What does Acts chapter 26 mean?The Sanhedrin continues to cause problems for Paul. They want to kill him because he preaches that Jesus rose from the grave (Acts 24:21). Two years before, they tried to have him assassinated (Acts 23:12–15). When their plans were foiled by Paul's nephew, they tried to convince Governor Felix to execute him. Though the charges were spurious and unproveable, Felix kept Paul in custody as a political favor to the Sanhedrin (Acts 24:5–6, 27). Two years later, when Festus replaced Felix, the Sanhedrin tried again (Acts 25:1–7). Like Felix, Festus wanted to accommodate the Jewish leaders, but he couldn't summarily convict Paul because his Roman citizenship protected him. Festus tried to convince Paul to meet him half-way, and Paul responded by appealing his case to Caesar (Acts 25:8–12). Festus must send Paul to Rome, but he has no charges, so he's invited King Agrippa II, the king's sister/lover Bernice, and the military and civil leaders of Caesarea to hear Paul's story and help him determine what, if any, crime Paul has committed (Acts 25:23).
In Acts 26:1–11, after acknowledging that Agrippa will understand the cultural and religious nuances of his story, Paul describes his life before he started following Jesus. He was trained as a Pharisee and absorbed their beliefs. That included ascribing truth to the resurrection of the dead. He also embodied a great respect for the Mosaic law. He was so devout in his traditional beliefs that he actively hunted and arrested Christians, even voting that those who did not recant should be put to death. He was on such a mission when he traveled to Damascus, Syria.
Acts 26:12–18 is Paul's account of his conversion. On Paul's way to Damascus, Jesus appeared in a bright light. Jesus not only claimed Paul, but He also commissioned him to spread the news of His resurrection to Jews and Gentiles and to bring them to understanding so that they would turn from darkness to light, be released from Satan's power, receive forgiveness of sins, and have a place among those sanctified by faith.
In Acts 26:19–23, Paul gives a very short account of his ministry. This reflects the pattern of Jesus' mandate in Acts 1:8. He then explains why he is in custody, including the attack by the Jews. In short, Paul asserts, he was arrested for believing in the prophets and Moses.
Acts 26:24–32 reveals two very different reactions to Paul's speech. Festus, a Roman governor who has only been in the region for a few weeks, can't accept the resurrection of any dead and determines Paul has gone mad. Agrippa understands, however, and even flirts with the idea that Paul may be right. When the noblemen leave to discuss the situation, they determine that whether Paul is a madman or a prophet, he is no criminal. If he hadn't appealed to Caesar, they would have had no choice but to free him. As it is, they have no choice but to send him to Rome.
The remainder of the book describes Paul and Luke's journey to and arrival at Rome. Luke gives a detailed account of the sea voyage, including a violent storm and shipwreck (Acts 27). The castaways are cared for by the natives of the island of Malta after Paul survives a viper bite with no ill effects. Paul and Luke eventually reach Rome where they meet with the Jewish leadership and members of the growing church. After two years under house arrest, Paul's case is apparently dismissed (Acts 28). Although Paul goes on to minister several more years before his final arrest and execution, Luke's account stops here.