20 April 2011

Intermission: Paul's Open Letter to Agrippa

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.”

So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense: “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense today against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders, for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!

“As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?

“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.

“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’

“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’

“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”

Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”

But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”

Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”


17 comments:

4simpsons said...

Love that chapter -- just read it last night!

Tom Chantry said...

Heard Alistair Begg on that passage two years ago. It is wonderful to see Paul's heart for the lost. "Do you believe. . . I know you do -" He is pleading with him to trust Christ.

Frank Turk said...

I visited my old church this weekend and read this in Sunday school. Paul's confidence in the Gospel always convicts me -- and should convict all so-called Calvinists.

Stefan said...

"...I stand here testifying...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."

It's beautiful when the whole Gospel message is summed up so succinctly...and the record of Paul's trial really makes crystal clear the concepts of "witness" and "testimony"!

Halcyon said...

Perhaps if Paul's tone was more missional, Agrippa would have been persuaded.

/sarcasm (for those who don't get it)

Thom said...

How simple and yet so contrary to the audience. I think I like Paul more after rereading that passage.

Frank Turk said...

exactly.

Mel said...

Hands down the best open letter I've read on this site!

Truly inspired!

Tom said...

Except, that Paul actually SPOKE to Agrippa face-to-face instead of writing an "open epistle" to Agrippa but not actually sending it to him, while letting all of Paul's friends read it and congratulate him on how well he wrote it.

I know, Chantry ... details, details. :)

Tom

DJP said...

Yes, and of EQUAL critical importance, he had chains on his hands! So, there's that!!

And the toga! Don't forget the toga!

Frank Turk said...

The funny thing about Paul's open letter to Agrippa is that everyone on Earth can now read it.

Including Agrippa's cowardly response.

Tom Chantry said...

What just happened? I only said that I appreciated Alistair Begg's sermon on this passage.

Stefan said...

We might also note that it's part of Luke's open letter to Theophilus....

Rachael Starke said...

Stefan FTW.

Love it - this is the very next passage we're studying in Sunday School.

These are some of my favorite posts you do, Frank. I'm almost afraid to ask what translation this is from, or whether it's just the TSV. Either way, wonderful. Makes me want to watch the movie when it comes out. :)

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I knew your writing style reminded me of someone! Great choice for Easter week.

Sir Brass said...

Tom (Chantry), I think that was just other Tom just calling the Missional Tone Police on Frank.

I do have to wonder what Tom and the MTP would have to say to Paul, though, about his "unloving" letter to the church at Galatia, though. Maybe Paul should have confronted them face to face too instead of writing an open epistle.

Tom Chantry said...

Sir Brass,

No doubt you are right. Some consider it a moral necessity to call to Frank's mind that they don't like him every few posts, and when he happens to post nothing but scripture it gets difficult. I just can't figure out how I got involved.

Maybe Alistair Begg is more of a lightning rod than I thought...