Acts Part 20

Notes on Acts

Part Twenty




As chapters 25 and 26 comprise one account, that of Paul’s defense before Festus and King Agrippa, they should be read together. Read both chapters.


Even though Paul had been in prison for two years and out of commission, the Jewish leaders hated him so much that they still planned on murdering him. Hatred for the truth of the gospel is still here. Therefore, the more bold we are in exposing sin or proclaiming the gospel, we can expect the same kind of animosity.


When the Jews presented their case to the governor, they could not prove that he actually violated any laws, because he didn’t! They lied about him. The Jews wanted Paul to be put on trial in Jerusalem so they could murder him there. Festus should have just released him. But, like Felix before him, he wanted to stay in favor with the Jewish leaders, so he was still willing to send Paul to Jerusalem.


The Jewish leaders had more power and influence than one might at first presume from a people under subjection to Rome. The reason that Felix was recalled to Rome was because the Jews complained to the Emperor that Felix overreacted in subduing a riot that had taken place in Caesarea.


So, because Paul realized that Festus was about to send him to Jerusalem, he appealed to Caesar.


King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice, come and Paul will speak to them. This is Agrippa the Second, the son of the former King Agrippa who had murdered James. The uncle of his father, Herod Antipas, was the one who had John the Baptist beheaded. His great grandfather, “Herod the Great,” was the one who slaughtered all the male children at the time of Jesus’ birth. The entire Herod Agrippa family was wicked. This King Agrippa married his full sister, Bernice. This was even scandalous among the Romans. To marry a half-sister was accepted, but even the heathen knew it was wrong to carry on a relationship with a full sister. Although Agrippa was Jewish, he was trained in Rome and was just as much Roman as he was Jewish. According to MacArthur, Bernice was quite unfaithful. She twice committed adultery, both times with the Emperor himself – two in succession![1] Each time Agrippa took her back.


Both Paul and Festus recognized Agrippa’s knowledge and expertise in Jewish law. Even though he lived as a rebel to the laws of God, he was evidently an intelligent and learned man (26:3).


As Paul gives his testimony to the king, he says:


At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ [2]


Jesus appeared to Paul more than once. He was told, “…and to those in which I will appear to you.” There would be appearances after this one.


To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” [3]


We can say the same thing. When we go out and speak, even in the midst of opposition, God will be our Helper! He will be our help when things are going well, when people seem interested and desire to know more. And, he will be our help when they disbelieve our message. Just be faithful to the heavenly vision!


And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” [4]


Festus said this when Paul mentioned the resurrection. The resurrection is, at the same time, both the greatest proof of the truth of who Christ is and a stumbling block to those with a contrary worldview. Festus thought that Paul had lost his mind. Some will think that of us. It’s ok. You will be in good company!


King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”[5]


Agrippa thinks it is unreasonable for him to become a Christian (again, the term Christian is used by an enemy of the gospel, not a proponent) in just a short period of time. If the Spirit has been preparing the heart of a person, they can become a disciple of Christ after only a short gospel presentation. Other times, we may need to speak with them on many occasions before they embrace the truth. And there will be other times when they may not see the light until years after you have spoken to them. Some will never come to faith. It is part of the mystery of the Spirit’s working. Remember our Lord’s words:


The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [6]


Read chapter 27.




Julius, the centurion in charge of Paul, treated Paul kindly and gave him much freedom. This is reminiscent of how Joseph received favor from his captors. God’s hand was with Paul.


Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”[7]


How did Paul perceive this? It could be that the Lord spoke to him. But, according to context, it was more likely that Paul deduced this from both the time of year (winter was almost upon them, when the weather becomes treacherous) and his previous experience of already having been in three shipwrecks (2 Cor. 11:25).


Then, as Paul had predicted, there was a violent storm and a loss of cargo. Paul then says:


“Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.” [8]


This is further evidence that Paul’s first pronouncement, in verse 10, that there would be a loss of life, was his own deduction. For here, an angel tells him that there will not be. And, there wasn’t. Although, interestingly, different words are used for “loss” in verses 10 and 22. In verse 10, the word translated “loss” is a less forceful word and can be translated as “damage,” not actual loss. While the word in verse 22 is a stronger and clearer term meaning “cast away.”[9]


They shipwrecked in an unknown place. (They would later learn that it was Malta.) This is how the Lord sometimes brings us places! We may not have an intention to go to a certain place or do a certain thing. But, because of circumstances, sometimes very bad ones, we end up we know not where. We wonder how we got there. We wonder where we are. Yet, we need not fret. God is sovereign! He is in control of all things. You are where you are for a purpose. You will be where you will be one day for another purpose. There is someone or something where you are, or where you will go, that needs your attention.



[1] Vespasian and Titus.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 26:13–18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 26:22–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 26:24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 26:27–28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 3:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 27:9–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 27:21–26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] These definitions are from Strong’s Greek Lexicon.