19King Agrippa, I obeyed this vision from heaven.20First I preached to the people in Damascus, and then I went to Jerusalem and all over Judea. Finally, I went to the Gentiles and said, “Stop sinning and turn to God! Then prove what you have done by the way you live.”
21That is why some men grabbed me in the temple and tried to kill me.22But all this time God has helped me, and I have preached both to the rich and to the poor. I have told them only what the prophets and Moses said would happen.23I told them how the Messiah would suffer and be the first to be raised from death, so that he could bring light to his own people and to the Gentiles.
24Before Paul finished defending himself, Festus shouted, “Paul, you're mad! Too much learning has driven you out of your mind.”
25But Paul replied, “Honourable Festus, I am not mad. What I am saying is true, and it makes sense.26None of these things happened off in a corner somewhere. I am sure that King Agrippa knows what I am talking about. That's why I can speak so plainly to him.”
27Then Paul said to Agrippa, “Do you believe what the prophets said? I know you do.”
28Agrippa asked Paul, “In such a short time do you think you can talk me into being a Christian?”
29Paul answered, “Whether it takes a short time or a long time, I wish you and everyone else who hears me today would become just like me! Except, of course, for these chains.”
30Then King Agrippa, Governor Festus, Bernice, and everyone who was with them got up.31But before they left, they said, “This man isn't guilty of anything. He doesn't deserve to die or to be put in jail.”
32Agrippa told Festus, “Paul could have been set free, if he had not asked to be tried by the Roman Emperor.”
Contemporary English Version. Copyright © 1995 British & Foreign Bible Society. Used by permission.
When we receive the light of Christ we must share it with others (Matthew 5:15-16). Paul, having told the story of his own conversion (vv.1-18), wanted to see the conversion of Agrippa and his court too (vv.19-29).
Are you defending and declaring the Gospel? Are you anxious to see the conversion of small and great alike (v.22a)? Paul did everything he could to clearly defend “what the prophets and Moses said would happen” (v.22b). With precision and passion he declared how Christ had suffered on the cross and was raised from death “so that he could bring light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (v.23).
Paul’s declaration of the Gospel was biblical and true. The essence of what he said focused on his belief that Christ was the “first to be raised from death” (v.23). The resurrection was more than a historical fact for Paul. It was personal. It captured, consumed, and compelled his loyalty to Christ. And it should be the same for us. The conviction that Christ was raised from the dead should be at the heart of our faith and central to our preaching of the Gospel.
Interestingly, it’s at the mention of the resurrection that Festus interrupts and shouts, “Paul, you’re crazy! Too much learning has driven you out of your mind” (v.24). Paul is not deterred by Festus and we shouldn’t be put off when people challenge or undermine us when we share the Gospel. Like Paul, in exactly the opposite way from a madman, we must truthfully and sensibly (v.25) give witness to Christ and invite a verdict (v.29).
A final observation: Paul said everything the right way. His actions were dignified, his logic impeccable and his appeal flawless. But Agrippa and those sitting with him left the room (v.31a) and in so doing indicated they’d rejected the Gospel even though they’d concluded that Paul was innocent (v.31b). So don’t be dismayed when people reject the Gospel. Continue, as Paul did, to be a witness for Christ.
Lord, help me defend and declare the Gospel “both to the rich and to the poor” (v.22). For the fame of Christ’s name. Amen.