28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains” (Acts 26:28–29, NKJV).
Roman authorities had already imprisoned Paul for more than two years (Acts 24:27). Now, before the Roman governor Festus and King Herod Agrippa II, Paul defended his faith and the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 25:21-26:23). His compelling rehearsal of Christ’s appearance, appointment, and commission of Paul as an apostle, coupled with his obedient preaching to the Gentiles, supported his conclusion that the gospel fulfilled Moses and the prophets. Festus rejected the gospel out of hand, but Herod, who believed the prophets and had witnessed the events of which Paul spoke, was almost persuaded by the apostle’s words of “truth and reason” (Acts 26:24-28). Although imprisoned, Paul was genuinely free while his audience was in sin’s bondage (John 8:32, 34, 36). Paul was not vindictive, bitter, and hateful over his false imprisonment. He did not rail at Festus and Agrippa. Instead, he desired their salvation. Paul’s defense became an opportunity to preach the saving gospel for their benefit. Even so, may we not be blinded by the injustices of others. Our desire must ever be their salvation in Christ. We must continue to “speak the truth in love” as Paul did that day (Eph. 4:15). Some will be persuaded, obey the gospel, and be saved from sin (Acts 28:30-31; Phil. 1:13; 4:22).
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason” (Matthew 19:3, NKJV)?
Ending marriages for all sorts of reasons is commonplace in America and around the world. The deterioration of marriage does untold damage to families and souls. How Jesus answered the Pharisees’ insincere question settles God’s view of divorce. (1) “Have you not read” (Matt. 19:4). God’s word answers the question of divorce for all who believe. (2) God rules over marriage (Matt. 19:4-5). It is His gift to humanity, and we must obey His will in it. (3) Marriage is between a male (man) and a female (woman) (Matt. 19:4, 5). Same-sex “marriage” is a corruption of marriage and not God’s will. (4) God joins together the man and his wife (Matt. 19:5-6). God approves and joins one man and one woman in marriage (Rom. 7:2-3). (5) People are not to separate what God joins together (Matt. 19:6). Ending a marriage without God’s approval is sin (1 Cor. 7:10). (6) Jesus said God allows one reason for ending a marriage, fornication (Matt. 19:9). Divorce for “any reason” (Matt. 19:3) violates God’s will and is evidence of a hard heart toward God and marriage (Matt. 19:7-8). Christ permits putting away a spouse for the cause of fornication. By doing so, the one innocent of fornication has God’s consent to marry another. All other remarriages produce adultery, and those in them are not “joined together” by God (Matt. 19:9, 6). God’s way is not man’s way (Isa. 55:8-9). But all who want God’s blessing will abide in His will concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage (Matt. 19:10-12).
24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” 25 But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.” (Acts 26:24–25, NKJV)
Paul was permitted to speak before King Herod Agrippa II (his consort Beatrice, and the Roman governor Festus) for himself in answer to the charges made against him by the Jerusalem Jews (Acts 26:1-3). He spoke of “the hope of the promise made by God” to their fathers (Acts 26:6). He spoke of God raising the dead, of his former persecution of Christians, and of how Jesus of Nazareth appeared to him (Acts 26:8-17). He spoke of Jesus sending him to the Gentiles with His gospel, of his conversion, and of obeying his mission (Acts 26:18-20). Paul said this was why the Jews seized him and falsely accused him – because he testified that Jesus fulfilled Moses and the prophets, bringing forgiveness and light to both Gentiles and Jews (Acts 26:21-23). Festus accused Paul of being insane to believe in things like resurrection, visions, redemption, and a Christ (anointed One). Far from insanity, the gospel Paul preached contains words of truth and reason (“soberness,” ASV). Some still say the gospel is crazy, and Christians are “mad.” Yet, the gospel remains true, upright, and certain. It is still sober, sane, and rational. Name-calling and demonizing its messengers will not lessen the gospel’s truth or its power to save. Honest souls continue to be persuaded and saved (Acts 26:26-29; 18:8; Lk. 8:15).
So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. (Romans 1:15, NKJV)
Paul was eager to preach the gospel to the Christians in Rome. Not every Christian is a gospel preacher, like Paul (2 Timothy 1:11). But, every Christian must “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). To do that, the apostle Peter said we must sanctify (set apart) in our hearts Christ as Lord. We must recognize Christ as our supreme authority. His word rules us. He is the one to whom we submit our hearts and our lives. His word sustains our hope in Him. His word supplies the reasons we give in defense of our hope. So, we be learning and living the gospel (Hebrews 5:12-14). What we preach with our words and by our lives, shows whether we have set apart Jesus Christ in our hearts as Lord. Be sure Jesus rules in your heart. His word must prevail over everything you think and do. Proclaim His gospel with your words and by your actions. Otherwise, you have not yet sanctified Him in your heart as Lord. As such, you are unprepared to preach the gospel to others.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18–20, NKJV)
God “desires all men to be saved”, but He will not force His salvation on anyone. The freewill He gave us from creation must be exercised to come to Him with one’s whole heart. God would bless Judah and Jerusalem’s willing obedience with cleansing from their sins and the good abundance of their land. But, rebellious refusal to faithfully follow the Lord would bring their destruction. Jerusalem was eventually devoured by their enemies’ sword, a just punishment for her sins. The gospel of Christ calls every sinner to come to the Lord, to hear His words of mercy and call to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:36-41). Receive God’s word with a willing heart and obedient life. He will cleanse you of your sins and give you abundant, eternal life. If not, remember that judgment is certain against all who rebel against the Lord (Rom. 2:6-11).