“Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense: “In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently. So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem;since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?”
Under Roman law Paul had appealed to Caesar, which meant a change of venue to Rome and Festus had to provide a report to Caesar that justified Paul’s appeal. Festus could not be seen as incompetent to Caesar, so he had to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why he could not resolve this issue himself, before Paul appealed to Caesar. Festus hoped that after Agrippa had heard Paul he would have a reasonable explanation for Caesar. Remember, this was not a trial; it was a hearing for the purpose of resolving the dilemma of Festus.
Paul used a customary gesture to begin his message. Because of the Bible doctrine Paul had in his soul he had inner happiness. Paul was courteous and poised in his opening remarks. The Greek word for defense is “apologeomai” [apo = ultimate source; logeomai = to think], it means to defend one’s self against a charge. He was not going to address the false accusations of the Jews because they had been set aside at a previous court, but he was going to answer from his knowledge of Roman law and his knowledge of doctrine. Some believers think that the Holy Spirit puts something in their mind to speak. But it is really the doctrine that resides in the soul that the Holy Spirit uses, as in the case of Paul. The idea that you don’t have to study the Bible and all you have to do is to wait and the Holy Spirit will give you something to say is ridiculous. God the Holy Spirit assists you in recalling the doctrine you have in your soul.
When Paul was an unbeliever, the Pharisees commended his efforts; now that he was a believer and preaching the truth they condemned him. It is easy to see why Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles. The Jews rejected his ministry and his message and were totally antagonistic toward him, always seeking to kill him. Paul’s appeal to the Jews regarding his former membership in their religious organization fell on deaf ears.
The promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain immediately brought up the whole issue of Jewish theology versus the truth. Paul’s claim that he was being tried for his theological stance on the hope of the resurrection (which was provided by Jesus Christ) was correct but the Jews really hated him for his claim that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Prophesied in the Old Testament within the covenants to Israel was this hope in the Messiah Jesus Christ. These men were supposedly Old Testament scholars and yet they were blinded by their arrogance to the truth that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
The covenants to Israel were unconditional promises and told the Jews that they had a future (resurrection). These unconditional promises were referred to by Paul in the term “the promise.” In these covenants are the facts that through the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, all of mankind would be blessed and that the line of David (the Lord Jesus Christ) would reign forever. These covenants confirm a future resurrection for all believers. Paul referred to them in a way in which the Jews in the court would understand, even King Agrippa.
Serving earnestly meant that the Sanhedrin was still going through the ritual of the Levitical code. They were still offering animal sacrifices, and in so doing they were expressing their rejection of the Cross. Paul was speaking some thirty years after the Cross, and for those thirty years the Sanhedrin had been blaspheming because they had been offering animal sacrifices. To offer an animal sacrifice after the Cross was simply to say that the work of Christ was not effective for salvation. Animal sacrifices were an expression of faith and a means of communicating doctrine in the Old Testament until the time of the Cross. But the Sanhedrin was expressing negative volition toward God by expressing negative volition toward Paul and his message.
Paul was showing them the relationship of the unconditional covenants to Israel and their future, and how they all related to Jesus Christ. He had made the issue clear that only when Jews believe in Christ do they have eternal life and the fulfillment of these covenants. He had made it clear to everyone present that they were in a state of blasphemy because they rejected Christ.
“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’”
Paul now explained how he had been in the same position as these blasphemous Jews because he once was in opposition to Christianity. The Greek word for furiously enraged is “emmainomai” [mainomai = to be psychotic; em = inside], an inside psychosis. Paul, because of his religion and its legalism, was in a psychotic condition. When he was persecuting the Church he was being ruled by his emotions and was constantly in a rage against anyone who opposed his religion.
Once again, Paul described in much detail his conversion to Christianity. The light that hit Paul and the others was more than just light. The light was the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. In the Old Testament we see the Lord Jesus Christ manifesting Himself through light; He was the Shekinah Glory in the Holy of Holies, the burning bush before Moses, and the fire by night that led the children of Israel. (John 8:12)
God did not communicate with the ones who accompanied Paul. God was communicating only with Paul. This was a dramatic way to reach a person, but Paul was in a state of psychosis. When Jesus Christ spoke to him, He was leading Paul to faith in Him as the Savior.
It is hard for you to kick against the goads is a phrase often passed over by commentators. Paul had hardening of the soul as indicated by the Greek word for hard, which is “skleros (sclerosis)” and means to dry, to be rough to the touch, harsh, or stern. All these definitions indicate that even as an unbeliever Paul had scar tissue on his soul. But Paul had positive volition at the point of God-consciousness, and thought he had found truth in the Jewish religion. Since he had not actually found truth, God had an obligation to provide truth of the Gospel for Paul, which He did on the road to Damascus.
The Greek word for kick is “laktizo,” which is used for a horse kicking; it is used for an animal giving unreasonable stubborn resistance. The Greek word for goads is “kentron,” which is a sharp instrument or a pricking tool used to train horses. Religion had made Paul negative and so hardened that he could not be reached in the ordinary way. He had been resisting the conviction ministry of the Holy Spirit for years and the result was the hardening of his soul.
After his conversion Paul had a lot of learning to do and God had a plan for him – a ministry primarily to the Gentiles, not the Jews. The Greek verb for appoint is “proceirizomai” [keirizomai = to take someone by the hand and teach them bit by bit; proj = face to face with] meaning to take in hand and get ready for an action. Paul began his learning through a believer named Ananias and finished his formal doctrinal learning in the Arabian Desert through the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
Jesus defined the objectives of Paul’s responsibilities after salvation as quoted in verses 18-19: 1) to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light 2) and from the dominion of Satan to God 3) that they may receive forgiveness of sins 4) and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. The opening of the eyes was the presentation of the Gospel. To turn from darkness to light means responding to the Gospel. Forgiveness of sins is a result of faith in Christ. Paul pointed out that those who believe in Christ receive an eternal inheritance. God guarantees that believers will never lose their inheritance as indicated by the words “sanctified by faith.” God takes the 40 spiritual assets that belong to a believer’s inheritance and He sets them apart forever. This is accomplished through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit whereby every believer in the Church Age is entered into union with Jesus Christ.
Sanctification is the Greek word hagiasmos and means set apart unto God. It is the same word used for saint and holy. Therefore, all believers are saints and all believers are holy. However, sanctification is in three stages and these stages must always be distinguished in order to accurately interpret the Word of God. The first stage is positional sanctification, the second stage is experiential sanctification and the third stage is ultimate sanctification. Each stage is separate and distinct in the life of a believer.
Positional Sanctification is when God the Holy Spirit places believers into union with Jesus Christ at salvation. This is accomplished by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:13) The baptism of the Holy Spirit is neither seen nor felt. It is a fact stated in the Word of God for us to believe. We must always distinguish between the indwelling, the baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit. These are all separate and distinct ministries of the Holy Spirit and are neither seen nor felt. The indwelling is God the Holy Spirit permanently residing in the believer. The baptism of God the Holy Spirit, as stated, is placing the believer into permanent union with Christ. And the filling of God the Holy Spirit is His control and guidance of the believer, which is temporary, depending on the volition (free-will) of the believer. God’s own righteousness is imputed (credited) to the believer at salvation according to II Corinthians 5:21. This is the only way we can be set apart to God. We have been set apart to God by our faith in Jesus Christ. We have been given at least 40 spiritual assets, which include being made the righteousness of God. This position in Christ sets up the potential for each believer to execute the Christian Way of Life. Our position in Christ and our walk with Christ are different and must always be distinguished in order to avoid confusion and inaccurate interpretation. When the Bible says that we are dead to sin, this is positional truth. When the Bible says to walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust (desire) of the flesh (sin nature), it is not referring to positional truth, but to experiential truth. (Galatians 5:16)
Even though we possess the righteousness of God, we will not realize the full aspect of this until we receive a glorified body at the Rapture. (I Corinthians 15:50-53) In the meantime, we still possess a sin nature (human nature), which tempts us to commit personal sins. It is our responsibility as Christians to learn and apply the Word of God and to control this nature. We can do this only through the power of the Holy Spirit. There is a war being waged within every believer. It is a battle to see who will control your soul. Each of us holds the key - it is called volition or free will. God did not make us robots. He gave us the freedom of choice. Galatians 5:16-26 uses the Greek word for walk, which is “stoicheo” meaning to walk in a straight line or in a row. If we are “walking in the Spirit,” our steps will align with His. In other words, we will allow the Holy Spirit to guide “our steps.” Please remember that God is not an ogre waiting for us to fail so He can zap us. God loves us and wants only the best for us. Therefore, we should learn to love ourselves, which entails self-worth and self-respect. God in His grace is always there for us, even in times of our failures. Since God has compassion on us, we should have compassion on ourselves. Evaluate yourself, make the necessary corrections and move forward, one step at a time. But don’t spend time beating yourself up or condemning yourself because of some failure. (I John 1:6-10)
We still reside in this body while here on earth, but our true home is Heaven. We are just passing though this life, but our real citizenship is in Heaven. When Christ returns for us at the Rapture, we will realize ultimate sanctification. All the truth of our position in Christ and all the potential of experiential sanctification that the believer fulfilled (divine production) will be a reality when Christ returns for His Church (believers of this age). For the believer there is going to be a change. Each of us is going to receive a glorified body fashioned after Christ’s body. This will be an instantaneous change as we are being caught up to meet Christ in the air. Ultimate sanctification will be a reality for all believers regardless of their spiritual status. Mature and immature believers will receive a glorified body and will spend all of eternity in perfect happiness. There will, however, be a loss of magnificent rewards and blessings for those who fail to execute the Christian Way of Life. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)