William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

The Defence Of A Changed Man (Acts 26:1-11)

26:1-11 Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak on your own behalf." Then Paul stretched out his hand and began his defence. "With regard to the charges made against me by the Jews, King Agrippa, I count myself fortunate to be about to state my defence before you, especially because you are an expert in all Jewish customs and questions. Therefore I ask you to give me a patient hearing. All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, which from the beginning I lived amongst my people in Jerusalem. They already know from of old, if they are willing to testify to it, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion; and now it is for the hope of the promise that was made to our fathers that I stand on trial, that hope to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, earnestly worshipping God day and night. It is for that hope, your Majesty, that I am accused. Why should you judge it to be incredible if God raises the dead? It is true that I myself thought it right to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth; and this I did in Jerusalem. When I had received authority from the chief priests, I shut up many of the saints in prison; and, when they were executed, I gave my vote against them. Often throughout all the synagogues I took vengeance on them and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my insane fury against them I even extended this persecution of them to cities abroad."

One of the extraordinary things about the great characters in the New Testament story is that they were never afraid to confess what once they had been. Here in the presence of the king, Paul frankly confesses that there was a day when he had tried to blast the Christians out of existence.

There was a famous evangelist called Brownlow North. In his early days he had lived a life that was anything but Christian. Once, just before he was to enter the pulpit in a church in Aberdeen, he received a letter. This letter informed him that its writer had evidence of some disgraceful thing which Brownlow North had done before he became a Christian; and it went on to say that the writer proposed to interrupt the service and to tell the whole congregation of that sin if he preached. Brownlow North took the letter into the pulpit; he read it to the congregation; he told of the thing that once he had done; and then he told them that Christ had changed him and that Christ could do the same for them. He used the very evidence of his shame to turn it to the glory of Christ.

Denney used to say that the great function of Christianity was in the last analysis to make bad men good. The great Christians have never been afraid to point to themselves as living examples of the power of Christ. It is true that a man can never change himself; but it is also gloriously true that what he cannot do, Jesus Christ can do for him.

In this passage Paul insists that the centre of his whole message is the resurrection. His witness is not of someone who has lived and died but of One who is gloriously present and alive for evermore. For Paul every day is Easter Day.

- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible