Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You may speak in your defense."So Paul, with a gesture of his hand, started his defense:
"I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders,
for I know you are an expert on Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!"
"As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem.
If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion.
Now I am on trial because I am looking forward to the fulfillment of God's promise made to our ancestors.
In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, O king, they say it is wrong for me to have this hope!
Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?"
"I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. a10
Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many of the believers in Jerusalem to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death.
Many times I had them whipped in the synagogues to try to get them to curse Christ. I was so violently opposed to them that I even hounded them in distant cities of foreign lands."
"One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests.
About noon, Your Majesty, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions.
We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, b'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to fight against my will.c'"
"'Who are you, sir?' I asked." And the Lord replied, 'I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.16Now stand up! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness. You are to tell the world about this experience and about other times I will appear to you. 17And I will protect you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am going to send you to the Gentiles, 18to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God's people, who are set apart by faith in me.'"
"And so, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to that vision from heaven.
I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must turn from their sins and turn to God -- and prove they have changed by the good things they do.
Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me.
But God protected me so that I am still alive today to tell these facts to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen --
that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead as a light to Jews and Gentiles alike."
Suddenly, Festus shouted, "Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!"
But Paul replied, "I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. I am speaking the sober truth.
And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak frankly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner!
King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do --"
Agrippa interrupted him. "Do you think you can make me a Christian so quickly?" d29
Paul replied, "Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains."
Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left.
As they talked it over they agreed, "This man hasn't done anything worthy of death or imprisonment."
And Agrippa said to Festus, "He could be set free if he hadn't appealed to Caesar!"
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)