The third part of Paul’s defense before King Agrippa had to do with his service for Christ following his conversion.
3. Paul’s witness. Paul stresses a number of things. The first thing he stresses is his obedience, though he couches it in negative form: “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (v. 19). One of the first marks of our conversion is that we obey Jesus Christ. We might even call it the first mark, except that faith itself is the first evidence.
Are you obeying Jesus? Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). If you are disobeying Jesus, you are not His disciple. If you are not His disciple, you are not saved. People who have heard the voice of Jesus Christ just do not ignore it.
Second, Paul talks about the scope of his ministry, indicating that it widened more and more as God worked through him to reach others (v. 20). He began in Damascus. That was where he was converted, so he gave his first witness there. Next he witnessed in Jerusalem, then “in all Judea,” and finally “to the Gentiles also.” I find it interesting that here in the twenty-sixth chapter of this book, after we have been through all the history that Luke has recorded concerning the expansion of the Gospel, we find the apostle Paul describing the sphere of his ministry in almost the same terms as the Lord Jesus Christ used when He gave His missionary charge to the disciples before Pentecost. He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That is exactly what Paul had been doing. Why? Because he was obedient to the Lord, and that is what Jesus had said His people were to do.
The third thing Paul says when he talks about his service following his conversion is that he preached the Gospel. Notice the terms in which he talks about it. He proclaimed “nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen” (v. 22). What was that?
First, that “Christ would suffer”—that is, die. This was a testimony to the atonement. Second, that Jesus would “rise from the dead.” That was the doctrine that had caused the turmoil. Third, that being raised from the dead, he “would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (v. 23). This happened through witnesses like Paul.
What should our response to such a Gospel be? Paul gives this as well, no doubt for the explicit benefit of King Agrippa, Festus and the others. He says that the Gentiles should “repent,” “turn to God,” and “prove their repentance by their deeds” (v. 20).
To repent means “to turn around.” If you are going in one direction and repent, you turn around and go another direction. It is the equivalent of conversion, which means the same thing. It is what had happened to Paul on the road to Damascus. He was going one way, but God turned him around so that he went in a different way entirely. That needs to happen to everyone who would find salvation in Christ.
Turning from sin and going in another way also means “turning to God.” That is the second thing. Christianity is not just negative. It is not just “sin not” or “abandon your current lifestyle.” Christianity is positive. It means finding righteousness and a new life in Christ. This new life is not only different but better. It is a life lived in and with God.
Then, lest there be anything like cheap grace, easy repentance or a mere verbal profession, Paul also said that Gentiles need to “prove their repentance by their deeds.” How do you know if you are a Christian or not? Do you know it simply because you can mouth the right words? Hardly. We can fool ourselves into mouthing just about anything. We know we are Christians when our lives are changed and we begin to do good works. That is the proof—when we begin to follow after Jesus Christ and obey him.
If this is what the Gospel really is, then it is the most radical thing that could possibly be proclaimed. It cannot be ignored.