What does Acts 26 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Acts 26:1–11 contains Paul's account of his life before encountering Jesus Christ. He speaks to Governor Festus, King Agrippa II, and the military and civil leadership of Caesarea Maritima. Before conversion, Paul absorbed training as a devout Pharisee, including passionate devotion to the Mosaic law. His beliefs led him to zealously hunt Jesus-followers, even voting that they be executed if they did not deny Christ. Everything changed when he tracked Christians to Damascus.
Acts 26:12–23 is Paul's testimony to King Agrippa II, Governor Festus, and the leaders of Caesarea Maritima, of how he started following Jesus. The audience wants to determine if Paul broke a law. Paul wants to offer reconciliation with God. Paul describes how he met Jesus on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus and accepted Jesus' commission to spread His offer of forgiveness to Jews and Gentiles. It is for this reason that the Sanhedrin wants him dead, not because he committed a crime. Paul's conversion is recorded in Acts 9:1–19.
Acts 26:24–32 records Governor Felix and King Agrippa II reacting to Paul's testimony. He has just finished giving account of how he accepted Christ and dedicated his life to spreading the gospel. Festus thinks Paul has gone insane. Agrippa understands Jesus' fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, but he can't accept the personal implications. What they all agree on, however, is that Paul shouldn't be imprisoned. If he hadn't appealed to Caesar, he should have been freed.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 26 records Paul's testimony before the noblemen of Caesarea Maritima, as well as their reactions. He explains that Jewish leaders want him dead because he once persecuted the church, but now believes Jesus rose from the dead and has been spreading that message. Governor Festus thinks Paul has gone mad. King Agrippa II, however, finds his story compelling. They realize that had Paul not appealed to a higher Roman court, they could have let him go.
Chapter Context:
After being held in custody for two years and, again, hassled by the Sanhedrin who want to kill him, Paul appeals his case to Caesar (Acts 25:7–12). Before he travels to Rome, however, Governor Festus has Paul give his testimony before King Agrippa II and the noblemen of Caesarea Maritima (Act 25:23–27). When Paul is finished, they realize they should have set him free before he appealed to Caesar (Acts 26:30–32). But he must go to Rome, surviving a violent storm and a shipwreck along the way (Acts 27—28).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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