Acts 26 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Acts 26)

Verse 2

[2] I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

King Agrippa — There is a peculiar force in thus addressing a person by name. Agrippa felt this.

Verse 3

[3] Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

Who art accurately acquainted — Which Festus was not; with the customs - In practical matters; and questions - In speculative. This word Festus had used in the absence of Paul, Acts 25:19, who, by the Divine leading, repeats and explains it. Agrippa had had peculiar advantages for an accurate knowledge of the Jewish customs and questions, from his education under his father Herod, and his long abode at Jerusalem. Nothing can be imagined more suitable or more graceful, than this whole discourse of Paul before Agrippa; in which the seriousness of the Christian, the boldness of the apostle, and the politeness of the gentleman and the scholar, appear in a most beautiful contrast, or rather a most happy union.

Verse 4

[4] My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;

From my youth, which was from the beginning — That is, which was from the beginning of my youth.

Verse 5

[5] Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

If they would testify — But they would not, for they well knew what weight his former life must add to his present testimony.

Verse 6

[6] And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:

And now — This and the two following verses are in a kind of Acts 26:6,7,8 parenthesis, and show that what the Pharisees rightly taught concerning the resurrection, Paul likewise asserted at this day. The ninth verse is connected with the fifth. For Pharisaism Acts 26:9,5 impelled him to persecute.

I stand in judgment for the hope of the promise — Of the resurrection. So it was in effect. For unless Christ had risen, there could have been no resurrection of the dead. And it was chiefly for testifying the resurrection of Christ, that the Jews still persecuted him.

Verse 7

[7] Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

Our twelve tribes — For a great part of the ten tribes also had at various times returned from the east to their own country, James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1.

Worshipping continually night and day — That is, this is what they aim at in all their public and private worship.

Verse 8

[8] Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

Is it judged by you an incredible thing — It was by Festus, Acts 25:19, to whom Paul answers as if he had heard him discourse.

Verse 9

[9] I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

I thought — When I was a Pharisee: that I ought to do many things - Which he now enumerates.

Verse 10

[10] Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

I shut up many of the saints — Men not only innocent, but good, just, holy.

I gave my vote against them — That is, I joined with those who condemned them. Perhaps the chief priests did also give him power to vote on these occasions.

Verse 11

[11] And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

I compelled them — That is, some of them; to blaspheme - This is the most dreadful of all! Repent, ye enemies of the Gospel. If Spira, who was compelled, suffered so terribly, what will become of those who compel, like Saul, but do not repent like him.

Verse 12

[12] Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

Acts 9:2.

Verse 13

[13] At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

O King — Most seasonably, in the height of the narration, does he thus fix the king's attention.

Above the brightness of the sun — And no marvel. For what is the brightness of this created sun, to the Sun of righteousness, the brightness of the Father's glory?

Verse 14

[14] And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

In the Hebrew tongue — St. Paul was not now speaking in Hebrew: when he was, Acts 23:7, he did not add, In the Hebrew tongue. Christ used this tongue both on earth and from heaven.

Verse 17

[17] Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

Delivering thee from the people — The Jews and the Gentiles, to whom, both Jews and Gentiles, I now send thee - Paul gives them to know, that the liberty he enjoys even in bonds, was promised to him, as well as his preaching to the Gentiles. I, denotes the authority of the sender. Now, the time whence his mission was dated. For his apostleship, as well as his conversion, commenced at this moment.

Verse 18

[18] To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

To open — He opens them, who sends Paul; and he does it by Paul who is sent; their eyes - Both of the Jews and Gentiles: that they may turn - Through the power of the Almighty, from the spiritual darkness wherein they were involved, to the light of Divine knowledge and holiness, and from the power of Satan, who now holds them in sin, guilt, and misery, to the love and happy service of God: that they may receive through faith - (He seems to place the same blessings in a fuller light,) pardon, holiness, and glory.

Verse 19

[19] Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

From that time — Having received power to obey, I was not disobedient - I did obey, I used that power, Galatians 1:16. So that even this grace whereby St Paul was influenced was not irresistible.

Verse 20

[20] But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

I declared — From that hour to this, both to Jew and Gentile, that they should repent - This repentance, we may observe, is previous both to inward and outward holiness.

Verse 21

[21] For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

For these things — The apostle now applies all that he had said.

Verse 22

[22] Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

Having obtained help from God — When all other help failed, God sent the Romans from the castle, and so fulfilled the promise he had made, Acts 26:17.

Verse 24

[24] And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

Festus said, Paul, thou art beside thyself — To talk of men's rising from the dead! And of a Jew's enlightening not only his own nation, but tho polite and learned Greeks and Romans! Nay, Festus, it is thou that art beside thyself. That strikest quite wide of the mark. And no wonder: he saw that nature did not act in Paul; but the grace that acted in him he did not see. And therefore he took all this ardour which animated the apostle for a mere start of learned phrensy.

Verse 25

[25] But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

I am not mad, most excellent Festus — The style properly belonging to a Roman propretor. How inexpressibly beautiful is this reply! How strong! yet how decent and respectful! Mad men seldom call men by their names, and titles of honour. Thus also St. Paul refutes the charge. But utter the words of truth (confirmed in the next verse) and sobriety - The very reverse of madness. And both these remain, even when the men of God act with the utmost vehemence.

Verse 26

[26] For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

For the king knoweth of these things — St. Paul having refuted Festus, pursues his purpose, returning naturally, and as it were, step by step, from Festus to Agrippa.

To whom I speak with freedom — This freedom was probably one circumstance which Festus accounted madness.

Verse 27

[27] King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? — He that believes these, believes Paul, yea, and Christ. The apostle now comes close to his heart. What did Agrippa feel when he heard this? I know that thou believest! - Here Paul lays so fast hold on the king that he can scarce make any resistance.

Verse 28

[28] Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian! — See here, Festus altogether a heathen, Paul alogether a Christian, Agrippa halting between both. Poor Agrippa! But almost persuaded! So near the mark, and yet fall short! Another step, and thou art within the vail. Reader, stop not with Agrippa; but go on with Paul.

Verse 29

[29] And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

I would to God — Agrippa had spoke of being a Christian, as a thing wholly in his own power. Paul gently corrects this mistake; intimating, it is the gift and the work of God; that all that hear me - It was modesty in St. Paul, not to apply directly to them all; yet he looks upon them and observes them; were such as I am - Christians indeed; full of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. He speaks from a full sense of his own happiness, and an overflowing love to all.

Verse 30

[30] And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them:

And as he said this, the king rose up — An unspeakably precious moment to Agrippa. Whether he duly improved it or no, we shall see in that day.

Verse 31

[31] And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.

This man doth nothing worthy of death, or of bonds — They speak of his whole life, not of one action only. And could ye learn nothing more than this from that discourse? A favourable judgment of such a preacher, is not all that God requires.