What does Acts 26:23 mean?
ESV: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
NIV: that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.'
NASB: as to whether the Christ was to suffer, and whether, as first from the resurrection of the dead, He would proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.'
CSB: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles."
NLT: that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.'
KJV: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.
NKJV: that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
Verse Commentary:
Paul finishes his evangelistic message, thinly veiled as a legal defense.

In his audience are Roman military tribunes and leaders of the city of Caesarea Maritima. To them, he has given an account of his willing ministry to bring the light of the Jewish Messiah to Gentiles. They may know that Cornelius, a Roman centurion stationed in Caesarea, invited Peter to his home. What resulted was the first mass conversion of Gentiles (Acts 10).

Yet, Paul contextualizes and validates that offer through the Old Testament prophets. He does this for the benefit of King Agrippa II (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 60:3). He glosses over the prophecies of the suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13—53:12) and Jesus' resurrection (Psalm 16:9–10), but as a ruler in the homeland of Christianity, Agrippa may be familiar with these passages, as well.

What's more, Paul publicly identifies Agrippa as one of "our people." Agrippa is part Jewish, but he is also Arabian and Idumean: he is an Edomite, descended from Esau (Genesis 36:1), the rival brother to Israel's patriarch, Jacob. Agrippa is also involved in an incestuous relationship with his sister. Paul has insisted he follows the Mosaic law as well as any Pharisee (Acts 26:4–5), but he's not afraid of identifying with Agrippa, a sinner (1 Corinthians 9:22). He's also standing before the council in chains, but he's not ashamed (2 Timothy 1:12) to identify with Agrippa, a king.

Paul's words have some impact on Agrippa. He asks Paul, "In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?" Paul responds, "Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains" (Acts 26:28–29). There is no historical indication that Agrippa II ever followed Jesus, but who knows how many others in the audience did (Acts 25:23)? Paul's opportunity to speak truth likely had impacts we will only fully realize in eternity.
Verse Context:
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.
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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