Then Agrippa said to Paul, You are permitted to speak for yourself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:…
Here we have —
I. THE SECRET OF PAUL'S SUCCESS. "I think myself happy." You do not hear any man until he is happy. Speaking under constraint, he cannot do justice to himself, nor to any great theme. Paul is happy: we shall therefore get his power at its very best. Conditions have much to do with speech and with hearing. Paul seems to have liked a Roman hearing. There was something in the grandeur of the circumstances that touched him and brought him up to his very best (Acts 24:10). Hearers make speakers: the pew makes the pulpit.
II. HIS METHOD OF USING OPPORTUNITIES FOR SPEAKING. Paul is permitted to speak for himself; what does he do? He unfolds the gospel. "But he was not asked to preach." But Paul cannot open his mouth without preaching; we expected that he would have defended himself according to Roman law. Paul makes no reference to Roman law. Paul always took the broad and vast view of things, and looking upon all life from the highest elevation, he saw it in its right proportion and colour and measure. Consider the opportunity and then consider the use made of it. Paul is all the while speaking about himself, and yet all the while he is preaching such a sermon as even he never preached before; he is rebuilding all the Christian argument and re-uttering in new tones and with new stretches of allusion and meaning the whole gospel of salvation. This should be a lesson to all men. We may speak about ourselves and yet hide ourselves in the glory of Another.
III. HIS PECULIAR, BUT EVER-AVAILABLE WAY OF ILLUSTRATING RELIGIOUS MYSTERIES. By relating personal miracles. Observe what a wonderful connection there is between the vers. 8 and 9. Suddenly Paul breaks out with the inquiry, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" Then as suddenly be reverts to his own case: "I verily thought with myself" Observe the word "thought" in both verses. Paraphrased, the case might stand thus: "I know it is a marvellous thing that God should raise the dead, but I was dead in trespasses and in sins, and God raised me; if, therefore, he has raised me, I can see how the same God could work the same miracle on another ground and under other circumstances." God asks us to look within, that we may find the key to His kingdom. There is not a miracle in all the Bible that has not been wrought, in some form of counterpart or type, in our own life. You can steal my Christianity if it is only a theory; you cannot break through nor steal if it is hidden in my heart as a personal and actual experience.
IV. HIS METHOD OF TESTING HEAVENLY VISIONS (ver. 19). By obeying them. Paul sets forth a very wonderful doctrine, namely, that he was not driven against his will to certain conclusions. Even here he asserts the freedom of the will — the attribute that makes a man. "I was not disobedient." I am content to have all theology tested by this one process. You say you believe in God; what use have you made of Him? Take the Sermon upon the Mount: the way to test it is to obey it. Prove prayer by praying; prove the inspiration of the Scriptures by being inspired by their speech.
V. HIS WAY OF PROVING HIS SANITY: by being what the world calls mad. Festus did not know the meaning of the word inspiration — a word as much higher than information as the heaven is high above the earth. Festus, therefore, thought Paul was mad. So he was from the point of view occupied by Festus. Christianity is madness if materialism is true. It is one of two things with us: we are either right, or we are — not merely wrong — mad.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: