Acts 26 Bible Study
Where is Paul?
Paul is in Caesarea in an "auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city" (Acts 25:23), as well as Herod Agrippa II - "Agrippa" (Acts 26:1) and his sister Bernice, who had come to greet Festus, the newly appointed Roman governor of Judea, also in attendance.
What does the visual detail "Paul stretched out his hand"
(Acts 26:1) imply?
Luke, who recorded this account, also may have been present in the auditorium. Luke is highly unlikely to have been transported along when the Romans transported Paul from Jerusalem to Caesarea 2 years earlier. And since Luke was a Gentile - "Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete[b] in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal[c] for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you." (Colossians 4:10-14) - he most certainly wouldn't have been able to accompany the Jewish accusers who wanted to kill Paul for going to the Gentiles. So Luke is likely to have recorded from what he heard Paul's testimony 2 years before Felix, the previous Roman governor who then commanded "not to forbid any of [Paul's] friends to provide for or visit him". (Acts 24:23)
Was Agrippa an "expert in all customs and questions which
have to do with the Jews" (Acts 26:3)?
Since he appointed the high priest of Israel and oversaw the temple in Jerusalem, King Agrippa had better be.
How would "all the Jews" (Acts 26:4) know Paul's "manner of
life from ... youth" (Acts 26:4)?
Paul is referring to the Jews in the Sanhedrin who accused him. They knew Paul from his youth because he was "brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel" (Acts 22:3), one of the most respected members of the Sanhedrin and "a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people". (Acts 5:34)
For what "hope of the promise made by God" (Acts 26:6) is
Paul being "judged" (Acts 26:6)?
The promised Messiah. Paul is framing the issue at hand as less about him and really about the Messiah. Christ would be the center of attention of his discourse.
Could the "twelve tribes" (Acts 26:7) of Israel hope to
"attain" (Acts 26:7) the Messiah?
The original Greek word translated "attain" is katantao, which means to "come to" or "arrive". Every generation of Jews had hoped "night and day" (Acts 26:7) to come upon the day when they would see the promised Messiah.
What is striking about Acts 26:8-9?
Paul jumps directly from the promised Messiah to the resurrection of "Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). Moreover, the "you" in Acts 26:8 is plural in the original Greek, so Paul is posing this rhetorical question not just at "King Agrippa" (Acts 26:7) but at his audience in the auditorium; the crucifixion of Jesus was such common knowledge that Paul assumed his audience to know if and skipped directly to His resurrection.
Since he said that he "cast my vote" (Acts 26:10) against
Christians, was Paul in the Sanhedrin?
Since this was before his conversion to Christianity, Paul would have been too young to be a member of the Sanhedrin, which was reserved for old men. Paul used this expression figuratively to express his approval of the murder of Christians. After all, he had been one of their leading persecutors: "I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities." (Acts 26:11)
What "authority and commission from the chief priests"
(Acts 26:12) had Paul received?
To arrest Christians in Damascus and extradite them to Jerusalem: "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." (Acts 9:1-2)
What was the source of the "light from heaven, brighter
than the sun" (Acts 26:13) that Paul saw?
The countenance of Jesus in heaven, which the Apostle John described as best as humanly possible: "Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore." (Revelation 1:12-18)
To what did Jesus liken Paul's persecution of the body of Christ?
Kicking against the "goads". (Acts 26:14)
Whose "power" (Acts 26:18) is Paul telling his audience that they are under?
"Satan" (Acts 26:18) for everyone who hasn't been converted.
What must they do?
"Turn ... to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in" (Acts 26:18) Jesus.
What does it mean to "repent" (Acts 26:20)?
The original Greek word is metanoeo, which means to change one's mind or attitude about something.
About what should one change one's mind or attitude?
"Sins". (Acts 26:18)
How are those who truly repent distinguished from those who don't?
They "do works befitting repentance." (Acts 26:20) Notice that works do not lead to repentance; works reflect true repentance, which fundamentally changes one's attitude toward sin, as what used to be desirable becomes despicable.
What has been the focus of Paul's "witnessing both
to small and great" (Acts 26:22)?
The atoning sacrifice of Jesus and His resurrection, "that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead". (Acts 26:23)
Why did "Festus" (Acts 26:24) cry out as he did?
Paul's "defense" (Acts 26:24) so disturbed his sin nature that he couldn't take it anymore and/or he was being used by Satan to try to shut Paul up.
How does Paul react?
He doesn't relent - "I am not mad ... but speak the words of truth and reason." (Acts 26-25) - and further presses Agrippa: "King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.” (Acts 26:27).
Why does Paul ask if Agrippa believes "the prophets" (Acts 26:27)?
He is asking if Agrippa believes in what the Old Testament prophets said about the Messiah, or more precisely if he believes that Jesus is the "Christ" (Acts 26:23) prophesied by those prophets.
Does Agrippa understand the question?
"Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." (Acts 26:28)
What would becoming Christian have required Agrippa to admit about his father?
That he was a murderer - "Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword." (Acts 12:1-2) - which makes his response carry added significance.
Who else was Paul trying to persuade?
Everyone in the audience: "I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am ..." (Acts 26:29) Keep in mind that this is a prisoner in "chains" (Acts 26:29) talking to a king, a governor, "the commanders and the prominent men" (Acts 25:23) in the Roman capital of Judea.
What was Agrippa's verdict?
Paul neither deserved the death penalty nor was even a criminal: "This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains." (Acts 26:31)
What could have happened if Paul hadn't appealed to Caesar?
"This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." (Acts 26:32)
Had Paul made an error then by appealing to be judged by Caesar?
Had Paul been released, the Roman guards would no longer have protected him against Jewish assassins and he would have lost his Roman guard-escorted, all expenses-paid voyage to Rome, which is where the Lord wanted him to go. Physical freedom doesn't compare with the freedom of being at the center of God's will for our lives.