Acts  ◦   Chapter 26

1Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to present your case." Paul motioned with his hands for silence and then began his defense:2"King Agrippa, I am thankful that you are here to hear my defense against these allegations of the Jews,3because you know Jewish tradition, custom, and theological controversies. So please be patient as I lay out my case.

4"The Jews know very well that I was raised in my own country, and later–in Jerusalem.5They have known me for years, and if they are honest, they can confirm that by the strictest standards of our people, I lived as a Pharisee and did everything according to their most severe rules.6I am on trial now because I believe that what God promised our ancestors has been fulfilled–7the promise our twelve tribes long to see fulfilled as they diligently serve God every day. O King, I am being accused because I believe that this promise has been fulfilled.8Why should any of you who know the history of our people find it impossible to believe that God raises the dead back to life?

9"Yes, at one time I too believed it was my duty to do everything in my power to oppose Jesus of Nazareth.10And I did just that in Jerusalem. With the approval and backing of the chief priests, I arrested many of his followers, and when they were executed, I voted for them to die.11I went from synagogue to synagogue, punishing his followers and trying to force them to curse his name. In my vigilance, I even traveled to other cities to persecute them.

12"I was on one of these trips, heading to Damascus with arrest warrants from the chief priests.13About noon, O King, I was on the road, when a bright light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazed around me and my traveling companions.14We all instantly fell to the ground, and I heard a voice from heaven say to me in Aramaic, 'Oh Saul, why are you persecuting me? Isn't it difficult for you to kick against the thorns?'

15"I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' The voice replied, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.16Now stand up, for I have come to you to commission you, as my ambassador, to witness what you have seen of me, and what I will yet show to you.17Don't be afraid, for I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them18to open their minds to the light of truth, and lead them out of the darkness of lies about me–and thus free them from Satan's power and unite them with God–so they might have sin and selfishness remit from their hearts, and be among those who are recreated in righteousness through trust in me.'

19"So, King Agrippa, what was I to do? I did what I believed was right after such a vision from heaven:20First I went to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem, and then–all over Judea, to Jews and non-Jews alike. I told everyone they should turn away from selfishness, love God with their whole heart, and demonstrate their love for God by their acts of service to help others.21That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and are trying to kill me.22But God has been watching over me to this very day, and has brought me here to tell the truth about him to small and great alike. I am only teaching what the prophets and Moses said would happen– 23that the Messiah would be rejected, suffer, die, and then be the first to rise from the dead to provide the Remedy to his own people and all peoples of the world."

24When Festus heard this, he interrupted Paul's defense: "Are you crazy, Paul?" he shouted. "You've studied yourself insane!"

25Paul calmly replied, "I am not insane, most honorable Festus. What I am saying is not only true, it is also reasonable.26The king is familiar with all of this, so I am presenting this to him freely, without the need to lay the groundwork for each point. I believe he is aware of all the events that have transpired, because it all happened very publicly.27King Agrippa, you believe what the prophets have written, don't you? Surely, you do."

28Agrippa answered, "Do you think you can convert me to be a Christian in such a short time?"

29Paul smiled, "No matter how long it takes, I pray to God that not only you, but everyone here listening will become what I am, except retain your freedom, of course."

30At this, the king, governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them stood up31and left the room. While they were talking amongst themselves, they said, "This man hasn't done anything deserving of death or imprisonment."

32Agrippa said to Festus, "If he hadn't appealed to Caesar, he could have been set free."