical writers. The verb for "doth turn" (περιτρέπει) is also peculiar

to  Luke, being found only in this place. It is used by Plato, but specially by medical

writers, as is also the substantive formed from it, περιτροπή - peritropae - spoken

of the "turn" taken by a disease, and the simple verb τρέπει and τρέπεται: e.g.

ἔτρεψε γνώμην ἐς μανίην: ἐς σκυθρωππὸνμανίη τρέπεται: τοῖς μαινομένοισι

ἄλλοτε μὲν ἐς ὀῤγὴν ἄλλοτε δὲ ἐς θυμηδίαν (mirth) ἡγνώμη τρέπεται, etc.

(Hobart, p. 468).


25 "But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words

of truth and soberness."  Paul saith for he said, Authorized Version and Textus

Receptus; excellent for noble, Authorized Version; words for the words, Authorized

Version. Most excellent (κράτιστε - kratiste – most mighty). It appears to be the

proper title to give the procurator (see ch. 23:26; 24:3). Luke also applies it to

Theophilus (Luke 1:3). In classical Greek οἱ κράτιστοι - hoi kratistoi - are the

aristocracy. Soberness (σωφροσύνη - sophrosunaesanity; sound or sober

mindedness; just the opposite of the μανία of which he was accused. See the use

of σωφρονοῦντα - sophronountabeing sane  (Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35;

II Corinthians 5:13, etc.), and of σωφρονίζειν, σωφρωνισμός, σώφρων, etc.

So also in Plato, σωφρωσύνη is opposed to μανία.


26 "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."  Unto for before, Authorized Version;

is hidden for are hidden, Authorized Version; this hath not been for this thing

was not, Authorized Version. For the king, etc. Something in Agrippa's manner

showed Paul that he was not unaffected by what he had heard. And so with his

usual quickness and tact he appeals to him to confirm the "words of truth and

soberness" which he had just addressed to the skeptical Festus. I speak freely.

He was indeed a prisoner and in chains, as he so touchingly said (in v. 29), but

the word of God in his mouth was not bound. Παρρησιαζόμενος

Parraesiazomenos being bold (see ch. 9:27;  13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; and

the frequent use of παρρησία parraesia – boldness; confidence).



The Apology (vs. 1-26)


We are struck with a contrast between the conduct of our Lord when He

stood before the bar of Caiaphas and of Pontius Pilate, and that of Paul

when he was brought before Festus and Agrippa. It is written of Jesus,

when the Jews accused Him before Caiaphas, that “He held His peace.”

(Mark 14:61)  And again, as He stood before Pontius Pilate the governor, when

He was accused of the chief priests and elders, that He answered nothing. And

even when Pilate himself appealed to Him, He gave him no answer, not even to

one word; but, like a lamb dumb before the shearer, opened not His month.

Paul, on the contrary, when his enemies launched vehement accusations

against him, stood boldly on his defense. With infinite wisdom, eloquence,

and spirit, he rebutted their charges, and asserted his innocence of them.

Both before the Sanhedrim and before Felix, as well as before Festus and

Agrippa, he maintained his own cause with consummate skill and dignity;

not cowed by their violence, nor losing his temper in meeting their attack;

but confronting them with the boldness of a pure conscience, and with the

energy of an invincible courage. Can we assign any reason for this

remarkable difference between the conduct of the Master and the servant

under such similar circumstances? It is, of course, possible that the patience

and silence of Jesus was the result of that conscious innocence and perfect

sinlessness which belonged to the Son of man alone, and could not be

shared by even the holiest of His servants. As He would not allow His

servants to draw the sword in His defense, so neither would He speak a

word to vindicate His innocence and uphold His cause. It may have been

part of His Divine mission of suffering to be absolutely passive in receiving

injuries by word, as He was in enduring the shame and agony of the cross.

Unresisted slander, unresented blasphemies, undenied accusations, may

have been as truly parts of the Passion, as the spitting, and the smiting on

the cheek, and the crown of thorns, and the piercing of the hands and feet

were. His answer, His apology, His acquittal, were to be the resurrection

from the dead; and, awaiting that apology at the hands of His Father, silent

endurance was to be His part. The difference between His sinlessness as the

Son and the inferior goodness of the apostle mixed with sin, and between

the vindication of the Son to be proclaimed by the resurrection and the

vindication of the apostle to be effected by ordinary means, may be one

ground of the difference, which we are considering. But there is another

obvious difference between the two cases. Christ must suffer. According to

the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, Jesus was to lay down

His life as a sacrifice for sin. And He was willing to do so. His own will was

one with the Father’s will, that thus it should be. As, therefore, He would

not pray to His Father to send Him twelve legions of angels, to free Him

from His enemies, so neither would He resist His condemnation by assertions

or proofs of His sinless purity. He was silent before His unjust judges, as He

bore His cross, as He stretched out His hands upon it, as finally He bowed

the head and gave up the ghost. It was otherwise with Paul. He had no

life to give for the world’s sins, nor was he yet to die at all. He had more

years to run in his Lord’s service, nor did he know when his time would

come. He must live and work awhile for the souls of Jews and Gentiles,

and must leave no stone unturned to exhibit his integrity before mankind.

Apart from the natural feelings of the man, it was his duty to repel those

charges which would hinder him in his work. Hence his noble apology. A

free confession of his errors and his faults; a lofty assertion of the integrity

of his course; a lucid narrative of his wondrous life; a bold confession of

the change in his soul; a holy boast of his faith in Jesus and the works

which were its fruit; a pregnant proclamation of Christ’s gospel in the ears

of his accusers and judges; and a fervent appeal to Festus and Agrippa,

such as an archangel might address to the sons of men from the heights of

heaven, so grand is its superiority; — these make up that apology which

has a moving eloquence in it as fresh today as two thousand years ago;

an apology which gives us a portraiture of the apologist well calculated to

rivet our affection to him, and to command our admiration of a character

to which, in the whole range of secular and sacred history, we can scarcely

find quidquam simile aut secundum, worthy to be placed by its side as a

rival in Christian heroism.




     An Unwilling Contribution to the Truth (vs. 24-26)


The phenomena presented by Festus when, in struggling to insult the truth,

he strengthens the body of testimony to it, are to be noticed. They are

simply as follows:



ADVOCATE. How many a time gospel truth has been decried because of

the signs of ignorance in its advocates! The enemies of the gospel of

almost all kinds love learning, would appraise it highly, and times without

number have professed that this is their desire. But now it is all the contrary.

















THE PRISONER. The theory of the “madness” of Paul — not a whisper is

heard of it again.


27 "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

28  "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

And for then, Authorized Version; with but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make

me a Christian for almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian, Authorized Version.

With but little persuasion (ἐν ὀλίγῳ κ.τ.λ. - en oligo k.t.l. – in few; brief; etc). This

saying of Agrippa's is obscure and variously explained. The Authorized Version,

following Chrysostom, Beza, Luther, etc., takes ἐν ὀλίγῳ to mean "within a little"

or "almost," like the Hebrew כִּמְעַט, which is very suitable to the context. The

corresponding ἐν πόλλῳ - enpollo - in a long time, or, as otherwise read, ἐν μεγάλῳ -

en megalowould then mean, as in the Authorized Version, "altogether," and the

sense of the whole passage is striking and appropriate. But there is some difficulty

in getting this meaning out of the words. The natural way of expressing it would be

παρ ὀλίγον – par oligon, or ὀλίγου - oligou, or ὀλίγον δεῖ - oligon dei. Hence many

other commentators take ἐν ὀλίγῳ to mean "in a short time," and the sense to be either

"you are making short work of my conversion: you are persuading me to become

a Christian as suddenly as you yourself did;" with a corresponding sense for

ἐν πόλλῳ, "in a long time," i.e. whether it takes a short or a long time, I pray God

you may become a Christian like myself;" or, "you are soon persuading me," you

will soon persuade me if you go on any longer in this strain. Others, again, preferring

the reading ἐν μεγάλῳ in v. 29, take ἐν ὀλίγῳ to mean "with little trouble," or "with

 few words," as Ephesians 3:5 (understanding λόγῳ - logo - or πόνῳ - pono - ), "lightly"

(Alford), and then the opposite ἐν μεγάλῳ would mean "with much trouble," "with

many words," i.e. "with difficulty." But this is rather a flat rendering. Another

difference of opinion is whether the words of Agrippa are to be taken ironically,

or sarcastically, or jestingly, or whether they are to be taken seriously, as the

words of a man shaken in his convictions and seriously impressed by what he

had heard. The whole turn of the narrative seems to favor the latter view. Another

view, started by Chrysostom, is that Agrippa used the words in one sense, and

Paul (mistakenly or advisedly) took them in another. Another possible explanation

is that ἐν ὀλίγῳ is here used in the sense in which Thucydides employs the phrase

(ii. 86 and Ephesians 4:26), Τὴν ἐν ὀλίγῳ ναυμάχιαν - Taen en oligo naumachian 

and Ἐν ὀλίγῳ στρατοπεδευομένος - En oligo stratopedeuomenos - , viz. "in a

narrow place;" and that Agrippa meant to say, "By your appeal to the prophets

you press me hard; you have got me into a corner. I am in a στενοχωρία

stenochoria - a narrow room;  I hardly know how to get out of it." The ἐν μεγάλῳ  

would then mean a "large room," a εὐρυχωρία - euruchoria – broad (Psalm 30:8).

This would suppose ἐν ὀλίγῳ and ἐν μεγάλῳ to have become proverbial phrases.


ALMOST PERSUADED?   It is an awful spiritual danger to turn away from





The Christian’s Desire (vs. 24-28)


The point of deepest interest in this scene is Paul’s reply to Agrippa. There

the nobility of the apostle is conspicuously present. But it is worth while to

glance, first, at:


  • THE BLINDNESS OF SIN. (v. 24.) It makes mistakes of the greatest

magnitude; it looks at the wisdom of God and mistakes it for madness. So

it judged incarnate wisdom (John 10:30). So we are to expect it will

judge us; for “the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural

man” (I Corinthians 2:14), whether he be Greek (ibid. 1:23) or Roman (text).

That the whole Gentile world should be redeemed from sin and led by

repentance into the kingdom of God by means of a suffering Savior

this, which is the wisdom of God, deep and Divine, seemed to the proud

man of the world nothing better than insanity itself.  Enlightened by His

Spirit, we detect in this the very essence of Divine wisdom. If the eternal

Father, looking down upon us, sees His own wise procedure mistaken

for and spoken of as madness, may we not be content that our human

schemes and plans should sometimes receive the faint approval, or even

the direct condemnation, of our fellowmen?



abashed by the sudden outbreak of Festus, nor did he give way to

unsuitable and injudicious resentment. He replied with calmness and dignity

to the insulting charge of his Roman judge (v. 25). When assailed in this

way — when charged with folly, error, fanaticism, or even madness — the

best thing we can do is to bear ourselves calmly, retaining mental and

moral equability. This is the best way to disprove the allegations that are



Ø      First let us be well assured of our position, not taking our ground until

we have made all necessary inquiries and have every possible guarantee

that we are on the side of “truth and soberness;” and then


Ø      Let us refuse to be disconcerted by abuse, oppose quiet dignity to angry

crimination, and show a conscious rectitude which is far superior to

violence, whether of word or deed.



Paul turned appealingly from Festus to Agrippa. Some points in common

there must be, he felt, between himself and his royal countryman (vs. 26-27).

The king put off the prisoner with a courtly sarcasm (v. 28); but the

apostle was not thus to be silenced. In noble language and with touching

allusion to the fetters he wore, he expressed the earnest wish that, whether

with ease or with difficulty, not only the king himself, but all who heard

him, might be “such as he was.” A pure and passionate desire filled his soul

that all whom he could anywise affect might be elevated and blessed by

that ennobling truth which the risen Savior had revealed to him. This holy

earnestness of his may remind us:


Ø      That the truth of the gospel is that which can be indefinitely extended

without making any man the poorer. If a man divides his gold among the

poor, be loses it himself, but he who imparts heavenly wisdom, Christian

influence, gains as he gives.


Ø      That it is the tendency of Christian truth to make its possessor desire to

extend it. The contemplation of a God of love, the study of the life and

spirit of the self-sacrificing Savior, the purity of the joy which it inspires

in the human heart, — these are fitted to produce in the soul a holy

yearning to extend to others the blessedness we enjoy.


Ø      That it becomes us to put forth all our talents to diffuse the knowledge

and to spread the kingdom of Jesus Christ.   “Go ye therefore, and

teach all nations....” (Matthew 28:19)The thought of millions of

souls starving that might feed on the bread of life should animate us

with keen desire and send us with elastic step in the path of deliverance

and of life.



The real root of unbelief is personal and moral.


29 "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.

Whether with little or with much for both almost, and altogether, Authorized

Version; might become for were, Authorized Version. (the order of the words

is also changed). I would to God; literally, I would pray to God. It is not very

different from the ηὐχόμην - aeuchomaen – I wished of Romans 9:3. All

acknowledge the extreme beauty and taste of this reply, combining the firmness

of the martyr with the courtesy of the gentleman. "Loquitur Paulus ex sensu

suae beatitudinis, cum amore latissimo" (Bengel).



A Mournful “Almost,” on a Light Lip (vs. 28-29)


If these words of Agrippa were spoken satirically, as some think, or were

intended to express even the essence of satire, yet after all, this would

make very little difference to the standpoint from which we consider them.

It would make a great difference indeed to Agrippa himself, but would

scarcely diminish aught from the many lessons we may gather from them.

Agrippa, too, like Festus, it would appear, felt compelled to make some

pronouncement from the chair of authority, but again (notable to observe),

the last word lay with Paul. And “a word” indeed it was! This episode,

consisting of Agrippa’s behavior on this occasion, may be justly viewed in

the following lights. It illustrates:




obstacles are most easily imagined. But take this one, as typical of the rest,

that from Agrippa, being who he was, where he was, and closely

surrounded by the company in which he was, should be wrung, and yet

without any appearance of its being wrung, such a confession! Supposing

that the language of Agrippa does not mean to own to the experience of

any deep emotion or of any powerful impression produced upon him, still

that Agrippa can put these words, spiced with taunting, as they then were,

upon his lips, was indicative of something very different from scouting and

scorning (as Festus would have done) the most distant approach to the




For the practical issue of all was that Agrippa remained himself. He did not

come over to Paul or to Paul’s Master. He did remain with Festus, himself

and his sins both “secret” and “presumptuous.”



sinful nature won, either at the point of “almost “ — that so well-known

“almost” of conviction, inborn, but for all that still-born! — or at the point

of a very trifling easy gibe made to do duty for the hour, nay, it was only

the moment. Paul has just, undenied, claimed Agrippa, as versed both in

Law and in fact. Agrippa cannot, does not, deny it. But that his knowledge

may seem to make him look a little less small in the eyes of Festus and the

court around, at what he cannot deny, he can indulge in a fling — the fling

that of a man who says, “Youll find it no so easy matter to make me real,

true, sincere, and ready to give in to what nevertheless I cannot deny.”

Paul must have thought now of the heart that is in man, “We are not

ignorant of its devices.”  (II Corinthians 2:11)




closing language of Paul — so pitying, so meek, so Savior-like, so

yearning — was indeed a triumph of God’s grace and of goodness in man.

At the unlikeliest moment the lips of Paul breathe out what sounds like

nothing else so much as a parting benediction, a forgiving prayer, an

irresistible argument of most pathetic affection. He would pour oil on the

troubled waters, he would reduce the storm to a Divine calm, he would

cover up all a sinful, shameful, humiliating past with the love and

forgivingness and hope that must in a moment overspread all the scene, if

only Agrippa were such in the salvation of Jesus as he was, less his chains.

Why, there was no comparison for one moment then between the real glory

of Paul and the varnished brilliance of Agrippa. So God secures His own.

So Jesus is mindful of His true servants. So the Spirit puts wisdom into the

heart and words into the lips of those faithful to His inspiration. And the

insulted prisoner dispenses reward and punishment to his judges.





 Both Almost, and Altogether (v. 29)


By comparing the translation of v. 28 in the Revised Version, it will be

seen that the traditional associations of the words cannot be maintained,

and that Agrippa had other thoughts than those which are usually

supposed. But it is certain that Paul made use of Agrippa’s words to

point a persuasion, and recognized the possibility of the state which may be

described as “almost a Christian.” And so we are still justified in basing a

homily on the condition of the “almost persuaded” upon this passage. The

subject may be pleasantly introduced by a description of the pompous

scene. Agrippa prided himself upon his semi-royalty, and so Festus

arranged for as much of state grandeur as possible. Paul was brought

chained to his soldier-guard, and spoke with but one hand free. His fervor

and eloquence moved Agrippa more than he cared to admit even to

himself. He dreaded any further pressure, and therefore tried to turn aside

the apostle’s pleadings with the lightness of a laugh. Paul was too much

in earnest to take the king other than seriously, and so he responds with the

passion and persuasion of our text. He turns the king’s words into a plea

against continuing any longer in an unsaying relation to Christianity. And

still we find, in regard to vital personal religion, that very many come up,

as it were, to the door, BUT DO NOT ENTER IN!  There are amongst us

many —VERY MANY  who are only almost Christians.





Ø      The child of pious parents, surrounded by gracious influences, led to the

house of God, the child of many prayers, growing up to manhood or

womanhood, yet not wholly Christ’s today.


Ø      The regular attendant at Christian services; often moved to tears, and, it

may be, to some passing resolves; but emotions pass, decision is delayed,

and they are only almost Christians yet.


Ø      There may even be aged people trembling down to life’s close, who,

having put off religious decision again and again, seem now unable to



Ø      There are parents who have converted children, BUT ARE THEMSELVES

the old side of the border-land, yet in “trespasses and sins.”


Ø      There are those who have been aroused to religious anxiety, but whose

experience, varying for years, has never yet risen to full surrender. Each of

these classes may be described with precise adaptation to the congregation




ONLY ALMOST CHRISTIANS? In the case of Agrippa the message

seemed novel and strange, and there seemed excuse for requiring time to

think it over. In our case the message may seem old and familiar, and it

may have lost its awakening and persuading power. Sometimes the

hindrance is:


Ø      intellectual. It may be some perplexity or difficulty in relation to

Christian doctrine. Or it may be the influence of the intellectual tone of

the society in which a man mingles.


Ø      Or the hindrance may be lack of sufficient motive: especially an

inadequate impression of the evil and peril of sin. To use a figure, the boat

lies rocking just outside the harbor bar, and there is not wave enough to lift

it over. Therefore must the true preacher find motive and persuasion, urging,

in Christ’s stead, “Be ye reconciled unto God.”  (II Corinthians 5:20)


Ø      But the chief hindrances are moral. It was Agrippa’s self-indulgent and

immoral life which really turned the shafts aside. The pride of self stands in

our way. Decision for Christ involves SURRENDER  — a giving up of

that “self-reliance” which is so dear to flesh and blood. Illustrate from the

story of the young rich ruler (Mark 10:17-27; and recall our Lord’s teachings

about the “strait gate and the narrow way.”  (Matthew 7:13-14)  This may

be the reason why we are not “altogether” Christians. There is a cable

holding under the water somewhere, and the ship cannot float out free into

the ocean of God. Illustrate some cables. (cords of sin – “Woe unto them

that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart

rope.”  Isaiah 5:18)  The last to yield is usually feeling; we wait for

feeling, and, waiting, let the golden hours of opportunity slip by.  (An

older friend from my youth, Grover Brown, told me that you cannot

base your relationship with God by feelings, but must go by the

Word of God!  - CY – 2018)




See it in the estimate we form of Agrippa’s character. He is utterly weak

and ignoble. We admire the confessor and the martyr; we scorn the

hesitating and indecisive — such as Reuben, “unstable as water”

(Genesis 49:4)  The people at Athens very properly ordained that every

one should be fined who would take neither side in politics. It is a condition

which dishonors God more than open rebellion, because it assumes that

there really are some considerations to be set against His claims, some

reasons why we should not love and serve Him. And such indecision

effectually shuts us out from the benefits of the gospel provision.

The “almost Christian” has:


Ø      no sense of pardoned sin;

Ø      no joy of peace with God;

Ø      no strength from the consciously present Savior;

Ø      no title to the everlasting heritage.


In religious matters there really is no borderland. Illustrate by

the story of the wreck of the Royal Charter. The fore part ledged on a

rock, the back part, flapped by the waves, broke away and sank in deep

water with all that were in it. Just at the moment of parting a young man

stood on the hinder part, and made a leap for dear life. He was saved, for

he could decide and act. Then plead, as Paul pleaded, that, whether by

little persuasion or by much, men would end their state of indecision, and



30"And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and

Bernice, and they that sat with them:"  And the king rose up for and when

he had thus spoken, the king, etc., Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.

They that sat with them. The chief captains and principal men and the royal

attendants of ch. 25:23.


31 "And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying,

This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds."  Had withdrawn for

were gone aside, Authorized Version; spake one to another for talked between

themselves, Authorized Version. Had withdrawn; viz. from the public hall, the

ἀκροατήριον akroataerionaudience chamber of ch.25:23, into the private

room, "the withdrawing-room" adjoining it. There they freely talked over the trial,

and all agreed that the prisoner had done nothing to deserve either death or

imprisonment. Paul had made a favorable impression upon both Jews and Romans.


32 "Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty,

if he had not appealed unto Caesar."  And Agrippa said for then said Agrippa,

Authorized Version. Agrippa said unto Festus. Festus had consulted Agrippa,

as one conversant with Jewish questions, about the case of Paul (ch. 25:14-21).

And in the place of hearing he had publicly stated that he had brought him before

King Agrippa to be examined, that, "after examination had," he might know what

to write to the emperor. Accordingly Agrippa now gives it as his opinion that the

prisoner might have been discharged if he had not appealed to Caesar. Festus was

of the same opinion, and doubtless wrote to Nero to that effect. The result was that

he was acquitted before the emperor's tribunal at Rome, at the end of two years.




Paul before Festus and Agrippa (vs. 1-32)


His address may be divided as follows:




Ø      His life in Judaism. He had been brought up, as all knew, in the strictest

sect of his religion, a Pharisee. Paul’s example, it has been remarked, lends

no countenance to the fallacy that dissolute students make the best

preachers. He had been conscientious from the first, a friend of virtue, and

a servant of the Law. He had not sacrificed his youth to vice, nor wooed

with unabashed front the means of weakness and debility, physical or

moral. “One cannot believe that men of this kind are so quickly converted.

Ordination does not change the heart, nor is the surplice or gown a means

of grace.”


Ø      The charge against him. Notwithstanding that an evil leaven of passion

or zeal had worked in him in those unconverted days (and he does not

conceal it), he had retained the Pharisaic hope of the resurrection of the

dead. The zeal of the Jews, on the other hand, against the gospel, tended to

cut them off from living connection with the religion of their fathers, and

from the blessings of the better covenant which superseded the old. And

this zeal of unbelief was blind. What was there incredible in the idea of the

resurrection of the dead? The question may be generalized to the

unbeliever — What is there at bottom so incredible in any of the great

objects of Christian faith? The form of the belief may change, the substance

remains from age to age.


Ø      His own resistance to conviction. He can speak feelingly to these

skeptics, for he has known the most stubborn doubt and resistance himself.

He had been under an illusion. He had thought it a duty to oppose Jesus.

There is a deep and pure joy in confession, and in the knowledge that one’s

own sincere experience will be profitable as guide and warning to others.

He is ever ready to speak on this matter; it is one of his noblest traits (22.;

I Timothy 1:16). The blessed change he can never forget; he is a

living wonder to himself and to many. Let preachers derive their best

material from the experience of their heart and life.  (We can but speak

the things we have seen and heard!  CY – 2018)


Ø      His conversion. (vs. 13-18.) The splendor of that light from heaven

shining on his path of blind fury can never be forgotten. And the first beam

which breaks through the night of our sin and stubbornness is worthy of

eternal recollection and meditation (II Corinthians 4:6). The glory of the

once humiliated but now enthroned Savior surpasses all. With the light

comes the voice, which humiliates and raises, rebukes and cheers. The

voice echoes the secret voice of his conscience, hitherto, in the intoxication

of his passion, half heard or not heard at all. But it is also a voice which is

loftier than that of the self-condemning conscience — Divine, pardoning,

and cheering. “Stand up!” God slays and makes alive. The like voice was

heard upon the holy mount (Matthew 17:7). From that moment Saul

rose up a new creature in Christ Jesus. And it is the revelation of the love

of God, a thought mightier than all our own doubt, a force in the soul

irresistible against our passion and hate, which must conquer us and in our

lowliness make us for the first time truly great.


Ø      His ordination. It may be viewed as an example of true ordination to the

sacred calling.


o        It is a Divine act. The prayers and the laying on of hands will not

suffice to turn the worldling into the spiritual man. There must be the

inner sanctification and anointing. “Power from on high” must be

received, by which a man may stand and witness and serve.


o        It appoints to service, and only to honor through service. Neither

dignified titles nor riches are promised to Paul, but toil and suffering

even unto death. The best orders a man can have are to be found in his

ability to teach and in the evidence of fruit from his teaching.


o        Paul was to be a witness, not only of that which he had already seen,

but of that which was yet to be shown to him. (consider the time he

spent in Arabia alone with God – Galatians 1:17-18 – CY – 2018)

And so with every genuine preacher. The Lord hath yet more light

and truth to break forth from the consciousness of the Christian

thinker and student, from the practical experience of life as well

as from His Word. Along with the command there goes the blessing;

with the commission the promise of protection in its discharge. And

the faithful servant of Christ may be assured in like manner that when

he is to be employed he will be defended; “the good hand of

God” will be upon him (as with Nehemiah – Nehemiah 2:18) until

his work is done.


o        Sketch of his life-work. Its aim is:


§         instruction“to open eyes;”

§         conversion“to turn men from darkness to light,” etc.;

§         induction into the new covenant, or kingdom of grace

“that they may receive forgiveness of sins;”

§         glorification“a lot among them that are sanctified.”


Faith in Christ is the means to all. He had been following out this

Divine program. He had obeyed without hesitation the heavenly vision,

and in various places had been calling men to repentance and to the

new life. In the faithful pursuit of his calling and because of it, he

had encountered opposition; yet had been supported by God’s

help to the present day. His teaching was but a continuation and

fulfillment of the ancient teaching of the prophets. The three great

points of his preaching were:


§         the humiliation of Christ,

§         His resurrection, and

§         the gospel for all nations.


So clear, straightforward, manly, and consistent was the tenor of his





Ø      On Festus. He represents the cynic or indifferentist in matters of

religion, or the worldly view of the unspiritual man. Character is

spiritually discerned only by inward and outward sympathy. The

best in Paul was misunderstood, as his worst had been. Says Luther,

The world esteems others as prudent so long as they are mad, and

as mad when they cease to be mad and become wise.” Saul passed

for a wise and able man in the days of his persecuting fury. When

he came to himself,” and was clothed in a right mind, he was

reckoned mad. One day the tables will be turned, and the children

of this world will say,” We fools held his life to be senseless,

and now he is numbered among the children of God” (Wisdom

of Solomon 5:5). The deep truth is that the exaltation of the poet,

the prophet, the mystic, and the believer are hardly distinguishable

to the superficial glance from madness or from sensual intoxication.

So was it on the day of Pentecost.  And of the Christ Himself they

said, He is mad, and hath a devil” (John 10:20). But Paul replies

to Festus that the substance of his words is true, and the temper in

which he has spoken is rational. The history of Christianity has

proved the truth of this. The world in the long run is not governed

by unreason, but by reason struggling against unreason. In every

popular revival of Christianity there may be seen a manifestation of

what looks like folly and unreason; but to a deeper view there is a

method in this madness.”


Ø      On Agrippa. Here is an awakened conscience. Paul recognizes in him

the stirrings of faith, and boldly aims a blow at his conscience. “Those

are the true court preachers who will not be deterred by the star on the

breast from asking whether the Morning Star shines in the heart.” But

Agrippa fences. What he feels he will not avow. He would lead a double

life — representing one thing to the world, thinking another himself.

He is the type of a numerous class, who would gladly be blessed, were

it not for the strait door and the narrow path, which they will not tread

(Luke 13:24). How near we may be to bliss, yet how far from it! The

heart may be touched, the intellect illuminated, the will aroused, the

hour acceptable, and yet — some deep stream of passion runs at our

feet, which we will not ford; some cunning bosom sin” keeps out

the good angels of repentance and faith that would enter. The reply

of Paul to Agrippa’s light words again brings out a sharp contrast.

Better be the “prisoner of Jesus Christ” than the prisoner of passion!

Better the regal freedom of the redeemed man’s soul, in poverty and

chains, than the splendor of the potentate enslaved by lust and by

the fear of men! In the audience-chamber we have thus the most

diverse attitudes of mind towards Christianity represented:


o        Paul, in the full inspiration of faith and life in the Son

of God;

o        Agrippa, convinced but not converted;

o        Bernice, resistant to authority or discipline

o        Festus, hardened in indifferent cynicism.


Some wanting little, others much, to make them Christians. But what

is the practical difference between almost saved and quite damned?

And so, the sermon ended, the audience disperses with commendations

on the eloquence of the preacher and the manliness of his bearing.

There is a certain tragedy in every such break-up of a congregation.

Every man goes to his own place; and a savor of life unto life or

of death unto death has been tasted by many.  (II Corinthians 2:16)





A Threefold Illustration of the Irrepressible Energy of the Truth

(vs. 24-32)


This paragraph has its value, and that a great value, in the grouping of its

contents. And the three members that make the group are worthy each of

individual consideration as well. But here we notice only certain great

though general facts.


  • THE ENERGY OF TRUTH. It will not let Festus remain silent in the

court. Immediately afterwards it shows that Agrippa cannot persuade

himself to hold his peace before the prisoner and the court. And lastly, it

finds them something to say “between themselves,” in private, and that

something was certainly a witness to the right.



VARIOUS CHARACTERS. Festus and Agrippa were as different in race,

religion, character, as perhaps could be. But while the force of truth makes

them both find an utterance when it had been wiser for them had they kept

silence, yet how amazingly different those utterances were! Festus taxes

Paul with madness. Agrippa, whether utterly serious or not, bears

testimony to the influence he feels from what Paul says, in its

persuasiveness. Neither of them refuse, even though the case is involved in

all possible publicity, to leave the last word with Paul. He does, as it were,

hold the field, and in a very real sense finds himself left, not only in his own

heart, but in the “pomp” of that open court, master of the field.



open honor is not done spontaneously to it, its victory not proclaimed, and

its rights smothered, how superficially soever, it secures its own in a yet

more emphatic way. It secures a place indelible for itself, and on a page

that shall endure to all time; and it owes nothing to human favor, no thanks

to human patronage, no atom of indebtedness to any lifting hand of the

great, the wise, the mighty, the proud. Never mind all the suppression of

these, it transpires, and it gets all it needs from the very rehearsal of how

they suppressed (vs. 30-32).




Secret Acquittals (vs. 30-32)


These closing verses of a chapter thrilling with interest suggest the subject

of the various acquittals that men both good and bad obtain. The range of

value belonging to acquittals received by men from men is vast indeed.

They stand in strange contrast to the one acquittal or one condemnation

which awaits each and every man in his turn, ON THE THRESHHOLD

OF THE HEREAFTER!  The present passage, however, will confine attention

to one class of acquittals rather than invite thought to range at large. And we

may think:




Ø      The man is innocent: his judges know it; their inner judgment acquits

him; their very lips acquit him, but only “between themselves.” They say it

not to the innocent accused, not to the accusers, not to the world. Their

real verdict transpires — God takes care of that — but it is no thanks to

them, and it is not the good it should be to him, the victim of their injustice,

who was given to them that they might do justice. This is one sort of secret



Ø      The man is guilty: his judges know it; their deepest judgment finds him

guilty; their lips pronounce it “between themselves.” And circumstances

are such that they pronounce their verdict of guilty before man also. Yet

for all that, the secret thought of their heart is that they will acquit, and

their covered deed is acquittal. They mete not out equal justice. Their

weights and balances are not fair and just. They condone and countenance

— the criminal. And this is another sort of secret acquittal, as mischievous

and disastrous as any can be. For such as these nothing can be said except

the words of rebuke, of unsparing condemnation, of well-visited scorn.



CONSCIENCE. The brightest pages of history are written with instances

of this kind of secret acquittal. From Joseph — and, were all the truth

known, from a much earlier than Joseph — to the perfect, the sublime, the

spotless innocence of Jesus, and again with fresh impulse onward by

Stephen, and Paul, and Peter, and John, and the martyrs, and an

unnumbered host, of whom the world was not worthy!  (Hebrews 11:38)

the record of such acquittal is safely written. What a wonderful resource an

innocent conscience! What a store of peace it means! What a defense against

misery, anguish, remorse, and hell on earth! It is already the bud of

Heaven’s unspeakable bliss.



present, God’s verdict is often veiled from view, silent for the ear as the

star that shines the most distant and the coldest — and all the scene seems

filled up with sight and sound of human judgment. Yet two things are to be



Ø      That the man who thinks knows that this is only the surface appearance;

that a time far otherwise conditioned hastens to meet this present scene,

and prepares a strange reversal.


Ø      That to the heart of the humble, God-fearing man, there is given the

individual and most precious earnest of Divine approval and complacency

and love MANY A TIME!  That peace which the world cannot give God’s

secret acquittal does give, and it is the sort of peace that both “sheds itself

abroad” (Romans 5:5) with all the swiftness and persuasiveness of

fragrance itself, and preserves the sacred secret of its sweetness. Whatever

else Paul had or had not, he had three acquittals, and they were all for the

present secret, the acquittal:


o        of the unjust judges, and this was no usual honor;

o        of his own conscience; and

o        of the holy Master and God.



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