The family of Agrippa II had an infamous notoriety among Jews and Christians. His lineage included Herod the Great who tried to kill the infant Jesus, Herod who beheaded John the Baptist and Herod Agrippa who killed James the son of Zebedee. Now Agrippa II himself presided over Paul’s trial.
Paul did not back down from his proclamation of God’s work of salvation. Much of Paul’s message has been recorded in his earlier speeches, but two important themes emerge from today’s reading. First, notice Paul’s affirmation of the connection between Christ and God’s earlier promises to Israel. The hope of a Messiah and of the resurrection (the hope for which Paul now stood on trial) was fulfilled in Jesus. There is no contradiction between the Christian gospel and God’s word in the Old Testament, for as Paul said: “I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen” (v. 22).
Second, Paul’s speech highlighted the purpose of God—salvation for the whole world. The reason for sending Christ, and calling Paul as apostle, was “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light . . . so that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (v. 18).
God’s salvation in Christ was always designed for the world, not just Jews, and as Paul asserted, he was being a faithful Jew in proclaiming God’s rescue of both Jews and Gentiles alike.
In the end, not all who heard Paul responded favorably. Festus found his message absurd, and Agrippa chastised Paul for trying to convert him. Paul responded correctly: he desired nothing more than the salvation of all who heard and preached faithfully. The rest must be left to the Spirit to work upon the hearts of those who hear.