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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles


Paul’s defence of himself before Agrippa. His early religious Profession (1–7). His zeal in the cause of Judaism (8–11). His conversion to Christainity owing to the vision he saw (13–21). His zeal in preaching the gospel (22). Festus regards him as mad (27).


1. “Permitted.” He uses this form, and not, I permit thee, on account of the presence of Festus.

“Stretching forth his hand,”—the gesture usually employed by pleaders and orators.

2. The language of courtesy, but not of adulation.

3. “Agrippa,” himself a Jew, knew all the Laws, customs, and institutions of the Jews.

“Questions,” matters disputed among them.

“Wherefore,” because, unlike the Roman Tribunals, by whom all matters connected with the Jewish religion were treated with contempt, he knew and respected everything connected with the Jewish religion.

“I beseech thee to hear me patiently.” This I could not expect from the Roman Tribunals, in regard to Jewish customs and Laws. Paul’s object was not to obtain his release, as he knew he was destined for Rome, which he eagerly desired; but to defend his character and furnish. Festus with the desired information for Nero’s Tribunal.

4. Born at Tharsus, he spent his youth at Jerusalem, whither he was sent for his education. He was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel (26:3), “all the Jews do know.” Likely he was distinguished in the school of Gamaliel for his zeal in the cause of religion. He was known for this, as the commission given him shows (c. 9).

5. “Having known me” (Greek, foreknown) “from the beginning,” my earliest days (“if they will give testimony”) which they won’t do, Paul’s conversion being a deadly blow to the Jewish religion.

“Most sure.” Most strictly observant of the law. “Sect of our religion,” that is the sect among the Jews most strictly observant of the laws and traditions of the Jewish religion.

“I lived a Pharisee,” embraced the doctrines, and practically observed the rules of that strict religious sect.

6. “I stand subject,” &c., am arraigned and stand subject to trial, “for the hope,” &c., on account of the hope which I entertain in common with all the Jewish people. “Of the promise,” which I believe to be now fulfilled in regard to the coming of the Messiah, who is to redeem Israel, and what is closely and intimately connected with him—the Resurrection of the Dead, which must naturally follow from His own Resurrection whereby He proved that He was God.

The promise primarily regards the coming of the Messiah, and secondarily the general Resurrection of all.

7. “Unto which,” promise, whereof they are awaiting the fulfilment in their Messiah, and the benefits accruing therefrom. “They hope to come” and see fully realized, and thus enjoy, in due time, all the blessings its realization is sure to carry with it.

“Our twelve Tribes.” The designation of the Jewish Nation even after ten Tribes (10) were carried off into captivity, two only, Juda and Benjamin remaining. They expected the Messiah, “the hope of Israel” (28:20). In Him, they hoped, and in the attainment of the blessings He was to bestow, especially the Resurrection of the Body, in which, with the exception of a small fragment of the people (the Sadducees) they believed and hoped.

“Serving”—(to which is added in the Greek, intently, with zeal)—worshipping, at least externally, in their attendance at His worship in the Temple. They did so as a Nation, while many did not worship in their hearts, “honouring Him with their lips, their hearts far away from Him.”

“Day and night,” constantly, with untiring zeal and devotion (Luke 2:37).

The time ordinarily marked out for Sacrifice among the Jews was morning and evening. Hence, it might be said they worshipped “day and night.”

“For which hope” entertained by the great mass of my countrymen as well, regarding the promised Messiah, his Resurrection from the dead, the forerunner and cause of the General Resurrection of all, just and unjust.

“I am accused by the Jews.” Brought to trial for what they hold in common with me.

8. “Why should it be thought,” &c. The meaning will be better seen if we place an interrogation or exclamation after “why,” which in Greek will mean, “What!” should it be thought a thing incredible with you,” &c. “You” is in the plural, addressed to all present, the Jews, who ought to know something about God’s omnipotent power, and Agrippa, who might have been tinged with the scepticism of the Sadducees, some of whom he promoted to the highest offices. He may also have meant to address Festus and his Pagan followers, who rejected as an absurdity the possibility of the Resurrection of Christ and the dead in general, and the teaching regarding it. The Sadducees denied it, as a fact. This doctrine being the foundation of all faith, as preached by St. Paul, on this account he puts the question. Likely, he may have intended it for his accusers among the Sadducees there present, and specially addressed to them.

9. The Apostle now gives an account of his conversion to the Christian faith, to which he had been so violently opposed, and showing it in his conduct. “Contrary to the name of Jesus,” &c., to eliminate from the earth, the religion, of which he was the head and founder.

10. (See 8:3). “Saints,” the Christians.

“When they were put to death,” or, when tried, with a view to their death. “I brought the sentence.” The Greek would signify, I threw in my vote against them, as if he was one of those who took a part in the sentence. It means, he was fully an abetting or consenting party (22:20). Although in the Acts we have only an account of the death of Stephen, most likely, many others also, who were not so prominent, and whose death is not, therefore, recorded, were put to death in the general slaughter (c. 8). The Vulgate reading, “detuli sententiam.” “I brought the sentence.” I was the bearer of the condemnatory sentence, passed on them by the judges, to those on whom devolved the duty of carrying it out. This would favour the opinion of those who do not confine it to St. Stephen, as it was not by a judicial sentence, but by the violence of the rabble Stephen was put to death.

11. “Compelled.” Strove to force them to “blaspheme,” deny Jesus, and regard Him as an impostor. In this, he generally failed, the majority of the Christian converts being so staunch and firm. Possibly some few from time to time may have weakly yielded and apostatized.

“Punishing them” (22:19).

“Yet more mad,” raging with all the fury of a maniac.

“Foreign cities,” outside the confines of Judea. Damascus is specially known as one of them. He may have visited other foreign cities, as well, though not recorded.

16. In this and following verses, Paul dwells on certain circumstances and events not recorded in the history of his conversion (c. 9) to show, he did not proceed to preach among the Gentiles without being duly commissioned by God. “A minister,” preacher of the Gospel … and witness (c. 22:15).

“Which thou hast seen,” when struck down on thy way to persecute the Saints at Damascus.

“And of those things,” &c. These words refer to further declarations of God’s will (as in c. 22:17–18).

17. “From the people,” his own countrymen, the Jews. “The nations,” the Gentiles, who repaid his sacrifices for them with such ingratitude.

“Unto which I now send thee.” Hence his commission to preach to the Gentiles. To this, he calls the attention of Agrippa.

18. “Open their eyes,” by holding forth the saving light and truths of the Gospel.

“From darkness,” in which they were enveloped and grovelling. “To light,” the light of the Gospel, wherein they can discern the truths of faith and the world to come.

“From the power of Satan,” who reigns over the children of unbelief, and tyrannizes over them.

“To God,” the Eternal ruler and Creator of the universe, the Sovereign benefactor, to whom they are indebted for all they possess, or hope for, either in this world or the next.

“That they may receive forgiveness,” &c., through His infinite merits and His blood of the cross.

“A lot,” the inheritance in store for the sons of God.

“By the faith,” &c., Faith is the first condition for obtaining the grace of justification. To this other qualities, as necessary conditions, hope, charity, good works, &c., must be added, to obtain justification.

19. “Whereupon.” In consequence of the clear, convincing proof, that Jesus, risen from the dead who appeared to me, was the promised Messiah, that he had commissioned me to preach the Gospel.

“I was not incredulous,” I at once obeyed “the heavenly vision,” obeyed him, who, from heaven, appeared to me. “Vision” is taken for the object of vision. I gave myself over to him, to do his will and obey his commands.

20. He acted as God commanded him, which is described in this verse.

21. Because I obeyed God’s will, the Jews meant “to kill me.”

22. “Help of God,” to whom I owe my deliverance from imminent dangers.

“Witnessing,” testifying, to what he had seen. “Small,” the humble and ignorant, “great,” those in exalted station, kings, nobles, learned.

“Saying no other things,” &c., advancing nothing strange or novel, but only what was declared in the Old Testament, what “Moses and the Prophets,” beforehand announced would take place in due time.

23. “Christ,” the Messiah, should lead a hard life, and be put to death—a point which the Jews could not bear, the cross being to them a scandal (1 Cor. 1, &c.).

“The first that should rise,” &c. “First,” not in point of time. The Sunamite having been formerly raised by Elias; Lazarus and the son of the Widow of Naim, by our Lord Himself—but, the head, the principal of those who rose, the first born, entitled to all the rights and preeminence of primogeniture. He raised himself by his own power (John 10:18).

He rose to die no more. He conquered death (1 Cor. 15).

“To the people,” the Jews, to whom he preached in the first place.

“And to the Gentiles,” to whom he turned, as was predicted everywhere in the Old Testament, after having been rejected by his own people, the Jews.

24. Festus, who despised everything connected with the Christian religion, fancied that Paul must be out of his mind to show such earnestness about so absurd a matter, as if it were of any importance whatever. Likely, he regarded the vision spoken of by Paul as a pure imagination, a proof of delirium and insanity. However, on the last day will be found many who, like Festus, jeered at religion, and will, when too late, find out their sad mistake. “Hi sunt quos habuimus in derisum et in similitudinem improperii, nos insensati vitam illorum estimabamus, insaniam,” &c.

“Much learning.” Festus, likely, knew Paul to be a man of letters and educated at Jerusalem, and seeing him defending with such earnestness, what Festus despised, he thought him “mad.” This he attributed to excessive application to study, as if learning turned his brain.

25. In his calm reply, respectfully denying the imputation of Festus, Paul exhibits consummate tact and prudence by appealing to Agrippa, who being a Jew, understood these things to which Festus was a stranger, and would thus enlist him on his own side, to bear testimony in his favour with Festus.

“Most noble Festus,” the usual title of honour bestowed on Roman Governors.

“Truth,” long ago asserted by Moses and the Prophets, and founded on events which certainly took place in connexion with our Redeemer’s death and Resurrection. “Truth,” opposed to delusion and fraud.

“Soberness,” wisdom, indicating a mind free from all derangement, worthy of one, who was commanded to preach the words of an Infinitely veracious God to the nations.

26. “For the King.” Agrippa could not be a stranger to the events connected with the Jews, having lived so long in the district, where they occurred. He knew about the Prophecies that regarded the expected Messiah, his death in Jerusalem.

“I am persuaded,” thoroughly convinced, “none of these things are hidden,” &c., he is well acquainted with them.

“Any of these things,” His own conversion to the Christian religion, from being a mad persecutor, was public, calculated to attract public attention. With so remarkable an event and the causes leading thereto, Agrippa must have been acquainted.

27. “King Agrippa,” &c. This was addressed to Agrippa to convince him, that from his knowledge of the Prophets and the several predictions regarding our Lord, Paul was only uttering the language of “truth”; that, far from being deranged or “mad,” he used words of wisdom and “soberness.” Paul anticipates Agrippa’s answer, giving him credit for being a religious observer of the Jewish ordinances and for believing the Prophecies.

28. Far from saying he disbelieved the Prophets, or that Paul’s defence and arguments were weak, or that all the Prophecies were not fulfilled in Jesus; far from doubting the miracles that led to Paul’s conversion, Agrippa, on the contrary, declares that all he said deeply impressed him (“in a little”). Almost convinced him of the truth of Christianity, and almost persuaded him to embrace it. Some obstacles, however, impeded the operation of grace. Among them were possibly, his unwillingness to give up his sinful life, or to be ranked with the despised followers of the Galilean. Whatever they were, it seems he did not embrace it, and resisted the grace of God.

29. “All that hear me.” Including Festus and his officials.

“Except these bands.” The chains that bound him.

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