Acts 26 (New Living Translation)
1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.”
So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense: 2 “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense today
Paul stands before Herod Agrippa II, whose great-grandfather had tried to kill Jesus as a baby; his grandfather had John the Baptist beheaded; his father had martyred the first apostle, James. Paul is being quite generous in his evaluation of Agrippa’s open-mindedness towards people who followed Jesus!
One more thing — for the “no one is all bad” bag — Herod Agrippa II gave extensive information to Josephus which then made its way into his history, Antiquities of the Jews.
against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders, 3 for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!
4 “As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. 5 If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. 6 Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. 7 In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! 8 Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?
9 “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. 10 Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death.
“I cast my vote against them” clearly implies that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, having a vote against Christians who were tried before the Sanhedrin (like Stephen in Acts 7).
If Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, it also means that at that time he was married, because it was required for all members of the Sanhedrin. Since as a Christian, he was single (1 Corinthians 7:7-9), it may mean that Paul’s wife either died or deserted him when he became a Christian.
11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
12 “One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests.
Here is the third account in Acts of Paul’s conversion
(see also chapters 9 and 22).
13 About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
15 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. 16 Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. 17 And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles 18 to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’
19 “And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven.
“When the Lord reveals His will to us and we obey, our mission will be a success regardless of the results.”
- Chinese house church leaders, Back to Jerusalem movement
20 I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. 21 Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. 22 But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—23 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.”
These are the three main themes of Paul’s preaching: Jesus’ death, Jesus’ resurrection, and the spreading of the gospel to the whole world.
24 Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”
25 But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. 26 And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”
28 Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”
29 Paul replied, “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.”
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above
Enjoy such liberty.
–Richard Lovelace, English poet (1618 – 1657)
30 Then the king, the governor, Bernice,
Bernice was Agrippa’s sister. They lived together “in too great familiarity,” as one Bible commentator has said . . .
and all the others stood and left. 31 As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”
32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”
from Peculiar Treasures,
by Frederick Buechner
There’s something a little sad about seeing anybody for the last time, even somebody you were never particularly crazy about to begin with. Agrippa, for instance. He was the last of the Herods, and after him that rather unsavory dynasty came to an end.
When Saint Paul was on his way to Rome to stand trial, King Agrippa granted him a preliminary hearing, and Paul, who was seldom at a loss for words, put up a strong defense. He described how on the road to Damascus he had come to believe Jesus was the Messiah and how all he had been doing since then was trying to persuade other people to believe he was right. He said the fact the Jews were out to get him showed only that they didn’t understand their own scriptures because the whole thing was right there including the prediction that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead just the way Jesus had.
After he finished, Agrippa came out with the only remark he ever made that has gone down in history. “Almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian,” he said (Acts 26:28).
Almost is apt to be a sad word under the best of circumstances, and here, on the lips of the last of his line the last time you see him, it has a special poignance. If only Paul had been a little more eloquent. If only Agrippa had been a little more receptive, a little braver, a little crazier. If only God weren’t such a stickler for letting people make up their own minds without coercing them. But things are what they are, and almost is the closest Agrippa ever got to what might have changed his life. It’s sad enough to miss the boat at all, but to miss it by inches, with a saint right there to hand you aboard, is sadder still.
The old hymn, “Almost Persuaded,” is one I remember very clearly from my childhood, as the Lutheran country church my family was a part of had revival meetings every year with Lutheran evangelists coming to preach. They were wonderful meetings, full of people who loved the Lord and had a heart that all should have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. This hymn addressed the urgency of salvation! It was written in 1871 by the American composer and evangelist Philip P. Bliss, who also wrote the hymns “Hallelujah! What a Savior!” and “Wonderful Words of Life” — as well as the tune for Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul.” Here it is sung by Josh Turner.
- “Almost persuaded” now to believe;
“Almost persuaded” Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say,
“Go, Spirit, go Thy way,
Some more convenient day
On Thee I’ll call.”
- “Almost persuaded,” come, come today;
“Almost persuaded,” turn not away;
Jesus invites you here,
Angels are ling’ring near,
Prayers rise from hearts so dear;
O wand’rer, come!
- “Almost persuaded,” harvest is past!
“Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail;
“Almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail—
“Almost,” but lost!