Paul’s Public Trial and Personal Story of God’s Grace
Chapter 25:13-27 introduces to us the audience that Paul is going to have at his upcoming trial.
A key verse is verse 19 in which Festus relates to Agrippa that the key to the Jew’s accusations against Paul was “a certain Jesus who was dead but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”
It’s never the death of Jesus that is the problem. It’s always that Jesus is not dead but alive, ruling and inviting all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel of the kingdom and be rescued from the dominion of darkness.
We learn that Paul is going to make this case, again, in front of Agrippa and Bernice.
“Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I (cf. 12:1, 19–23) and the great-grandson of Herod the Great and the Hasmonean princess Miriamne.”
Bernice is Agrippa’s sister. “Agrippa’s relationship to his sister Bernice was something of a scandal in its day. A year younger than her brother, she could perhaps be described as a “Jewish Cleopatra.” She had been married at age thirteen to her uncle, Herod of Chalcis. When her husband/uncle died in a.d. 48 and her brother Herod was granted rule over Chalcis, she moved in with him and remained his constant companion for many years. The rumors were rampant that they were maintaining an incestuous relationship. In a.d. 63 she married King Polemon of Cilicia, perhaps to avert the rumors, but she doesn’t seem to have lived with him for long. She accompanied Agrippa to Rome in the early 70s and quickly became the mistress of Titus, the emperor Vespasian’s son. The relationship created a major scandal in Roman patrician circles.140 Titus evidently wanted to marry her, but marriage to a Jewess was not socially acceptable; when he became emperor himself in a.d. 79, he was forced to abandon his liaison with her.”
So, Paul is surrounded by the best of the worst of the curse of the fall in incest, adultery, lies, false accusations and villainy.
Yet, this is exactly where the gospel of the kingdom is best put on display because this is what the gospel of the kingdom came to do.
Just like Paul, when we are engaged in our domains among some of the best of the worst, we can do as he did and expect powerful results because the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
So, what exactly did Paul do?
The Big Idea: Paul, when put on public trial, tells the gospel story through his personal testimony of God’s grace. And I’m convinced we should do exactly the same.
What do we see? What does it mean?
Paul preaches the gospel by personal testimony: Background / Salvation / Ministry
Paul Tells His Background Story
Paul lived as a Pharisee v. 4-11
Paul Tells His Salvation Story
Paul saw a blinding light that caused him to fall down v. 12-13
Paul heard Jesus tell him what’s up (the gospel like you’ve never heard it before) v. 14-18
- Accused of persecuting Jesus himself through persecuting his church v. 14
- Statement about how hard it’ll be to fight against what Jesus is doing v. 14
- Identification of who it is that is engaging Paul v. 15
- Salvation, appointment to service and to tell about what Jesus is going to show him v. 16
- Promise of deliverance from the people he is sent to v. 17
- Why he is being sent v. 18
Paul Tells About His Ministry
Paul was not disobedient to Jesus’ command v. 19-21
Paul has continued to have God’s help to obey Jesus in preaching nothing but what the bible says v. 22-23
Agrippa Protests And Paul Is Ready With A Reply
Agrippa protests what he thinks is Paul’s insanity and Paul replies in truth v. 24-25
Charles Finney, the great though sometimes controversial evangelist who founded Oberlin College, wrote:
“If you have much of the Spirit of God, it is not unlikely you will be thought deranged by many. We judge men to be deranged when they act differently from what we think to be according to prudence and common sense, and when they come to conclusions for which we can see no good reasons. Paul was accused of being deranged by those who did not understand the views of things under which he acted. This is by no means uncommon. Multitudes have appeared, to those who had no spirituality, as if they were deranged. Yet they saw good reasons for doing as they did. God was leading their minds to act in such a way that those who were not spiritual could not see the reasons.”
The gospel is gloriously insane to those blind to the kingdom because they are living in dead blindness. But to those who have been brought from death to life and from blindness to sight it is the most glorious news ever because one can now see glory.
Paul Works to Persuade
Paul works to persuade Agrippa and everyone listening v. 26-32
How do we obey?
Use your testimony to tell what Jesus has done, who he is, what he’s done and how people can follow him.
- Tell your background and be honest no matter how rough or how ivory tower.
There will likely be a lot of squeaky clean, morally sound people in hell because they trusted their righteousness to be enough.
There will likely be a lot of life imprisonment people in the kingdom of heaven because when confronted with the reality of their depravity they heard from some faithful preacher there was one who could rescue them and they trusted in Christ alone and he changed them right there in the prison.
Just tell the honest story of who you are, who Jesus is and how he changed you.
- Drop the “G” bomb as the transformative element that changed your life.
- Tell the story of the gospel woven together with your story.
- Tell the gospel story.
- Tell the circumstances of how you heard the gospel.
- Tell how the gospel changed you.
- Invite people to repent and believe.
- Get specific on how the gospel of the kingdom has given you a “glocal” ministry of domain engagement and how Jesus gives the day job creative significance as a “vocation” (or as we should say, a “calling”).
Paul told about how he was obedient to what Jesus sent him to do.
We should do the same.
We can tell about how we’ve all be given this global vision of discipling the nations beginning from right here at home and how our jobs (domains of society) are our global ticket to serve among the nations and introduce people to Jesus.
- Be prepared to persuade people.
In the parable of the “Great Banquet”, Jesus said, “And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.’”
To compel is to seek to persuade. That’s not begging. That’s making a good argument why someone needs to do what you are telling them about.
This is no sales pitch. This is a reasoned arguments that helps to pull “stones” from people’s “walls” of defense. This is some basic defense (apologetics) work.
- Know who you are talking to and what they believe.
- Prepare accordingly. (Muslim – strict monotheism; Buddhism – transcendentalism)
- Understand there are no “silver bullets” in apologetics. The gospel is the only “silver bullet”, but having answers to questions and finding answers to questions help to make a way for the gospel to get past the barrier of lies that the Evil One has used to blind.
- 1 Peter 3:15-17 (ESV) “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
 See the references to Bernice in Juvenal 6.156ff. and in the Roman historians Tacitus (Hist. 2.2), Seutonius (Titus 7), and Dio Cassius (65.15; 66.18).
John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 493.
 Charles, Finney. Revival Lectures (Grand Rapids, MI: Charles Finney, n.d.), p. 125