by Dave Hinkley
 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,  but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.  For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.  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:  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.”
 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.”  But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.  For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.  King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”  And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”  And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”
 Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them.  And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.”  And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
As Peter commands us in 1 Peter 3:15, Acts 26 is an account of Paul giving a reason for the hope that is within him. Governor Festus is entertaining the visiting King Agrippa and says, “Hey, I know that you are into all that Bible stuff; do you want to hear from this dude I have in the dungeon? The Chief Priests and elders in Jerusalem hate him because he says that this guy Jesus came back to life.”
Paul has been unjustly imprisoned and is brought out in chains before this powerful audience and is asked for his story. As we read the book of Acts, we may get used to seeing Paul as a kind of faith superhero and forget to consider the emotions of a moment like this. What might someone in Paul’s position say? “Please let me go! I didn’t do any crimes and everyone knows it. I am a victim of conspiracy and prejudice! I have rights and they are being abused!” If you look at Agrippa’s words at the end of that chapter, a self-defense might have resulted in freedom. Could we blame Paul if he had chosen that direction?
Paul’s brain processes the situation differently. He sees a Governor, King, Queen, several guards and attendants, and recognizes the actual stakes. The stakes in the room were far higher than Paul getting his handcuffs off. The stakes were higher than his honor, higher than his rights, higher than his comfort, higher than his earthly life. This is a room full of people who will only escape eternal destruction if they hear and embrace the message of the gospel.
To Paul, personal safety and individual liberty were not worth the testimony of the gospel. In a COVID divided world, where everything is about not getting sick or not wanting my liberties violated, Christians must fight to have Paul’s priorities.
Asked by the Governor to give an account of himself or a reason for the hope that is within him, Paul lets it loose. He shares how Jesus has rescued him from his life of religious hatred and set him on the path of freedom by the gospel. After hearing everything Paul has to say, King Agrippa is rattled and says “Wait, are you trying to convince me to become a Christian?!” to which Paul says, “Absolutely I want you to be a Christian! I want everyone to be a Christian. Why do you think that I am here standing before you?”
Where does the Lord have you standing? Who is listening to you? Are you telling them about your rights and fears or are you telling them about your hope?
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