This Week’s Passage:
I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Acts 26:19-29
C. Other texts for Committed to Christ: Introductory Week
- Joshua 24:14-18
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
19-20 – Paul opted to affirm the direction he received through his vision on the Damascus Road to urge repentance over the charter he had received to arrest Christians.
21 – – Religious zealotry is not new!
22 – – Paul attributes the failure of his accusers to God using him to testify to people he might not otherwise meet.
23 – – The kernel of Paul’s Christology: Resurrection validates Christ’s message to Jews and Gentiles.
24 – – A warning to academics to maintain rhetorical connections with those less studied.
25-27 – Paul asserts the validity of his Christology as based on the prophets and commonly seen events.
28 – – Agrippa recognizes both the validity of Paul’s assertions and the risk of accepting them.
29 – – Would we as willingly put our prayers into words so that all who listen to us might be such as we are?
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- The account of Paul’s arrest and trial begins in chapter 21 and with several continuations and changes in venue. Luke presents this trial as the means by which God places Paul in Rome.
- King Agrippa has agreed with Festus to hear Paul so Festus might write some charges so that Paul might be tried by the Emperor in Rome. In verses 26:1-18 Paul recounts his qualifications as a Pharisee and his conversion experience.
- Agrippa concludes that Paul could have been set free, had he not appealed to the Emperor, hence he is sent to Rome.
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
- Written by “Luke” probably alongside or shortly after the composition of the Gospel in the AD 80’s. The author states that these two books were written to capture
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
- A dialog by Paul before Festus and King Agrippa. The style shows God working through ordinary events.
III. Question the text.
A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.
Paul argued that he was unjustly arrested and held for his faith that the evidence supported as true, but was not politically correct.
Festus understood that Paul could not be charged with any crime, but when Paul appealed to the Emperor, Festus could pass the onus of the decision beyond his jurisdiction, placating his subjects.
King Agrippa found Paul of interest but understood the legal and political dilemma.
God is portrayed as the architect of this scene, providing Paul an audience with powerful leaders and means to travel to Rome.
B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?
“Light”: Luke used light ten times in Acts to indicate the power and presence of God. In 26:18 Paul explained what he meant by “proclaim light” (26:23) as forgiveness of sins and sanctification.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: Are you persuading me to become a Christian?
- Emotional Center: “become such as I, except for these chains.”
- Music: “I Love to Tell the Story”
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- Paul is caught between the truth and what would be politically acceptable. In this scene Paul wore physical chains perhaps symbolizing being bound to God’s mission that would send him to Rome.
E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?
- What lasting impact, if any, did Paul’s presentation have on Agrippa and Bernice?
- Leaving this blank keeps the focus on Christ and highlights that we often do not understand how God might use our testimony.
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- If Christianity was a crime, could you be convicted for your beliefs? Paul used the occasion of his arrest to testify about the risen Christ and urge the King’s conversion.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Robert W. Wall (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Acts of the Apostles”. Abingdon, 2002.) notes that while the form of Paul’s speech is forensic, the purpose is “to define his prophetic vocation as the personification of the very messianic movement he now represents.” He offers that Paul’s dialog with Agrippa contained humor, connoting that Agrippa was unconvinced. He opines that current hearers of this episode might agree with Festus, for Paul’s argument lacked empirical data.
William H. Willimon (Interpretation: Acts. JKP, 1988) contrasts Paul’s account of his conversion before Agrippa with the stereotypical modern conversion testimony: Paul did not find Jesus, instead Jesus found him; By accepting Jesus, Paul did not move from miserable to fulfilled, but had his method of serving God corrected and then was recommissioned; Paul goes from being a free and highly esteemed Roman citizen to one who was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and chained. Thus his testimony is not what Christ did for him in his life, but that Christ rose from the dead and preached light for Jews and Gentiles. He concludes that Paul’s death goes unreported because the death and resurrection of Christ out shone everything that Paul did.
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
God orders our lives to point to the living Christ.
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
Testify about Christ and God will use us for his kingdom.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?
Pray to be like Paul, bound to promot the light of Christ among us.