June 30, 2014
Paul the Preacher (Part 1 of 2); Acts 26:19-32
Site of Paul Standing before Festus (Acts 25:10-12)
Over the past few days, we have been introduced to three very different men who governed Judea: Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa II. Although their responses to Paul’s witness were as unique as the men themselves, they had one thing in common. Having heard the good news of the Gospel clearly proclaimed, they rejected it.
As governor of Judea, Felix was known for ruthlessness and greed. History records that Felix did have some familiarity with Christianity. In fact, when he presided over Paul’s trial, Felix seemed intrigued by what he heard. Over the course of two years, Felix repeatedly summoned Paul so that he could hear what the Apostle had to say. Felix’s interest was never matched by motivation, however. He never decided Paul’s fate and, for all of his listening, the Biblical record gives us no indication that he gave his allegiance to the Lord Jesus.
Where Felix’s reaction to Paul was marked by delay, Festus was a man of action. Once appointed governor, Festus decided to deal with the matter of the irksome prisoner swiftly. Within a few weeks, Festus familiarized himself with Paul’s trial, traveled to Jerusalem to meet with the religious leaders, and convened court in Caesarea. Although decisive at first, Festus later sidestepped making a decision in Paul’s case. Instead, he asked Paul if he would rather be tried in Jerusalem and then avoided the implications of Paul’s words by declaring him insane to believe such things (Acts 26).
King Agrippa II wasn’t charged with making a decision in Paul’s case, but he was interested in what Paul had to say and, when he visited Festus, he asked to hear Paul speak. King Agrippa was familiar with the Law of Moses and Judaism and may have even been familiar with the events of Jesus’ ministry. Some commentators have suggested that King Agrippa may have even believed in the resurrection of Jesus, but because of his position and pride, could not humble himself and acknowledge his need for a Savior. Whatever his level of spiritual interest may have been, Paul confronted King Agrippa with the necessity of responding to the Gospel message. Acts 26:27 records Paul’s words: “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.”
Hesitancy. Avoidance. Passing interest. Felix, Festus, and Agrippa were very different men, but the end result of their interaction with the Apostle Paul was the same. They all rejected Paul’s testimony and salvation through Jesus Christ. We see the same reactions when the Gospel is preached today as men and women hesitate in their response, avoid the clear call to follow Christ as Savior, or settle for a passing interest in spiritual matters. As with the men Paul encountered, each of these responses is a rejection of Christ Himself.
Bruce, F. F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament The Book of Acts Revised. Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing CO, 1998. Book
Montgomery Boice, James. Acts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997. Book
Stott, John R. W. The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Acts. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1990. Book
From the Series For the Sake of the Gospel
At his hearing, Paul defended his commitment to Christ and preached a message of repentance. Alistair Begg shows how Paul’s candid, persistent, respectful presentation of the Gospel sets an example for all who preach. Despite the clarity and sincerity of the delivery, the response to the message will be varied until the heart of the listener is ready to receive it.