Then Agrippa said to Paul, You are permitted to speak for yourself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:…
I. THE PULPIT. Paul had stood in the Areopagus, in the Temple, in synagogues, but never in circumstances apparently more unfavourable than those here. A prisoner, his arm chained to that of a Roman soldier, he yet makes that prisoner's bar a pulpit from which with unrivalled energy he proclaims Christ as the Saviour of men. Nay, the very clanking of the chain becomes eloquent as he said, "Except these bonds." So around us everywhere are God's imprisoned preachers — men and women upon the arm of whose efficiency are the chains of poverty, physical weakness, etc., and yet who preach from the couch of the invalid, the bare garret and the lonely hovel, sermons which carry with them the eloquence of lives that are "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing," etc. Their example teaches us that there are no circumstances so unpropitious that a loving consecration may not find in them opportunity for witness bearing for Christ.
II. THE AUDIENCE. A vast concourse of Jews, Romans, and barbarians, patricians and plebeians, citizens and soldiers. But in a more special sense it consisted of but a single soul. Paul's words are addressed particularly to Agrippa, one of Paul's "own kindred after the flesh," whose conversion would set in motion influences for good the measure of which it would be impossible to foretell. There is many a patient, prayerful teacher who, as he looks Sabbath after Sabbath into the face of the one or two boys who come regularly to his class, grows disheartened at the smallness of the audience; but let him remember Paul's interest in Agrippa, and bear in mind the fact that one of those boys may be some chosen instrument through whom he will bring thousands into the kingdom. A single lever sets in motion whole acres of machinery, and so a single soul, inspired through your agency, may become a factor in the world's conversion.
III. THE SERMON.
1. Its method.
(4) Masterly skill. By a system of gradual approaches the citadel of Agrippa's heart is besieged.
2. Its matter.
(1) The whole sermon centres in Christ.
(2) Prominence is given to Christ's death and resurrection.
(3) These great verities are presented, not simply as historical facts, but as inwoven with his own religious experience.
(4) Paul's estimate of its power: "To open their eyes, and to turn," etc. Here we have an admirable summary of the whole practical work of redemption.
IV. ITS RESULTS. The visible results were not of a character to afford much encouragement. Agrippa was the only one who gave any evidence of conviction, and his convictions only led him to say, "Almost thou persuadest me." Yet who can tell what harvest may have afterward come from the seed sown that day apparently in most unfriendly soil? Let the faithful worker for Christ take courage.
(T. D. Witherspoon, 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: