Paul’s Testimony Related to the Case (to Agrippa)
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’
“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”Acts 26:9-23
Why did Paul bring up “the raising of the dead”? There are no Pharisees or Sadducees present.
The other occasion Paul brought up the issue of raising the dead and the resurrection appeared to be in terms of debate and controversy. Paul appeared to deliberately raise the issue of the resurrection to stir the theological differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” This divided the council—the Pharisees against the Sadducees— for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these. So there was a great uproar. Some of the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees jumped up and began to argue forcefully. “We see nothing wrong with him,” they shouted. “Perhaps a spirit or an angel spoke to him.”Acts 22:6-9
Before Agrippa Paul appears to use the Messiah’s suffering and dying and then being resurrected as part of his argument related to the hope within him. Notice how he leads into his personal testimony at this point. Which then leads to the matter of why Paul brings up the fact that he opposed Jesus and the Christians (followers of the Way).
Why mention he opposed the name of Jesus and Christians?
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus.I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.”Acts 26:9-11
At this point in his presentation Paul relates how fanatical he was against the teaching of Jesus and any who followed him.
- Why aren’t Paul’s opening statements more related to the charges against him and the case itself?
- It sure is a curious way to defend himself against the charges. In fact Paul seems to ignore the charges altogether. Why?
Because the charges were entirely baseless and fictitious. Paul has no case to answer if indeed the case against him rests solely on the charges brought in court. Rather Paul deals with deeper level issues. Why would one so opposed to Jesus and His followers suddenly be in this position of being charged with espousing His teaching and turning people into His followers? Something very radical must have happened to turn a radical into a follower. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense.
“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.”Acts 26:12-15
Oh now it makes sense. Now more than making sense, the facts of the case are not only highlighted and explained but are presented in a way that a challenge is laid before Agrippa, causing his later to say, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”Now it has become very personal. That is what happens when people share their personal testimony.
They defeated him (satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him.Revelation 12:11
Can you see now why Paul asked, “Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?”
Oh this was no theological debate. No, it wasn’t merely a reasoned, logical, unemotional presentation of the facts in a court case. This is intensely personal. Take the time to read over Paul’s words again in the light of what I have said above and in terms of what I wrote in the previous Gem related to the Hope in God’s Promise. It is all related. Allow it time to sink in.
The Gospel of Christ will always be intensely personally.Ian Vail
It intrigues me how atheists get so emotional and intensely personal about a God they say doesn’t exist. Why don’t they just walk away and dismiss it out of hand? I oughta know; I was in this position before 1973.Ian Vail
A person filled with the passion that arises from a personal encounter with Christ is dangerous.Ian Vail
If your 10 closest people do not know your passion, it is likely you don’t have any.Ian Vail
One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.E. M. Forster
Become so passionately wrapped up in something you forget to be afraid!Ian Vail
To do that you need an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. That’s what happened to Paul.Ian Vail