In about 59/60 AD, the apostle Paul stands before King Agrippa II and makes a verbal defense explaining his innocence of the accusations levied at him by the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem (Acts 26.1-3).
The apostle sets forth his case beginning with his upbringing in the traditions of the Pharisees, and that even now his behavior is in keeping with the “hope in the promise made by God to our fathers” (26.6). This reference to “hope” ultimately finds its realization in the resurrection of Jesus (26.8).
The events which God orchestrated in the Judean province through the ministry of Jesus are a fulfillment of Old Testament predictions concerning the coming Savior-Messiah (i.e. Anointed King), to which Paul was initially an unbeliever and persecutor.
However, while on official Jewish authority to travel to Damascus in pursuit of Christians, Paul is confronted by the glorified Jesus. This moment sets the stage for his call to the apostleship (1 Cor. 9.1-2) and his conversion and salvation (Acts 22.12-16; 26.14-18).
Now with this reinvigorated faith and new commission, Paul was to go not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles as well. Jesus commissioned him with the following words:
[T]o open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26.18 ESV)
As the apostle makes his case for his activities and shows why he –as Agrippa II concedes to Festus– “is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment” (Acts 26.31).
Paul’s defense is interrupted by Porcius Festus who claims that Paul had gone crazy due to his education (“you are out of my mind” Acts 26.24). In order to show that this is not an issue of madness due to “great learning” Paul appeals to Herod Agrippa II.
Paul appeals to the king’s awareness of the biblical teaching and recent historical events grounding Paul’s defense. In fact, Paul affirms, “I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner” (Acts 26.26). It would be at this point, the imprisoned apostle appeals to Agrippa’s better senses to become a Christian (26.29).
It would seem that while Paul’s main purpose in this court proceeding is to demonstrate that he is blameless concerning the false charges raised against him, an opportunity to explain his lifestyle and the Gospel emerged.
An important point to acknowledge at this point is to observe that what Paul lived, preached and shared were not “done in a corner”. This should be a reminder that the Christian life is everyday matter, and that opportunities to share the Gospel message and invite others to know God’s compassion may come to us at any moment.
Paul’s Life – Not Lived in a Corner
In the letter to the Roman Christians, Paul makes a very power statement about himself as a Christian:
I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… (Rom. 1.14-16ff)
The Christian life of Paul was not a life ashamed of his faith, for that reason his actions were abundantly clear to those around him.
There are today Christians who have a timidity about the public expression of their faith. This is not to say that they have no faith, but perhaps there is a sense in which some have not trusted in God’s power, grace and purpose.
On another occasion, Paul would have to encourage his protégé Timothy with a call to stop being ashamed of the testimony –the Gospel– and trust in God’s purpose and grace to support us as we life for Him (2 Tim. 1.8-12a).
Jesus once said that when we practice to be “like” him, we will not receive a warm welcome; instead, if people maligned him, they will malign his followers (Matt. 10.24-25).
He would go on to say to his disciples:
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 10.32-33)
Jesus then anticipates that his disciples would make a public impression with their lives which in turn glorifies their connection to the Father in heaven.
What about You?
If anyone should come and say, “that is great but Paul was an apostle, and so you can’t expect me to live like him,” it must be remembered that Paul was living out the expectations given to all Christians.
Christians are “chosen” to live “holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1.3-4). Peter impresses this point by echoing the words from the Old Testament:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Pet. 2.9-10)
As a consequence of receiving mercy and brought into God’s compassionate light, it is incumbent upon us to live in plain sight of those around us.
And as we see in Paul’s life, it will be because of our Christian lifestyle that we will attract questions. This is fine. This is why we are here to share our hope and explain our faith. The apostle Peter would state that we are to give an answer (defense) for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3.15). Let us so live!