I find Paul’s defense for his actions in this chapter so compelling. He is brought before King Agrippa because of accusations made by the Jewish leaders. Paul was preaching about Jesus, which made the Jewish officials furious because they thought he was preaching against the law of Moses, the Jewish faith. The sad part is that the Pharisees and Paul believed in the same God and shared the same faith. How could they be so opposed, and the Pharisees so angry that they wanted Paul to fry?
Paul grew up in a devoted Jewish family. He was highly trained in the Jewish faith. He studied so many years, and in such great depth that he became a leader in the faith, he was a Pharisee himself. The difference between Paul’s faith and the Pharisee’s faith in Acts 26 is that Paul met Jesus. We say it in this blog all of the time, but Jesus changes everything! Paul’s story in Acts 26 is a perfect example. Paul was doing everything he could to oppose the very name of Jesus as the rest of the Pharisees did also. He sent Christians to prison and condemned them to death for their faith in Jesus. Until he met Jesus himself, Paul did everything he could to follow the Jewish law.
Paul was on a trip for official business when a light from heaven shone down on him and he heard a voice speaking to him. Jesus asked Paul why he was persecuting Him. Paul asked who was speaking to him and Jesus replied that He was the One that Paul was persecuting. Jesus told him, “ I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. I am sending you to open their eyes, so they may turn from the darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in Me.” This interaction with Jesus changed Paul. He made a one hundred-eighty degree turn. Instead of persecuting Christians, he began teaching about Jesus and helping people to become followers of Jesus. This abrupt change after Paul met Jesus is what I find so compelling. This one hundred-eighty degree turn had to have been what grabbed people’s attention. When a known persecutor starts teaching how to be come what he persecuted yesterday, people want to know why!
Paul goes on to explain to King Agrippa that after his change in teaching, some Jews arrested him and tried to kill him. Paul tells Agrippa that, “God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen-that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”
The difference between Paul’s faith and the Pharisee’s faith was Jesus. After meeting Jesus, Paul understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish prophesy. The conversation with Jesus on that road to Damascus opened Paul’s eyes so he could see that Jesus was God and not someone to fear or feel threatened by. The Pharisees were stuck clinging tightly to what they had been taught instead of being willing to consider who Jesus really was.
After hearing Paul’s defense, Agrippa asks Paul, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” Paul responded, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” I pray that everyone reading this post today might become like Paul, changed by Jesus.