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PAUL: ALMOST PERSUADED



After the riot at the temple, the Roman commander dragged Paul “into the barracks, directing that he be interrogated with the scourge to discover the reason they were shouting against him like this. As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, ‘Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?’ ” (Acts 22:24–25). Paul’s coat and shirt must have been ripped from his body by the Roman thugs, who lashed his hands together, then manhandled him, shackling him to the whipping post. Thankfully, Paul’s Roman citizenship saved his skin! “Hey fellas! If you’ll check my passport, you’ll see that I’m one of you! What you’re about to do is against the law!”“So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately. The commander too was alarmed when he realized Paul was a Roman citizen and he had bound him” (Acts 22:29).


As we read the twenty-third chapter of Acts, we see the obvious sovereignty of God as Paul was delivered from the grasp of the ruling Sanhedrin and their murderous conspiracy. We hear God’s gracious and merciful promise, whispered to Paul in the middle of the night. “The Lord stood by him and said, ‘Have courage! For as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so it is necessary for you to testify in Rome’ ” (Acts 23:11). And we read of God’s All-Mighty protection of the Apostle as Roman soldiers carried him safely to Herod’s palace in the coastal city of Caesarea.


In chapter twenty-four, we read about Paul’s interactions with the Governor of Judea, a guy named Felix. In Caesarea, Governor Felix refused to make a decision concerning Paul’s guilt or innocence. This was probably just a simple tactic to extract a bribe from Paul. Felix “was also hoping that Paul would offer him money. So he sent for him quite often and conversed with him” (Acts 24:26). For two years, Paul languished in prison, until Felix was recalled to Rome and replaced by a new Governor, Festus (Acts 24:27).


In chapter twenty-five, we learn that the new governor, Festus, went to Jerusalem where the religious muckety-mucks were still looking for a way to execute Paul. Festus heard their complaints and offered to convene court in Caesarea. Soon thereafter, Festus sat on the judgment seat and heard their case. “The Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him and brought many serious charges that they were not able to prove” (Acts 25:7), and Paul forcefully defended his innocence.


“Several days later, King Agrippa ... arrived in Caesarea and paid a courtesy call on Festus”(Acts 25:13). In chapter twenty-six, one reads Paul’s testimony before the powerful king. “King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting’ ”(Acts 26:13–15). In convincing detail, Paul told the king about another King, one who was the “the first to rise from the dead”(Acts 26:23).


“King Agrippa’s”great grandfather, Herod the Great, had slaughtered the babies in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18), his great uncle, Herod Antipas, had beheaded John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12) and, along with Pilate, tried Jesus (Luke 23:7-8), and his father, Herod Agrippa I, had beheaded James, the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:1-2).


“King Agrippa”listened carefully to Paul’s testimony and replied, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian”(Acts 26:28, NKJV). Because of Paul’s faithful testimony, Herod Agrippa II was close to becoming a Christian, but unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades.