Agrippa addressed Paul, "You have permission to state your case."
Then Paul, with a raising of his hand, began his defence: "On this day, King Agrippa, I think myself very fortunate to make my defence before you. I now can reply to the accusations of the Jews, and you are well acquainted with all the customs and debates among [us as] Jewish people. So I would ask for your patience to hear me out.
     "Since my youth I have lived among my own people and [also] at Jerusalem, known [widely] to all Jews. They have known from the outset, and they could tell you if willing to do so, that I have lived as a Pharisee, that party that is [known for its] exact public adherence to our religion. Now I stand here on trial for my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, which hope is also the confident expectation of our 12 tribes, and basic to their earnest worship night and day, and it is with respect to this confidence that the Jews have accused me, O King! Why should it be thought incredible by any of you that God would raise the dead? {Yet] I was convinced I ought to do everything I could in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is what I proceeded to do in Jerusalem, not only consigning many of the saints to prison, which I did with the authority of the chief priests, but also when they were executed I cast my vote against them. And I also arranged for synagogues to strictly discipline them, even to the extent of inciting them to blasphemy, hunting them down in foreign cities, such was my raging fury. In this attitude I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.
     "At midday, O King, on the way I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and on those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why do you pursue me?' It is so difficult to keep on kicking (like a donkey) against the spurs. And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are pursuing [and sending into exile]. But rise and stand upon your feet; for this is why I have appeared to you to appoint [as my] assistant and a witness to what you have [now] seen and to those things I will make evident to you, to deliver you from the [bonds of the] people and the Gentiles to whom I am now also sending you, to open their eyes and to turn them around from the darkness to [face] the light, from the powerful oversight of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a rightful place among those made fit for service by faith in me.'
     "So you can appreciate, O King Agrippa, that I have not been obstinate to the heavenly vision, but declared right away to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentile peoples, I have announced repentance and a turning back to God, doing works worthy of [such] repentance. On account of these matters the Jews having collared me in the temple then tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass. That is that the Christ would suffer, and that by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to Gentile peoples." - Acts 26:1-23/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne

Statue of St Paul Malta

St Paul (depicted in a statue in Malta). PICTURE: Continentaleurope/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

IN A NUTSHELL
Paul gives Agrippa his story, the story of how he was sent by Jesus to proclaim forgiveness of sins and a life showing God's mercy. 

Luke's account of Paul's address is also a summary of the story of Paul's conversion and its aftermath that we find in this book. Luke begins by telling us that Paul raised his hand.

Was this Paul's salute in the conventional Roman way to begin his defence before King and Governor? In this way, Paul reminded his audience that just as they were dealing with Jewish customs and debates so he, a Roman citizen, was at ease with Roman custom. "Ave!" By describing the event in this way, Luke reminds us that faith in Jesus has significance for how we deal with everything in our life including how we show respect for our neighbours. And we find ourselves coming into contact with our neighbours in all kinds of situations. At the very least, we can say that Luke finds it significant to tell his reader(s) that Paul, in this statement that has since become one of the most important formulations giving us guidance as to how following Jesus Christ relates to civil authority, commenced his address with a customary greeting.

Paul, the Jew, proclaimed Jesus with due regard for Graeco-Roman cultural forms. How else? As a Roman citizen, he defended himself in Greek. It is a message for all the world. God's grace has been poured out. The Messiah has come. Forgiveness of sins is available for all people; Jesus is the first-born from the dead. This is the hope of the resurrection. God keeps His promises. What Moses and the prophets set forth has come to pass.

But there is also much more we need to note here. Paul, in explaining himself to King Agrippa, is not making himself out to be a hero, such as might be found in Greek tragedy. Paul explicitly identifies his office as "personal assistant" to the Person he met on the road to Damascus. If he is anything it is a "letter". This Person has a message He wanting to "deliver". At most Paul is a "postman", an under-rower - that is the term Jesus uses for Paul's life henceforth.

Paul's account is about a life of repentance and commending God's love and mercy in Israel's Messiah. He is before King Agrippa because, "I have not been obstinate to the heavenly vision, declaring right away to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentile peoples. That is a life that announces repentance and a turning back to God, a life of seeking to do works worthy of [such] repentance."

This account is not Paul's claim to fame. He is not some latter-day Hebrew prophet. He tells the King that his life has simply been according to what the law and the prophets have revealed. By turning him around, Jesus was telling Paul that He would henceforth be the One to have authority over his life. His new life would be nothing other than an announcement of repentance and turning back to God in all he did. Instead of pursuing Jesus and persecuting Him, he would henceforth find that he was by those Jewish zealots, fired with resistance to Israel's Messiah as he had been, and Gentiles who would want nothing to do with his message.

There is that phrase in Paul's account of his confrontation with Jesus that has occasioned much scholarly discussion. It is translated here as Paul's aside to the King: "It is so difficult to keep on kicking (like a donkey) against the spurs."

This phrase is often translated as if they are words Paul puts into the mouth of Jesus. This is new to Luke's account of Paul's conversion. I have suggested however that they are Luke's stenographic record of Paul's aside to the King. It is possibly a turn of phrase that is found in Greek tragedy. To get to an understanding of this we need to consider what Paul might be meaning by his aside and but also to appreciate how he is forming his discussion with the King and the Roman Governor.

The Lord had spoken. The Lord had turned [Paul] around. Instead of pursuing believers, in order to have them tried and killed, he would henceforth be the one to be delivered from those pursuing him and that meant following on paths of those who were fleeing, in order to support, encourage and, as occasion required it, becoming advocates for justice before the civil authority.

The phrase, whether or not if it be a quote from Greek tragedy, has the sense that exacting vengeance is a futile gesture. And in that sense the words of Jesus, "Saul, Saul why are you in hot pursuit of me? Why are you seeking to exact vengeance on me? Why are you still seeking to apprehend me after sending me into exile?"

These are also the terms by which the anointed of the Lord, addressed the vengeance-seeking King Saul: "Why does my lord pursue his servant? For what have I done? What guilt is in my hands?" (1 Samuel 26:17-20).

Jesus is presented by Paul's account of his encounter as One speaking to a blind man groping in the dark. Paul is told that he, Saul, was pursuing the Lord's anointed, was seeking to take vengeance on the very Person who alone could give Paul's life meaning. And in that context what I have called Paul's "aside", suggest the meaning of "the game is up". Resistance was futile. To keep going along that zealot way was to bang one's head against a brick wall. In Paul's terms, the game was up when the Lord knocked him off his horse, and he says he knew it straight away even thought this One was a stranger to him: "Who are you Lord?"

The Lord had spoken. The Lord had turned him around. Instead of pursuing believers, in order to have them tried and killed, he would henceforth be the one to be delivered from those pursuing him and that meant following on paths of those who were fleeing, in order to support, encourage and, as occasion required it, becoming advocates for justice before the civil authority. And that also seems to be why Paul's account of "justice, self-control and future judgment" (Acts 24:25) left Felix deeply troubled by Paul's exposition of what the Highest Majesty requires (Paul's version of Micah 6:8).