Acts 26:1-11: Nothing impossible for God.
“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’ So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defence: 2 ‘King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defence against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently. 4 ‘The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. 8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? 9 ‘I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.”NIV UK
Festus had said to King Agrippa that Paul’s enemies did not charge him with any of the crimes he had expected: ‘’Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive’’ (25:19). Over and against that comment, consider Paul’s words to Agrippa: ‘’Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?’ (26:8). I would want to ask a similar question to any theologian (or anyone else for that matter) who denies the miraculous. If there is a God, surely He can do things ordinary human beings can’t? This includes converting people who are militantly opposed to Christianity. We shouldn’t be surprised to hear many such ‘’darkness to light’’ (18) stories if God is living and active. As far as Saul of Tarsus was concerned, he was just being true to his Jewish faith in his pre-conversion days. He had seen it as an obligation ‘’to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth’’ (9) However, between the lines we can hear the message that he had come to find the real fulfillment of all Jewish Messianic hope in the Person of the living Lord Jesus. So, as Tom Wright points out, although there was an obvious ‘break’ between the pre-conversion Saul, and the post-conversion Paul, at the same time there was a strong line of continuity forming a bridge between the two. Paul knew all about Judaism from the inside, and he was aware that the hope which lay in its bosom formed the link to who he had now become. Pharisees believed in resurrection; but he had now come to see that it had to first happen to Jesus before becoming anyone else’s experience. ‘His message about resurrection – (a) that it is what we were all waiting for, and (b) that it has happened, to our enormous surprise, in Jesus – is at the heart of his claim that this changes everything at the same moment as fulfilling everything.’ Tom Wright: ‘Acts for everyone, part two,’ p.207.