ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.” (Acts 28:30-31, NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 227: Agrippa. The Agrippa of Acts 25 and 26 was actually Herod Agrippa II, who was the son of the better known Herod Agrippa I, who was the Agrippa in power back in Acts 12. If you remember, it was Herod Agrippa I who killed the Apostle James, son of Zebedee, and who had Peter imprisoned. In Acts 25 and 26, it is Agrippa’s son, also named Agrippa, who Paul plead his case before.
One of the tricky things about reading the Bible is understanding the passage of time. Years can easily pass in a chapter or two and so, as was mentioned in the last devotion, Paul had been in prison for two years before he came face to face with Agrippa II. Of course, that also means that many, many years had passed from the death of James under Agrippa I. Now his son was the ruler and Paul was nearing the end of his ministry and his life, with only another four to seven years left to live.
Agrippa, like every other politician, did not really care about Paul, himself. He cared about keeping the peace and he about order. When he arrived at Caesarea with his sister, Bernice, he was curious to hear Paul’s defense. In fact Festus wanted him to hear him as well, since Paul had appealed to Caesar. That very appeal meant that Paul had to be sent to Rome to be tried in the Roman courts. This was problematic for Festus who couldn’t send Paul with the charge of “Jewish heresy”, which is what the Jewish religious leaders were accusing him of. Rome didn’t care about the local religious matters of the Jews. Thus, Festus wanted Agrippa to weigh in on what charges to send Paul to Rome with.
Paul, then, was invited to make his defense before King Herod Agrippa II, Festus and his accusers. Paul, the great Apostle that he was, not only defended himself against the accusations of the Jewish religious leadership, he also took the time to appeal the merits of the Gospel to Agrippa, who was a learned Jew himself and an expert “on all Jewish customs and controversies” (Acts 26:3). In fact, Agrippa was very knowledgeable in Jewish history and was a supporter of Flavius Josephus, a famous historian living during that time period.
Agrippa was certainly impressed and amazed by Paul’s zeal and passion as an evangelist. Paul even began to rhetorically question Agrippa on his belief in the prophets, in which Paul was then going to try and show the king how Jesus fulfilled all of those prophesies. Agrippa interrupted Paul and asked, “Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly” (Acts 26:28, NLT)?
Agrippa knew where Paul was headed with his line of questioning and, though perhaps a little taken back by his boldness, he clearly was impressed. In fact, following the hearing, Agrippa confided in Festus that Paul “…could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32, NLT). In other words, Agrippa would have let him go and, no doubt, Festus would have as well, had Paul not gone up the political chain.
Still, it was Paul’s right as a Roman citizen to make such an appeal. Agrippa and Festus, as politicians, were not going to interfere with the Roman legal process and, truthfully, they were sparing themselves a headache by sending Paul to Rome. What’s important for us to take away from this is that, even when on trial, Paul put Christ and the Gospel first; instead of spending his time defending himself, he used his time in court to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world
As Christians, every waking moment should be a moment to serve Christ. Everything we do should be a witness to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The account of Paul and Agrippa should be a reminder of not only what is at stake, but that we can and should place our faith in our sovereign God, whose plan is being carried out through us. We are the vessels of Christ. Let the Gospel fill and pour out of us into the world.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We are the vessels of Christ.
Lord, fill this vessel with Your love and grace and with the Good News for all people, so that I may be a witness of You and all of Your glory to others. Amen.