Then Agrippa said to Paul, You are permitted to speak for yourself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:…
Here is all that Christianity ever asked for: an opportunity to speak for itself; and its answer is the one which must always be returned: "I beseech thee to hear me patiently." Christianity always appears in person, its witnesses are always at hand, the court is never disappointed, the judge has never to wait. But Christianity must be heard patiently. Only the candid hearer can listen well. If we have put into our ears prejudices and foregone conclusions, the music of Christianity cannot make its way. We should allow the Word free course through the mind, and, when it has completed its deliverance, then we may make reply, and then should be willing to return the courtesy and to hear what reply can be made. Here is the only answer which is universally available. As Christian Churches and preachers, we ought to take our stand just here, and when Paul is done, we should say, one and all, "That is our answer." Here is —
I. PERSONAL TESTIMONY. Paul talks about nobody else but himself. If we have nothing to say out of our own consciousness we cannot preach. But we are afraid to speak about ourselves; and, in truth, I am not surprised at the fear. We allege, however, that our experience is something between ourselves and God. Paul never thought so; he was not so humble as we are; we rebuke him, we shame him.
II. PERSONAL CONVERSION. Are you ashamed of that old word? Men used to be converted; now they change their opinion and their standpoint and their attitude. Mountebanks! See where he began — "which knew me from the beginning." That was the starting point; what was the end? "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." That is what we mean by conversion. Paul was not a profligate to be touched by emotions. His was not a vacant mind, ready for any new impression. He was not a fanatic, fond of exciting adventures. Here is a conversion based upon a distinct history. Ours is not so romantic, but is quite as real. The incidents were individual and local, but all the significance is universal. Christianity meets men on wrong courses. Saul was on his way to Damascus, intent upon doing a wrong thing. Are we not also on the wrong road with a wrong purpose, armed by the power of a wrong authority? Christianity fights with the weapon of light: "I saw in the way a light item heaven." I have seen that light; this is my own experience. I see it now! I see the hideous iniquity, the shameful ingratitude, the infinite love, the sacrificial blood. That is conversion. Christianity is the religion of mental illumination and liberation.
III. A NEW MISSION. "Rise, and stand upon thy feet," etc. Christianity does not perform in the mind the miracle of eviction without furnishing the mind with thoughts, convictions, and sublimities of its own. The reason why so many people have turned away from Christ is, that, though they have seen the light, they have not discharged the ministry. We must keep up visions by services; we must maintain theology by beneficence. Instead of sitting down and analysing feelings and impressions, in order to find out whether we are really Christians or not, we should go out and call the blind and the halt and the friendless to a daily feast, and in that act we should see how truly we are accepted of God. If Paul had retired as a gentleman of leisure he might have forgotten the vision, or have contracted it into an anecdote; but he made it the starting point of a new life; and in war, suffering, and agony, he got the confirmation of his best impressions. A working Church is a faithful Church; an honest, earnest, self-sacrificing Church is always orthodox.
IV. DIVINE INSPIRATION. "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue" Conversion is followed by confirmation. Paul did not eat bread once for all: he sat daily at the table of the Lord; he obtained help of God. He needed it all; every night he needed the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to sustain him after the wearing fray. Ministers, that is how we must live; we must obtain help from heaven; then we shall be able to say, "Though the outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."
(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: