Agrippa said to Paul, "You're free to speak for yourself." Paul acknowledged King Agrippa and then began his defense.
"King Agrippa, I think I'm fortunate today to stand in front of you and defend myself against every charge that the Jews brought against me.
I say this since you are especially familiar with every custom and controversy in Judaism. So I ask you to listen patiently to me.
"All the Jews know how I lived the earliest days of my youth with my own people and in Jerusalem.
They've known me for a long time and can testify, if they're willing, that I followed the strictest party of our religion. They know that I lived my life as a Pharisee.
"I'm on trial now because I expect God to keep the promise that he made to our ancestors.
Our twelve tribes expect this promise to be kept as they worship with intense devotion day and night. Your Majesty, the Jews are making accusations against me because I expect God to keep his promise.
Why do all of you refuse to believe that God can bring dead people back to life?
"I used to think that I had to do a lot of things to oppose the one named Jesus of Nazareth.
That is what I did in Jerusalem. By the authority I received from the chief priests, I locked many Christians in prison. I voted to have them killed every time a vote was taken.
I even went to each synagogue, punished believers, and forced them to curse [the name of Jesus]. In my furious rage against them, I hunted them down in cities outside [Jerusalem].
"I was carrying out these activities when I went to the city of Damascus. I had the power and authority of the chief priests.
Your Majesty, at noon, while I was traveling, I saw a light that was brighter than the sun. The light came from the sky and shined around me and those who were with me.
All of us fell to the ground, and I heard a voice asking me in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me? It's hard for [a mortal like] you to resist God.'
"I asked, 'Who are you, sir?' "The Lord answered, 'I am Jesus, the one you're persecuting.
Stand up! I have appeared to you for a reason. I'm appointing you to be a servant and witness of what you have seen and of what I will show you.
I will rescue you from the Jewish people and from the non-Jewish people to whom I am sending you.
You will open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from Satan's control to God's. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and a share among God's people who are made holy by believing in me.'
"At that point I did not disobey the vision I saw from heaven, King Agrippa.
Instead, I spread the message that I first told to the [Jewish] people in Damascus and Jerusalem and throughout the whole country of Judea. I spread the same message to non-Jewish people. Both groups were expected to change the way they thought and acted and to turn to God. I told them to do things that prove they had changed their lives.
For this reason the Jews took me prisoner in the temple courtyard and tried to murder me.
"God has been helping me to this day so that I can stand and testify to important and unimportant people. I tell them only what the prophets and Moses said would happen.
They said that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to come back to life and would spread light to Jewish and non-Jewish people."
As Paul was defending himself in this way, Festus shouted, "Paul, you're crazy! Too much education is driving you crazy!"
Paul replied, "I'm not crazy, Your Excellency Festus. What I'm saying is true and sane.
I can easily speak to a king who knows about these things. I'm sure that none of these things has escaped his attention. None of this was done secretly.
King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe them!"
Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think you can quickly persuade me to become a Christian?"
Paul replied, "I wish to God that you and everyone listening to me today would quickly and completely become as I am (except for being a prisoner)."
The king, the governor, Bernice, and the people who were sitting with them got up.
As they were leaving, they said to each other, "This man isn't doing anything for which he deserves to die or be put in prison."
Agrippa told Festus, "This man could have been set free if he hadn't appealed his case to the emperor."