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
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,
ὁ τῶν κρυπτῶν γνώστης - ho ton krupton gnostaes - expert on secrets - and
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
- zaetaematon – questions applied to Jewish customs and controversies, see
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,
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”
of THE WORD!
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
4 "My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine
own nation at
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 - biosin – course 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 – biosai – to 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
implies that his youth was spent at
he himself tells us in ch. 22:3. The Received Text does so less distinctly. (For Paul's
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 –
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.”
PREPARATION FOR HIS CHRISTIAN FAITH AND LIFE. Such an
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 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
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
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 krinomenos – I 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
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:
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 - Dodekaphulon – twelve 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
like a thorough Israelite. Earnestly; ἐν ἐκτενείᾳ - en ekteneia – in 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
and ἐκτενῶς - ektenos – earnestly - 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
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
in the heavens” (II Corinthians 5:1) We learn here that, under whatever
various aspects and with whatever needful accompaniments:
WHAT SHOULD BE THE CONTRADICTION OF SIN’S
PRONOUNCED WORK, DEATH. The hope of the promise was the
hope of eternal life and of heaven.
THE FORM OF A “PROMISE,” “MADE OF GOD,” TO A CERTAIN
FEW, WHO WOULD HALLOW IT ABOVE ALL ELSE THEY HAD.
TENACIOUSLY, AND IN THESE RESPECTS WELL JUSTIFYING
ITS DIVINE ADAPTATION.
TURNED ON THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, IN ONE
TREMENDOUS INSTANCE OF IT, NAMELY, THE RESURRECTION
WHOM THIS PROMISE, AN HEIRLOOM SO PRECIOUS, WAS
GIVEN, REVEALED THEMSELVES, WHEN THE VERY HOUR OF
UNSPEAKABLE GLORY CAME, AND WITH IT THE TEST CAME,
AND NATURE REGARDED REVELATION AS INCREDIBLE, AND
THE EYES OF NATURE DISCREDITED THEIR OWN TESTIMONY,
THOUGH THE DIVINE FACT WAS THERE, THE RESURRECTION
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
“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
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.
AND ASCENDED SAVIOR IS PERFECTLY CREDITABLE. Granted
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
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
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
ACCOMPLISH THE ONE CERTAINLY CAN ACCOMPLISH THE
MAKE REASONABLE THE BELIEF IN RESURRECTION. These are
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
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
10 "Which thing I also did in
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 - katakleio – locks 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 - anairesi – assassination (ch ). The phrase κατήνεγκα
- 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).
MATERIALLY AFFECTS THE DEGREE OF GUILT. Clearly Paul was
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.
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:
AGAINST THEIR OWN CONSCIENCE.
THE ABSOLUTELY SAFE STANDARD.
STAYING A GOOD WORK THAT OTHERWISE WAS GROWING IN
THE HEART OF ANOTHER.
BLASPHEMERS, BACKSLIDERS, APOSTATES.
CAUSES OF LOSS AND PERHAPS OF INFINITE MENTAL PAIN
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)
Commission; ἐπιτροπῆς - epitropaes - permission, here only in the New Testament.
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).
fighters against God and θεομαχῶμεν - theomachomen – we may be fighting
of Euripides though not common elsewhere. It is, however, found in
II Maccabees 7:19)
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
CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO MANKIND!
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
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.
“To open their eyes,” etc.
Christ....having no hope...without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)
There are no exceptions. The light of our world and culture in
turned by sin into grosser DARKNESS and SUPERSTITION.
Ø The rule of evil spirits.
o The power possessed by false teachers.
§ the Media;
§ music; rap; etc.
o The dominion of the senses.
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
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.
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.
DARKNESS TO ALL THE WEALTH OF LIGHT AND OF WHAT
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.
THRALDOM AND STARTLE THEM WITH RENEWED TITLE OF
SONS OF GOD, INSTEAD OF SLAVES OF SATAN.
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)
NEW, A SPECIAL, A HIGHEST KIND OF TRAINING. The place is
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.”
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
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
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
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! (“.....no man is able to
pluck them out of my hand.”
CHRIST AS THE WAY TO “THE INHERITANCE.” “The inheritance,”
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 WHOLE WORK OF REDEMPTION!
The Heavenly Vision, a Sermon to the Young (v. 19)
When Paul was “apprehended of Christ Jesus” on his
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
Ø It may take the form of a vision of Jesus Christ — His 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
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
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
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.
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.”
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.
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 - epikouria – help; 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
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 - thnaesko – die; 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 nekron – firstborn 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 anastaseos – first 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
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
Ø He began at the earliest possible time to carry out the Master’s will —
“showed first unto
Ø He labored in the most difficult and dangerous sphere — “and at
Ø He went wherever the guiding finger pointed — “throughout all the
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.
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).
to him at
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
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
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
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.
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
RIGHTEOUS SUFFERER as well as A RIGHTEOUS KING that they
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 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
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.
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 peritrepei – into 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 σκυθρωππὸν ἡ μανίη 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
Theophilus (Luke 1:3). In classical Greek οἱ κράτιστοι - hoi kratistoi - are the
aristocracy. Soberness (σωφροσύνη - sophrosunae – sanity; sound or sober
mindedness; just the opposite of the μανία of which he was accused. See the use
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 –
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.
ENTHUSIASM IN THE ADVOCATE OF THE TRUTH OF THE
WITH SUCH SIGNS,
SAID FROM THE SEAT OF AUTHORITY.
PLACE TO FIRM THOUGH RESPECTFUL CONTRADICTION OF
THE PRISONER. The theory of the “madness” of Paul — not a whisper is
heard of it again.
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 megalo – would 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
AN OPEN DOOR TO SALVATION!
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:
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
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
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:
WONDERFULLY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES. Many of these
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, “You’ll 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)
GOSPEL TRUTH HOLDS EVEN WHEN MOST OPPRESSED. For the
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
make the effort, and ARE IN PERIL OF DYING ALMOST CHRISTIANS!
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
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
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
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
BECOME ALTOGETHER CHRIST’S!
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 – akroataerion – audience 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.