We will pick up the story at Acts 26:1-29. Luke is recording Paul's defense while he is before Agrippa. He is about to provide some historical and verifiable evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul is about to witness to Agrippa. Remember, there is a difference between confessing and witnessing. See a previous blog on this subject for reference. He begins his apologetic account with his manner of his life from his youth. He then tells them he lived as a Pharisee. Finally, he says he stands before Agrippa on trial for "the hope of the promise made by God." He even says this hope is what the "twelve tribes hope to obtain." This hope is the resurrection! Far too many people today think our inheritance is heaven, but that is not true. Our inheritance is the resurrection which is reserved for us in heaven. 1Pe 1:3,4 We know Paul is referring to the resurrection, not because of our knowledge of it being our hope, but because he challenges Agrippa with the credibility of God raising the dead in vs 8! You see, the force of Paul's argument for the resurrection lies in the manner of Paul's life before he had become a Christian. His sincere and furious zeal against Christianity was so severe that a man's attempt to convert him would be near impossible.
Consider what Paul says in Gal 1:11-14. Paul first says the gospel he had been preaching came not from a man, but from the Lord Jesus himself. How did he receive this from Jesus if Jesus was crucified and buried while Saul was not a follower? He didn't learn the gospel he preached from a man, so the apostles didn't teach him. The only conclusion we can come to is either Jesus resurrected from the grave or Paul is a liar. Now, Paul died for preaching Christ. Do you know a man that will die for teaching a lie? I don't! After claiming having a personal revelation from Jesus, after he was dead and buried, Paul lays out a short three part argument of Jesus' resurrection from his past manner of life.
First, he says how he used to "persecute the church of God beyond measure" in Gal 1:13. It is obvious that the Galatians were familiar with this persecution as he doesn't go into detail. Thank the Lord, we have enough information from Dr. Luke to piece together a good understanding of Paul's past life. Dr. Luke introduces Saul of Tarsus as one of those who consented to the death of Stephen. Acts 7:58 It is said that Saul entered the homes of Christians and dragged them to prison. Acts 8:1-3 His hatred of Christianity went as far as Saul obtaining letters from Jewish authorities empowering him to arrest and imprison Christians in Damascus. Acts 9:1,2 He was known as the one who persecuted those "who called on this name" after his conversion and he was preaching in the name of Jesus! Acts 9:21 In Acts 26:9-12 Paul says he locked up "many of the saints in prison", he "voted for their death", he would "force them to blaspheme", and he even pursued them "to foreign cities." Reading all this of Paul's past manner of life you would have to label him as a fanatic. A fanatic has extreme enthusiasm or zeal in religion. A fanatic thinks they are absolutely and positively doing the right thing. Acts 26:9 Remember, Paul said he persecuted the church "beyond measure." How do you deal with a fanatic like Saul? YOU CAN'T! This is the point Paul is making. There is no way a man could have converted a fanatic like Saul. Christians never could have done it, Jews wouldn't want to do it. Who could have possibly converted this fanatic Saul of Tarsus? Paul affirmed it was the resurrected Jesus Christ. If Jesus appeared to Saul, Jesus must have risen from the dead.
Paul is just getting started. Secondly, Paul says he was advanced in the Jews' religion in Gal 1:14. Paul was advanced as a scholar under Gamaliel. Acts 22:3 I read somewhere that it was thought that Saul was going to be the greatest Rabbi of that time. He was also advanced socially among the Jews. Remember he was a part of the great group called the Pharisees. Phi 3:5 He was advanced in his power. Look at the power that he exemplified as he persecuted the church beyond measure. He had a power that was feared by those in opposition of him! Acts 9:13,14 You could say Paul was somewhat of Jewish celebrity. He would definitely be considered a success. He was so prominent that Festus said Paul's "great learning has made him mad." Acts 26:24 Saul's prominence was outstanding! What would make a person who is advanced as a scholar, a member of a revered group, advanced in power, and looked upon as a great success want to give all that up and become a Christian? Only Jesus could have provided the dynamics to convert a man like that. But how, he was crucified and put into a sealed tomb? The only way Jesus could have converted Saul is if Jesus had risen from the dead.
Finally, Paul was "extremely zealous of his ancestral traditions" in Gal 1:14. His ancestors were the Pharisees. There traditions were of the Law of Moses. The Pharisees were famous for their conflicts with Jesus1Ti 1:13 Sincerity, like prejudice, is often misunderstood. Sincerity is not a sign of truth. A person can be sincere in their beliefs even if they believe a lie. Saul was prejudiced from ignorance and sincerely WRONG about his beliefs! Remember, he truly thought he had to do harm to Christians in Acts 26:9. He was sincerely prejudiced. Saul was wrong and ignorant.
How do you convert a sincerely prejudiced, extremely prominent, and zealous fanatic? HOW DO YOU DO IT? It sounds impossible when it is communicated that way doesn't it? If human beings can't do it, that only leaves God. The impossible has happened. Saul was converted and became the apostle Paul. This is a matter of history, not fantasy. A Pharisee named Saul did exist. That man became the apostle Paul, and he did exist. This is historically true my friends. The question is who converted Saul? If it was Jesus, then he had to have been resurrected from the dead. This is what Paul is affirming to Agrippa.
It is obvious that Saul of Tarsus met the resurrected Jesus on that road to Damascus, Saul was instructed to go to the house of Judas on Straight Street, and it was there the gospel of salvation was revealed to him. He no doubt had a belief, that was now true, in Jesus. He no doubt had repented of his sins. We already said he confessed and witnessed Jesus before others. Now it was time for his sins to be washed away and he could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. What did Ananias say to Saul? Acts 22:16 "...get up and be baptized and wash away your sins..."
Today, I encourage you to follow Jesus Christ who resurrected from the dead. Only Jesus can convert a person. It is his words that will do the work and by those very words we will be judged! Jn 12:48 Will you share the wondrous story of the risen Savior we have in Jesus Christ? Will share with the lost how Jesus Christ converted a sincerely prejudiced, extremely prominent, and zealous fanatic in Saul of Tarsus and how he, Jesus, is wanting to convert them as well?
Remember, Jesus told us to do three things. Deny our self, take up our cross, and follow him. Lk 9:23. You can't do the last until you have done the first two!
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
We must hear the Word of God: Rom 10:17; Acts 4:4
We must believe or have faith: Heb 11:6; Acts 16:31
We must repent of our sins: Lk 13:3; Acts 17:30
We must confess Christ before others: Mt 10:32; Acts 8:37
We must be immersed into Christ (baptized) Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38
We must be faithful: Rev 2:10; Acts 14:22