Paul Testifies against Himself before Agrippa
So Paul now stands before King Agrippa. First it was the Sanhedrin, then the tribune, then Felix, then Festus, and now the king. Next up would be the Emperor in Rome, though we never hear how that turned out. At any rate, it seems that God is having Paul work his way up the chain of command. But in this particular trial, we have more details about Paul’s speech. Before the other authorities, Paul defended himself against the charges of the Jews, saying that he was on trial for his vigorous affirmation of the resurrection of the dead. The latter he repeats now before Agrippa, but this time he will go further: He will speak of his life before coming to saving faith, he will recount the shocking experience on the road to Damascus where he met the Lord Jesus, and he will tell of his appointment by God to take the gospel to the Gentiles. But today we cover his sad former life.
We all have a history, and when we are honest with ourselves, we know that we have done some really ugly and evil things in our lives. And when we are really honest with ourselves, we know better than to think that we are better than others. Paul knew this about himself, which is why he referred to himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15 KJV). Paul never forgot who he was, and neither should we: wretched sinners saved by grace alone. And so I wrote for my title, “Paul Testifies against Himself,” because this is precisely what he does before the king. And he holds nothing back: a zealous Pharisee incarcerating Christians, approving of their executions, punishing them even in the synagogues, and worst of all, trying to make them “blaspheme,” meaning, renounce Christ. Paul describes his attitude towards Christians before his conversion as one of “raging fury.”
But why must he recount his horrifying past? Why not only testify to the grace of Jesus? Well, what better way to testify to the saving grace of Jesus Christ than to recount the terrible sinners we were before we met him! To the extent we diminish our sin, to that extent we diminish God’s glory. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” Paul said (1 Timothy 1:15), and Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Now this does not mean that we magnify our sin, as some do when giving their testimonies. No, we magnify the grace of God. But it does mean that we never forget from whence we came, so that when we see other sinners, we know that “except for the grace of God, there go I.” And when we are really honest with ourselves, we know that some of that former ugliness still cleaves to us. So grow in grace, and remain humble.