Acts 26 Commentary

NOTE: This Verse by Verse Commentary page is part of an ongoing project to add notes to each verse of the Bible. Therefore many verses do not yet have notes, but if the Lord tarries and gives me breath, additions will follow in the future. The goal is to edify and equip you for the work of service (Eph 4:12-13-note) that the Lord God might be glorified in your life and in His Church. Amen (Isa 61:3b, Mt 5:16-note)

From Jensen's Survey of the NT by permission

Acts 26:1  Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense:


Paul's defense speeches in Acts 

  1.  the Jerusalem mob (Acts 22:1 - 23);
  2.  the commander (Acts 22:24 - 30);
  3.  the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1 - 10);
  4. Felix (Acts 24:10 - 23);
  5. Festus (Acts 25:8 - 12);
  6. King Agrippa II (Acts 26:1 - 32);
  7. Jews at Rome (Acts 28:17 - 28).

To help set the scene of Paul's dramatic testimony see the great painting by  Nikolai Bodarevsky in 1875 of Paul making his defense before Agrippa. Imagine the crowd of "rich and famous" all of whom were listening to these potentially life changing words. One wonders if we will see any of these "rich and famous" in heaven? It certainly won't be because they did not receive a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! May we all be so faithful to boldly testify as the Spirit gives us utterance, whether it be before the "rich and famous" or before the "poor and downcast." Lord, find us faithful! Amen

This is the longest of Paul’s speeches in Acts.

Gilbrant sets the stage - Consider the setting. King Agrippa sat there in all the finery of his royal robes (Acts 25:23-27 for context). Beside him sat his beautiful 32-year-old sister Bernice, "blazing in all her jewels." (See Picture) All around were the town notables dressed in their best. Then there were the tribunes in their uniforms with glittering swords at their sides. King Agrippa turned to Paul and told him he was permitted to speak for himself. Paul did not hesitate. Filled once again with the power of the Holy Spirit, he began his defense. (Complete Biblical Library Commentary)

Agrippa - AKA "HEROD AGRIPPA II" (See map of his kingdom)  - Son of Herod Agrippa I (map of his kingdom) and Cypros, grandniece of Herod the Great. Being but 17 at his father's death (A.D. 44), he was thought too young to succeed his father in the kingdom, but six years later (A.D. 50) the emperor Claudius conferred on him Chalcis which had been under his uncle, shortly before deceased (A.D. 48). Then (A.D. 52) he was transferred to the tetrarchies formerly held by Philip and Lysanias with the title "king." Accurately he is called so in Acts 25:13; Acts 26:2; Acts 26:7. Nero added several cities of Galilee and Persea to his kingdom (A.D. 55). Five years later Paul pleaded before him, who naturally consulted him on a question of Jewish law). (See FESTUS.)

The great pomp with which he and his sister Berenice (whose connection with him caused grave suspicion) "entered into the place of hearing with the chief captains and principal men of the city" accorded with his character, fond of show. In the last Roman war he took part with the Romans in the destruction of his nation in the same spirit of cold cynicism with which he met the impassioned appeal of the apostle. After the fall of Jerusalem he retired with Berenice to Rome, where he died in the third year of Trajan (A.D. 100).

He was the last of the race of Herod commemorated in history. Acts 25:13 represents his losing no time in going to Caesarea to salute the new Roman governor. In exact consonance with this Josephus (Bell. Judg., 2:15, section 1; Life, section 11) records his anxiety to stand well with the Roman governors, Alexander in Egypt, and Gessius Florus in Judaea, in the latter case Berenice accompanying him. - See Main Article on the Herods for discussion of the Herods listed below:

  • 1. HEROD THE GREAT (Mt 2; Lk 1:5),
  • 2. HEROD THE TETRARCH (Mt 14:1, etc.; Mk 7:17, etc.; Lk 3:1; 3:19; 9:7; Acts 13:1).

You are permitted to speak for yourself.

You are at liberty to speak for yourself, TCNT...

You have permission, Phillips...

You may put your case before us, BB.

MacArthur comments that "Paul’s testimony contains two main themes: Jesus Christ’s resurrection proves Him to be the Messiah, and Paul’s transformed life proves the reality of Christ’s resurrection. He masterfully weaves the saving gospel through this first-person account." (Acts Commentary)

Then Paul stretched out his hand - Not to call for silence but in the common gesture of an orator opening his discourse. His hand may have been chained to a Roman soldier - interesting thought! The text does not state it but clearly Paul is a man filled with the Holy Spirit, for as Jesus Himself declared to His disciples

But be on your guard (present imperative); for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. (Exactly what Paul is doing in Acts 26) "And the Gospel must first be preached to all the nations.  "And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand (present imperative) about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for (term of explanation) it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:9-11)

To make his defense: "To talk one's self off a charge" to convince the audience he was innocent of the charges. 

Spurgeon - Three times we have in Holy Writ a graphic report of the conversion of Paul. This may be accounted for partly from its being one of the most remarkable events of early sacred history, Paul having had a greater effect upon the Christian Church than any other living man. At the same time I think it teaches us that the Holy Spirit sets especial store by the facts connected with this very remarkable conversion. If he gives it three times, in the sacred volume, we ought to give it a triple attention, and see if we cannot learn therefrom.

Acts 26:1-32.
Does a trial by jury guarantee justice? Not according to Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn: “Juries can be wrong. Dead wrong. Panel members can assemble in a little room after trial and agree as one to illogical, bigoted, emotional or just plain dull-witted conclusions that result in the administration of whimsy, not justice.”

Citing dozens of examples, he continues: “Juries can and clearly have been known to acquit the guilty and convict the innocent. Sometimes they are overly skeptical, sometimes they are overly credulous. Sometimes prosecutors, defense attorneys or witnesses misrepresent the facts to them or hide facts from them.”

As Paul also found, human justice is an uncertain and often flawed enterprise. No charge was ever proven against the apostle, and in today’s reading Agrippa admitted that they had no reason to hold him except for his appeal to Caesar (v. 32).

Acts 24-26 are full of legal talk about accusations and hearings on guilt and innocence. But the overriding emphasis from Luke’s standpoint and from Paul’s was still the truth and the spread of the gospel.

That’s why the apostle’s defense before Agrippa was much more than just a protest of his innocence of the charges against him. It was a superb summary of the essence of Christianity in which Paul defended two key propositions.

First, he reminded the king that faith in a risen, divine Christ is the heart of Christianity (vv. 1-8). Paul was on trial because of his belief that God raises the dead, although such a proposition was actually part of the promise that God had made to Israel.

Second, Paul maintained that Jesus’ resurrection was attested by his personal encounter with the risen Christ and by the Scriptures themselves (vv. 12-23). Paul wasn’t alone in his testimony. Moses and the prophets also said that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead.
Today’s text is an example of how a believer can weave Scripture and experience to make a compelling witness.

We’ve spent a lot of time this month talking about the importance of your personal witness for Christ. Every time you tell someone about Jesus you are helping to write a new chapter in the unfinished story of the church.

Acts 26

I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light. - Acts 26:17-18


In Sumerian mythology, the hero Gilgamesh went to the island of Dilmun in search of eternal life. In 1953, archaeologist T. Geoffrey Bibby discovered the historical reality. Dilmun turned out to be a 4,000-year-old city buried under the current city of Manama, the capital of Bahrain, an island state off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Dilmun had been a rich, independent trading center strategically located between the Middle East and India. Despite these advantages, it still could not offer eternal life.

In order to truly find eternal life, there is only one Way—Jesus Christ. At this point, Paul was still in prison on vague charges stemming from the incident we read about yesterday. A new governor, Festus, had just arrived and was trying to figure out what to do with his mysterious prisoner. He scheduled a special hearing so King Agrippa and Queen Bernice could hear the man and so he himself could try to understand enough to write a coherent report to Rome.

The circumstances were different—a royal court instead of barracks steps—but one thing hadn't changed: Paul's enthusiasm to seize any and all opportunities to share the gospel. For the occasion, his style was more formal, but this testimony follows a similar arc that we saw yesterday. Because Agrippa understood Jewish culture, Paul described his background as a model Jew, explained how through the prophets God had promised the Messiah, and again was painfully honest about his early, hate-filled opposition to Christ.

He told his dramatic Damascus road experience, but telescoped the story in order to dwell more on the change itself (vv. 16-18). His life of ministry proved his personal integrity, as he emphasized his obedience, consistency in life and message, and dependence on God. The Resurrection was the stumbling block to his listeners, though—Festus found it insane and Agrippa could not accept the concept.

Two powerful testimonies … and yet not a single convert. We can take encouragement from this—we don't measure success through the number of converts but from our faithful willingness to share the gospel.


Having seen several examples of Paul's testimony, given in various circumstances to various audiences, begin crafting a version of your own personal testimony. Choose an audience—perhaps a neighbor, co-worker, or extended family member—and consider how to present the gospel and the way you came to faith in a way that this person can understand clearly and might find attractive. Work on your testimony whenever you can, and later this month share it with the person you chose.

Acts 26:1-23

This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles. - Acts 9:15


David Livingstone is often credited with opening Africa to the West. His tombstone summarizes his life: “Missionary, traveler, philanthropist. For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, and to abolish the slave trade.”

When Livingstone died in 1873, his African friends buried his heart beneath a mpundu tree. His body was returned to England for a hero’s funeral at Westminster Abbey. His legacy has been analyzed and debated for over a century.

Many men and women have followed in the footsteps of this man, dedicating their lives to missionary service in Africa. Livingstone had followed in the footsteps of missionary giants before him, in a line stretching back to the apostle Paul.

It was Paul’s special mission to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15)--all Gentiles, not just God-fearers like Cornelius. Today’s reading recounts his testimony, not directly (see Acts 9) but as retold while on trial before Festus and Agrippa. Here we see not only the fact of his conversion, but, after years of faithful ministry, his own interpretation of his calling.

First, he recounted the “before” part of his life. He lived strictly, scrupulously obeying Jewish regulations (cf. Phil. 3:4-8). He zealously opposed and persecuted the church (cf. Gal. 1:13-14).

But all that changed one day on the Damascus road, so he next told what happened “after.” Christ Himself commissioned him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7-8), “so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (v. 18). Paul had spent every day since that time fulfilling that calling–the “Missionary Journeys” maps in the back of your Bible will help you check how faithfully he did this (cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-31)!


In today’s reading, Paul looks back on his original calling from the vantage point of years in ministry. He can share his testimony with special confidence and gratitude.

Acts 26:1-29

We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:20


Nineteenth-century pastor and Bible teacher Albert Barnes wrote, ""Sinners often treat God's messengers kindly, and do much to make them comfortable, and hear them gladly, while they themselves are unwilling to do the thing which is demanded of them--to repent and believe the Gospel. They expect that their kind intentions will be accepted in the place of what God demands--repentance and the forsaking of their sins.""

We're not sure how much, if anything, King Agrippa did to make Paul comfortable during the apostle's imprisonment in Caesarea. But he did give Paul a full chance to present his defense and explain the real reason behind his arrest in Jerusalem and the controversy swirling around him.

Since Paul was passionate about the Person of Jesus Christ and the gospel ministry, it's not surprising that his defense before Agrippa was delivered with passion. Paul used all of his persuasive powers to present the truth to Agrippa, knowing that this king with a Jewish background was well-versed in ""Jewish customs and controversies"" (v. 3).

It is likely that what we have in Acts 26 is a summary of Paul's speech. He set the proceedings in the right framework when he told Agrippa that the heart of the issue was ""what God has promised our fathers"" (v. 6). Later, Paul explained this hope as the death and resurrection of the Messiah (v. 23).

Paul took the king step by step through his own Jewish background and upbringing. The apostle mentioned his zeal as a persecutor of Christians (vv. 9-11), and his conversion on the Damascus road. With eloquence and conviction, he explained the gospel to Agrippa and those listening as repentance for sin and faith in Jesus.

Paul knew that Agrippa was ""familiar with these things"" (v. 26), and so he spoke freely. But the apostle was not content with a solid defense. He wanted Agrippa and the whole audience to believe the gospel.

Paul's direct question to the king must have made him squirm a little. Agrippa's edgy retort reveals a man under the searchlight of conviction--maybe the closest the king ever came to believing in Christ. But Paul had done his part in presenting the gospel and asking for a decision.


Today's study reminds us that once we have presented Christ and given a person the opportunity to receive Him, the results are God's responsibility.

This brings us back to the place of prayer in evangelism. If we have a passion for souls, we will also be passionate in praying for the unsaved friends and relatives on our own list, and for a world of people who need Christ.

Acts 26:1-32.


Does a trial by jury guarantee justice? Not according to Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn: “Juries can be wrong. Dead wrong. Panel members can assemble in a little room after trial and agree as one to illogical, bigoted, emotional or just plain dull-witted conclusions that result in the administration of whimsy, not justice.”

Citing dozens of examples, he continues: “Juries can and clearly have been known to acquit the guilty and convict the innocent. Sometimes they are overly skeptical, sometimes they are overly credulous. Sometimes prosecutors, defense attorneys or witnesses misrepresent the facts to them or hide facts from them.”

As Paul also found, human justice is an uncertain and often flawed enterprise. No charge was ever proven against the apostle, and in today’s reading Agrippa admitted that they had no reason to hold him except for his appeal to Caesar (v. 32).

Acts 24-26 are full of legal talk about accusations and hearings on guilt and innocence. But the overriding emphasis from Luke’s standpoint and from Paul’s was still the truth and the spread of the gospel.

That’s why the apostle’s defense before Agrippa was much more than just a protest of his innocence of the charges against him. It was a superb summary of the essence of Christianity in which Paul defended two key propositions.

First, he reminded the king that faith in a risen, divine Christ is the heart of Christianity (vv. 1-8). Paul was on trial because of his belief that God raises the dead, although such a proposition was actually part of the promise that God had made to Israel.

Second, Paul maintained that Jesus’ resurrection was attested by his personal encounter with the risen Christ and by the Scriptures themselves (vv. 12-23). Paul wasn’t alone in his testimony. Moses and the prophets also said that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead.

APPLY THE WORD Today’s text is an example of how a believer can weave Scripture and experience to make a compelling witness. We’ve spent a lot of time this month talking about the importance of your personal witness for Christ. Every time you tell someone about Jesus you are helping to write a new chapter in the unfinished story of the church.

Acts 26:2  "In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today;

Gilbrant Paul made no criticism of the king's empty display, nor did he refer to the jewelry of Bernice or her unsavory reputation. He was intent not on defending himself but his Master. The cause of Christ was always more important to him than his own cause. Thus, with all courtesy and deep earnestness he began his defense. (Ibid)

Consider (2233) (hegeomai  from ágo = to lead) primarily signifies to lead then, consider (Heb 11:26; 2Pe 3:15) To think about and come to a conclusion. It was  a mathematical term. The idea here is of making a decision after weighing the facts and/or circumstances. 

Spurgeon - With what courtesy does he speak! Paul is bold; but see how he is all things to all men! And he begins an address for his life with great adroitness and skill; teaching us that we are to use all the courtesies of life to those to whom they belong, and never to cause needless irritation. There is enough offence in the Cross of itself, without our being offensive when uplifting it.....It is always well to try to be on good terms with the person whom you wish to impress with the truth of the gospel. Paul therefore did not begin bluntly, as some foolish people would have done, but he addressed the king most courteously and respectfully. I think I see the little man, as he doubtless was. Paul the man with feeble eyes, and with no great bodily presence to command attention, yet bravely stretching out his hand, and, like a preacher, thus addressing Herod Agrippa.

Make...defense (626)(apologeomai from apo = from + logos = speech) literally means, “to talk one’s self off from" and thus to speak in one's own defense, defend oneself. BDAG - "to speak in one’s own defense against charges presumed to be false," Apologia was a technical word used in the Greek law courts and was used of an attorney who talked his client off from a charge preferred against him. In short it refers to a speech given in defense.

The English word “apologetics” comes from the Gr. word here translated “defense.” Our English word apology originally did not mean “to say I am sorry” but actually referred to “a defense presented in court.”  Apologetics is the branch of theology that deals with the defense of the faith. Every Christian should be able to give a reasoned defense of his hope in Christ, especially in hopeless situations. A crisis creates the opportunity for witness when a believer behaves with faith and hope, because the unbelievers will then sit up and take notice.

See Related Resources at Gotquestions:

Apologeomai - 10x in 10v - Usage: defend(1), defending(2), make a defense(1), make...defense(3), said in...defense(1), saying in...defense(1), speak in...defense(1). Only used twice in the Septuagint - Jer 12:1, Jer 31:6.

Luke 12:11  "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say;

Luke 21:14  "So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves;

Acts 19:33  Some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly.

Acts 24:10  When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: "Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense,

Acts 25:8  while Paul said in his own defense, "I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar."

Acts 26:1  Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense:

Acts 26:2  "In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today;

Acts 26:24  While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad."

Romans 2:15  in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,

2 Corinthians 12:19  All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. Actually, it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

Acts 26:3  especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.


Especially because you are an expert...therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently - Later Paul declares that Agrippa knew about the events that had occurred and that he believed the Old Testament prophets (Acts 26:26, 27-note) In short Paul appealed to this "good" quality of Agrippa to open the door so that Agrippa might listen carefully and receive the Gospel Paul was about to explain. Yes he was giving a defense but as he did he gave the Gospel and in so doing Agrippa (and all present that fateful day) became the defendants! 

In Paul's approach he is conducting himself with wisdom toward outsiders even as he commanded the saints at Colossae in Col 4:5, 6-note. We all do well to emulate his pattern! 

Customs (1485)(ethos  from etho = to be used, to be accustomed) refers to a usual or customary manner of behavior, habit, pattern of behavior which is more or less fixed by tradition or practice. It may be established by law or otherwise generally sanctioned by the society. 

The Jews - It is not "the Jews". The article "the" is added by NAS translators and is not a good addition. The absence of the definite article ("the") in Greek conveys the more accurate sense of "some Jews." If Paul had said "the Jews" this would have indicted the entire nation of Israel, which clearly was not his intent.

Jews (2453) (Ioudaios ultimately derived from Hebrew Yehudi = a member of the tribe of Judah) is an adjective refers to one who belongs to the Jewish race with focus on adherence to Mosaic tradition (Acts 10:28, 22:3, 21:39). A Jew in respect to race or religion (as opposed to Gentiles). In the plural, it means the Jews, the people of ancient Palestine. 

I beg (beseech, request) (1189)(deomai  from deo = to bind) means to ask for something with the sense of pleading, beseeching or begging.

Listen to me patiently - Yes, Paul was "on trial" (although they had already decided to send him to Caesar), but in another sense (similar to Jesus' appearance before Pilate) it was really Agrippa who was on trial for his eternal destiny was at stake. Thus Paul begs him to listen, this word for listen not simply referring to hearing but hearing with attention, hearing so as to respond to what is heard, to listen or pay attention to a person with resulting conformity to what is advised or commanded. I would submit that Paul was not only defending himself but was prosecuting Agrippa's soul! I am reminded of his words to the Church at Corinth...

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg (same verb he uses here in Acts 26:3 - (deomai  ) you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20-note)

Patiently (3116) (makrothumos from makros = long, distant, far off, large + thumos = temper, passion, emotion or thumoomai = to be furious or burn with intense anger) is literally long-tempered (not "short tempered), a long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion.

Acts 26:4  "So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem;

Amplified -  [Especially] because you are so fully and unusually conversant with all the Jewish customs and controversies; therefore, I beg you to hear me patiently.


All Jews know my manner of life from my youth up - Paul did not need to go into great detail. They all knew the kind of life he lived for he was open and did not try to hide anything. Paul begins his testimony of his conversion by describing what he was like before he met Jesus Who transformed his entire life. This is still a good pattern for all believers to emulate when we give our testimony, taking care not to go into graphic detail of our life in the kingdom of darkness. It is best to keep it as brief as possible because that is who we once were and that pales in comparison to who we now are in Christ. 

From the beginning - From his birth in Tarsus. He does not mention his Roman citizenship. 

Acts 22:3  “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today.

NET Note - Gamaliel was a famous Jewish scholar and teacher mentioned here in v. 34 and in Acts 22:3. He had a grandson of the same name and is referred to as “Gamaliel the Elder” to avoid confusion. He is quoted a number of times in the Mishnah, was given the highest possible title for Jewish teachers, Rabba (cf. John 20:16), and was highly regarded in later rabbinic tradition.

At Jerusalem - "He was sent early to Jerusalem to be educated and taught a trade. His teacher, Gamaliel, was one of the most distinguished rabbis of that time and was a grandson of the famous Hillel who is still revered by orthodox Jews. At his feet the young Paul (then called by his Hebrew name, Saul) learned the Old Testament and all the rabbinical traditions and interpretations." (Gilbrant)

Acts 26:5  since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.

NET They know, because they have known me from time past, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.

Since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify - "If those who knew Paul from the beginning (of his stay in Jerusalem) would testify (bear witness), they would have to say Paul lived as a Pharisee, following the teachings of the strictest of the Jewish sects." (Gilbrant)

Known (previously known)(4267) (proginosko from pró = before + ginosko = know) literally means to know about something prior to some temporal reference point. 

Testify (be a witness) (3140)(martureo) means to bear witness by stating facts based on firsthand knowledge of Paul's life and how he was a chief persecutor of Christians. 

Paul describes his pre-conversion life in Philippians 3:5; 6 where he explained that he was "circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless." Paul stressed his zeal not to brag, but to show how unlikely it was he would have been converted. This makes his conversion all the more striking to Agrippa and all who heard his testimony. In fact they were hearing about a great miracle.

Josephus described the Pharisees as “a certain sect of the Jews that appear more religious than others, and seem to interpret the laws more accurately” ( Wars 1.5.2).

NET Note - A Pharisee was a member of one of the most important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. There were more Pharisees than Sadducees (according to Josephus, Ant. 17.2.4 [17.42] there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at about this time). Pharisees differed with Sadducees on certain doctrines and patterns of behavior. The Pharisees were strict and zealous adherents to the laws of the OT and to numerous additional traditions such as angels and bodily resurrection.

Pharisee - From perishin Aramaic, perashim , "separated." See dictionary article on Pharisees or articles below

Acts 26:6  "And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers;

  • am. Acts 26:8; Acts 23:6; 24:15, 21; 28:20.
  • the promise. Acts 3:24; 13:32, 33. Ge. 3:15; 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 49:10. Dt 18:15. 2 Sa. 7:12, 13. Job 19:25–27. Ps 2:6–12. 40:6–8; 98:2; 110:1–4; 132:11, 17. Isa 4:2; 7:14; 9:6, 7; 11:1–5; 40:9–11; 42:1–4; 53:10–12; 61:1–3. Jer 23:5, 6; 33:14–17. Ezek 17:22–24; 21:27; 34:23–25; 37:24. Da. 2:34, 35, 44, 45; 7:13, 14; 9:24–26. Ho. 3:5. Joel. 2:32. Am. 9:11, 12. Ob. 21. Micah 5:2; 7:20. Zep. 3:14–17. Zech 2:10, 11; 6:12; 9:9; 13:1, 7. Mal. 3:1; 4:2. Lu. 1:69, 70. Ro. 15:8. Gal 3:17, 18; 4:4. Titus 2:13. 1 Pe. 1:11, 12.
  • Click for multiple commentaries, sermons, devotionals on Acts 26


Paul had take a similar approach in his defense before Felix:

Acts 24:14–15 “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

FOR THE HOPE OF THE PROMISE MADE BY GOD TO OUR FATHERS: "The promise" refers to the promise of the Messiah & the good news associated with His appearing that righteousness is available to all who believe. 

MacArthur explains that the hope of the promise "was the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom (cf. Acts 1:6; 3:22–24; 13:23–33; Gal. 3:17–18; 4:4; Titus 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:11–12) and, specifically, the resurrection connected with His coming. It was that promise that was made by God throughout the Old Testament: Messiah would come to take away sin and establish His kingdom of righteousness. (Ibid)

Related Resources:

The promise - This refers to the Promised Messiah, to His coming and His Messianic Kingdom.

This promise was inherent in the covenant promise God made to our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Compare Peter's reference in his sermon to the Jews in Jerusalem...

"It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.' (Acts 3:25)

Comment - Messiah was the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and its blessings (Gal 3:16-note), which are still available to the Jews.

God's covenant promise to Abraham: 

Gen 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 

Gen 17:19 But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 

Gen 22:18 "And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." 

God's covenant promise to Abraham's son Isaac:

Gen 26:4  "And I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 

God's covenant promise to Isaac's son Jacob

Gen 28:14  "Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 

A Witness Of Hope Read: Acts 26:1-8,24-32

Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. —1 Peter 3:15

As a child growing up in the former Soviet Union, Nickolas was the only one in his school who refused to join the political group for young people. Because of his faith in God, he was singled out for ridicule, given bad grades he did not deserve, and denied a recommendation to the university. Despite the opposition, he persisted, and in later years he led some of his persecutors to trust in Jesus Christ. Now he is the pastor of a thriving church in Belarus.

The apostle Paul also suffered persecution. His faith landed him in the court of King Agrippa, and he had opportunity to tell how God had changed his life. He testified, “Now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers” (Acts 26:6). His witness to the king about salvation in Christ and the hope of resurrection was clear and convicting.

When we live out our faith in Christ, we’re bound to attract the attention of others and may even face persecution. We know our sins are forgiven, and we look forward to being with Jesus forever in heaven. We want to share our faith with others, and some people will want to know the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15). When questions come, let’s be ready to give a witness.

When witnessing, if people ask,
"How do you know it's true?"
Remember that they can't deny
What Christ has done for you. —Sper

Our witness for Christ is the light for a world in darkness.

By David Egner 

The Messianic Promise  - R. Tuck - Acts 26:6
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, to our fathers:

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" (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. 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 - 

I. THAT IT WAS EARLY GIVEN. In the world's very morning. In the first hem's 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. (cp Ge 3:15)

II. THAT IT WAS OFTEN RENEWED. For every generation; for every new set of circumstances. In ever-varied forms. With a gracious advancing clearness and fullness. The actual instances provide the illustrations. For lists of them, see appendices to modern Bibles. 

III. THAT IT WAS STRANGELY MISCONCEIVED. Because men 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. Messiah is for men, not for Jews only, for sinners, and not for an enslaved nation only.

Acts 26:7  the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews.

Amplified - Which hope [of the Messiah and the resurrection] our twelve tribes confidently expect to realize as they fervently worship [without ceasing] night and day. And for that hope, O king, I am accused by Jews and considered a criminal! 

MacArthur on the promise to the 12 tribles that the hope of the promise "was the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom (cf. Acts 1:6; 3:22–24; 13:23–33; Gal. 3:17–18; 4:4; Titus 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:11–12) and, specifically, the resurrection connected with His coming. It was that promise that was made by God throughout the Old Testament: Messiah would come to take away sin and establish His kingdom of righteousness. And it was that very promise to which the twelve tribes of Israel hoped to attain as they earnestly served God night and day. (Paul’s mention of the twelve tribes shows that the ten northern tribes are not lost [cf. Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30; James 1:1; Rev. 21:12].) Yet, incredibly, it was for proclaiming that very hope fulfilled in Jesus Christ that Paul was being accused by these apostate Jews. (Ibid)

The Jews' accusations against Paul, then, did not refer to any crime. They really concerned this hope of their fathers.

Hoped (1679)(elpizo from noun elpis = hope, absolute assurance of future good) means to look forward with confidence to that which is good and beneficial. To express desire for some good with the expectation of obtaining it.

Serve (3000)(latreuo from latris = one hired or latron = reward, wages) means to work for reward, for hire or for pay, to be in servitude, render cultic service. Latreuo was used literally for bodily service (e.g., workers on the land, or slaves), and figuratively for “to cherish.” In the NT the idea is to render service to God, to worship, to perform sacred services or to minister to God in a spirit of worship (in fact in the NT uses below, note several passages clearly associate worship with serving.)

In light of the secular meaning "to work for reward" certainly that is not a disciple's main motive - we serve Him because we love Him), but it is a gift of His amazing grace that not only has He saved us, but that one day He will reward us. This is what I would call grace (saved us) upon grace (rewards us)! Amazing indeed!

Two examples of those who served God looking forward to the blessed hope were Simeon and Anna

Luke 2:25-note (Simeon) And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

Luke 2:38-note  (Anna) At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Hope (1680)(elpis)  in Scripture is not the world's definition of "I hope so", with a few rare exceptions (e.g., Acts 27:20) Hope is defined as a desire for some future good with the expectation of obtaining it. Hope is always an expectation of something good as well as descriptive of something for which we must wait. Hope is the opposite of despair. And the opposite of a "living hope" is a "dead hope." 

Spurgeon - The Jews still had hope concerning the promise of the Messiah, and all the promises in God’s covenant with them; and Paul says that for the sake of this hope he had been led to do that which had now brought him as a prisoner before the king. Notice that the fiction concerning “the ten lost tribes” has no foundation in Scripture. There are no lost tribes, several of them are mentioned by name in the New Testament; the apostle James writes “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” and here Paul speaks of them as “our twelve tribes.” The Jews whom we have among us at this day belong to all of the twelve tribes, as they will tell you if you ask them. There are no lost tribes yet to be discovered, neither are we, as a nation, those ten tribes that are supposed to have been lost. We are Gentiles, and not Jews. The apostle speaks here concerning the hope of the whole nation of the Jews. We who have believed in Jesus are the inheritors of that grand hope, as we have understood it aright, and have realized that it is fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only-begotten Son of God.

The Hope of Israel - Charles Roll - 

O the hope of Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest Thou be as a stranger in the land?... O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake Thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 14:8; 17:13).

Because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain (Acts 28:20).

The Hope of Israel is definitely a title of Messiah. It is related to the kingdom of God and the salvation of God as predicted by the prophets and preached by Paul (Acts 26:6-8). On account of this very testimony Paul was apprehended by the Jews and arraigned before the governors of the land. "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 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. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?"

The dignified, descriptive declaration of Paul's defense before King Agrippa is one of the finest pieces of oratory in all literature. He did not contend with the Jews over their false charge of sedition, but confined his statement to the superlative subject of salvation. He courageously and capably affirmed that the reconciling death and victorious resurrection of Christ fulfilled the predictions of prophets and the pledges of the promises made to the Fathers. This was the apostle's constant theme (see Romans 15:8-13). He did not modify or qualify the fact at any time, but affirmed it clearly and confidently. The resurrection from the dead is bound up inextricably with the Hope of Israel and is affirmed by Abraham, Job, Moses, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Hosea, and others of the prophets. Messiah himself avowed, "I am the resurrection and the life." In the light of the almighty omnipotent God, resurrection from the dead is not incredible but inevitable, for He has pledged it, and one word from the Lord God outweighs in worth and wisdom a whole library of human utterances.

The arresting grandeur of Christ's monumental mastery over death, the momentous marvel of His resurrection, and the matchless miracle of His ascension, dim into insignificance all former events in history.

Scientists may speak of a general resurrection as being a grave difficulty, but the word difficulty is not in the dictionary of Deity, nor is impossibility in the vocabulary of the victorious and infinite Christ. We do not flout human science nor do we fear it, but we favor a much higher fount of authority. If the present radio and recording system had been described in a university a century ago, it would have been declared preposterous. When Paul the apostle introduced this subject of the Hope of Israel, he raised eternal issues that were universal in their then present application. In the wonderful message of Romans 15 Paul declares in verses 8 and 9: "Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy."

The promises of God are supported and sustained by wisdom's seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1).

1. God's superiority and sovereignty will not allow Him to withhold mercy or mediation from any one people (Psalm 145:9; Isaiah 55:7). 
2. His power and preeminence will not permit Him to fail or falter in a single pledge He has made (Joshua 23:14). 
3. His justice and prudence will not allow Him to deceive or despise one solitary soul (Job 34:12; 36:5). 
4. His grace and goodness will not allow Him to forget or forsake any individual creature anywhere (Ezekiel 18:4; Isaiah 49:15). 
5. His truth and tenderness will not permit Him to change or countermand one syllable of His covenant (2 Samuel 23:5; Jeremiah 31:33-35; Luke 1:68-72). 
6. His glory and greatness will not allow Him to deflect or defer one proffered signal of help (Hebrews 13:6). 
7. His fatherhood and faithfulness will not permit Him to disregard or discard an atom of assurance promised to the believing soul (Galatians 3:15-21; 2 Corinthians 1:20). 

Notice that the word promise occurs seven times in Galatians; three, in the space of as many verses; which pertains to the covenant confirmed before of God in Christ (verse 17). This covers the widest range (Galatians 3:27-29; see also Ephesians 1:9-10). "Behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth... there is nothing too hard for Thee" (Jeremiah 32:17). "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27) In addition to faith in the promises, the believer enjoys the blessed anchorage of hope in the eternal purpose which preceded all the differences of nation, race, class, creed, and sex. (The Names and Titles of Jesus Christ)

Acts 26:8  "Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?


MacArthur - By raising Jesus from the dead, God validated the Old Testament promise of resurrection, at the same time demonstrating that Jesus was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah. But it was just this point that Agrippa, along with many other Jews, was not willing to concede. Most Jews (except for the Sadducees, Matt. 22:23) accepted the general concept of resurrection (cf. John 5:28–29; 11:24). What they did not accept was that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and was their Messiah. (ibid)

Henry Morris on incredible -  It would be incredible if anyone but God (or those empowered by him) should claim to raise the dead, for only He is the Creator of life. To Paul, it was both anomalous and sad that the Jews, especially the Pharisees, whose hope was centered in the coming Messiah and the promised resurrection, should now be denying that Jesus had proved He was the Messiah by the very fact of His fulfillment of their hope. They believed in the doctrine of the resurrection, especially when the evidence was so strong that many Pharisees (including Paul) already had believed.

Gilbrant Agrippa would know that as a Pharisee Paul always believed in the future resurrection of the body and future judgments. Agrippa must also have known the Christians believed God had raised Jesus from the dead and made His resurrection the guarantee of theirs. Actually, since God is God, and since the Old Testament teaches that nothing is too hard, too wonderful, or too impossible for God, it should not have been hard for Agrippa to believe, especially now that God had raised Jesus from the dead. (Ibid)

Incredible (571)(apistos from a = without + pistos = believing, faithful) means lacking in faith, without faith, disbelieving, unbelieving. It is used once to describe that which is incredible (Acts 26:8), but most NT uses describe those without faith, not trusting, unfaithful. 

If God does raise the dead - The "if" is first class conditional and assumes Praise His holy Name - God does indeed raise the dead! 

Raise (1453)(egeiromeans to rise (stand up) from a sitting or lying position (Mt 8:269:5), to awaken from sleep (Mt 8:25), figuratively to "awaken" from death (rise up). 

Warren Wiersbe - The pronoun you in Acts 26:8 is plural, so Paul must have looked around at the entire audience as he spoke. The Greeks and Romans, of course, would not believe in the doctrine of the Resurrection (Acts 17:31–32), nor would the Sadducees who were present (Acts 23:8). To Paul, this was a crucial doctrine, for if there is no Resurrection, then Jesus Christ was not raised and Paul had no Gospel to preach.

Spurgeon - That great fact of the resurrection of Christ is the corner-stone of the temple of truth, the key-stone of the arch of the gospel. The apostles made this truth very prominent in their preaching, and here Paul began his address with it. It was the great difficulty of the Christian religion at that period, so Paul went straight to it at once.

The Resurrection Credible - C. H. Spurgeon. Acts 26:8

  • Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

Concerning the souls of our departed Christian friends we suffer no distress. Our main trouble is about their bodies. Even the perfect Man could not restrain His weeping at Lazarus' tomb. The doctrine of the Resurrection teaches us that we need have no trouble about the body, it has not gone to annihilation. The Lord's love to His people is a love towards their entire manhood. He took into union with His Deity both soul and body, and redeemed both, and both are sanctified by the Divine indwelling. So our complete manhood shall have it in its power to glorify Him forever. This being our hope, we nevertheless confess that sometimes the evil heart of unbelief cries, "Is it possible?" At such times the text is needful.

We rejoice in the fact that there will be a great change in the body; that its materialism will have lost all its grossness and corruption, and that it will be adapted for higher purposes; but there shall be an identity between the body in which we die and the body in which we rise. Not, however, that identity is the same thing as absolute sameness of substance and continuance of atoms. We are living in the same bodies which we possessed twenty years ago; yet no single atom remains that was in it then. Admit the like identity in the resurrection, and it is all we ask. Now this hope is naturally surrounded with many difficulties, because: —

1. The large majority of dead bodies have been utterly dissolved.
2. Think how widely diffused are the atoms which once built up living forms.
3. The difficulty increases when we reflect that all men will rise again. Think of the myriads who have passed away in countries like China, of those who have perished by shipwreck, plague, and war.
4. The wonder increases when we remember in what strange places many of these bodies now are. In fact, where are not man's remains? Blows there a single wind down our streets without whirling along particles of what once was man?
5. And, moreover, to make the wonder extraordinary beyond conception, they will rise at once, or perhaps in two great divisions (Revelation 20:5, 6). Where shall they stand? What plains of earth shall hold them?
6. And then this resurrection will not be a mere restoration, but in the case of the saints will involve a remarkable advance. We put into the ground a bulb, and it rises as a golden lily; we drop into the mould a seed, and it comes forth an exquisite flower; even thus, the bodies, which are sown in burial, shall spring up by Divine power into outgrowths, surpassing all imagination in beauty.
7. One of the difficulties of believing it is, that there are positively no full analogies in nature by which to support it. Some have seen in sleep the analogy of death, and in our awakening the resurrection. But a continuance of life is manifest to the man in his dreams and to all onlookers. The development of insects is quoted as a striking analogy. But there is life in the chrysalis, organisation, in fact, the entire fly. Nor is the analogy of the seed much more conclusive, for a life germ always remains, and the crumbling organisation becomes its food from which it builds itself up again. The resurrection stands alone; and, concerning it, the Lord might well say, "Behold, I do a new thing in the earth." Here, then, is the difficulty. Is it a credible thing that the dead should be raised?

It might seem incredible that the dead should be raised, but why should it seem incredible that God should raise the dead? Grant that God is, that He is omnipotent, and that He has said the dead shall be raised, and belief is no longer hard but inevitable. Difficulty is not in the dictionary of the Godhead. Is anything too hard for the Lord?

1. When Paul uttered our text he was speaking to one to whom he could say, "Believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest!" It was, therefore, good reasoning to say, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you?" etc. For, as a Jew, Agrippa had the testimony of Job — "For I know that my Redeemer liveth"; and of David (Psalm 16); of Isaiah (Isaiah 26:19); of Daniel (Daniel 12:2, 3); of Hosea (Hosea 13:14).

2. To us as Christians there has been granted yet fuller evidence (John 5:28; John 6:30; Romans 8:11; Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:1).

3. At the same time it may be well to look around us, and note what helps the Lord has appointed for our faith.

(1) There are many wonders which we should not have believed by mere report, if we had not come across them by experience. The electric telegraph, e.g. When our missionaries in tropical countries have told the natives of ice, the natives have refused to believe. After the resurrection we shall regard it as a Divine display of power as familiar to us as creation and Providence now are.
(2) Will resurrection be a greater wonder than creation? To create out of nothing is quite as marvellous as to call together scattered particles and refashion them.
(3) Christ rose again and He is the cause of your resurrection, the type of it, the foretaste of it, the guarantee of it.
(4) Remember also, that you who are Christians have already experienced as great a work as the resurrection, for you have risen from the dead as to your innermost nature.


1. Comfort one another with these words. You have lost those dear to you. Sorrow ye must, but sorrow not as those that are without hope.
2. Let us cheer our hearts in prospect of our own departure.
3. Expecting a blessed resurrection, let us respect our bodies. Bodies that are to dwell forever in heaven, should not be subjected to pollution here below.
4. The ungodly are to rise again, but it will be to a resurrection of woe. "Fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Acts 26:1-8 Incredible?
By M.R. De Haan
Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead. —Acts 26:8
If Jesus did not rise from the dead and there is no future day of resurrection for us, then life loses all its meaning. If this life is all there is—just a few years of alternate crying and laughing (mostly crying) and then darkness—with Paul we can say, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19).

Resurrection, however, is not an incredible, irrational idea. We can see illustrations of resurrection all around us in nature. For example, Egyptian garden peas that had been buried for 3,000 years were brought out and planted on June 4, 1844. Within a few days they had germinated and broken the ground. Buried for 3,000 years—then resurrected. That’s amazing!

Why then should it be thought incredible that God should raise the dead? That was the surprised question of Paul to King Agrippa (Acts 26:8). If God could take some dust and breathe life into it to create a man (Gen. 2:7), why would anyone think it incredible for this same God to raise someone from the dead?

Yes, it is most credible that Jesus would arise. It would be incredible if after the miraculous life He lived He had remained in the grave. Hallelujah! Christ arose! —M. R. De Haan, M.D. (founder of RBC Ministries)

Up from the grave He arose,
  With a mighty triumph o'er His foes;
  He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
  And He lives forever with His saints to reign. —Lowry

Only a living Savior could rescue a dying world.

Acts 26:8

Resurrection is not an incredible, irrational idea. We can see illustrations of resurrection all around us in nature. For example, Egyptian garden peas that had been buried for 3,000 years were brought out and planted on June 4, 1844. Within a few days they had germinated and broken the ground. Buried for 3,000 years—then resurrected. That's amazing!

Why then should it be thought incredible that God should raise the dead? That was the surprised question of Paul to King Agrippa (Acts 26:8). If God could take some dust and breathe life into it to create a man (Gen. 2:7), why would anyone think it incredible for this same God to raise someone from the dead?

Yes, it is most credible that Jesus would arise. It would be incredible if after the miraculous life He lived He had remained in the grave. Hallelujah! Christ arose! —M. R. De Haan. (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Acts 26:9  "So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

Amplified - I myself indeed was [once] persuaded that it was my duty to do many things contrary to and in defiance of the name of Jesus of Nazareth.


Spurgeon - For Paul was the kind of man who, if he thought he ought to do anything, he always did it. Even in his unregenerate state, his conscience, unenlightened as it was, swayed him; but now, with an enlightened conscience, he looked back upon that part of his life with deep regret, and he did not fail to acknowledge and mourn the wrong that he had ignorantly done to the Lord Jesus Christ and his faithful followers.

Paul was the chief persecutor of the new believers: 

Acts 8:1-3  Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

Acts 9:1-2  Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Compulsory Blasphemy - C. H. Spurgeon

  • I truly thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.…

You, perhaps, know what that means — compel them to blaspheme. The Roman way of doing it was to say, "Curse Christ." Often and often did the Roman Emperor command the martyrs to curse Christ, and you remember s answer — "How can I curse Him? Sixty years have I known Him; He never did me a displeasure, and I cannot and I will not curse Him." Then the whip was applied, or the hand was held over burning coals, or the flesh was pinched with hot irons, and then the question was put again — "Will you curse Christ now?" Paul says that he, though probably using milder means, compelled the professor of Christ's faith to blaspheme. And there may be some such here — the husband who persecutes his wife for Christ's sake; the father who charges his child, upon his obedience, never to go to the sanctuary of the Lord again; the master who plagues his servant, mocks and jeers, and can never be content, except when he is saying hard things against him.

Sincerity Misguided - H. W. Beecher

  • I truly thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.…

It is often said it is no matter what a man believes if he is only sincere. This is true of all minor truths, and false of all truths whose nature it is to fashion a man's life. It will make no difference in a man's harvest whether he think turnips have more saccharine matter than potatoes, whether corn is better than wheat. But let the man sincerely believe that seed planted without plowing is as good as with, that January is as favorable for seed sowing as April, and that cockle seed will produce as good a harvest as wheat, and will it make no difference? A child might as well think he could reverse that ponderous marine engine which night and day, in calm and storm, plows its way across the deep, by sincerely taking hold of the paddle wheel, as a man might think he could reverse the action of the elements of God's moral government through a misguided sincerity. They will roll over such a one, and whelm him in endless ruin.

What’s Your Story? Read: Acts 26:9-18

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. —Acts 16:31

Every believer has a unique story of encountering Christ. Ann, a receptionist at RBC Ministries, told me that she has kept a journal for much of her life. She treasures the account she recorded about her conversion when she was 15. Here is an excerpt. “[I] went to see Billy Graham. I got saved! I’m very happy. . . . When I got saved I felt warmth in my heart.”

Years ago, in a personal evangelism course I taught, I asked the students to write out their story of how they came to faith in Christ. It struck me how different each journey was. Some were saved out of a life of drugs and immorality. Others were church attenders who came to Christ after years of biblical instruction.

Conversions vary. The apostle Paul had a crisis encounter with the Savior that turned him from a persecutor into a preacher of the gospel (Acts 26). In contrast, Timothy was quietly nurtured in the Scriptures from early childhood, resulting in his salvation experience (2 Tim. 3:14-15). No two faith journeys are identical. But each has the common element of turning to the Lord Jesus in faith to be saved from sin and to receive a new heart.

Can you retrace the steps that God helped you take in coming to Christ? What’s your story?

We once were held by Satan’s chains,
Imprisoned by our sin;
Then Jesus Christ delivered us
And made us new within. —Sper

We need more than a new start—we need a new heart!

By Dennis Fisher

No Need for Dead Reckoning - Selwyn Lewis

In fact, I myself supposed it was necessary to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus the Nazarene.—ACTS 26:9

The place where we can see life as a whole is in the sanctuary of God, or, if you prefer, in the presence of God. There we are reminded of things we have forgotten or ignored. See how the Good News Bible translates Acts 26:9: "I myself thought that I should do everything I could against the cause of Jesus of Nazareth." Here you see the root of Paul's problem: "I myself thought." And is not that the underlying cause of many of our problems too? We say, "I myself thought ..." instead of asking: "What does God think?"
Sometimes sailors will attempt to establish the position of their ships by estimating the distance and direction they have traveled, rather than by astronomical observation. This is called "dead reckoning." It is sometimes necessary in foul weather, but it is fraught with peril. One mariner has said: "Undue trust in the dead reckoning has produced more disastrous shipwrecks of seaworthy ships than all other causes put together."
There are people who attempt the voyage of life by dead reckoning, but there is no need. God has charted the map for us with loving care in the Scriptures, and our plain duty is to study the chart so that we might become better acquainted with His purposes and His ways. For the better we know the Scriptures, the better we will know God. We cannot ignore the facts of history or science—they help—but if our perspective is not drawn from the Scriptures it will lead us astray. We must not rely on dead reckoning but on divine reckoning.

Acts 26:10  "And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.


Earlier Luke had recorded that after Stephen's martyrdom "Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison." (Acts 8:3)

Paul had a reputation in Jerusalem for being a persecutor of Christians

But Ananias answered (context Acts 9:11,12), “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; (Acts 9:13)

When he (Saul) came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.(Acts 9:13)

In his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote "you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it." (Galatians 1:13)

Saints (40)(hagios) means the set apart ones, separated ones, sanctified ones, holy ones) is literally a holy one and depending on the context refers to whoever or whatever is set apart (sanctified) for a special purpose. These men and women Paul persecuted had been set apart (by the Spirit) from the world and to God, to serve Him and worship Him.

Gilbrant In the New Testament a saint is one who has turned his back on the world to follow Jesus.

Having received - from the Chief priests.

Authority (1849) (exousia  from éxesti = it is permitted, it is lawful meaning liberty of action) refers to delegated authority and combines the idea of the "right and the might", these attributes having been granted to Saul by the Jewish religious leaders.

I cast my vote against them - Literally in Greek = “cast down a pebble against them.” This is a Greek idiom "to bring a pebble against someone" referring to a white (for acquittal) or black (for conviction) pebble which was used in to vote for or against someone. Paul willingly participated in putting believers to death by his act of voting for their execution.

This recalls Saul's actions when Stephen was being stoned to death...

Acts 7:58 When they had driven him (Stephen) out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Acts 8:1 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him (Stephen) to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Spurgeon - He had the courage of his convictions. Believing a thing, he did not let it lie idle. He regarded the Christians as a pestilent sect, and, therefore, he hunted them down. He abhorred the name of Jesus of Nazareth as that of an imposter, and, therefore, he determined that no stone should be left unturned to overthrow his power. (Ed: In fact he cast his "stone" against the saints!)

Acts 26:11  "And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

Amplified -  And frequently I punished them in all the synagogues to make them blaspheme; and in my bitter fury against them, I harassed (troubled, molested, persecuted) and pursued them even to foreign cities.

Being furiously enraged - "was so insanely angry with them." The picture is a person who is so enraged they appear to be out of their mind!

Spurgeon - Paul was a whole-hearted man; whatever he did, he did intensely; so that, when he did wrong, he did it with a kind of madness. Such a furious hatred of Jesus of Nazareth was upon him that all Judaea was not large enough for the indulgence of his persecuting malice against the saints, so he “persecuted them even unto strange cities.”

Tried to force (compel) (315)(anagkazo  from anagke - compelling need requiring immediate action, a pressing situation) refers to an inner or an outward compulsion (coercion) for someone to act in a certain manner (Gal 2:3, 14, 6:12, Acts 26:11). Anagkazo was used in surgery of force to reduce dislocations, etc. (Liddell-Scott).

Blaspheme (987)(blasphemeo derived from bláx = sluggish, slow, stupid + phémē = rumor, fame) OR MORE LIKELY (derived from bláptō = to hurt, injure, harm + phémē from phēmí = to speak) means literally to speak to harm and in general therefore means to bring into ill repute and so to slander, to defame (to harm the reputation of by libel or slander), speak evil of, to rail at (revile or scold in harsh, insolent, or abusive language and rail stresses an unrestrained berating), to speak calumny (noun form = a misrepresentation intended to blacken another’s reputation = the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to damage another’s reputation), to calumniate (verb form = to utter maliciously false statements, charges, or imputations about - calumniate imputes malice to the speaker and falsity to the assertions)

MacArthur - If he could not kill them, he at least wanted to force them to recant. Viewing Christians as dangerous and blasphemous heretics caused Paul to be furiously enraged at them (cf. Acts 9:1; Gal. 1:13–14). 

It is interesting that the one who forced the Christians to blaspheme later confessed he was the one who blasphemed writing...

"even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief." (1 Ti 1:13)

Pursuing (also translated persecute) (1377)(dioko) means Paul was pressing hard after them, pursuing them with earnestness and diligence in order punish them.

Acts 26:12  "While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests,


See Map of Paul's conversion

While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus - Paul has just painted a picture of his violence against the Christians which would serve to make his conversion on the Damascus Road even that much more miraculous! This should have served to gain Agrippa's attention and convince him of the supernatural transformation that Saul had experienced. 

Authority is exousia the same word used below in Acts 26:18 to describe Satan (dominion) and essentially is the "right and the might" to act. 

Commission (only NT use) (2011)(epitrope from epi = upon + trope = a turning) describes the permission, full power or authorization to carry out a specific assignment, in this case to persecute those who believed in Jesus. Luke's use of both exousia (which by itself conveys authority) and epitrope serves to emphasize the sense of complete authority the chief priests had delegated to Saul. 

What happened on the road to Damascus? What is a road to Damascus experience? - The events that happened on the road to Damascus relate not only to the apostle Paul, whose dramatic conversion occurred there, but they also provide a clear picture of the conversion of all people. While some have an extraordinarily dramatic conversion known as a “Damascus Road experience,” the conversion of all believers follows a similar pattern of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, described in Paul’s own words in Acts 9:1–9; Acts 22:6–11; and Acts 26:9–20. Putting the three accounts together, the details of this amazing experience come together. Paul, who went by the name of Saul at that time, was on his way to Damascus with a letter from the high priest of the temple in Jerusalem giving him authority to arrest any who belonged to “the Way,” meaning those who followed Christ. So intent was he on “opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9) that in “raging fury,” he breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Here was a man who truly hated Christ and all who were associated with Him. Suddenly a bright light shone on Saul, causing his entire party to fall to the ground. Then Jesus spoke to Saul, asking him, “Why are you persecuting me?” in a voice understood only by him. Saul recognized that this was a deity of some sort because he called Him “Lord” and asked who He was. When Jesus identified Himself as the very One Saul had been persecuting, one can only imagine the terror that filled Saul’s heart. Saul was speechless, no doubt thinking to himself, “I’m a dead man.” The Acts 22 version of the story indicates that Saul’s response was to ask what Jesus wanted him to do. The Acts 9 and Acts 22 retellings of the story have Saul saying Jesus told him to rise and go to Damascus where he would be told what to do. In the Acts 26 story, which is longer and more detailed, Saul describes Jesus’ commission of him as His messenger to the Gentiles (which must have amazed Saul, the ultimate Gentile-hating Pharisee), to turn many from darkness to the light and from the power of Satan to God. His message of forgiveness of sins and “a place among those who are sanctified by faith” must have also astonished Saul because the Jews were convinced they alone had the place of honor in God’s eyes. There is no discrepancy or contradiction among these three accounts. Even though Saul received his commission from Jesus on the road, he still had to go into Damascus and be told what to do—meet with Ananias who laid hands on him, receive the Holy Spirit, be baptized, and be received by the disciples there (Acts 9:15–16, 19; 22:12–16). At Damascus, he also went for three days without eating or drinking, and then received his sight, which had been taken from him on the road. The phrase “Damascus Road experience” is used to describe a conversion which is dramatic and startling. Many people receive Christ in a life-changing, instantaneous experience, although many others describe their conversion as more of a gradual understanding of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But both types of experiences have several things in common. First, salvation is of the Lord, by His will and according to His plan and purpose (Acts 22:14). As He does one way or another to each of us, Jesus made it clear to Saul that he had gone his own way for long enough. Now he was to become an instrument in the hands of the Master to do His will as He had foreordained it. Second, the response of both Saul and all those who are redeemed by Christ is the same: “What do you want me to do?” Like Saul, we do not bargain, negotiate, question, or come halfway. The response of the redeemed is obedience. When God truly touches our hearts, our only response can be, “Lord, may your will be done and may you use me to do it.” Such was the experience of Saul on the Damascus Road. Saul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was the beginning of an incredible journey. And while not all conversions are as startling as Saul’s, each of us is commissioned by Jesus to live in obedience to Him (John 14:15), love one another in His name (1 John 2:23), “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10), and tell the world of the wonderful riches in Christ.(Gotquestions)

Acts 26:13  at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.

The Brightest of All Lights - Ian Paisley

  •  "At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me." Acts 26:13


This is the third mention of this amazing event in the book of Acts

Acts 9:3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;

Acts 22:6 “But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me,

Midday - The sun would have been brightest and yet the Son the Creator outshone the sun He created! 

Shining all around (4034)(perilampo from peri = around + lampo = to shine) literally means to shine around. It was not a flash. Shine implies it was present for some duration, certainly during the time the Risen Lord addressed Saul.  

Perilampo is used only here and when the angels announced the birth of Messiah (No uses in the Septuagint):

Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

A light....shining...and those who were journeying with me - All the traveling party saw the light but only Saul saw the Lord! All heard a sound but only Saul understood the words. They all fell to the earth, but only Paul remained on the ground (Acts 9:7 "The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one."). 

Wiersbe - Paul considered himself an enlightened man; for, after all, he was a Jew (Rom. 9:4–5), a scholar (Acts 22:3), and a Pharisee. In reality, Paul had lived in gross spiritual darkness. He knew the Law in his preconversion days, but he had not realized that the purpose of the Law was to bring him to Christ (Gal. 3:24). He had been a self-righteous Pharisee who needed to discover that his good works and respectable character could never save him and take him to heaven (Phil. 3:1–11). (Ibid)

Three times the conversion of Paul is recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Each time special emphasis is placed on the light

I. The Brightest Light
There is no doubt about that. The text tells us it was brighter than the sun. Note the words "above the brightness of the sun". Is, this possible? Is light above and beyond the sun a fart or a fiction? It is a fact. Just the same way that there was light without the sun on the first three days of creation. This bright light was seen in the world before it shone on Paul. In Eden it shone keeping the way to the tree of life. For Abraham it was a burning lamp amidst the sacrifices. For Moses it was a flaming bush. At the tabernacle it was the abiding cloud and fire. In the temple it was a glory before which the priests could not stand. For Paul it was a light brighter than the sun. For us, like John, it is the fact that—"He was a burning and a shining light" John 5:35

II. The Blinding Light
To those whose eyes desire only to behold vanity it is a blinding light. Paul rose up and opened his eyes but he could not see. He was blinded to all that he had before lived for and worked for. His greatest desires were now in darkness. He could no longer see them. After three days Paul came out of his darkness into light. He received new sight and from that day he saw everything differently. He had seen the Saviour and now he saw the Scriptures as they really are, testifying of Christ. What preaching he did in Damascus as a result!

III The Best Light
Paul had seen the best light and to the end of his earthly pilgrimage he followed the gleam. It led him to the martyr's death but also to the martyr's dazzling crown. Hence his continual cry, "That I might know Him". Have you experienced the brightest, blinding and best light? Are you following its gleam? If so, you can rejoice. If not, you are heading for the blackness of darkness forever.

Acts 26:14  "And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'

Amplified - And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew tongue saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you continue to persecute Me [to harass and trouble and molest Me]? It is dangerous and turns out badly for you to keep kicking against the goads [to keep offering vain and perilous resistance].


When we had all fallen to the ground - Saul had to be brought low before he could receive the Word and be exalted (cp James 1:21, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? How could Paul be persecuting Jesus who was not present on earth? It was because he was persecuting those who were in covenant with Jesus and thus to persecute them was tantamount to persecuting Jesus. In short when we enter into the New Covenant by grace through faith we enter into a supernatural union and oneness with Jesus. See the following studies that emphasize this vitally important principle. 

Wiersbe - Jesus Christ spoke to Paul in the familiar Aramaic tongue of the Jews, called him by name, and told him it was futile for him to continue fighting the Lord. In that moment, Paul had made two surprising discoveries: Jesus of Nazareth was alive, and He was so united to His people that their suffering was His suffering! Paul was persecuting not only the church, but also his own Messiah! How encouraging it is to know that God in His grace speaks to those who are His enemies. God had been dealing with Paul, but Paul had been resisting Him, kicking against the “goads.” What were these “goads”? Certainly the testimony and death of Stephen (Acts 22:20), plus the faithful witness of the other saints who had suffered because of Paul. (Bible Exposition Commentary)

One practical application to understand is that if you are persecuted for the sake of Jesus, you do not need to try to take revenge. You have a "Covenant Defender" (see especially The Exchange of Armor and Belts) Who will come to your defense and vindicate the wrong against you (either in this life or the life to come!) 

NET Note  - Sayings which contain the imagery used here (kicking against the goads) were also found in Greek writings; see Pindar, Pythians 2.94–96; Euripides, Bacchae 795.

The goads - The goad is a traditional farming implement, used to spur or guide lifestock, usually oxen, which are pulling a plough or a cart; used also to round up cattle. It is a type of long stick with a pointed end, also known as the cattle prod.  (Wikipedia)

It is hard for you to kick against the goads - Jesus used this idiomatic phrase to symbolize Saul's stubborn resistance to Jesus and His message. We should not be too hard on Saul (Paul) for all of us from time to time rebel willfully against Jesus and in a similar way we too are kicking against the goads.

Spurgeon - He was like a stubborn ox kicking against the goads; and the harder he kicked, the more the sharp points of the goads pricked him.

Christ and Paul - C. H. Spurgeon. Acts 26:12-18

  • Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,…


1. It was personal. When I preach to you, I am obliged to address you all in the mass. But not so our Master. If He had spoken in general terms, it would have glanced off from the heart of the apostle; but when it came personally — "Why persecutest thou Me?" — there was no getting off it. I pray the Lord to make the question personal to some of you. There be many of us here present who have bad personal preaching to our souls. Do you not remember, dear brother in Christ, when you were first pricked in the heart, how personal the preacher was? I remember it well. It seemed to me that I was the only person in the whole place, as if a black wall were round about me, and I were shut in with the preacher, something like the prisoners at the Penitentiary, who each sit in their box and can see no one but the chaplain. I thought all he said was meant for me; I felt persuaded that someone knew my character, and had written to him and told him all, and that he had personally picked me out. Why, I thought he fixed his eyes on me; and I have reason to believe he did, but still he said he knew nothing about my ease. Oh, that men would hear the Word preached, and that God would so bless them in their hearing, that they might feel it to have a personal application to their own hearts.

2. It contained some information as to the persecuted one. If you had asked Saul who it was he persecuted, he would have said, "Some poor fishermen, that had been setting up an impostor." But see in what a different light Jesus Christ puts it. He does not say, "Why didst thou persecute Stephen?" but "Me?" Inasmuch as you have done this unto one of the least of My brethren, you have done it unto Me.

3. It demanded an answer. "What have I done to hurt thee? Why art thou so provoked against Me?"


  • "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

For —

1. You do not really accomplish your purpose. When the ox kicks against the goad, it is to spite the husbandman for having goaded him onward; but instead of hurting the husbandman it hurts itself. If thou thinkest, O man, that thou canst stop the progress of Christ's Church, go thou and first bid the universe stand still! Go, stand by the winds, and bid them cease their wailing, or bid the roaring sea roll back when its tide is marching on the beach; and when thou hast stopped the universe, then come forth and stop the omnipotent progress of the Church of Christ. "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh," etc. But put it as a personal matter, have you ever succeeded in stopping the work of grace in the heart of anyone? Aye, young man, you may laugh at your own shop mate, but he will beat you in the long run. If Christians are but faithful, they must win the day. It is no use your kicking against them; you cannot hurt them.

2. You get no good by it. Kick as he might, the ox was never benefited by it. Suppose you say you don't like religion, what have you ever got by hating it? You have got those red eyes sometimes on the Monday morning, after the drunkenness of the Sunday night. You have got that shattered constitution, which, even if you had now turned it to the paths of virtue, must hang about you till you leave it in your grave. But you are moral. Well, have you ever got anything even then by opposing Christ? Has it made your family any the happier? Has it made you any the happier yourself? Will it quiet your conscience when you come to die that you did your best to destroy the souls of other people?

3. But kick as the ox might, it had to go forward at last. If anyone had told Saul when he was going to Damascus, that he would one day become a preacher of Christianity, he would, no doubt, have laughed at it as nonsense; but the Lord had the key of his will, and He wound it up as He pleased. "Then why persecutest thou Me"? Perhaps you are despising the very Saviour you will one day love; trying to knock down the very thing that you wilt one day try to build up. Mayhap you are persecuting the men you will call your brothers and sisters. It is always well for a man not to go so far that he cannot go back respectably.


Paul, who persecuted Christ, was forgiven. He says he was the very chief of sinners, but he obtained mercy. Nay, more, he obtained honour. He was made an honoured minister of Christ, and so may you.

What Does it mean to kick against the goads? - “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, but it was also familiar to the Jews and anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. Thus, Jesus’ words to Saul on the road to Damascus: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” Of the better-known Bible translations, the actual phrase “kick against the pricks” is found only in the King James Version. It is mentioned only twice, in Acts 9:5 and Acts 26:14. The apostle Paul (then known as Saul) was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians when he had a blinding encounter with Jesus. Luke records the event: “And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 26:14 KJV). Modern translations have changed the word pricks to goads. All translations except the KJV and NKJV, omit the phrase altogether from Acts 9:5. The conversion of Saul is quite significant as it was the turning point in his life. Paul later wrote nearly half of the books of the New Testament. Jesus took control of Paul and let him know his rebellion against God was a losing battle. Paul’s actions were as senseless as an ox kicking “against the goads.” Paul had passion and sincerity in his fight against Christianity, but he was not heading in the direction God wanted him to go. Jesus was going to goad (“direct” or “steer”) Paul in the right direction. There is a powerful lesson in the ancient Greek proverb. We, too, find it hard to kick against the goads. Solomon wrote, “Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path” (Proverbs 15:10). When we choose to disobey God, we become like the rebellious ox—driving the goad deeper and deeper. “The way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). How much better to heed God’s voice, to listen to the pangs of conscience! By resisting God’s authority we are only punishing ourselves.(Gotquestions)

Oswald Chambers - But it is hardly credible that one could so persecute Jesus!

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? Acts 26:14.

Am I set on my own way for God? We are never free from this snare until we are brought into the experience of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. Obstinacy and self-will will always stab Jesus Christ. It may hurt no one else, but it wounds His Spirit. Whenever we are obstinate and self-willed and set upon our own ambitions, we are hurting Jesus. Every time we stand on our rights and insist that this is what we intend to do, we are persecuting Jesus. Whenever we stand on our dignity we systematically vex and grieve His Spirit; and when the knowledge comes home that it is Jesus Whom we have been persecuting all the time, it is the most crushing revelation there could be.
Is the word of God tremendously keen to me as I hand it on to you, or does my life give the lie to the things I profess to teach? I may teach sanctification and yet exhibit the spirit of Satan, the spirit that persecutes Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus is conscious of one thing only—a perfect oneness with the Father, and He says “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” All I do ought to be founded on a perfect oneness with Him, not on a self-willed determination to be godly. This will mean that I can be easily put upon, easily over-reached, easily ignored; but if I submit to it for His sake, I prevent Jesus Christ being persecuted.

Acts 26:15  "And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

Oswald Chambers - But it is hardly credible that one could be so positively ignorant!

Who art Thou, Lord? Acts 26:15.

“The Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand.” There is no escape when Our Lord speaks. He always comes with an arrestment of the understanding. Has the voice of God come to you directly? If it has, you cannot mistake the intimate insistence with which it has spoken to you in the language you know best, not through your ears, but through your circumstances. God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. ‘I know this is what I should do’—and suddenly the voice of God speaks in a way that overwhelms us by revealing the depths of our ignorance. We have shown our ignorance of Him in the very way we determined to serve Him. We serve Jesus in a spirit that is not His, we hurt Him by our advocacy for Him, we push His claims in the spirit of the devil. Our words sound all right, but our spirit is that of an enemy. “He rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” The spirit of Our Lord in an advocate of His is described in 1 Corinthians 13. Have I been persecuting Jesus by a zealous determination to serve Him in my own way? If I feel I have done my duty and yet have hurt Him in doing it, I may be sure it was not my duty, because it has not fostered the meek and quiet spirit, but the spirit of self-satisfaction. We imagine that whatever is unpleasant is our duty! Is that anything like the spirit of our Lord—“I delight to do Thy will, O My God.”

Acts 26:16  'But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you;

NET  But get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this reason, to designate you in advance as a servant and witness to the things you have seen and to the things in which I will appear to you.


NET Note on a minister and a witness - The commission is similar to Acts 1:8 and Luke 1:2. Paul was now an “eyewitness” of the Lord.

Get up...stand (cp Acts 9:6-9, Acts 22:10) - Both commands in the aorist imperative. Do this now! Don't delay!

For this purpose - a minister (an "under-rower" - see below) and a witness.

Jesus spoke to Ananias in Acts 9:15-16 explaining His purpose for Paul

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My Name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

I have appeared to you...I will appear to you - Jesus is recorded as appearing to Paul on several other occasions - cf. Acts 18:9, 10; Acts 22:17–21; Acts 23:11; 2 Cor. 12:1–7; Gal. 1:11–12-note, cp 2 Ti 4:17-note = 'the Lord stood with me").

Wiersbe - The word minister in Acts 26:16 means “an under-rower” and refers to a lowly servant on a galley ship. Paul had been accustomed to being an honored leader, but after his conversion he became a subordinate worker; and Jesus Christ became his Master. The Lord had promised to be with Paul and protect him; and He also promised to reveal Himself to him. Paul saw the Lord on the Damascus road, and again three years later while in the temple (Acts 22:17–21). Later, the Lord appeared to him in Corinth (Acts 18:9) and in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11), and He would appear to him again.  (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Minister (5257)(huperetes from hupo = under, beneath + eretes = a rower) is literally and under oarsman and then a subordinate, a servant, an attendant (Lk 4:20), one who is in the service of another or an assistant in general. Huperetes describes a a helper who willingly submits himself to carrying out the will of the one over him. In John 7:32, 45, 46 it is used of the Temple "police" or guards.  The subordinate official who waits to accomplish the commands of his superior. In Classic Greek huperetes was a common sailor, distinguished from a naútes (3492), a seaman, sailor. These were the men down in the ship's, doing one thing -- rowing and with their eyes on one man, the man standing at the front of the hull, shouting "Row,Row, Row."! Servants of the word describes these men as focused on the word, listening and acting according to the word. "They not only had personal knowledge of the facts but also practical experience of the facts." (Plummer). 

Wiersbe - The one word that best summarizes Paul’s life and ministry is “witnessing” (see Acts 26:16). He simply shared with others what he had learned and experienced as a follower of Jesus Christ. His message was not something he manufactured, for it was based solidly on the Old Testament Scriptures. (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Witness (noun) (3144)(martus/martysbasically describes one who remembers something and testifies concerning what they remember. Notice that martus has a two fold meaning of (1) describing one who has seen and/or experienced something or someone and (2) one who testifies to what he or she saw. The testimony could be in a legal setting (Mk 14:63; Acts 6:13; 7:58; Heb. 10:28) or in the general sense of recounting firsthand knowledge (Lk 11:48; 1Ti. 6:12; Heb 12:1; 1Pe 5:1).

martus is one who attests to a fact or event, one who gives evidence (testifies in a court to the truth of a fact or event), one who has seen or has personal knowledge of something or someone, especially as an "eye witness" (eg, the apostles in Acts having and relating their personal knowledge of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances). A witness is one who furnishes evidence or proof, confirming the truth by verbal testimony.

Oswald Chambers - The overmastering direction

I have appeared unto thee for this purpose. Acts 26:16.

The vision Paul had on the road to Damascus was no passing emotion, but a vision that had very clear and emphatic directions for him, and he says—“I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Our Lord said, in effect, to Paul—‘Your whole life is to be overmastered by Me; you are to have no end, no aim, and no purpose but Mine.’ ‘I have chosen him.’ When we are born again we all have visions, if we are spiritual at all, of what Jesus wants us to be, and the great thing is to learn not to be disobedient to the vision, not to say that it cannot be attained. It is not sufficient to know that God has redeemed the world, and to know that the Holy Spirit can make all that Jesus did effectual in me; I must have the basis of a personal relationship to Him. Paul was not given a message or a doctrine to proclaim, he was brought into a vivid, personal, overmastering relationship to Jesus Christ. Verse 16 is immensely commanding—“to make thee a minister and a witness.” There is nothing there apart from the personal relationship. Paul was devoted to a Person not to a cause. He was absolutely Jesus Christ’s; he saw nothing else; he lived for nothing else. “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Be a Witness - Bob Gass

I have appeared unto thee … to make thee a witness … Delivering thee from the people. (Acts 26:16,17)

You’re not called to be a judge, and you’re not called to be a lawyer; you’re called to be a witness to God’s saving and keeping power in your life. Only talk about the God you’ve experienced! Tell people what He’s done for you. Their God may be a distant deity who doesn’t get involved. Or He may be angry with them because He’s an auditor, and their books don’t balance. When nine out of ten people don’t go to church, there’s got to be a reason. We’ve been called to be “salt and light,” but if the light is not shining and the salt is not doing its job, how will they ever be reached and won? (See Matthew 5:13–14.)

Please notice what God said to Paul, for it’s a key for you. He promised to “deliver him from the people” (Acts 26:17). Some of us need to be delivered from the people! Love them; lead them; lay down your life for them—but don’t be afraid of them. If you’re anointed, then your authority comes from God, not them. When you’ve heard clearly from Him, you can face anybody! When God fills you with His Spirit, you’ll receive a new boldness. Look at Peter; a few days ago he was denying Jesus and running from a mere girl; now he’s preaching to multitudes and winning them to Christ. What happened? He was empowered by the Holy Spirit!

God's Work Upon Minister and Convert - C. H. Spurgeon. Acts 26:16-18


1. Subjugation. While a man is a rebel, the Lord does not appoint him an ambassador; while he is dead in sin, a preacher of the way of life. Paul was struck down; for if he had not fallen, he would not have known how to lift others up. He remained blind for three days; otherwise he would not have been qualified to deal with others in darkness. See what God does in His ministers to fit them for your conversion. In order to slay your sins the shaft has been polished. Each of the best locks made by our eminent locksmiths is unique, and each needs its own special key: so God fits certain men for reaching certain men.

2. Encouragement. "Rise, and stand upon thy feet." Men can hardly be very useful till they cease to be despondent, and become energetic and hopeful. I have noticed that those who do not believe that they will be successful seldom are so; but those who rise and stand upon their feet, and manfully expect that God will bless them, are not disappointed.

3. Ordination. And to this end he must see the Lord for himself. Our Lord's appearing —

(1) Makes him willing to be a servant, for that is the meaning of the word "minister." When the renewed mind beholds the Lord, it cries out, "What wilt Thou have me to do?"

(2) Qualifies him to act as a witness. We cannot bear witness to that which we have never seen. Hearsay is of small value. Heads are won by reasoning, but hearts are won by witness bearing.

4. Continuous instruction. He is to be a witness not only of those things which he has seen, but also of those things in the which the Lord will yet appear unto him.

5. Constant preservation. "Delivering thee from the people," etc. Paul's life was always in danger, and yet never in real peril, for the Lord was his keeper. So shall every true servant of Christ be kept as with a garrison from all evil.


1. Illumination: the Lord sends His servant "to open their eyes." Men are born blind, and continue blind till, by the power of Jesus, sight is given to them. Your education and surroundings have perhaps placed a film of prejudice over your eyes; if a candid, childlike spirit were given you, you would see. Or possibly some favourite sin is like a cataract upon the eye of your conscience, and you cannot see the evil of sin or the beauty of holiness. Or it may be that unbelief darkens your soul.

2. Conversion: "to turn them from darkness to light." What a blessed turning is that which makes us face truth, and goodness, and God, and heaven; and leave ignorance, sin, and hell behind.

3. Translation. As the soul is brought into a new element, so is it also brought under a new government. "From the power of Satan unto God." Somebody says, "I do not understand how this can be performed in a minute." Well, two men are fighting, and we beg them to leave off. Do you recommend them to leave off gradually? If anybody held a pistol at my head, I should not say, "Take it away by degrees." Changes of mind such as are necessary to conversion had need be quick when sin is to be forsaken, for every moment deepens the guilt. It may seem a very gradual process by which a man who was dead comes to life; but for certain there is a point at which he left the dead and became alive, and that point God sees very clearly, even though we do not.

4. Complete forgiveness. The same moment that we receive Christ, we "receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified." What a blessing to become an heir of God! To what choice company is a sinner introduced when he believes in Jesus! He is a freeholder among the burgesses of the New Jerusalem.

5. And all this has for its certificate and mark of genuineness these words — "By faith that is in Me." The whole process of salvation is by faith.

This text speaks of Paul being an instrument in the hands of God of opening men's eyes, etc., and they seem to be passive; but now they are called upon to be active. We are created thinking, intelligent beings, and we are saved as such. Never let us forget either the free agency of man or the purposes of God. Grace reigns not over slaves, but over obedient children.

1. You must repent. It is not the work of God the Holy Ghost to repent for you, but to lead you to repent.

2. You must turn to God. Your prayer may be, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned"; but the command is, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" God will turn you, but you have willingly to yield, and thus turn yourself.

3. You must do works meet for repentance; for wherever there is true faith there will be corresponding works, such as these: restitution if you have wronged anyone, reconciliation if you are at enmity with anyone, acknowledgment if you have spoken falsely, giving up of evil habits, and an earnest endeavor to be pure and holy.

Acts 26:17  rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,

  • Rescuing -  Acts 9:23–25, 29, 30; 13:50; 14:5, 6, 19, 20; 16:39; 17:10, 14; 18:10, 12–16; 19:28,
  • etc.; Acts 21:28–36; 22:21, 22; 23:10–24; 25:3, 9–11; 27:42–44. Ps 34:19; 37:32, 33. 2 Co. 1:8–10; 4:8–10; 11:23–26. 2 Ti. 3:11; 4:16, 17.
  • Gentiles. Acts 9:15; 22:21; 28:28. Ro. 11:13; 15:16. Gal 2:9. Ep. 3:7, 8. 1 Ti. 2:7. 2 Ti. 1:11; 4:17.
  • Click for multiple commentaries, sermons, devotionals on Acts 26

Amplified - Choosing you out [selecting you for Myself] and delivering you from among this [Jewish] people and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you—  (cp Ezekiel 2:3)


Rescuing (delivering) (1807)(exaireo from ek = out + hairéo = choose, elect, take) means to rescue or set someone free from danger. Delivering, plucking out, drawing out, rescuing, which is what Jesus did for all of us giving "Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." (Gal 1:4-note) Luke used this word to describe God's rescue of Israel from Egyptian bondage (Acts 7:34), of God's angel rescuing Peter from the jail and the hand fo Herod (Acts 12:11), and of the Roman Claudius Lysius rescuing Paul from the Jews who were about to kill him (Acts 23:27).

I am sending (649)(apostello from apo = from, away from + stello = to withdraw from, avoid) means to send off, to send forth. To send out or commission as a representative or ambassador. The idea is to send forth from one place to another - Paul was going in place of Jesus and the same principle applies to all saints today for we are all to be "ambassadors for Christ." (2 Cor 5:20)

But the meaning of apostello is more than just to send because it means "to send off on a commission to do something as one’s personal representative, with credentials furnished" (Wuest) 

MacArthur - This was Paul’s commissioning as an apostle. An apostle had to have been an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21–22), and Paul was (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8).

Acts 26:18  to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'

  • open their eyes. Acts 9:17, 18. Ps 119:18; 146:8. Isa 29:18; 32:3; 35:5; 42:7; 43:8. Lu. 4:18; 24:45. Jn 9:39. 2 Co. 4:4, 6. Ep. 1:18.
  • so that they may turn. Acts 26:23; Acts 13:47. Isa 9:2; 49:6; 60:1–3. Mal. 4:2. Mt 4:16; 6:22, 23. Lu. 1:79; 2:32. Jn 1:4–9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35, 36. 2 Co. 4:6; 6:14. Ep. 1:18; 4:18; 5:8, 14. 1 Th. 5:4–8. 1 Pe. 2:9, 25. 1 Jn 2:8, 9.
  • from the power of Satan. Isa 49:24, 25; 53:8–12. Lu. 11:21, 22. Col. 1:13. 2 Ti. 2:26. Heb 2:14, 15. 1 Jn 3:8; 5:19. 1 Pe. 2:9. Rev 20:2, 3.
  • that they may receive forgiveness. Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38, 39. Ps 32:1, 2. Lu. 1:77; 24:47. Ro. 4:6–9. 1 Co. 6:10, 11. Ep. 1:7. Col. 1:14. 1 Jn 1:9; 2:12.
  • and an inheritance. Acts 20:32. Ro. 8:17. Ep. 1:11, 14. Col. 1:12. Heb 9:15. James 2:5. 1 Pe. 1:4.
  • who have been sanctified. Acts 20:32. Jn 17:17. 1 Co. 1:2, 30; 6:11. Titus 3:5, 6. Heb 10:10, 14. Jude 1. Rev 21:27.
  • by faith. Acts 15:9. Jn 4:10, 14; 7:38, 39. Ro. 5:1, 2. Gal 2:20; 3:2, 14. Ep. 2:8. Heb 11:6.
  • Benjamin Warfield's sermon The Summation of the Gospel - Acts 26:18
  • Older sermons on Acts 26:18
  • Click for multiple commentaries, sermons, devotionals on Acts 26

Greek - anoixai (AAN) opthalmous auton tou epistrepsai  (AAN) apo skotous eis phos kai tes exousias tou Satana epi ton theon tou labein  (AAN) autous aphesin hamartion kai kleron en tois hegiasmenois (RPPMPD) pistei th eis eme 

Amplified - To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me.

My Loose Paraphrase - To supernaturally open the eyes of our heart (circumcising our heart, giving us a new heart, a heart of flesh for a heart of stone) which enables us (by the power of the Spirit indwelling our new heart) to turn from spiritual darkness of Satan's kingdom to the glorious light of God's kingdom, from the right and the might that Satan once exercised over us, to the benevolent power of our loving Master and God, so that we may receive forgiveness of sins and release from our spiritual debt to God (as well as release from the power and penalty of sin and one day future even from the presence and pleasure of sin) and an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for us who are set apart from the world and unto God, made holy forever in our position clothed in the righteousness of Christ all this actuated solely by genuine faith (shown genuine by changed lives, loving obedience and enuring spiritual fruit) in Jesus Christ and His Gospel of salvation. 


Open their eyes - A figure of speech to open their eyes spiritually. 

D L Moody - I REMEMBER one night when the Bible was the driest and darkest book in the universe to me. The next day it was all light. I had the key to it. I had been born of the Spirit. But before I knew anything of the mind of God in His word I had to give up my sin.

To open: The purpose of Paul's witness and proclamation was to open their eyes to eternal Truth which produces a change in THINKING which  results in a NEW DIRECTION, DOMINION, DESTINY, & ''DOWRY''. Acts 14:27, Rev 3:7,8,20]

Open their eyes - Cross References

Act 9:17 And Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized;

Ed: Now Paul had not only his physical eyes opened but more importantly his spiritual eyes opened!

Ps 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law.

Ed: A great prayer to pray to our Father before we open His Word. It is a supernatural Word and needs supernatural "assistance!" - see Illumination of the Bible

Ps 146:8  The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous; 

Ed: Jesus did open a few eyes spiritually (and God can still do that!) but more significantly Jesus opens the eyes of the spiritually blind (even as he did for Fannie Crosby although she remained physically blind all her life. What a supernatural paradox that so many of her hymns speak of spiritual sight!) 

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

 This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
  Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Isa 29:18  And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. 

Ed: This is a a prophetic promise which God will fulfill in the Messianic Kingdom

John MacArthur - The spiritual blindness of Israel will no longer exist. Jesus gives the words an additional meaning, applying it to His ministry of physical healing for the deaf and blind (Mt 11:5; cf. Isa 35:5).

Isa 32:3 Then the eyes of those who see will not be blinded, And the ears of those who hear will listen. 

Ed: This is a a prophetic promise which God will fulfill in the Messianic Kingdom

Isa 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 

Ed: This is a a prophetic promise which God will fulfill in the Messianic Kingdom

Isa 42:7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon, And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. 

Isa 43:8 Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, And the deaf, even though they have ears. 

Luke 4:18  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are downtrodden, 

Luke 24:45  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 

John 9:39 And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.

2 Co 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

2Co 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 

Eph 1:18  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that (1) you may know what is the hope of His calling, (2) what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is (3) the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

Ed: This is Paul's prayer for believers! Beloved, let us pray this for one another, believing God will answer it! This passage has just been prayed for as you read the note! I covet your prayers!

Study the uses of the related verb dianoigo (derived from anoigo) and found in Lu 24:45, Acts 16:14-note, Acts 17:3-note

Open (455)(anoigo from ana = again + oigo = to open) means to open, to open up, to open again, to give access to. To open one's eyes causing them to see (Acts 26:18). To open one's mouth that they might begin to speak (Mt 5:2). Figuratively, to open a "door" meaning to make possible (Col 4:3). Luke records the parallel passages (Lk 11:9, 10). Of heavens open = have the heavens opened or divided so that celestial things become manifest - Mt 3:16; Lu 3:21; Jn 1:51; Acts 7:56; 10:11; Rev 19:11; (Lxx of the following passages) Isa 64:1; Ezek 1:1; Ps 78:23. In 2 Cor 6:11 the idea is to pour out one’s mind, open one’s heart, to speak fully and frankly. Anoigo is used in NT and Lxx of Jesus not opening His mouth - Not to open one’s mouth = not to utter complaints (Acts 8:32; Isa 53:7 cp Ps 38:14; 39:9) 

NET Note on to open their eyes so that... - Here is Luke’s most comprehensive report of Paul’s divine calling. His role was to call humanity to change their position before God and experience God’s forgiveness as a part of God’s family. The image of turning is a key one in the NT: Luke 1:79; Rom 2:19; 13:12; 2 Cor 4:6; 6:14; Eph 5:8; Col 1:12; 1 Th 5:5. See also Luke 1:77–79; 3:3; 24:47.


SO THAT THEY MAY TURN: This is a descriptive definition of repentance. A purposeful, personal (not private) decision to turn to God (as the Spirit leads to repentance = Ro 2:4) not only in mind but in conduct. Repent! Return! Why do they need to turn? That they may receive forgiveness...that brings joy to one's heart because sin weighs one's heart down as David taught in [Ps 32:3-4] The power of God's forgiveness is also taught in [Pr 28:13]

Turn (1994)(epistrepho from epí = motion toward + strepho = twist, turn quite around or reverse) means to revert, to turn about, to turn around, to turn toward, to return and figuratively to convert. The idea is a definite turn to God in conduct as well as in one's mind. Study the 39 uses below and note the association with repentance and conversion.

Resources on Repentance:

FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT:  Unbelievers are blinded to spiritual truth by Satan, "the god of this world (who) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.(2 Co 4:4). Paul describes them as "being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." (Eph 4:18-19) But God is greater than Satan and He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all and it is "God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness" (2 Cor 4:6) "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Ti 1:10). God "is the One Who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Cor 4:6)

John MacArthur explains that "The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to open the eyes of the spiritually "[convicting] the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged." (John 16:8–11) Genuine conviction will result in transformation of life, as those convicted turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God."

Darkness (4655)(skotos from skia = shadow thrown by an object. Skia it can assume the meaning of skotos and indicate the sphere of darkness) is literally that sphere in which light is absent.

Skotos figuratively refers to spiritual or moral darkness (including a lack of understanding) as in the following examples

"(Jesus declared) And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)

"(the gospel would) to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:18)

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (truth is not only something we should believe and teach but also something we should practice, otherwise our life is a "lie") (1John 1:6-note)

And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; (Ephesians 5:11 sermon note)

For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, (note Colossians 1:13)

The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (see note Romans 13:12)

Absence of light leaves room for evil and sin. In this sense darkness may be described as evil.

In his first epistle Peter used skotos figuratively explaining to the believers that...

you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness (the moral and spiritual condition that enshrouds this present world and all those who do not know Christ) into His marvelous light (note 1 Peter 2:9)

Darkness is used to describe the spiritual powers of Satan and his evil empire...

"While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours." (Luke 22:53)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 note)

So that they may turn from darkness to light - Cross references 

Act 26:23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles." 

Act 13:47 (Quoting Isa 49:6) "For thus the Lord has commanded us, I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You should bring salvation to the end of the earth. " 

Henry Morris - It is significant that prophecy in Isaiah is preceded by a strong affirmation of God's work of creating and sustaining His creation (Isaiah 42:6,7).

Isa 9:2 The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. 

Isa 49:6 He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." 

Henry Morris - The Father is here speaking to the Messiah, His Son. He is to be "the light of the world" (John 8:12), not only to Israel.

Isa 60:1-3 "Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 “For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you.  3 “Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. 

Criswell - It should be emphasized that this and the succeeding chapters are addressed to Israel and not to the church. Failure to understand this has resulted in the teaching that Israel has forfeited her election and the promises of future blessing. Note that the command to "arise" is accompanied by the strength of the Lord to fulfill that directive. Having received the perfect "light" of the Lord, Israel is to "shine," i.e., radiate that "light" of salvation to the nations. Cf. Ex. 33:18, note, on "glory." Even in the midst of great "darkness," the Lord will arise even as the sun comes up in Zion (v. 2).

Ryrie - This chapter describes the glory of Jerusalem and Israel in the millennial kingdom (including previews seen in the return from Babylon). your . . . you. Refers to Jerusalem. 

MacArthur - Addressing Zion (Isa 59:20; 60:14), Isaiah told the city and thus the nation Israel that her light has come, putting her in contrast with the rest of the darkened world. This expressed the glory of Jerusalem during the millennial kingdom. Jerusalem’s light will attract other nations seeking relief from their darkness (2:3). Only believing Jews and Gentiles will enter the earthly kingdom after the Day of the Lord, but as the 1,000 years goes along children will be born and nations will become populated by those who reject Jesus Christ. The glory of the King in Jerusalem, and His mighty power will draw those Gentiles to His light.

Mal 4:2 "But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 

Mat 4:16 "The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, And to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a light dawned." 

Luke 1:79- note To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace." 

Luk 2:32-note A light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Thy people Israel." 

Joh 1:4-9 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 

Joh 3:19 "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. 

Joh 8:12 Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life." 

Joh 9:5 "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 

Joh 12:35 Jesus therefore said to them, "For a little while longer the light is among you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness may not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 "While you have the light, believe in the light, in order that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and He departed and hid Himself from them. 

2Co 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 

2Co 6:14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness

Eph 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 

Eph 4:18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 

Eph 5:8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 

Eph 5:14 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light (esp the light of the Gospel), for everything that becomes visible is light. 

1Th 5:4-8 But you, brethren, are not in (spiritual) darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; 

1Pe 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim (Every believer's purpose until we go home) the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 

1Jo 2:8-note On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 2:9 The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 


FROM THE DOMINION OF SATAN TO GOD: From the kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan who has the authority to rule over those trapped in spiritual darkness. Paul describes the effect of the Gospel as producing in a effect a transfer from Satan's kingdom (darkness) to God's kingdom (Light). Paul describes this supernatural, miraculous transfer in Colossians saying we are to be...

giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain (or dominion = exousiaof darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14-note)

Dominion (1849) (exousia  from éxesti = it is permitted, it is lawful meaning liberty of action) means the power to do something and was a technical term used in the law courts, of a legal right. "Authority or right is the dominant meaning (of exousia) in the New Testament." (Vincent) Exousía in short refers to delegated authority and combines the idea of the "right and the might", these attributes having been granted to someone.

Vine says exousia evolved "from the meaning of "leave or permission," or liberty of doing as one pleases, it passed to that of "the ability or strength with which one is endued," then to that of the "power of authority," the right to exercise power...or "the power of rule or government," the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others. In short exousia is "the right & the might" (see Ro 9:21). Exousia describes the authority a person has delegated to him fr someone else. The person delegating authority is in a sense OUT OF HIMSELF and acting in the person to whom he has delegated the authority. Thus, the word means "DELEGATED AUTHORITY" or the power of authority and of the right of that authority.

Wuest writes that exousía means literally “to be out,” and was used of that authority which a person has which is delegated to him from someone else. The person delegating the authority is in a sense out of himself and acting in the person to whom he has delegated the authority. Thus, the word means “delegated authority.” The word means also “the power of authority and of right.” It was used in legal practice of delegated authority. Here it is used of our Lord as having that authority in Himself, not derived from others. The rabbis quoted from other rabbis and felt themselves to be expounders of tradition. The Messiah struck a new note here, and the people were quick to recognize it. They saw that here was a Teacher who spoke on His own authority."


Warren Wiersbe - The lost sinner is like a blind prisoner in a dark dungeon, and only Christ can open his eyes and give him light and freedom (2 Cor. 4:3–6). But even after he is set free, what about his court record and his guilt? The Lord forgives his sins and wipes the record clean! He then takes him into His own family as His own child and shares His inheritance with him! What must the sinner do? He must trust Jesus Christ (“faith that is in Me”—Acts 26:18). Paul had to lose his religion to gain salvation! He discovered in a moment of time that all of his righteousnesses were but filthy rags in God’s sight, and that he needed the righteousness of Christ (Isa. 64:6). (Ibid)

Forgiveness (859)(aphesis from aphiemi = action which causes separation and is in turn derived from apo = from + hiemi = put in motion, send) literally means to send away or to put apart, a letting go, a leaving behind, a removal.  Aphesis refers to a remission as when one remits (pardons, cancels) a debt, or releases then from an obligation. To release from captivity.

Remission (see definition of English word) of sins means once and for all taking them away, removing the guilt, punishment and power of sin. And so to release one’s sins, is not just release from the ("legal" or forensic) charge and the just penalty of sin but also release from the power and dominion of sin (and in Heaven the release from the presence of sin and the pleasure of sin). And so we see that Wuest translates Col 1:14 as "the putting away of our sins" (Wuest)

The OT gives us a beautiful picture of the meaning of aphesis in the celebration of the Year of Jubilee. In fact there are 11 uses of aphesis in the Septuagint translation of Leviticus 25 (Lev 25:10-13, 28, 30-31, 33, 40, 41, 50, 52, 54) where aphesis is frequently substituted for the Hebrew word Jubilee, so that instead of the phrase Year of Jubilee the Lxx translated into English reads "Year of the Release" in Lev 25:13 (or "Jubilee of Release in Lev 25:11). One aspect of the Year of Jubilee involved the setting free of indebted servants or slaves (cf Lev 25:10). It is interesting that the OT release from debts was associated with a time of celebration. How much more should we as NT saints daily celebrate and revel in the truth that we have been released from our sin debt! I fear I do not ponder this profound truth often enough and begin to take it for granted and become complacent and even indifferent which makes me vulnerable to committing sin! We need to remember that the Year of Jubilee was an OT picture which pointed to and was fulfilled in the crucifixion of the Messiah Whose fully atoning, substitutionary death made release from sin, Satan and death possible for all who receive this truth by grace through faith. Here is an example from Leviticus 25...

Leviticus 25:10 You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release (Hebrew = deror = a flowing, liberty; Lxx = aphesis) through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.

Leviticus 25:12 'For it is a jubilee (Hebrew - yobel = ram's horn; Lxx = aphesis + onmasia = shouting, a day for blowing the trumpets - The beginning of this year was marked by the blast of the Shofar [Jewish Encyclopedia] or ram's horn); it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.

Mounce writes that aphesis "almost always refers to divine forgiveness, and its meaning is usually clarified by adding “of sins.” In Eph 1:7; Col 1:14, Paul defines redemption as specifically related to “the forgiveness of sins.” The forgiveness of sins is a central feature of the Christian message and witness, standing at the heart of the gospel. Also, the divine initiative in the forgiveness of sins creates a forgiving spirit in the life of the Christian. As Christ forgave us, so should we forgive others (Mt 5:38–48; Ro 12:19–21).(Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words)

Sin (266)(hamartia) literally conveys the idea of missing the mark as when hunting with a bow and arrow (in Homer some hundred times of a warrior hurling his spear but missing his foe). Later hamartia came to mean missing or falling short of any goal, standard, or purpose. Hamartia in the Bible signifies a departure from God's holy, perfect standard of what is right in word or deed (righteous). It pictures the idea of missing His appointed goal (His will) which results in a deviation from what is pleasing to Him. In short, sin is conceived as a missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is the Triune God Himself. As Martin Luther put it "Sin is essentially a departure from God."

Forgiveness Cross References:

Act 3:19 "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 

Act 5:31 "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 

Act 10:43 "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." 

Act 13:38 "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

Ps 32:1 (quoted in Ro 4:7) A Psalm of David. A Maskil. How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 

Ps 32:2 (quoted in Ro 4:8) How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! 

Luke 1:77-note To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, 

Luke 24:47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 

Eph 1:7-note In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 

Col 1:14-note in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins

1Jo 1:9-note If we confess (present tense - calls for this to be a continual activity) our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

1Jo 2:12-note I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. 


Our inheritance is now and then. We have a down payment in many ways in this passing world, but the consummation of our inheritance awaits the eternal world. There believers will enjoy divine blessings forever and ever. Amen

Inheritance (lot) (2819)(kleros  from kláo = to break) was first a specially marked small object, pebble or a piece of wood used in casting lots as in Acts 1:17, 26. The object was thrown down in order to aid the making decisions a practice based on pagan views of chance (Greeks and Romans), or in the case of believers using the lot and interpreting the result as guided by God (see Acts 1:26 in choosing Judas' replacement).

Kleros also was used to refer to the allotted portion or inheritance , specifically one's possession or what is possessed (Acts 8:21, 26:18, 20:32, Colossians 1:12-note)

Inheritance Cross References -- Dear weary and beleagured saint SIT and SOAK in these wonderful promises in Christ. You may be poor by the world's standard's but by the higher standard fo God, YOU ARE RICH, all you in whom the Spirit has opened your eyes and placed you in Christ Jesus! And this inheritance is FOREVER - see 1 Peter 1:4).

Rom 8:17-note and if children (Ro 8:16), heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. (Satan tempts us with a crown but the end is suffering. God's plan is suffering now and a crown in the future. No cross, no crown!) 

Eph 1:11-note also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 

Eph 1:14-note who is given as a pledge (arrabon = earnest, down payment!) of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession (When we were saved, we were redeemed, set free by the blood of Christ from the power and penalty of sin = past tense REDEMPTION = JUSTIFICATION, but beloved the best is yet to come when we will be saved from the presence of sin - cp Eph 4:30 = Future tense REDEMPTION = GLORIFICATION), to the praise of His glory. 

Col 1:12-note giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified (hikanoo = made us adequate) us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 

Heb 9:15-note And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance

Jam 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love (present tense = continually = not perfection [or none of us would qualify!] but as the general direction of our life) Him? 

1Pe 1:4-note to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 

Acts 20:32-note "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (perfect tense = past completed action with ongoing [forever] effects!) 


Those who have been sanctified - It is important to note the tense of the verb sanctified is perfect tense which describes a past action at a point in time (the moment we were born again by grace through faith by the Spirit's work) with ongoing effect or result. So even the tense supports the common saying (used I fear too loosely to give assurance to those who may have just "professed" faith but never shown any change in the behavior or lifestyle to validate their receipt of a new heart and the indwelling Holy Spirit) "ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED!" The perfect tense supports that is a once and forever occurrence and gives us an assurance of salvation!

Notice also that sanctified is in the passive voice which signifies that act of setting us apart is the result of the supernatural work of an external power, specifically the soteriological (salvific) work of the Holy Spirit. We were like a drowning may who put his hand up out of the water and the folks nearby grabbed the hand and lifted him to safety (this actually occurred to me as a young boy). But even this is not a completely accurate picture, because even our act of reaching out for the "life raft" of the Spirit was a work initiated and empowered by the Spirit. And yet we still had to exert an act of our will to follow through. This is the mysterious but very real interaction between God's sovereign working and our free will! I won't even pretend to try to explain how this works but they are "good friends" and no one tries to separate "good friends." Perhaps in eternity the Father will unfold the manifold mysteries of our salvation. 

Have been sanctified (hagiazo) means that we have been "set apart" which is the idea inherent in the meaning of a saint (hagios). We have been set apart by the Spirit from the spiritual darkness of Satan's kingdom to the spiritual light of Christ's Kingdom. That is our (forever) position, but our high position in Christ calls for daily holy practice in the power of the Spirit of Christ. This begs the question beloved are you walking in the light and the power of Christ in you the hope of glory? Are you diligently seeking to avoid the ever increasing spiritual darkness of this fallen, evil, anti-God world system (it's difficult to avoid I realize, which is why we need more than ever to daily depend on the enabling power of the Holy Spirit Who will guide us into paths of righteousness for His Namesake.)?

Have been sanctified (37)(hagiazo from hagios = holy, set apart) means to set apart for God, to sanctify, to make a person or thing (in the OT altars, days, priests, etc were set apart) the opposite of koinos, which means profane or common.

Hiebert - The primary meaning of sanctify is "to set apart, to consecrate," but it also carries the thought of the resultant holiness of character in the consecrated. The note of holiness was already sounded in 1 Th 3:13, 4 :3-8. (Hiebert, D. Edmond: 1 & 2 Thessalonians: BMH Book. 1996)

Having once been set aside now daily continually allowing the Spirit to turn us from darkness to light...that is why it is so critical that we are the light of God's truth every day of our life...we are ever vulnerable to lies and deception...angels of light and lusts of our flesh. But by faith, believing in God's Word, trusting (obeying) no matter what the circumstances looks like (God has the only eternal perspective) or what God has sent or allowed, that momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

Sanctified cross references:

Act 20:32 "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. ("all those who are saved.")

John 17:17 "Sanctify (Command) them in the truth; Thy word is truth. (Jesus' prayer for us today. From this prayer what is God's part? What is our part? How important is it to be in the Living Word DAILY so that God's very breathed WORD might be at home in our heart! The Spirit takes that WORD and transforms us -- sets us apart as it were -- 2 Cor 3:18).

1Co 1:2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified ("Past Tense Salvation" = Justification) in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 

1Co 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 

1Co 6:11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified ("Past Tense Salvation" = Justification), but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. 

Titus 3:5 He saved us ("Past Tense Salvation" = Justification), not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 

Heb 10:10 By this will we have been sanctified (perfect tense = once and forever [= assurance of salvation!] set apart! = "Past tense salvation") through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 

Heb 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are (present tense = being daily = "Present tense salvation" - could be better translated "those who are daily being set apart" = Progressive Sanctification) sanctified. 

Rev 21:27 and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life (AKA the "sanctified" ones). 


Faith (4102)(pistis) is firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality or faithfulness. Not just mental assent but firm conviction, surrender to that truth and conduct emanating fr that surrender. In sum, faith shows itself genuine by a changed life.

Faith (4102) (pistis) is synonymous with trust or belief and is the conviction of the truth of anything, but in Scripture usually speaks of belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it. Note that this discussion of pistis is only an overview and not a detailed treatise of this vitally important subject. Those interested are directed to respected, conservative books on systematic theology for more in depth discussion (eg, Dr Wayne Grudem's book Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine is an excellent, uncompromising, imminently readable resource for the lay person. See especially Chapter 35 which addresses the question "What is saving faith?" in an easy to understand manner.) Much of this "definition" deals with the general word group for faith (pistis = noun, pistos = adjective, pisteuo = verb)

As pistis relates to God, it is the conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things well as the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Christ. As faith relates to Christ it represents a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Stated another way, eternal salvation comes only through belief in Jesus Christ and no other way.

Acts 16:31; Jn 3:14-17; 6:69; Ro 3:21-28; 4:5; 5:1; 9:30;10:9-11;Gal 2:16; 3:11, 24; Eph 2:8, 9; Phil 3:9

By faith cross references:

Acts 13:39  and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

Acts 15:9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 

Acts 16:31  They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

John 3:14-17 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.  16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

John 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." 

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." 

Joh 7:38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. " 
Joh 7:39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 

Rom 5:1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
Rom 5:2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 

Gal 2:20 "For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. 

Gal 3:2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 

Gal 3:14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 

Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 

Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 

Chuck Smith - Acts 26:18


A. The correct assumption is that men's eyes are closed. The Bible speaks of a spiritual blindness.

1. Paul spoke of those

in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Co 4:4-note)

 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart (Eph 4:18-note)

2. One of Satan's strategies is to blind a person to the reality of their own condition.

a. Look how long it takes an alcoholic to admit it, some never do.

1. To everyone else it is so obvious.

2. Their family and friends all know it.

3. They keep insisting that there is no problem they can quit any time they want to.

b. Rarely do you hear a person admitting to a drug addiction.

1. You don't hear them say, "I am a dope fiend."

2. Or "I am a drug addict."

3. They may admit to having a slight problem with drugs, but they somehow feel that they are still in control, when the truth is they are hopelessly addicted.

c. People are blind to the fact that one day they will stand before God and have to give an account for their sins.

1. They feel that death is the end of all existence. The Bible says "and inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment," (Heb 9:27)

2. There are those who somehow feel that their good works will placate the wrath of God against their sin. The Bible says that our good works or righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God (Isa 64:6KJV).

3. Paul asked in his letter to the Romans, "Do you think that you shall escape the judgment of God?" (Ro 2:3)

d. They are blind to the fact that unless a person is born again they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Jn 3:3-5)

1. The gate is much narrower than man has been led to believe. Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mt 7:13-14)

2. It is true that all religions lead to god, but not God the Father, the creator of the Universe. There is only one way, and that is Jesus Christ who said, "“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (Jn 14:6)

3. The way to heaven is not as easy as they think or they try to make it.

1 Co 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

Gal 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice (prasso in the present tense = as their unabated, habitual practice, their lifestyle, not occasions episodes of sin which even believers experience. NB: As this verse teaches "Practice" DO NOT may perfect but instead assures that one is perfectly lost forever!) such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Eph 5:5-note For this you know (command to know) with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 

3. A person living in sin is to be greatly pitied for he is walking in darkness, and does not realize that he is on the road to hell. John wrote

1 Jn 2:11-note But the one who hates (present tense) his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 

B. If your eyes have been opened to the truth of God, then they have been opened to the truth about yourself.

1. It is seeing myself in the light of God or His Son Jesus Christ that is so important.

2. If we compare ourselves with others, we may not fare too bad.

3. If you compare ourselves with Jesus then we must admit that we are hopeless undone.

a. Isaiah, "In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple....Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”  (Isa 6:1, 5-note)

b. When Peter realized who Jesus was he said, "Depart from me for I am a sinful man." (Luke 5:8)

c. Daniel describes the effect of his great vision of the Lord, he said, "My beauty turned into corruption." (Ed: Correction - Probably referring to Satan's self-deception described in Ezekiel 28:17KJV).

4. Paul said that those who were measuring themselves with themselves, or comparing themselves with themselves were not wise. (2 Cor 10:12KJV)

C. The first work of the Spirit of God in our lives is to open our eyes to the truth.

1. The truth about God.

2. The truth about ourselves.


A. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of light and life.

B. The world today is wrapped up in the kingdom of darkness.

1. When Paul was writing to the Colossians he thanked God for making us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light delivering us from the power of darkness, that He might translate us into the kingdom of His Son.

2. I am appalled at the darkness in the world today.

a. I cannot conceive the things that are being reported in the news media.

b. I cannot imagine a father sexually abusing his own little daughter.

c. I cannot imagine the darkness of a man's mind who would make love to another man.

d. I cannot conceive the millions of babies that are being destroyed in our land today by government consent, and many times government subsidies.

e. That same government will fine you heavily and possibly imprison you if you destroy an eagles egg, or kill a kangaroo rat.

f. There is something radically wrong with a government that will protect an unborn eagle, but not a unborn child. That puts the life of a rat above that of a child.

3. Surely the whole world is lost in the darkness of sin.

C. Paul was commanded by Jesus to bring men into the light.

1. Darkness is a symbol for evil.

2. Light is a symbol for purity.

3. To the Ephesians Paul said, Eph 5:8-note  for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (Ed note - Paul did NOT say they were IN darkness but that they WERE darkness! Woe!)

4. Jesus said that "men loved the darkness rather than the light; for (Ed: term of explanation - explains how you can discern their love of darkness, their dark heart is disclosed by their dark deeds!)  their deeds were evil.".

D. There is always that sharp contrast, and you are either walking in darkness or in light.


A. You were at one time held by the power of Satan. You were a slave to sin.

B. Jesus died that He might redeem you from your slavery to sin. Paul said in Romans 6 beginning with verse 16, don't you realize that whoever you yield yourselves servants to obey, you become their slave? Whether it is to sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness. Thank God, that though you were the slaves of sin, now because you have obeyed from the heart that doctrine which was delivered you. You have been freed from sin and have become the servants of righteousness. For even as you once yielded your bodies as slaves of uncleanness, and iniquity, even so now yield your bodies as servants of righteousness unto holiness. For when you were the servants of sin, you had no righteousness. You have no fruit in those things of which you are now ashamed, for the end of those things is death. Now that you have been made free from your slavery to sin, you have become the servants of God. The fruit of your new life is holiness and the final result is everlasting life.

1. Jesus said, "Whoever sins, becomes a slave to sin."

2. Speaking of false teachers Peter said, "While they promise you liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption, for by whatsoever a man is overcome, of the same he is brought into slavery."

3. John is even stronger for he wrote, "He that practices sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. This is the reason God sent His Son into the world, that He might destroy the works of the devil."

a. Jesus and only Jesus can free you from the hold that sin has on your life.

b. The Bible says that if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.

c. Would you like to be free from those evil desires that have brought you into bondage?

d. This is what the gospel is all about.

4. Opening a persons eyes to the truth, bringing them out of darkness into the light, freeing them from the power of the devil that they might become the servants of God.

Oswald Chambers - The opened sight

To open their eyes, … that they may receive … Acts 26:18

This verse is the grandest condensation of the propaganda of a disciple of Jesus Christ in the whole of the New Testament.

The first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words—“that they may receive remission of sins.” When a man fails in personal Christian experience, it is nearly always because he has never received anything. The only sign that a man is saved is that he has received something from Jesus Christ. Our part as workers for God is to open men’s eyes that they may turn themselves from darkness to light; but that is not salvation, that is conversion—the effort of a roused human being. I do not think it is too sweeping to say that the majority of nominal Christians are of this order; their eyes are opened, but they have received nothing. Conversion is not regeneration. This is one of the neglected factors in our preaching today. When a man is born again, he knows that it is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of his own decision. People register their vows, and sign their pledges, and determine to go through, but none of this is salvation. Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, viz., remission of sins.
Then there follows the second mighty work of grace—“and inheritance among them which are sanctified.” In sanctification the regenerated soul deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God’s interest in other men.

Adrian Rogers -  If you put your faith in faith, you're a sitting duck for the devil. He will come to you and say, "You're not good enough to be saved." You say, "I know it, but I don't have faith in myself." The devil then says, "There are hypocrites in the church." And you say, "I'm not putting my faith in hypocrites, I'm trusting the Lord." The devil will say to you, "But you don't feel like you should." And you say, "I'm not trusting my feelings. I'm trusting the Lord." As long as your faith is securely in Jesus, the devil can say what he wants, but he cannot defeat you

Acts 26:18 Open Their Eyes
By Vernon C. Grounds
Psalm 19:1-14
Open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light. —Acts 26:18
Do you agree with the apostle Paul that nature bears witness to the wisdom and power of God the Creator? (Acts 14:15-17; Rom. 1:20). Or do you think that everything accidentally evolved? According to astronomer and writer Carl Sagan, “Nature does not require a Designer. Maybe there is one hiding, maddeningly unwilling to be revealed.”

As believers in Christ, we are saddened by people’s inability to see the fingerprint of God everywhere in the world (Ps. 19). Many also do not believe that God has revealed Himself in His Son Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-3). They disagree with the Scriptures which declare that the light of the knowledge of God’s glory shines in the Savior’s face (2 Cor. 4:6) and with our Lord’s positive declaration: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9). If the Lord has opened the eyes of our understanding so that we believe in Him, we can only humbly thank Him for His grace. Because we have done nothing to merit God’s mercy, we need to keep praying that the almighty Designer will do for unbelieving skeptics what He has done for us: “Open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18).

Talk to God about the lost—then talk to the lost about God.

The Moment I Knew

I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light. —Acts 26:17-18

The lights dimmed on the platform as Tom Whittaker began to sing the words of “Mary, Did You Know?” The steady, quiet strumming of his guitar beautifully complemented his calm, deep voice. His wife, Gloria, says that the first time she heard him sing that song, she realized she was in love with him.

Many people who know Jesus as Savior can point to a specific moment when they suddenly grasped the extent of God’s amazing love for them. At that instant, they got it. Ray Boltz describes it in song:

The moment it happened,
It was the moment I knew;
It was like walking in the darkness
When the light comes shining through.

Paul had such a moment on the Damascus Road. His first encounter with Jesus transformed him from a fierce persecutor of Christians to the first great missionary. Spurred on by this eye-opening experience, Paul’s newfound love for the Savior compelled him to share the gospel with everyone he met (Acts 26).

Perhaps you know about Christ but have never trusted Him for salvation. John wrote, “We know that we have passed from death to life” (1 John 3:14). But that statement applies only to those who look to Jesus for forgiveness.

Because of God’s love, you too can “receive forgiveness of sins” through Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18) and be “born again” (John 3:3).

The moment is now.

It’s one thing to know there is a God; it’s quite another to know the God who is.

By Cindy Hess Kasper 


In Darkness.

  1. Sitting in Darkness, Luke 1:78-79
  2. Hanging in Darkness, Matt. 27:45-46
  3. Called Out of Darkness, 1 Peter 2:9
  4. Turned from Darkness, Acts 26:18

Four Scriptures which have a close connection with each other, as we shall see in the course of our meditation.

I. Sitting in Darkness (Luke 1:78, 79-note).

With glee some Bible critics have pointed out here a supposed inaccuracy. "See," say they, "how Zacharias, filled with the Holy Ghost, misquotes Scripture!" This they say on the supposition that he was quoting Isaiah 9:2. But Zacharias did not say so. He was so saturated with Scripture that, on examining his utterance, we find that he was quoting from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Malachi. As a matter of fact there are in Isaiah two special Scriptures on darkness—1st, one on Walking in Darkness (Isa 9:2). But 29 years later, the prophet spake on Sitting in Darkness (Isa 42:7).  It is a picture of deterioration and degeneration, and in our Lord's day it had come true. Once, though in darkness, they exercised an element of freedom and unsettlement and dissatisfaction, for they walked in darkness; now, in fast and fatal bondage, they sit in a dark and loathsome dungeon. Allow this picture language to grip you. The late Dr. Jowett has so graphically drawn attention to it. "Sitting in darkness!" Try to realise it. You sit by the fireside on a winter's night, with a bright fire making the room genial and warm. You sit on, until the fire burns low, and eventually dies out, and the warmth gives place to a searching chill. Then the lamp goes out, and darkness is added to coldness. But you still sit on, and terrible bondage becomes yours. And there are people whose soul-life is just like that. There is no fire in the grate, and their light is gone out, and they abide in cold and dreary desolation, and hard bondage. It was not ever thus. Once there was a fire in the grate, and a bright light showing and shining. The soul of man was lighted by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and wanned by the fact and presence of Divine love. But sin changed all this. Sometimes a darkened room helps an invalid to recover health, but a darkened soul is the result of a spiritual catastrophe, and betokens the presence of a dead spirit, a lifeless soul. Job speaks of "a land where the light is as darkness."
SITTING IN DARKNESS. This is either a picture of enjoyment, contentment, or enslavement and despondency, or all.

II. Hanging in Darkness (Matt. 27:45, 46).

Have you ever connected Sitting in Darkness with Hanging in Darkness? There is a very close connection. If we had never walked or sat in the darkness of sin, He would never had found it necessary to have hung in darkness. He hung in darkness to atone for our sin, and to make it possible for us to sit in light—the light of His presence and love. The solar darkness He experienced, was an emblem of soul-darkness He endured on our account.

III. Called Out of Darkness (1 Peter 2:9).

This declares that for those sitting in darkness God has a tender regard. That, for them, "a Day-spring from on High hath visited us." That also a voice is heard, calling out of the darkness.

IV. Turned from Darkness (Acts 26:18).

Do you say: "I hear the voice calling me out of darkness, but I am chained fast, and cannot respond." Well, for you there is hope, for there is One Who will turn you out of darkness, for He can liberate you from the fetters of sin, and lead you right out into liberty. (Handfuls of Purpose)

Acts 26:19  "So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision,


In his conversion Paul asked "Who art Thou, Lord?" And He said," I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do." (Acts 9:5-6) The KJV is a bit different for in Acts 9:6 it has a question from Paul "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" While this question is not in most modern versions, it is fair to say that when Jesus told him what to do, he obeyed immediately. He began  at Damascus and continued until the day it cost him his life! (cp 2 Ti 4:6-note) Paul never wavered in his obedience testifying in Acts 20:24-note "I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God." Are you (am I) committed to finish your course and the ministry which you received from the Lord Jesus?

So, King Agrippa - Paul was focused on this one soul mentioning King Agrippa by name 3 times (Acts 26:2, 19, 27) and six times by his royal title (Acts 26:2, 7, 13, 19, 26, 27). I am convicted -- many times I have "witnessed" to someone and I did not even know their name! Not a very personal or personable presentation! We need to be winsome witnesses for our Gentile Jesus! 

John MacArthur rightly observes that "Obedience is the sine qua non of the Christian life. It accompanies true salvation (Ro 6:16; 1 Pet. 1:14), acknowledges God’s authority (Acts 5:29), is an expression of trust in God (Heb. 11:8), and is the proof of believers’ love for Him (John 14:15, 21)." (Ed: Cp Heb 3:18 and Heb 3:19 where "disobedient" is equated with "unbelief." In John 3:36 we see a similar statement "“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” In short, if one says they belief in Jesus, making a "profession" of faith, and yet demonstrates absolutely no desire to obey God's Word and shows no change in lifestyle, that person is deceived if they think they are going to heaven. If they continue to live like the devil they will dwell forever with the devil in hell which is eternal separation from God.)

NET Note on I was not disobedient. Paul’s defense is that he merely obeyed the risen Jesus. He was arrested for obeying heavenly direction and preaching the opportunity to turn to God.

Disobedient (545) (apeithes  from a = without + peítho = persuade) (See studies on related words apeitheiaapeitheo) literally describes one who refuses to be persuaded (unpersuadable), thus picturing one who willfully disregards authority. Impersuasible, incompliant, contumacious.

In studying apeithes it is important to understand that the stem peith- (pith-, poith-) has the basic meaning of trust (cf. Latin = fido, fides; English = fidelity). Trust can refer to a statement, so that it has the meaning to put faith in, to let oneself be convinced, or to a demand, so that it gets the meaning of obey, be persuaded. The active meaning of the verb stem peith- then is to convince and persuade and is especially characteristic of Greek thought. In secular Greek it interesting to note that "Peitho" (art of persuading) was even regarded as a goddess! (New International Dictionary of NT Theology)

Apeithes pictures a stubborn, stiff-necked attitude and speaks of disbelief manifesting itself in disobedience. Apeithes is opposed to pistis or belief (trust).

TDNT says apeithes "means “unworthy of belief,” then “disobedient.”

Marvin Vincent in discussing apeitheo in John 3:36 writes that "Disbelief is regarded in its active manifestation, disobedience. The verb peitho means to persuade, to cause belief, to induce one to do something by persuading, and so runs into the meaning of to obey, properly as the result of persuasion… Obedience, however, includes faith. (Ed Note: See discussion of phrase obedience of faith in Ro 1:5-note)." (Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament Vol. 2, Page 1-109)

From these comments, it should not surprise you to discover that in the New Testament the Greek words translated disobeydisobedience, disobedient (apeitheo apeitheiaapeithes) do not stand in contrast with obedience but in contrast with faith!

Some Things That Followed Saul's Conversion — He Implicitly Obeyed Orders - Robert Neighbour

  • "I was not disobedient unto the Heavenly vision" (Acts 26:19).

Such were the words that Paul the Apostle spoke to Agrippa, in after years, as he recounted his conversion. They were words that expressed his first steps in the Lord. From the Roman jail Paul, the aged, wrote: "I have finished my course." Such words clearly mean that Paul had fully followed God's will in and through him. What greater ambition can a believer have, than to do all of God's pleasure, standing perfect and complete, in all the will of God? We need men and women who will get on their high tower and listen and see what the Lord will say unto them. Who will implicitly obey Him and go with Him, all of the way. Obedience is the highest manifestation of the workings of the grace of God in one's heart and life. "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me," said Christ. Sin is the transgression of the Law; sin is my way. Salvation is turning from our way and entering upon God's way. Christ becomes Lord and Master, we become His bond-slaves.

Our Daily Homily - F B Meyer - Acts 26:19

I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.

To us, also, the heavenly visions come. On our summer holidays, rising between us and some soaring Alp, or meeting us in our walk beside the gently-breaking sea; on beds of pain and in chambers of watching; visions of the risen Lord; visions of his infinite grief and pain which we have caused; visions of the possibilities of our life as a minister and witness of the things which we have seen; visions of results far down the vista wherein dark souls should become light, slaves emancipated, the defiled saintly. Ah, visions of God! ye leave an indelible impression that moulds and ennobles all after-years! Pitiable the soul to which visions of a holier, sweeter life never come, or, if they come, are never seen.
The one important matter is our treatment of them. We may indolently refuse to follow the beckoning hand and obey the voice that calls. We may return to our evil courses and follow the devices and desires of our own hearts. We may cling to the prison cell, instead of following the angel that strikes us on our side, and bids us go forth into freedom. And if so, like Balsam, we shall become spiritually blind, and fail to see visions that the dumb creatures recognize, and that would fain arrest us in our perilous career.
On the other hand, if we will obey the vision, we shall not only retain the impression, and feel its prolonged and enthralling power, but shall receive still further manifestations of the will of God. “A witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen Me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee.” To those who love and obey Him, He is ever drawing near with fresh and deeper thoughts of the Father. 

Oswald Chambers - Vision

I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision. Acts 26:19.

If we lose the vision, we alone are responsible, and the way we lose the vision is by spiritual leakage. If we do not run our belief about God into practical issues, it is all up with the vision God has given. The only way to be obedient to the heavenly vision is to give our utmost for God’s highest, and this can only be done by continually and resolutely recalling the vision. The test is the sixty seconds of every minute, and the sixty minutes of every hour, not our times of prayer and devotional meetings.
“Though it tarry, wait for it.” We cannot attain to a vision, we must live in the inspiration of it until it accomplishes itself. We get so practical that we forget the vision. At the beginning we saw the vision but did not wait for it; we rushed off into practical work, and when the vision was fulfilled, we did not see it. Waiting for the vision that tarries is the test of our loyalty to God. It is at the peril of our soul’s welfare that we get caught up in practical work and miss the fulfilment of the vision.
Watch God’s cyclones. The only way God sows His saints is by His whirlwind. Are you going to prove an empty pod? It will depend on whether or not you are actually living in the light of what you have seen. Let God fling you out, and do not go until He does. If you select your own spot, you will prove an empty pod. If God sows you, you will bring forth fruit.
It is essential to practise the walk of the feet in the light of the vision.

What God Has Done
Read: Acts 26:6-23
King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. —Acts 26:19

In a debate at Boston College, Christian scholar William Craig Lane convincingly set forth the historical arguments for believing in Jesus’ resurrection, much as the apostle Paul did in Acts 26. Then Lane told the story of his conversion.

As a child he never went to church, but in his teens he began to be plagued by questions about death and the meaning of life. He started going to church, but the sermons didn’t answer his questions. What he saw in his church-going classmates led him to conclude that most Christians were phonies. He became an angry loner. One day a girl who always seemed to be happy told him that her joy came from having Jesus in her life, and she assured him that Jesus wanted to live in him too.

Lane spent the next 6 months soul-searching and reading the New Testament. “I came to the end of my rope and cried out to God,” he said. “I cried out all the bitterness and anger that was within me. And I felt this tremendous infusion of joy, and God became at that moment a living reality in my life—a reality that has never left me.”

We tell others our logic for believing in Jesus, which is based on God’s Word. But it’s also important to tell them what He has done for us personally.

You may be tempted to debate
To change another's view,
But nothing speaks with greater power
Than what Christ does for you. —Sper

When telling others what Jesus can do for them, tell them what He has done for you.

By Herbert VanderLugt 

James Smith - WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? Acts 26:19-28.
ONE who has—
1. Seen a Vision. "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision."
2. Received a Commission. "To open eyes and to turn from darkness to light."
3. Performed a Consecration. "I was not disobedient."

Acts 26:20  but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.

  • first. Acts 9:19–22; 11:26, etc. and at. Acts 9:28, 29; 22:17, 18.
  • and then. Acts 26:17; Acts 13:46–48. Acts 14:16–21; 22:21, 22. Ro. 11:18–20.
  • repent. Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21. Jer 31:19, 20. Ezek 18:30–32. Mt 3:2; 4:17; 9:13; 21:30–32. Mk 6:12. Lu. 13:3, 5; 15:7, 10; 24:46, 47. Ro. 2:4. 2 Co. 7:10. 2 Ti. 2:25, 26. Rev 2:5, 21; 3:3; 16:11.
  • turn. Acts 9:35; 14:15; 15:19. Ps 22:27. La. 3:40. Ho. 12:6; 14:2. Lu. 1:16. 2 Co. 3:16. 1 Th. 1:9.
  • and do. Isa 55:7. Mt 3:8. Lu. 3:8–14; Lu 19:8, 9. Ep. 4:17–32; 5:1–25; 6:1–9. Titus 2:2–13. 1 Pe 1:14–16; 2:9–12; 4:2–5. 2 Pe 1:5-8.
  • Click for multiple commentaries, sermons, devotionals on Acts 26

Greek - alla tois en Damasko proton te kai Ierosolumois, pasan te ten choran tes Ioudaias kai tois ethnesin apeggellon (1SIAI) metanoein (PAN) kai epistrephein (PAN) epi ton theon, axia tes metanoias erga prassontas (PAPMPA)


Declaring (telling, announcing, proclaiming) (518)(apaggello from apó = from + aggéllo = tell, declare from aggelos = messenger, one who speaks in place of one who has sent him) means to bring a message or tidings from a person relating what has occurred. The imperfect tense pictures Paul repeatedly declaring.

NET Note on that they should repent and turn to God - This is the shortest summary of Paul’s message that he preached.

How important is "repentance"? Is it a work man does? Is it something added to the gospel? Or is it part of the divinely ordained and bestowed "process" by which a man is saved? Look at a few examples: 

  • John the Baptist called for repentance "validated" by fruit - Mt 3:2,8
  • Jesus began His ministry preaching repent - Mt 4:17 Mk 1:15 Lu 15:4-5
  • Peter preached repentance  - Acts 2:38 3:19
  • Paul preached repentance - Acts 20:21 26:20
  • John preached repentance - Rev 2:5,21, et al
  • God desires for all to repent - Acts 17:30 2Pe 3:9

Even to the Gentiles - Notice Paul went to Jews first and then to the Greeks (Gentiles) (Ro 1:16). 

Repent (3340)(metanoeo  from meta = with, among + noeo = to think, exercise the mind <> from nous = mind - see study = metanoia) means to have another mind. It is a change of mind that results in a change of behavior. The corollary = no change in one's behavior = no genuine repentance = no genuine salvation!

Metanoeo means to change one's mind in respect to sin, God, and self. To turn to God and from sin (Luke 15:7 = "one sinner who repents", 10, cf 1Th 1:9-note). It is not an intellectual decision but a change of mind that issues in a change of behavior. This change of mind may, especially in the case of Christians who have fallen into sin, be preceded by sorrow (2Cor 7:8, 9, 10, 11); but sorrow for sin, though it may cause repentance, is not repentance. Darrell Bock writes "the point is that repentance involves a reorientation of perspective, a fresh point of view. When dealing with God's plan, it means to see that plan in a new way and to orient oneself to it. Luke demonstrates the fruit of repentance expresses itself concretely (Lk 3:10-14). Repentance expresses itself in life, especially in how one treats others." (Gulp!) There can be no genuine conversion without genuine repentance.

"This word (repent) was the message of the Baptist, of Jesus, of Peter, of Paul, this radical change of attitude and life." (Robertson)

God uses at least four factors to prompt repentance = (1) The knowledge of God's Truth should prompt repentance (Mt 11:21-24 - where Chorazin, et al refused to repent at the Truth; cp Lk 16:30-31 which also illustrates the sufficiency of the Truth to prompt repentance.) Note the deadly deception - one can have Truth (as well as #2 sorrow) without true repentance! Beware! (2) Sorrow for sin can lead to repentance (2Cor 7:9-10), but the sorrow per se should NOT be confused with true repentance. E.g., Judas felt sorrow for betraying Jesus but did not repent. (3) God's kindness prompts (leads to) repentance (Ro 2:4). (4) Fear of final judgment (as discussed here in Acts 17:30-31) can motivate one to true repentance. Indeed, realization that there is no other way of escape but through Jesus, should cause any "rational" person to repent.

Repentance is not an act separate from faith, but saving faith includes and implies the true change of mind which is called repentance. As noted in the use of the present imperative (see uses below), to repent is not just an event at the time of conversion, but represents an ongoing lifestyle -- we sin daily, and sometimes we get caught in a "rut" (habit) of sin, and so we are daily in desperate need of God's gracious gift of repentance. In the parable of the two sons, our Lord Jesus Christ gives a beautiful illustration of what true repentance looks like (Read Mt 21:28-31 = notice second son changed his mind and his behavior!). As Albert Barnes wisely said "False repentance dreads the consequences of sin; true repentance dreads sin itself."

Turn to God - An about face! Luke's use of the related verb epistrepho serves to reinforce the call to repent. 

Turn (1994) (epistrepho from epí = motion toward + strepho = twist, turn quite around or reverse) means to revert, to turn about, to turn around, to turn toward, to return and figuratively to convert. The idea is a definite turn to God in attitude and action, in heart and in conduct. Epistrepho is found in association with repentance in Acts 3:19.  Epistrepho frequently describes sinners turning to God (Luke 1:16-17-note; Acts 9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 2 Cor. 3:16; 1 Th. 1:9-note; 1 Pet. 2:25-note),


Performing deeds appropriate to repentance - Paul preached the gospel and the appropriate response side by side. Good deeds don't save us but they do demonstrate we are genuinely saved. Faith alone saves but the faith that saves is not alone in that it brings forth genuine fruit that testifies there is a genuine root (faith in Jesus and His Gospel). We see this principle in Ephesians 2:8-9-note where it is clear that faith alone saves but then Paul immediately explains "or we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, (DO YOU SEE YOUR PURPOSE NOW AS A BELIEVER IN CHRIST? IT'S FRUIT - WHY? BECAUSE FRUIT GLORIFIES THE FATHER - Mt 5:16-note AND PROVES US TO BE HIS DISCIPLES - John 15:7) which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (HERE IS WHERE MANY BELIEVERS GO AWRY -- WE NEED TO SEEK GOD'S WILL AND WAY AND NOT JUST "DO" GOOD WORKS FOR THE SAKE OF DOING. GOD IS MUCH MORE INTERESTED IN US "BEING" THAN "DOING" AND IF WE ARE TRULY "BEING" HE WILL SHOW US THE "DOING" HE PREPARED FOR US IN ETERNITY PAST!)."  (Eph 2:10-note).

Here are other NT passages that associate good deeds (works, fruit) as a marker of genuine repentance (and genuine salvation):

Matthew 3:8   “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;

Matthew 7:16-note “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

Matthew 7:20-note “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 

Luke 3:8-14 “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9 “Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  10 And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” 11 And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” 12 And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” 14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” 

Luke 19:8; 9 Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

James 2:18-note But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Repentance (3341)(metanoia from meta = after + noéo = to understand) literally means "afterthought" or "to think after" and implies a change of mind.

Related ResourceGreat quotes on repentance primarily from Puritan writers

From the NT uses, it is clear that metanoia means however much more than merely a change of one's mind but also includes a complete change of heart, attitude, interest, and direction. Metanoia is a conversion in every sense of the word. Jesus' teaching would support this conclusion for our Lord declared…

I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (metanoeo), than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (metanoia). (Luke 15:7)

Bishop Ryle offers this descriptive definition of repentance - Repentance is a thorough change of man's natural heart, upon the subject of sin. We are all born in sin. We naturally love sin. We take to sin, as soon as we can act and think—just as the bird takes to flying, and the fish takes to swimming. There never was a child that required schooling or education in order to learn deceitfulness, selfishness, passion, self-will, gluttony, pride, and foolishness. These things are not picked up from bad companions, or gradually learned by a long course of tedious instruction. They spring up of themselves, even when boys and girls are brought up alone. The seeds of them are evidently the natural product of the heart. The aptitude of all children to these evil things is an unanswerable proof of the corruption and fall of man. Now when this heart of ours is changed by the Holy Spirit, when this natural love of sin is cast out, then takes place that change which the Word of God calls "repentance." The man in whom the change is wrought is said to "repent." (Repentance)

One of the best illustrations of genuine repentance is found in Paul's description of the saints at Thessalonica…

For they themselves (other believers in Macedonia and Achaia) report about us (Paul, Silvanus and Timothy) what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1Thessalonians 1:9; 1:10-See notes 1Th 1:91:10)

C H Spurgeon in a sermon entitled The Plumbline (Amos 7:7, 8) wrote that…

Side by side with that faith, God puts true repentance. When a man attempts to convert his fellow-man, he gives him a sham repentance, or perhaps he tells him that there is no need of any repentance at all. Certain preachers have been telling us, lately, that it is a very easy matter to obtain salvation, and that there is no need of repentance; or if repentance is needed, it is merely a change of mind. That is not the doctrine that our fathers used to preach, nor the doctrine that we have believed. That faith, which is not accompanied by repentance, will have to be repented of; so, whenever God builds, he builds repentance fair and square with faith. These two things go together; the man just as much regrets and grieves over the past as he sees that past obliterated by the precious blood of Jesus. He just as much hates all his sin as he believes that his sin has been all put away. (Amos 7:7-8 The Plumbline)

What is repentance and is it necessary for salvation? - Many understand the term repentance (from the Greek word metanoia) to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action. What, then, is the connection between repentance and salvation? The Book of Acts seems to especially focus on repentance in regards to salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). To repent, in relation to salvation, is to change your mind in regard to Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38). Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah to faith in Him as both Messiah and Savior. Repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance or disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ. It is crucially important that we understand repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation. No one can repent and come to God unless God pulls that person to Himself (John 6:44). Acts 5:31 and 11:18 indicate that repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace. No one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. God's longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), as does His kindness (Romans 2:4). While repentance is not a work that earns salvation, repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and fully change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible, repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). A person who has truly repented from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ will give evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19-23; James 2:14-26). Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19). Turning from sin is not the definition of repentance, but it is one of the results of genuine, faith-based repentance towards the Lord Jesus Christ.(Gotquestions)

The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life are accurately noted: - Dean Plumptre. - Acts 26:19-23

1. The repentance for past sins, which is more than a regret for their consequences.

2. The "turning to God," which implies faith in Him, as far as He is known, and therefore justification.

3. The doing works meet for repentance (we note the reproduction of the Baptist's phrase; see Matthew 3:8), which are the elements of a progressive sanctification.

Remorse vs. Repentance - Peter Kennedy (From Generation to Generation)
"First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."—Acts 26:20

The Parthenon was the chief temple built by the Greeks honor their goddess Athena. Completed in 432 B.C, on the hill of the Acropolis in Athens, the marble edifice is 101 feet by 228 feet and is recognized as one of the most beautiful examples of classical Greek architecture. Though its exterior remains pretty much intact, its interior has been gutted through centuries of looting. Over the colonnades, high relief scenes of mythical battles were once seen. In the interior of the building there used to be ninety-two wall panels depicting the mythical birth and triumphs of the goddess Athena.
At the gateway of the temple there was an altar. Called the Altar of Tears, this was not a place to offer sacrifices or offerings. It was a quiet, simple spot where worshipers could go to weep and relieve their hurt and guilt. Though their emotions were temporarily assuaged through remorse, the altar of tears could not provide forgiveness through repentance.
John the Baptist preached repentance. So did Jesus Christ, Peter, Paul, and the other apostles. Repentance is more than remorse; it is a conscious decision for change.
Do you feel a need to repent of anything, great or small? Today come to God and repent of your sin by faith in Jesus Christ. God waits for you with open arms.

"Repentance is not something God demands of you before he will take you back, it is simply a description of what going back is like."—C. S. Lewis

Acts 26:12-23 Change Your Mind
By Julie Ackerman Link
. . . repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. —Acts 26:20
One of my favorite Peanuts comic strips features Charlie Brown saying to Snoopy, “I hear you’re writing a book on theology. I hope you have a good title.” Snoopy responds, “I have the perfect title: Has It Ever Occurred To You That You Might Be Wrong?”

Snoopy’s title reminds us that our understanding of God and what He requires of us is sometimes twisted. Because our wrong beliefs lead to wrong behavior, we need to “repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20).

The Greek word translated “repent” is metanoeo, which means “change your mind.” As Paul indicated, repentance does not mean just nodding in polite agreement with God, and continuing the same way we were going. When we turn our thoughts toward God—when we truly agree with Him about what is right—our behavior will follow. Like a car, we go in the direction we are pointed. So, when we truly turn our minds and hearts toward God, our actions change accordingly.

Instead of going happily along, assuming that our choices are right, we need to regularly stop and ask ourselves Snoopy’s question. As Paul taught, it is only when we are willing to admit being wrong that we can be certain of being right with God.

We must acknowledge when we’re wrong,
Confessing it as sin,
If we would know God’s power to heal
And cleanse us from within. —Fasick
Either we conform our desires to the truth or we conform the truth to our desires. —Os Guinness


In our study of Christian evidences, tonight I’d like to present the case for Christianity in very practical terms.  In other words, there is a pragmatic test.  There is a great question:  Does it work?  If Christianity is true, don’t you think it ought to make a difference in the lives of those who profess it?  Don’t you think it should make bad people good, and good people better?  The great apologist, Bernard Ramm, said:  Christianity “must not only provide us with the materials of a great philosophy, a great theology.  It must have a relevancy or tangency to human experience.” 

This is the presentation of the Gospel that most influences people.  They may not engage us in philosophical debates or theological discussions.  But Peter said that they’ll see our joy, and when they see the hope within us, they’ll ask a reason.  And we should always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us.  It’s one of our greatest weapons, one of the greatest apologetics. I heard one man put it like this:  If your car broke down late at night in a rough neighborhood and you saw a dozen rough and rugged men approaching you, would it make any difference to you if there were just coming out of a Bible study? I’d like to discuss this in three phases. 

The Justification Change
First, there is a change that takes place at justification, when we turn our lives over to Jesus Christ.  “If any man be in Christ,” says 2 Corinthians 5:17, “he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”

Deveral years ago, I was speaking in San Francisco.  My host took me out for lunch from the airport, and he pulled out an old photo.  “Do you know this man?” he asked.  The man in the photo was an old, ragged, dirty, flea-bitten man.  “No,” I said.  “He doesn’t look familiar to me.”  “That’s me,” said the man, smiling.  “That’s my ‘before’ picture.  That’s what I was like before I met Christ.”

Have you noticed that whenever the apostle Paul wanted to demonstrate the power of God as exercised through the Gospel, he simply gave his own testimony?  He told what he had done for him.  He was the first century’s greatest opponent of the Christian faith.  Saul of Tarsus spearheaded the persecution against the early church, determined to extinguish the flame of Christ before it could spread.  He later told King Agrippa his story in (Acts 26:4-18).
How can you explain the fact that the greatest destroyer of Christianity became its greatest defender?  How can you explain his metamorphosis, as he gladly endured a lifetime of shame, suffering, and the executioner’s sword to spread the faith he had once labored to despoil?  The mind of Saul of Tarsus was brilliant.  His training was superb.  His passion was unquenchable.  His background and heritage flowed with the Jewish blood of a hundred generations.  Yet in one moment he was transformed from the greatest enemy the early church ever faced into the greatest missionary the world has ever known.

What power could so change a life?  The Gospel!  And the Gospel’s chain of witnesses from the days of Saul of Tarsus to our own is unbroken, and it grows stronger still.  We could tell stories from every generation of the Christian era.  But I would like to skip from Paul’s day to our own times, looking at stories of people whose lives have been transformed by the sheer force of Jesus Christ through nothing more than their eyes falling upon the powerful pages of Scripture.  Perhaps the purest testimonies are of those who are changed—not by persuasive personalities or spell-binding oratory or magnetic appeals—but by merely reading the Word of God itself, finding in it the voltage and veracity necessary to meet the deepest needs of their lives.

Some time ago, I read a remarkable story about a man named is Gary Fossen. Gary grew up with an outwardly happy childhood, playing Little League ball, camping, fishing with his family.  They lived in the suburbs and had everything money could buy.  But under Gary’s skin, the blood ran dark and devious.  During his college years, he took a shotgun and killed the only three people who had ever loved him:  his parents and sister. He was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison.  He felt no remorse and described himself as an animal.  One day a clergyman came to his prison and started talking about Jesus Christ.  Gary cursed him and told him that if he got any closer to the bars that separated them, he would kill him.  To his surprise, the preacher kept returning.  But Gary only cursed him at every opportunity.  One day the minister gave Gary a small Gideon New Testament.  Gary took the book, spat on it, threw it on the floor, and kicked it across the room and under his bunk. Sometime later, Gary Fossen grew unbelievably lonely and decided to kill himself.  A former paramedic in a nearby cell told him how to cut himself with razor blades so that he would bleed freely and die quickly.  They smuggled in a razor, and Gary waited for the lights to go out.  He thought about writing a suicide note, but he realized no one would be interested.  He had no one to mourn his death. Then he remembered the little book under his bunk.  He thought perhaps he should at least read a verse of Scripture before killing himself.  He turned to Romans and started reading chapter 6.  He went on to Romans 7 and 8.  He said, “I had never read the Bible before and the words started burning inside of me.”  He knelt by his bunk and began trying to pray.  He asked God to show him how to be sorry because he still had no remorse.  “That night, I saw a slow-motion movie of my life,” he later said.  “I saw every wicked thing I had ever done and I began to write them all down.  The list went on for page and page and I wept over each one.  I had not cried at all after the murders, but here I was in my cell crying.” That night forever changed Gary Fossen.  “I was still in prison, but it didn’t matter.  That was the end of the pain and loneliness.  I would never be alone again.  I am still in prison, but I thank God for His Word that is so powerful that it cut into the deep calluses of my heart and seared through all the layers of hate.”

Now, ask yourself—can Shakespeare have such an effect?  Can Homer or Milton?  Or, for that matter, can the writings of Darwin?  No. Charles Darwin once wrote a letter to a Christian minister named J. W. Fegan who had conducted a preaching crusade in a village in England.  As a result of Fegan’s campaign, the alcoholics were converted and the bars closed down.  Darwin wrote to Fegan saying, “We (the evolutionists) have never been able to reclaim a drunkard, but through your services I do not know that there is a drunkard left in the village.”

The Sanctification Change
Now there is a second kind of change I’d like to mention, and that’s the change brought about by sanctification, or by Christian growth.  When we come to Christ our lives are changed.  There’s no doubt about that.  But we are by no means perfect.  And so here we come to church, and we’re all forgiven but imperfect sinners.  And so we become a forgiven but imperfect church.  One of the greatest excuses people use for not coming to church is that it’s full of hypocrites.  When someone says that to me, I say, “Yes, absolutely it is.  Do you think Christians are perfect people?  Don’t you realize that in every congregation there are those of varying levels of maturity.  We have some very mature Christians in our church, and we have some immature ones.  We have some weak ones, and we have some strong ones.  And all of us are—to some degree—hypocritical, because we don’t always do what we know we should do.  Every member of my church occasionally fails.  And I’m the biggest hypocrite of all.  I’ve studied the Bible all my life and I still fall short.  Sometimes I’m selfish; sometimes I lose my temper; sometimes I think a wrong thought; sometimes I say an unkind word; sometimes I’m proud and difficult.  I serve a perfect God and study a perfect Book, but I’m not a perfect person.  There are areas in which I know to do better than I do.  I’m a hypocrite.  And if you’re letting that excuse keep you out of church, then you’d just as well die and got to hell right now, because the church in this world is always going to be full of imperfect people.” But Christ is perfecting us.  He is growing us.  2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

We had a man working for us at our house this week, and presently he said how he and his wife had prayed about something.  I said, “So are you a Christian?” He replied, “Oh, yes.  I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but I had a lot of baggage I hadn’t dealt with from high school.  I’d held some things against some people and I had developed a hatred for some of my old buddies.  I was a Christian, but I was a very bitter man.  Then I went to the Billy Graham Crusade here in Nashville in 2000.  I was even a counselor.  But when the invitation was given, I realized that I needed to get serious about my own Christian life before I could help someone else.  And I realized I had to forgive some people and deal with some bitterness, and I rededicated myself to Christ.  And that has made all the difference.”
The Glorification Difference
Finally there is the glorification difference.  One day we will be perfect.  Look at 2 Corinthians 5:  “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” This isn’t an apologetic, of course.  We can’t use this as a defense of the faith, because it’s something reserved for heaven; but it’s part of the picture.  When we are justified, we are saved from the penalty of sin.  As we are being sanctified, we’re being saved from the power of sin.  When we are glorified, we will be saved from the very presence of sin.  And this three-fold salvation makes us into different people, and that difference is a very powerful presentation of the Gospel.

There once was a powerful British preacher named Hugh Price Hughes.  One day, the infidel and notorious freethinker, Charles Bradlaugh, challenged Hughes to a debate.  Hughes accepted with a counterchallenge:  “I’ll bring one hundred whose lives have been changed by the Gospel; you bring one hundred whose lives have been changed through your testimony.  Bradlaugh never showed up, and Hughes turned the occasion into a great testimony meeting.

Let me end with one question.  When people look at your life, do they see the evidence of the transforming power of Christ?  There’s an old poem that says:

You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do, by the words that you say;
Men read what you write, whether faithless or true.
Say—what is the gospel according to you?

Acts 26:21  "For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death.


For this reason - Why? He went to Gentile dogs which the Jews detested and he offered them mercy and salvation from God. He preached the Gospel of repentance leading to fruit which in turn was clear evidence of a circumcised heart. (cf Mt 3:8) This is the same prophetic call that resulted in John the Baptist's martyrdom. The self-righteous seek to suppress the truth of the Gospel (cp Ro 1:18-note)

Seized (arrested) (4815)(sullambano from sun/syn = together with + lambáno = to take, to seize) means literally to seize or take together and conveys the picture of clasping.  Sullambano has several meanings depending on the context, the most common meaning being to arrest someone (7/16 uses) or take them into custody. 

Seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death - Luke recorded this event earlier

Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. (Acts 21:30; 31)

And again...

And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” They listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” (Acts 22:21, 22)

Comment - The moment Paul mentioned Gentiles the Jews became furious for they wanted to have nothing to do with a Jew who treated Gentiles like Jews!

And again ....

When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who formed this plot. They came to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. “Now therefore, you and the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place.”  (Acts 23:12-15)

Clearly Paul was willing to die for the Gospel. Am I? 

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?Mark (8:34-37)

NET Note on “in the temple.” - This is actually a reference to the courts surrounding the temple proper,

Acts 26:22  "So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place;

  • having obtained. Acts 26:17; Acts 14:19, 20; 16:25, 26; 18:9, 10; 21:31–33; 23:10, 11, 16, etc. 1 Sa. 7:12. Ezra 8:31. Ps 18:47; 66:12; 118:10–13; 124:1–3, 8. 2 Co. 1:8–10. 2 Ti. 3:11; 4:17, 18.
  • testifying. Acts 20:20–27. Rev 11:18; 20:12.
  • nothing . Acts 26:6; Acts 3:21–24. Lu. 24:27, 44, 46.
  • the prophets. Acts 24:14; 28:23. Mt 17:4, 5. Lu. 16:29–31. Jn 1:17, 45; 3:14, 15; 5:39, 46. Ro. 3:21. Rev 15:3.
  • Click for multiple commentaries, sermons, devotionals on Acts 26

KJV - 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:


What the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place - Paul based his arguments for the Gospel on the OT prophecies

Having obtained help (1947)(epikouria from epikouros = helper, ally) describes one who serves as ally, help or aid. Herodotus used this word of an auxiliary or mercenary force. This is the only NT use in which Paul recalls times when God delivered him from two plots against his life (Acts 23:12ff.; Acts 25:2–5) and helped him throughout his ministry when he was in affliction or even in prison (2 Cor. 1:8-10; 2 Ti 3:11-note; 2 Ti 4:17-18-note).

I stand - The verb histemi is in the perfect tense signifying past completed act or action and ongoing or continuing effect or result. Paul paradoxically began to take his stand when he fell to the ground on the road to Damascus and this stand continued to this day and would continue to the day he died. O to take such an uncompromising stand to testify of Jesus all the days of our life! 

Wiersbe comments "It is one thing to have a great beginning, with visions and voices, but quite another thing to keep on going, especially when the going is tough. The fact that Paul continued was proof of his conversion and evidence of the faithfulness of God. He was saved by God’s grace and enabled to serve by God’s grace (1 Cor. 15:10-note). The one word that best summarizes Paul’s life and ministry is “witnessing” (see Acts 26:16). He simply shared with others what he had learned and experienced as a follower of Jesus Christ. His message was not something he manufactured, for it was based solidly on the Old Testament Scriptures." 

The Prophets and Moses said was going to take place - Recall the NT was not available to Paul (he was writing it!) but the Old Testament was (almost every use of the word "Scriptures" in the NT = the OT Scriptures). The phrase "was going to take place" indicates that Paul's approach to the presentation of the Gospel and the background for the Gospel was OT prophecy, especially prophecy that predicted the Messiah Who would suffer and die and be resurrected (Acts 26:23) (See Messianic Prophecies).

Jesus also appealed to (and explained) the OT Messianic Prophecies...

Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. 

Luke 24:44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Luke 24:46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,

John MacArthur also makes the point that "By placing himself in the line of Moses and the other Old Testament writers, Paul again stressed that Christianity is not heretical but the fulfillment of Scripture." (Ibid)

Acts 26:19-32 The Best Place To Witness
By Dennis J. De Haan
I stand, witnessing both to small and great. —Acts 26:22

Missionary Doug Nichols and his Filipino co-worker Aries went to a Manila garbage dump, asking God how they might effectively reach the poor who scavenged there. Soon an old man approached and asked if they would guard his handful of cans while he hunted for more.

Doug asked the man how old he was, since it’s respectful in the Philippines to ask older people their age. “Oh, it’s wonderful you asked,” replied the man with a big smile. “I’m 78 years old today.”

Aries and Doug sang “Happy Birthday,” then shook his hand and gave him a hug. “Are you prepared to go to heaven?” asked Doug. When the man indicated that he wasn’t sure, Doug shared the gospel. That day the garbage-dump resident trusted Jesus and became a citizen of heaven.

The apostle Paul had an opportunity to witness to a governor, a king, and prominent citizens (Acts 25-26). We don’t know the results of his witness, but Paul was faithful where God had placed him.

When you are concerned for the spiritual needs of others and God opens a door of opportunity, any place is the best place to share the gospel—whether it’s at a garbage dump or in a king’s palace.

Go to the lost, in the home, in the mart,
Waiting no longer, today make a start;
Tell them of Jesus who died in their place,
Share the good news of salvation by grace.  —HGB

Any place can be the right place to witness.

Acts 26:23  that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."

  • Christ. Ge. 3:15. Ps 22–69. Isa 53. Da. 9:24–26. Zech 12:10; 13:7. Lu. 18:31–38; 24:26, 46. 1 Co. 15:3.
  • the first. Acts 26:8; Acts 2:23–32; 13:34. Ps 16:8–11. Isa 53:10–12. Mt 27:53. Jn 10:18; 11:25. 1 Co. 15:20–23. Col. 1:18. Rev 1:5.
  • and should. See Acts 26:18. Lu. 2:32.
  • Click for multiple commentaries, sermons, devotionals on Acts 26

HCSB that the Messiah must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles." 


The Christ (5547)(Christos from chrio = to rub or anoint, consecrate to an office) means one who has been anointed, symbolizing appointment to a task. The majority of the NT uses refer to Jesus (exceptions = "false Christs" - Mt 24:24, Mk 13:22). The Messiah was prophesied to suffer even in the first mention of the "Gospel" (protoevangelium) - And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Ge 3:15-note)

See Messiah - Anointed One

Suffer...resurrection - This is the Gospel in a nutshell (cp 1 Co 15:3-4) - Messiah's death, burial (implied) and resurrection from the dead. 

That the Christ was to suffer (Ps 22; Isa 53) - Paul was referencing the OT Messianic Prophecies that spoken of Messiah's suffering.

His resurrection from the dead - see Ps. 16:10; Acts 13:30–37. 

First (4413)(protos) means first in preeminence, not chronology. 

To proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles - As in Isaiah...

Isaiah 42:6 “I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, 

Isaiah 49:6 He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Robert Neighbour - Paul's Confession of Faith

  • "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" (Acts 26:23).

There were three great truths that Paul preached. These he brings out in this epitome of his life, before King Agrippa. Let us notice them.

1. He preached Christ's death, "witnessing * * none other things than those which the Prophets and Moses did say should come, that Christ should suffer."

The poor sinner sitting under the ministry of Paul was sure to hear the way of salvation. He was not left to some stirring appeal for self-assertion or self-negation as the basis of salvation. Paul preached that Christ died for our sins. He gloried in the Cross of Christ. He preached with the Blood in the basin.

2. He preached Christ's resurrection. "And that He should be the first that should rise from the dead." Paul preached the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He preached it gladly, believingly and fearlessly. He preached it as the great joy note, and as the sustaining power of the Gospel. He preached that Christ should be the first that should rise; he preached of the resurrection that should follow.
Paul never relegated the resurrection of Christ, the firstfruits, and the resurrection of saints, to an annual Easter discourse. He preached it always, preached it everywhere. He knew that apart from the resurrection, the Gospel lost its power; everything was staked in the resurrection of Christ; everything was in anticipation of the resurrection of believers.

3. He preached Christ's coming again.

(1) This is suggested in the words, "A light unto the people and to the Gentiles." "The people" refers to Israel, and "the Gentiles" refers to everybody else. To be sure there was a partial fulfillment of the shining of this light in the days of Paul, there is a larger fulfillment during the age in which we are now living, but the completed fulfillment waits the return of the Lord. This completed fulfillment the Apostle Paul preached. We know he preached it. Whether at Ephesus, at Thessalonica, or at Philippi, or, wherever he preached, Paul preached Christ — Christ coming again, and the blaze of light that shall then girdle the world.

(2) This is also suggested earlier in the chapter. In verses 6 and 7 we read, "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come."
The Jewish fathers believed in the Messianic hope — They believed in the restoration of Israel to the land. When Paul was saved he saw how intimately related this promise was to the Second Coming of Christ. He became at once the herald of the Lord's return, and of His reign on the Davidic throne. The Second Coming of Christ held a large place in the ministry of Paul.

Acts 26:24  While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad."


NET Note - The expression “You have lost your mind” would be said to someone who speaks incredible things, in the opinion of the hearer. Paul’s mention of the resurrection (v. 23) was probably what prompted Festus to say this.

MacArthur observes that "Festus had listened with growing bewilderment as Paul continued speaking in his own defense. Paul was obviously a learned and brilliant man, so how could he believe what he was saying was really true? Did he really think that Jesus of Nazareth, a man executed under one of Festus’ predecessors as governor, Pilate, was alive and had spoken to him? Finally, Paul’s explicit declaration of Christ’s resurrection was too much for Festus’ rational sensibilities....Every intelligent Roman knew that dead men do not come back to life and talk to people; therefore, Paul’s mental musings must have caused him to lose touch with reality." (Ibid)

Warren Wiersbe - In his message in the temple, when Paul got to the word Gentiles, the crowd exploded (Acts 22:21–22). That is the word Paul spoke (Acts 26:23) when Festus responded and loudly accused Paul of being mad. How strange that Festus did not think Paul was mad when he was persecuting the church! (Acts 26:11) Nobody called D.L. Moody crazy when he was energetically selling shoes and making money, but when he started winning souls, people gave him the nickname “Crazy Moody.” This was not the first time Paul had been called “crazy” (2 Cor. 5:13), and he was only following in the footsteps of his Master (Mark 3:20–21; John 10:20). (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Oliver Cromwell - Does a man speak foolishly? — suffer him gladly, for you are wise. Does he speak erroneously? — stop such a man's mouth with sound words which cannot be gainsaid. Does he speak truly? — rejoice in the truth.

Paul explained why unredeemed men like Festus would think he was crazy writing that...

the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.(1 Cor 1:18)

Acts 26:24-32 Gentle Persuasion
By David C. Egner
We urge you . . . that you may walk properly toward those who are outside. —1 Thessalonians 4:10-12
While teaching a college writing class, I used a textbook based on Aristotle’s classic work Art of Rhetoric. He outlined three forms of persuasion that can apply to the way we witness to others about Christ.

1. Ethos (character). Henry Stanley said of Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, “He never tried to convert me, but if I had been with him any longer I would have become a Christian.” When people around us see the reality of Christ in our lives (1 Thessalonians 4:12), our words are taken more seriously.

2. Pathos (feeling). While touring Europe, a group of students from a Christian college witnessed to their busdriver. One girl tearfully pleaded, “If you don’t accept Jesus, you’ll go to hell. Please, please trust in Jesus.” That reminds me of Paul’s impassioned plea and its effect on King Agrippa (Acts 26:28).

3. Logos (reason). When we live a holy life, we will attract attention. This will lead to questions. It’s then that we are to be ready to give reasons for what we believe, and we are to do so gently and humbly (1 Peter 3:15).

Is God leading you to witness to someone? Ask for His help. One, two, or all three of these classic methods may help open the door of that person’s heart.  —DCE

Thinking It Over
Why is your character so crucial to your witness?
Do nonbelievers sense your compassion for them?
Why do you believe in Christ? Have you told anyone?

When you know Christ, you want others to know Him too.

D L Moody - AKA "Crazy Moody" - While in Boston, D. L. Moody became a Christian under his Sunday school teacher’s guidance.  When Moody was in Chicago, he found a church on the North side where he could feel at home.  Over time Dwight started working with the ragamuffin boys in the neighborhood.  He would go around every Sunday with candy and prizes to get the boys to come to the Wells Street mission Sunday school class.  The class grew very much, so it was moved to hall where there were dances the night before.  Moody had to wake up early to clean the hall before he would go and get the children to come to the class.  People called Moody crazy because he was not afraid to act “crazy” to the children, so he can relate to them.  Moody had over 1,000 students at one time (George).  D. L. Moody was sometimes considered more of a child than any of his own class, so some people thought the name of “Crazy Moody” was accurate.

Mr. Moody knew a man that only had a short time to live.  This man was worried about his own Sunday school class because none of the girls made a decision for Christ to come into their lives in a personal way.  Moody and this man went to each girl’s house and explained the plan of salvation to them.  Afterwards, every girl in the class accepted Christ as her savior.  This man was told to leave the Lake Michigan area and go to New York by his Doctor.  Before the man left for New York, the class with Moody met for tea.  At the end, each girl prayed for her dying teacher.  These prayers spoke to Moody; he had a dilemma – to go into the ministry full-time or not.  Three months later, he decided to quit selling shoes and go into the ministry full-time because of the influence of those girls.  Some people did not think that a layman can do the job of an ordained minister, but Moody did not let them stop him for sharing God’s love.  During the Civil War, Moody was not willing to fight in the war, but he ministered to the soldiers.  At some of the wars, he was at the front line with the men and women.  Some people would still call him "Crazy Moody" for being on the front line, but Moody wanted to share the love of God wherever God led him.

Christian Enthusiasm, its Reasonableness
Once, at Wotton, Rowland Hill was carried away by the impetuous rush of his feelings, and exclaimed, "Because I am in earnest men call me an enthusiast, but I am not; mine are the words of truth and soberness. I once saw a gravel pit fall in, and bury three human beings alive. I shouted so loud for help that I was heard at the distance of a mile; help came, and rescued two of the poor sufferers. No one called me an enthusiast then; and when I see eternal destruction ready to fall on poor sinners, and about to entomb them irrecoverably in an eternal mass of woe, and call aloud on them to escape, shall I be called an enthusiast now?"

A Preacher's Sanity Questioned Acts 26:24-25
And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning does make you mad.…

When Dr. Chalmers was converted, the change in his ministry was quickly apparent to all. The rationalists, to whose class he had belonged, commonly said: "Tom Chalmers is mad." Some years after, when he was settled in Glasgow, a lady and gentleman on their way to hear him met a friend, who asked where they were going. On being told, he said, "What! to hear that madman?" They persuaded him to go for once and do the same, promising never to dispute with him about that title again, if he were inclined to apply it to the preacher after his sermon. To the surprise of all three, when Dr. Chalmers gave out his text, it was, "I am not mad, most noble Felix, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness." The sceptical hearer was not only convinced of the preacher's sanity, but he was likewise converted to faith in Evangelical truth.

Evangelistic Madness of John Berridge  - Acts 26:24
And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning does make you mad.…

As soon as John Berridge, of Everton, began to preach in a different strain from the neighbouring clergy they felt hurt at the emptiness of their own churches and the fulness of his. The squire, too, was much offended; he did not like to see so many strangers, and be so incommoded, and endeavoured to turn Mr. Berridge out of his living by a complaint to his bishop. Berridge being sent for by his lordship, was accosted thus: "Well, Berridge, they tell me you go about preaching out of your own parish; did I institute you to any other than Everton?" "No, my lord." "Well, then, you preach where you have no right to." "It is true, my lord; I remember seeing five or six clergyman out of their own parishes playing at bowls." "Pho, if you do not desist, you will very likely be sent to Huntingdon jail." "As to that, my lord, I have no greater liking to a jail than other people; but I had rather go there with a good conscience, than be at liberty with a bad one." Here his lordship, looking hard at Berridge, gravely assured him, "he was beside himself, and that in a few months he would be better or worse." "Then," said he, "my lord, you may make yourself easy in this business; for if I am better, you must suppose I shall desist of my own accord; and if worse, you need not send me to jail, as I shaft be provided with an accommodation in Bedlam. (Ed: Lord God, may his tribe increase. Amen!)

If you don't know John Berridge, you need to meet him now as he will be near the front in heaven and it will take a while to hear his great stories! - Read John Berridge Biography

Here is my favorite John Berridge hymn that has been put to music...JESUS CAST A LOOK ON ME

1. Jesus cast a look on me,
Give me sweet simplicity
Make me poor and keep me low,
Seeking only Thee to know

2. All that feeds my busy pride,
Cast it evermore aside
Bid my will to Thine submit,
Lay me humbly at Thy feet

3. Make me like a little child,
Of my strength and wisdom spoiled
Seeing only in Thy light,
Walking only in Thy might

4. Leaning on Thy loving breast,
Where a weary soul can rest
Feeling well the peace of God,
Flowing from His precious blood

5. In this posture let me live,
And hosannas daily give
In this temper let me die,
And hosannas ever cry!

Acts 26:25  But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth.

Amplified -  But Paul replied, I am not mad, most noble Festus, but I am uttering the straight, sound truth.


Sober (4997)(sophrosune from  sophron = of sound mind, self-controlled) means mental soundness, a rationality (Acts 26:25) and good judgment, especially practice of prudence (ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason), moderation moderation of desires, passions, or conduct. 

Louw-Nida - to have understanding about practical matters and thus be able to act sensibly

Friberg on sophrosune -  (1) as a quality of life characterized by the ability to restrain passions and impulses self-control, moderation, sensibleness ( 1Ti 2.9); (2) as intellectual soundness rationality, reasonableness, good sense (Acts 26.25) (Analytical Lexicon)

Liddell-Scott on sophrosune - 1. soundness of mind, moderation, discretion, Od., Theogn., Att. 2. moderation in desires, self-control, temperance, chastity, sobriety, Lat. temperantia, modestia, 

Sophrosune - Used 3x in the NT - Usage: discreetly(1), self-restraint(1), sober(1).

Acts 26:25  But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth.

1 Timothy 2:9  Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,

1 Timothy 2:15  But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

Truth (225)(aletheia from a = indicates following word has the opposite meaning ~ without + lanthano = to be hidden or concealed, to escape notice, cp our English "latent" from Latin = to lie hidden) has the literal sense of that which contains nothing hidden. Aletheia is that which is not concealed. Aletheia is that which that is seen or expressed as it really is (this idea is discussed more below).

A Moral Duel  - Homilist Acts 26:24-25
And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning does make you mad.…
Concerning the two duellists in the text, notice —

1. Both were signally able men. The speech of Festus (see Acts 25:27) shows this, and the high position to which his abilities had raised him. Paul was not less able, but even more so.
2. Both were well known.
3. Both had distinguished spectators. There were present Agrippa, the king, "the chief captains," and the principal men of the city."

I. AS SECULARISM REPRESENTED IN THE ATTACK OF THE ONE. Festus was a man of the world, a worldling, a strong, enlightened, talented secularist. Two remarks concerning this attack.
1. It was dealt out by a man of distinguished power.
2. It was prompted by motives that seemed reasonable.

1. The defence was direct. Paul says, "I am not mad."
2. The defence was rational. He says, "I speak forth the words of truth and soberness."
3. The defence was respectful. Paul addresses his accuser as "most noble [R.V., excellent] Festus."

Acts 26:19-32 Who's Mad Here?
By Mart De Haan
 [Paul] said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.. —Acts 26:25

In his book What Ever Became Of Sin? Karl Menninger writes, “On a sunny day in September 1972, a stern-faced, plainly dressed man could be seen standing still on a street corner in the busy Chicago Loop. As pedestrians hurried by on their way to lunch or business, he would solemnly lift his right arm, point to the person nearest him, and intone loudly the single word, ‘Guilty!’ Then, without any change of expression, he would resume his stiff stance for a few moments before repeating the gesture.”

The effect of this action on passing strangers was almost eerie. They would stare at their accuser, hesitate momentarily, turn away, look at him again, then hurriedly move on.

If that man was crazy, as many thought, he was a madman telling the truth. Everyone he pointed to was guilty! Sin is universal (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23). The worst kind of insanity is to deny one’s guilt while living in sin and unbelief.

Festus, the Roman governor of Judea, accused the apostle Paul of being mad (Acts 26:24). But it was Festus who was out of touch with reality, for he rejected God’s truth.

What about you? Have you acknowleged your guilt before God and turned in faith to Jesus as your Savior and Lord? It’s madness not to.

How To Be Forgiven
Admit that you are guilty of sin. Believe that Jesus died on the cross for you and rose from the dead. In faith, ask the Lord Jesus Christ to save you.

To deny one's guilt and reject Christ is the worst kind of insanity.

Acts 26:19-32 Mystery And Madness
By Herbert Vander Lugt

I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. —Acts 26:25

Bill is a successful businessman and a personal friend of mine. He loves to tell about the dramatic change in his life since he received Jesus as his Savior. Many people have been deeply impressed by Bill’s testimony, but one man told me that he viewed it as “emotional and irrational.” In fact, he implied that my sanity was open to question because I put so much stock in what Bill said.

This skeptic makes the same mistake that the Roman governor Festus made with Paul. Because Festus couldn’t identify with the wonder of a life-changing encounter with Christ, he dismissed the apostle’s testimony as irrational. Festus should have listened to Paul and admitted that the elements of mystery could very well be true. After all, Paul spoke with “truth and reason” (v.25), and his witness was verifiable—”this thing was not done in a corner” (v.26). As for Bill, his testimony is backed by 50 years of godly living.

God doesn’t ask us to believe the absurd, but He does demand that we believe what He says in the Bible. Even when we don’t fully comprehend God’s ways, we can rely on the truth of His Word. And in His Word He promises to change our lives when we put our trust in Him. Don’t confuse divine mystery with human madness.

Great works, Jehovah, You have wrought,
Exceeding deep Your every thought;
A foolish man knows not their worth,
Nor he whose mind is of the earth.  —Psalter

God's truth and human wisdom don't travel the same highway.

Acts 26:26  "For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner.


Speak...with confidence - speak freely, openly, fearlessly (This is a Spirit filled and enabled boldness).

The king knows about these matters....I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner - King Agrippa does not refute Paul's statement. He had heard about this Jesus and the events that transpired in His life. The point is Agrippa was even more accountable. Not only did he know but now he had been confronted with the truth from one who had personally encountered this Jesus. He would not be rejecting hearsay or second hand knowledge but first hand witness. We do not know what happened to King Agrippa the rest of his life. Surely the Holy Spirit caused the words of this fateful encounter with Paul to come to mind again (if not many times) the rest of Agrippa's life. We will not know for certain until heaven whether he bowed his knee and received Jesus as Savior and Lord, but there is not record of this happening. If Agrippa steadfastly refused to be persuaded, then sadly he would be subject to an even greater degree of punishment for having spurned such a clear first hand witness. Jesus declared

"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. "Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. (Mt 11:21-22)

Comment: Hell will be horrible because it is eternal exclusion from the glorious presence of God, but Jesus clearly teaches that for some it will be a greater degree of punishment than for others. 

This has not been done in a corner - "Paul’s point is that these events to which he refers were not done in a secret, hidden place, tucked away outside of view. They were done in public for all the world to see." (NET Note)

MacArthur - Paul called Agrippa as a witness to his sanity, since the Jews believed in resurrection, and the matters of which the apostle spoke (the death of Jesus, and the claim of the Christians that He rose from the dead) were common knowledge in Palestine. By remaining silent, Agrippa confirmed the truth of what Paul said. (Ibid)

Acts 26:27  "King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do."

Do you believe the Prophets - Paul alludes to what he had just stated in Acts 26:22-23 -

So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place;  that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.

I know that you do - King Agrippa a Jew who was "an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews" (Acts 26:3)
did not argue or refute Paul on this statement!

Almost Saved -- But Lost
King Agrippa, believe you the prophets? I know that you believe.…

A boat went over the Niagara cataract with two men in it, leaving another clinging to a log which lay against a weir, just above the edge of the descending flood. The morning which rose upon the night of disaster revealed the imperilled man. Thousands gathered upon the banks of the river, and every invention was tried to save him. Lifeboats were swept away until the day began to decline. At length a frail skiff was brought by ropes from each shore to his side. Hope shed its light upon all faces, and shone on no feature so brightly as upon his who lifted his foot to step into the last means of rescue. With the footfall the boat shot upward and backward into the boiling waters, and then downward to the abyss of destruction below went the victim of pleasure. Almost saved! What agony of feeling that expression declares!

The Almost Christian G. Whitefield. Acts 26:27-29

King Agrippa, believe you the prophets? I know that you believe.…

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY AN ALMOST CHRISTIAN? One who wavers between Christ and the world.


1. False notions of religion.
2. Servile fear of man.
3. Prevailing covetousness.
4. Love of pleasure.
5. Instability of character.


1. Ineffectual to salvation.
2. Prejudicial to others.
3. Ungrateful to Christ.

Acts 26:28  Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian."

CSB   Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?"

NET   Agrippa said to Paul, "In such a short time are you persuading me to become a Christian?" 

NIV Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"


 Persuade (convince) (3982)(peitho)  means literally to persuade or induce by words to believe (Acts 19:26, Mt 27:20, Ro 14:14).

MacArthur - The implication was that if he did, he would have to concede that Jesus was the Messiah. Agrippa was stuck in a quandary. Admitting his belief in the prophets was tantamount to acknowledging Jesus as Messiah. That would make him look foolish before his Roman friends and outrage his Jewish subjects. Yet a Jewish king could hardly disavow the revered prophets of his people. Consequently, he avoided the question, mockingly replying "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian." ("Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?")

NET Note - The question “In such a short time are you persuading me to become a Christian?” was probably a ploy on Agrippa’s part to deflect Paul from his call for a decision. Note also how the tables have turned: Agrippa was brought in to hear Paul’s defense, and now ends up defending himself. The questioner is now being questioned.

Talmage - Paul saw two boats; one was called Altogether and the other Almost. He saw the Altogether go into port, flags flying, and he saw the Almost founder at sea. Not quite a Christian is to be no Christian at all.

Broadus writes - Many persons will be disturbed at being told that the "almost Christian," however common an object, is not found in this passage. Agrippa's celebrated saying is, in the Greek, quite ambiguous, and so is Paul's reply. No one can determine with certainty what is the real meaning. "Somewhat" is the most probable interpretation, and agrees best with the character of Agrippa. "In some measure," "somewhat," makes it a polite answer, expressing interest in what has been said, and a disposition to admit that Christianity has really some claims, especially as presented by so able a speaker. The "somewhat Christian" is oftener to be met with in our congregations than the "almost Christian." (Read more at The Somewhat Christian Acts 26:27-29 - J. A. Broadus)

To Those Who are Almost Persuaded - C. H. Spurgeon. Acts 26:27-29

  • King Agrippa, believe you the prophets? I know that you believe.…

The apostle never persuaded Agrippa to be almost a Christian. Agrippa never was an almost-Christian, his life and character displayed a spirit very far removed from that condition. There is a great difference between being almost a Christian and being almost persuaded to be a Christian. A man who is almost an artist knows something of painting, but a man almost persuaded to be an artist may not even know the names of the colours. The preaching of the gospel minister should always have soul winning for its object. May it never be an object of ours to dazzle and astonish, but to persuade you to be Christians. Neither would the apostle have been content if he could have persuaded Agrippa to take the name of a Christian, or to be baptized as a Christian. His object was, that he might in very deed be a Christian. To seem is nothing, but to be is everything. Thus should we labour in seeking converts; the adoption of a certain dress or mode of speech is little; union with our denomination is almost as unimportant; the true embracing of Jesus as the Saviour of men is the vital matter. If you desire a definition of a Christian, the apostle has given you it in verse 18.


1. Paul made constant appeals to Scripture. This ought to be a powerful argument with you. You believe the Bible to be true, and the Bible says that it is your highest wisdom to be a follower of Christ. If you did not believe the Bible, no argument drawn from it could have any force with you; but granted that you accept it as God's Word, as Agrippa did, the apostolic form of reasoning from that Word ought to persuade your hearts.

2. His persuasion of Agrippa lay mainly in his personal testimony to the power of grace in his own soul. Personal testimony ought always to weigh with men. Convince me that a man is honest, and then if he bears witness to facts which are matters of his own personal consciousness, not merely the gleanings of hearsay, I am bound to believe him; and especially if his testimony be backed up by others. A great part of the preaching of every Christian minister should lie in his bearing his personal testimony to what Christ has done for him.

3. He made a clear statement of the gospel (ver. 23). Where the gospel statement is clearly given, even if no reasoning is used, it will, under God, frequently convince, for it is so marvellously self-evidencing.

4. He did not close until he had made a home appeal to Agrippa. "King Agrippa," said he (in something like the style of Nathan when he said, "Thou art the man!"), "believest thou the prophets?" The minister must know how to take the scaling ladder, and fix it against the wall of the conscience, and climb it sword in hand, to meet the man face to face in sacred duel, for the capture of his heart.

How did Paul succeed.

1. Note that he failed with Festus, one of the most respectable of the Roman governors, the type of those common-sense people, who are very practical, very fond of facts, who consider nothing to be worth their thoughts that has anything like sentiment in it, or that deals with abstract truth. "Thou art beside thyself." Wherever the gospel is preached there are people who say, "Toleration — by all means; and if people like to believe this, or that, well let them believe it. We have more practical and rational business to attend to." If such men bring grief to the preacher nowadays, he must not marvel, for such was Paul's burden in his day.

2. Now let us turn to Agrippa, a man of very different mould. He had always taken an interest in religious questions. He was sprung of a family that, with all their frightful vices, had trembled before the voice of prophecy and Scripture, and like the Herod who heard John gladly, he listened with great attention and interest to Paul. As he weighed the arguments, he felt that there was a great; deal to be said for Paul's view of the question. He did not half know but what Paul might be right. Still he had an "if." He would rather not think that the prisoner before him was better informed than he, or that such stem teaching demanded obedience from him, and, therefore, he closed the discourse with a remark intended to be pleasing to the orator, and he went his way. Oh, these Agrippas! I would almost sooner deal with Festus, for I know what Festus means, and one of these days it may be, the Lord will direct an arrow between the joints of Festus's harness; but Agrippa deceives me; he is a fair blossom that never knits, and so turns not to fruit; he is almost persuaded.

3. I wonder whether in Paul's congregation there was a third sort of hearer! Perhaps while Paul was failing with Festus and disappointed with Agrippa, there sat somewhere in the back seats a centurion, or a private soldier, or a Jewish ruler, upon whom the truth was falling like dew, and into whose heart it was being received as the ocean absorbs the falling shower.

It was not the fault of the preacher's matter or manner. Nothing could have been more powerful in either case. Where, then, did the fault lie?

1. On the right hand of Agrippa was a very excellent reason why he is not convinced, for there sat Bernice. The reason why sinners are not persuaded is, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, their love of sin! Bernice was beyond all doubt a shameless woman. Agrippa's public and ostentatious associating with her proved at least that he was in evil company. This is quite sufficient to account for his never being altogether persuaded to be a Christian. Evil company is one of Satan's great nets in which he holds his birds until the time shall come for their destruction.

2. Then there was the influence of Festus. If Festus calls Paul mad, Agrippa must not go the length of being persuaded. How could he go and dine with the governor if he became quite convinced? What would Festus say? "Ah! two madmen! Is Agrippa also beside himself?" Alas, how many are influenced by fear of men!

3. Do you not think, too, that Paul himself had something to do with it? Not that he was to blame in the case, but he wore decorations which were not of a pleasing character to a man of Agrippa's taste. Though better than golden ornaments were his chains, Paul seems to have perceived that Agrippa was shocked at Christianity in that peculiar garb, for he said, "Except these bonds." It often happens that looking abroad upon the sorrows of God's people, ungodly men refuse to take their portion with them. They find that righteous men are frequently sneered at, and they cannot run the risk of such inconvenience. Oh that men were wise enough to see that suffering for Christ is honour, that the truest dignity rests in wearing the chain upon the arm rather than endure the chain upon the soul!


1. He misses altogether the blessing which full persuasion would have brought him. A passenger was almost persuaded not to trust his life in a leaky ship, but he did so and perished. A merchant was almost persuaded not to have shares in a bubble speculation, but he bought the scrip, and his estate went down. A person exceedingly ill heard of a remedy, and he was almost persuaded to take it, but he did not, and therefore the disease grew worse and worse. You cannot have the blessing by being almost persuaded to have it. Your hunger cannot be appeased by almost eating, nor your thirst quenched by almost drinking.

2. He contracts additional guilt. A person has rebelled against the government, but he is afterwards very sorry for it, and he asks forgiveness; let mercy have free course. But another has been shown the impolicy of treason; he has seen the evil of taking up arms against the commonwealth, and he has been almost persuaded to be loyal. I say when he becomes a rebel, he is a traitor with a vengeance, to whom no mercy can be shown. The man who is almost persuaded to be honest, and yet deliberately becomes a thief, is a rogue ingrain.

3. To have been almost persuaded will lead to endless regrets.

ALMOST A CHRISTIAN. Acts 26:28 - James Smith

1. What you Might Be, and Not Be a Christian.

Born in a Christian country.
Brought up in a Christian family (Judas).
Educated in a Christian fashion.
Connected with a Christian Church.
Buried in a Christian manner.

2. What is a Christian?

One who has received Christ.
One who belongs to Christ.
One who is like Christ.
One who serves Christ.

3. What is it to be an Almost Christian?

It is to see your need and not confess it.
It is to wish to be saved and remain undecided.
It is to be at the door, but still outside. (Handfuls of Purpose)

The Danger of Indecision in Religion - Acts 26:27-29 - Homiletic Review

  • King Agrippa, believe you the prophets? I know that you believe.…

I. IT IS OF NO AVAIL TO BE ONLY ALMOST PERSUADED. The almost persuaded sinner is still at an infinite remove from salvation.


III. ETERNITY WILL BE GREATLY EMBITTERED BY SUCH AN EXPERIENCE AS AGRIPPA'S IN THIS LIFE. It immensely aggravates a loss to know that it might have been avoided.

Acts 26:12-29 A Powerful Witness
By Vernon C. Grounds
You almost persuade me to become a Christian. —Acts 26:28

British scientist Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) vigorously supported the theory of evolution, which earned him the nickname “Darwin’s bulldog.” As an agnostic, he believed religion was a harmful superstition.

One day Huxley asked a deeply committed Christian, “What does your faith mean to you?” Knowing Huxley’s skepticism, the man paused and then replied, “You are very educated, and you can dispute anything I say.”

Huxley urged him to explain why he was a Christian. So from his heart the man told what Jesus meant to him. Huxley, deeply moved, didn’t argue. Wistfully he said, “I’d give my right hand for your faith in Jesus.”

We can draw two lessons from this encounter. One is that while we may prize knowledge, we know that formal education is not necessary for the exercise of life-changing, saving faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The second lesson is that a simple, straightforward testimony from the heart can often be more effective than a scholarly argument.

As the apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa, he told how Jesus had transformed his life, and Agrippa was deeply moved by what he heard (Acts 26:28).

Let’s not hesitate to tell people what Jesus means to us personally.

Putting It Into Practice
  To whom can you speak about Christ today?
  Read How Can I Break The Silence?

When telling others what Christ can do for them, tell them what He has done for you.

Acts 26:29  And Paul said, "I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains."

NET Note  on Except for these chains. The chains represented Paul’s unjust suffering for the sake of the message. His point was, in effect, “I do not care how long it takes. I only hope you and everyone else hearing this would become believers in Christ, but without my unjust suffering.”

MacArthur - No matter how long it took, it was Paul’s heartfelt desire that all who heard him would come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. The scene is again one of startling incongruity. A lowly prisoner in chains tells the gathered political and military leaders and other important figures that he wishes they could be like him. Their fading, fleeting treasure was here on earth; Paul had “an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys” (Luke 12:33).

He went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:22.
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. Acts 26:29.
The rich young Ruler's wealth kept him out of the Kingdom and many a man gains the world and loses his soul. Stocks and bonds can make it difficult to lay up treasure in heaven. Paul's stocks and bonds were of another sort, stocks for his feet and bonds for his wrists, but he could wish that kings had his heavenly treasure. The Scriptures do not teach the denial of money or its deification but its dedication. If we can be poor in spirit and rich at the bank well and good, but it is a rare combination. One may wear earthly chains and be a spiritual millionaire. Far better that than a capitalist in chains!

Acts 26:29 The Obedience Secret - Samuel Logan Brengle

INTRODUCTION: This reveals the secret of Paul’s success as a soul-winner. He was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Those who win others are soldiers who obey orders (Jer. 1:4–7).

  1. This Obedience Must Be Prompt. The King’s business requires haste (1 Sam. 21:8). If I speak when the Spirit moves me, I can usually introduce the gospel with good results, but if I delay, the opportunity slips by.
  2. This Obedience Must Be Exact. Saul lost his kingdom because his obedience was only partial (1 Sam. 15).
  3. This Obedience Must Be Courageous. God told Jeremiah and Ezekiel to be unafraid of reactions to their message (Jer. 1:8; Ezek. 2:6). Saul lost his crown because he feared the people more than he feared God (1 Sam. 15:24).
  4. This Obedience Must Be Glad. (See Ps. 100:2.)

CONCLUSION: The soul-winner is a servant of God, a friend of Jesus, a prophet of the Most High, an ambassador of Heaven to the sons of men. We must speak Heaven’s words and represent Heaven’s court, seeking not our own will but His.

The Difference Jesus Makes - Read: Acts 26:1-18, 27-32

I would to God that . . . all who hear me today, might become . . . as I am. —Acts 26:29

Throughout history, people have treated others with unbelievable cruelty in the name of religion. They have often done so without feelings of remorse or guilt. Muslims and Christians have fought “holy wars” against one another, which have been anything but holy. And within their own ranks, so-called Christians have persecuted other Christians. Like Saul of Tarsus before he became Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles, they think they are doing God a service when actually they are persecuting Jesus (Acts 9:4).

When I first learned about the atrocities committed in the name of religion, my boyhood confidence in the Christian faith was shaken. I didn’t dare tell my parents about my misgivings, so I talked to the Lord about it. He led me to notice what happened in Paul’s life.

As a powerful member of the Pharisees, Saul (the Hebrew name of Paul) thought he was pleasing God by persecuting Christians. Then he met Jesus (Acts 9:1-19). From then on, he peacefully sought to bring even his enemies to Christ.

It’s not Christ’s way to force His will on us. Neither should we force our will on others. As we put God’s ways into practice, we’ll find we can love those with whom we disagree. That’s the difference Jesus makes!

Thinking It Through
How did Jesus react to Peter's attempt to defend Him with a sword? (Jn. 18:10-11). What did Jesus say should be our attitude toward our enemies? (Mt. 5:43-48).

No force is greater than the power of God's love.

By Herbert VanderLugt 

Acts 26:30  The king stood up and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them,


The king, et al did not realize it but they were actually the ones on trial! If you are reading Acts 26 and are not yet persuaded that Jesus is the Messiah Who was crucified, died, was buried and rose from the dead, then your soul is also on trial. Don't make the mistake that it appears these "rich and famous" people made. Humble yourself and receive Paul's words which are able to save your soul!

Wiersbe adds - Festus and Agrippa knew that their prisoner had a compassionate concern for them, and they could not easily escape his challenge. The best thing to do was to end the hearing, so the king stood up; and this told everybody that the audience was over.....What Agrippa and Festus did not understand was that Paul had been the judge and they had been the prisoners on trial. They had been shown the light and the way to freedom, but they had deliberately closed their eyes and returned to their sins. Perhaps they felt relieved that Paul would go to Rome and trouble them no more. The trial was over, but their sentence was still to come; and come it would. What a wonderful thing is the opportunity to trust Jesus Christ and be saved! What a terrible thing is wasting that opportunity and perhaps never having another. (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Acts 26:31  and when they had gone aside, they began talking to one another, saying, "This man is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment."

NET Note on Not doing anything deserving death - Here is yet another declaration of Paul’s innocence, but still no release. The portrayal shows how unjust Paul’s confinement was.

Acts 26:32  And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."

NET Note - If he had not appealed to Caesar. Ultimately Agrippa and Festus blamed what Paul himself had done in appealing to Caesar for his own continued custody. In terms of Luke’s narrative, this still appears unjust and a denial of responsibility.

John MacArthur concludes this section - 

The question arises as to why Paul could not be released, since both Festus and Agrippa had found him innocent of wrongdoing. Noted expert on Roman law A. N. Sherwin-White explains:

 When Agrippa remarked: “this man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar,” this does not mean that in strict law the governor could not pronounce an acquittal after the act of appeal. It is not a question of law, but of the relations between the emperor and his subordinates, and of that element of non-constitutional power which the Romans called auctoritas, “prestige,” on which the supremacy of the Princeps so largely depended. No sensible man with hopes of promotion would dream of short-circuiting the appeal to Caesar unless he had specific authority to do so. ( Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963], 65)

NET Note on Agrippa - King Agrippa was Herod Agrippa II (A.D. 27–92/93), son of Herod Agrippa I (see Acts 12:1). He ruled over parts of Palestine from A.D. 53 until his death. His sister Bernice was widowed when her second husband, Herod King of Chalcis, died in A.D. 48. From then she lived with her brother. In an attempt to quiet rumors of an incestuous relationship between them, she resolved to marry Polemo of Cilicia, but she soon left him and returned to Herod Agrippa II. Their incestuous relationship became the gossip of Rome according to Josephus (Ant. 20.7.3 [20.145–147]). The visit of Agrippa and Bernice gave Festus the opportunity to get some internal Jewish advice. Herod Agrippa II was a trusted adviser because he was known to be very loyal to Rome (Josephus, J. W. 2.16.4 [2.345–401]).

NET Note on Festus - Porcius Festus was the procurator of Palestine who succeeded Felix; neither the beginning nor the end of his rule (at his death) can be determined with certainty, although he appears to have died in office after about two years. Nero recalled Felix in A.D. 57 or 58, and Festus was appointed to his vacant office in A.D. 57, 58, or 59. According to Josephus (Ant. 20.8.9–10 [20.182–188]; J. W. 2.14.1 [2.271–272]), his administration was better than that of his predecessor Felix or his successor Albinus, but Luke in Acts portrays him in a less favorable light: He was willing to sacrifice Paul to court Jewish favor by taking him to Jerusalem for trial (v. 9), regardless of Paul’s guilt or innocence. The one characteristic for which Festus was noted is that he dealt harshly with those who disturbed the peace.