Surprising Testimony of Paul Before Felix & Agrippa
Paul did preach the gospel of Jesus in the book of Acts from what Luke saw and heard. I would have approved Paul then too, from what Luke records. Paul says he taught Jesus’ gospel that “works worthy of repentance” are necessary for salvation. Paul taught that gospel in Acts, and did so UNDER OATH, Paul telling a court inActs 26:20 (ASV) that he "declared [his gospel] both to them of Damascus first and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judaea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance."
In an earlier court statement before Felix, Paul did the same as to the Law given Moses – UNDER OATH. Paul says the following in Acts24:14 in the courtroom with Felix, a Roman ruler:
"14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets...." (Acts24:14 NIV.)
So Paul passed the Bereans' test, as Luke records in Acts. I would have passed Paul too. But is Paul’s under oath testimony in Acts 26 what we read in the Epistles of Paul? Absolutely not!
Why? Paul explains:
“But be it so, I did not myself burden you; but, being crafty, I caught you with guile." (2 Cor.12:16, ASV.)
“For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” Romans 3:7
Paul also explains that in evangelism he felt it proper to pretend to believe and follow the Mosaic law as if it truly applied to him (but declaring it no longer did) so as to “win” more to Christ. We read in 1 Cor. 9:20-21:
(20) And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law [i.e.,Nomos], as under the law, not being myself under the law [i.e.Nomos], that I might gain them that are under the law; (21) to them that are without law, [I became] as without law [Greek anomos], not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law. (ASV)
Hence, a Berean test is necessary today. Such a test should start perhaps with comparing Paul’s own epistles to Paul’s sworn testimony before Felix and later Agrippa, among other examples. For if Paul is inconsistent on what he teaches on salvation, the law, etc., how can anyone rely upon him?
Did Paul In Acts Preach Faith Alone in Front of Luke? No
Did Paul have any reason to think Paul taught faith alone for salvation?
Some think so when Paul is asked by the jailer what must "I do to be saved," and Paul answers the jailer by commanding him to "believe on" Jesus, as recorded in most versions of Acts 16:31 (imperative aorist active)
However, this can be translated as "obey / submit upon" Jesus. In context, this is the most sensible meaning.
The Greek is from the verb pisteuo and the preposition epi meaning upon. The verb pisteuo most often means trust or obey. If followed by en meaning in, it would be believe in a fact, person, etc. It would still imply trust, but then believe is the intended metaphorical meaning.
But here the pisteuo epi should mean submitting upon Jesus as one's leader, Messiah (Prince), etc. In fact, in context, the evangelism was that Jesus was the promised MESSIAH -- which is not an empty title. It means a PRINCELY RULER. So to pisteuo epi on someone as Messiah must mean to submit upon that person as your cornerstone of life.
Had Luke read Paul's epistles, Luke would see a different usage by Paul of pisteuo that would signify believing or faith. Had Paul spoken about pisteuo en Jesus, this would mean believe in. Paul in his epistle to the Romans speaks of pistis (the noun) and contrasts it with erga (works), thus narrowing pistis down to likely meaning faith. This is in Romans 4:3-5, and was Luther's foundation passage for faith alone. (See our Paul's Usage of Pistis and Pisteuo.)
But this is not what Luke heard. Instead, Luke heard Paul preach Jesus as Messiah, and asked people to submit upon Jesus as Messiah prince to be saved. Acts 16:31. That is exactly right!
For more on pisteuo and its true meaning, see (1) our discussion of John 3:16; (2) the Septuagint Usage of pisteuo; and (3) Van Campen's discussion of pisteuo at this link.