Online Bible Commentary
The Hope of the Promise
Acts 26:1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself: 2 "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, 3 especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently. 4 My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? 9 Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (NKJV)
The time is 59 A.D. Paul has been kept in confinement by the Roman governor in Caesarea for two years as a result of bogus charges filed against him by the Jews in Jerusalem. Caesarea was the political center for the Roman province of Syria, of which Judea was a part.
Paul is being held in light chains in Herod’s Palace. He has not been found guilty of any crimes, to the dismay of the Jews in Jerusalem who want him dead for promoting Christianity.
Paul has asked for a trial before Emperor Nero in Rome and Festus has consented. Now Paul has been brought before Herod Agrippa II, as Governor Festus seeks what he should say about Paul’s situation in the letter to be sent with Paul to Nero.
Paul is now granted to offer his defense to Agrippa and begins his speech by expressing how “happy” he is for this opportunity to defend himself (vv. 1-2). He is “especially” happy that Agrippa is an “expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews” and asks for patience as he explains his situation (v. 3). Agrippa is a Jew, a close friend of the Jewish historian Josephus, and has responsibility for appointing the Jewish chief priest.
So Paul launches into his speech recounting his background as a faithful Jew in Jerusalem from his “youth” (v. 4). He had moved as a youth from his home in Taurus to Jerusalem and studied under Gamaliel, the Pharisee and celebrated doctor of the Jewish Law, the Scriptures.
Paul recounts that the Jews in Jerusalem knew him, if they were willing to admit it, as a Pharisee, the “strictest sect of our religion” (v. 5). And now he is being “judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers” (v. 6). Paul is saying here that he is being judged for nothing more than preaching the “hope of the promise” which God related to His people through the Scriptures.
This promise is one that Israel, “the twelve tribes”, has striven to attain by “serving God night and day” (v. 7a). This promise was that of bodily resurrection, of which Jesus was the first (v. 8). Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, but Sadducees did not.
Next, Paul begins his personal testimony. He recounts his persecution of Christians in Jerusalem, even to the extent of voting for their execution (vv. 9-10). This was an actual vote. The Greeks would toss a white pebble when voting for acquittal or a dark pebble when voting for conviction.
He continues by recounting that he persecuted Christians in “every synagogue” and pressured them to renounce their belief in Christ (v. 11a). He was “exceedingly enraged against them” and “persecuted them even to foreign cities” (v. 11b). But then he experienced a life changing event, which I will discuss in my next commentary.
The hope of the promise has been given to every Christian. Jesus did all the work on the Cross. Christians have the promise of eternal life in Heaven. And, as we know, God never goes back on his promises.