Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 14, 1963
NUMBER 40, PAGE 7,11b

Paul Before Agrippa

C. D. Plum

Porcius Festus had been made governor instead of Felix. Paul was yet in prison in Caesarea, for Felix, seeing that it pleased the Jews, left Paul bound and thus Festus found him. Paul had already made a defense before Festus. (Acts 25: 1-12)

King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice, visited Festus while Paul was prisoner. (Acts 25:13, 14) Festus had declared Paul's condition before Agrippa, and he decided that he would like to hear Paul's case himself. So affairs were thus arranged for the hearing to take place the next day. (Acts 25:22-24) Agrippa and Bernice arrived for the occasion with great pomp.

The Sermon

When permitted to speak for himself, Paul assured Agrippa that he was happy thus to speak before him. He related to Agrippa how from a life of opposition to Jesus he was convinced of his error and turned to the service of him whom he had opposed. (Acts 26:1-17) He revealed the mission God gave him to the Gentiles — how that he was "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." (Verse 18) He assured Agrippa that he was promptly obedient to all he was told to do, preaching first in Damascus, then Jerusalem, then in all Judea, and finally to the Gentiles. The burden of Paul's sermon, according to what he told Agrippa, was to get people to "repent," "turn to God," and "do works meet for repentance." (Verse 20) It was because of such preaching, said he, that the Jews have put me into prison.


1. Jews and Gentiles should repent. Such was one side of Paul's triangle sermon. Most assuredly they should believe. This is not once denied; rather, it is often affirmed by this same preacher in other places, but here it is not stressed. The reason is plain, however: he knew that Agrippa already "believed." (Verse 27) It was a waste of time to tell Agrippa to believe when he did believe. What Agrippa needed to do was "repent."

"Repent ye" was the burden of the preaching of John the Baptist. (Matt. 3:2) "Repent or perish" was the keynote of Jesus' preaching. (Luke 13:3) Capernaum was brought down to "hell" because of lack of repentance. (Matt. 11:22, 23) So we may truthfully say that repentance is important. The very last word from "hell" is to repent. (Luke 16:30) Heaven, earth and hell all unite in warning sinners to repent.

But why stress this to Agrippa? He needed it. He was, or according to history had been guilty of habitual incest. The Holy Spirit knew this man, and he guided Paul to preach to him the very thing that was intended to move him to repentance because of these grievous sins. It was a sermon in place. So burning were these words that Festus thought he was mad; that much learning had made him crazy. (Acts 26:24) But Festus was assured that such preaching was only the "words of truth and soberness." Then how penetrating Paul remark that he spoke freely because these things were known to Agrippa! Yes, he knows what I am talking about and how truthfully I speak. I have often thought how this preaching must have been going home to this sinful man. But, like much other appropriate preaching, the right kind of soil, an honest and good heart, was lacking on Agrippa's part. It seemingly was preached in vain.

Turn To God

2. Men should turn to God. This statement applies generally to all accountable beings. Paul stressed this forcefully. Repentance is "change of mind." This fact is established in Matt. 21:28, 29. Give it a good thinking over and you will know what repentance is. But while repentance is a change of mind, it was necessary for Agrippa and others to "turn to God." So this fact, being stated after repentance, shows plainly that repentance is not all there is to turning to God. To believing Jews the apostle Peter expressed it thus: "Repent, and 'be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for tho remission of sins." (Acts 2:38) From this statement it appears that between the point of being a sinner and forgiveness stand believing, repenting, and baptism. From other Scriptures we find that between the point of being an alien sinner and obtaining forgiveness stand believing, repenting, confessing and baptism. So in turning to god something was involved. The things thus involved were believing, repenting, confessing, and baptism. Neither Agrippa nor others could turn to God, receiving the forgiveness of their alien sins, when these things involved in turning to God were ignored. Obedience to the things involved in this turning made men and women Christians — members of Christ's church.

Do Works

3. Men should do works meet for repentance. In this part of his sermon he was stressing to Agrippa that living the Christian life was just as essential as becoming a Christian. He would not have Agrippa to believe that it was all over when people leave the waters of baptism. It is not enough to become a member of the church* one should work for the Lord after thus, becoming a member. The trouble with backsliders in the church is that they are like the little boy that was continually falling out of bed. When asked by his mother why he fell out of bed so often, he replied: "I guess I go to sleep too near where I get in." Activity in spiritual matters will drive sleep away. When members work themselves into deeper service, after church membership, their activity and better associates usually banish any desire to go to spiritual sleep.

Summary And Results

You will notice that although Paul very fervently preached and very plainly established the facts that men should repent, turn to God, and do works meet for repentance, his sermon did not accomplish anything with Agrippa.

Paul made a personal appeal to Agrippa. He said to him: "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds" (Acts 26:26-29) What unselfish love and devotion for the salvation of souls! Paul wanted "all" to obey the Lord, not just Agrippa. He was as much interested in being able to report others were saved as he was to say the king was saved. And not one time in all his preaching before Agrippa did he complain of his imprisonment. Willingly he suffered for his Lord. For the sake of others Paul did not want them to have to suffer in bonds, but for himself he made no complaint. Again I ask: How many of us preachers today would preach two sermons under such conditions and not at least say something in bewailing our lot?