“NOT ONLY, BUT ALSO”

ou monon alla kai...
…Acts 26:28-29


Paul traveled from Caesarea to Jerusalem with his companions. He did so even after the prophet Agabus had told him that he would be bound in Jerusalem and “...deliver[ed] up to the hands of nations” (Acts 21:11). Arriving at Jerusalem, Paul told James all about what God had done among the nations. James rejoiced and told Paul the good news concerning there being “thousands upon thousands” of Jewish believers in Jerusalem.

But James also informed Paul that the Jerusalem Christians had accepted a false rumor that Paul was an apostate to the law of Moses and had taught Jews in other nations not to circumcise their children and to abandon all Jewish customs, as well (21:21). To correct this error, James proposed that Paul go to the temple with some believers who had made a vow, and that he join them in their purification rites. This would demonstrate that Paul himself had not forsaken Judaism.

Seven days later, however, when Paul had gone to the temple to present the final offering for the men being purified, he was identified and verbally assaulted by some Asiatic Jews, who shouted false charges and stirred up the whole city against him. Grabbing Paul, they dragged him out of the temple, and shut the gates. They beat Paul, intending to kill him, but he was rescued by the Roman commander who put him in chains. After receiving confusing information from the crowd, the commander decided to take Paul to the barracks for questioning.

While the crowd was following and shouting “away with him,” Paul informed the commander that he was a citizen of Tarsus, which was “no mean city.” Paul asked permission to speak to the people, a permission that was respectfully granted. A silence fell over the multitude and Paul spoke in their own Aramaic language. He gave a complete gospel message, which ended when he told them that the Lord had sent him to go to the gentiles also. Hearing this, the crowd shouted “He is not fit to live.” He was saved once more by the soldiers who took him to the barracks to get more information by flogging him. Their plan changed quickly, however, when Paul asked the centurion if it were legal for him to flog a Roman citizen who had not even been found guilty. Awed by Paul's Roman citizenship, the commanders changed plans immediately, deciding to get Paul an audience with the Sanhedrin the next day.

The Sanhedrin included the Sadducees who rejected the resurrection of the dead, and as the more orthodox Pharisees. A great uproar took place when Paul identified himself as a Pharisee and said that he was being tried because of his belief in the resurrection! A dispute broke out between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, in which the Pharisees strongly sided with Paul.

To make an exciting long story shorter, Paul's nephew had heard about a cloak-and-daggar plot by men in Jerusalem who had taken an oath not to eat or drink until they had assassinated Paul. The young man revealed this surreptitious plot to the Roman commander, who secretly sent Paul back to Caeserea by night, under a guard of 200 Roman troops! Paul was kept at Caeserea for five days until his accusers arrived from Jerusalem. The whole discussion was repeated in front of Governor Felix, with Paul once again maintaining that the real reason for the accusations against him his belief in the resurrection. Felix and his wife Drucilla privately interviewed Paul, who spoke to them clearly about “...righteousness, self-control, and judgment,” after which Felix, in fear, said, “That is enough for now!” But Felix still was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he frequently sent for Paul and talked with him.

Two years passed, during which time Felix wanted to do a favor for the Jews and thus kept Paul in prison. Felix was then succeeded as governor by Porcius Festus. After hearing charges against Paul while visiting Jerusalem, Festus, invited the Jews to go back to Caesarea and once again present charges against Paul. In Caeserea, while surrounded by these Jews, Paul made his famous defense and gospel presentation before Festus. Refusing to go back for a trial in Jerusalem, as Festus suggested, Paul uttered his famous remark, “I am now standing before Caesar's court where I ought to be tried...
I appeal to Caesar!” Acts 25:10. To this, Festus issued his oft quoted reply: “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you will go!”

King Agrippa was another important ruler at that time. With his wife Bernice, he came to Caesaea to pay respects to the new governor, Festus. Upon hearing about Paul's intriguing story, Agrippa asked to hear Paul himself, to which Festus replied:. “Tomorrow you will hear him.” After very pompous ceremonies in the court to honor Agrippa, Agrippa told Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself” (NIV)*. Upon listening to Paul's poignant defense and gospel presentation, Agrippa told Paul: “' In a brief [time] you are persuading me, to make me a Christian!'” Acts 26:28. Paul then responded: “'Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but [also] (Greek: ou monon alla kai) all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains'” NIV.

When the phrase “not only but also” was used in scripture, it ordinarily demonstrated that the second event being mentioned was just as salient as the first, and perhaps even more so. The two phenomena being compared in Acts 26:29 were: 1. the regeneration of Agrippa and 2. the salvation of everybody in the courtroom. Paul prayed openly for the salvation of both.

Paul's belief in the ultimate reconciliation of every person was more fully revealed in other texts like Romans 5:18-19 and I Timothy 4:9-11. But it also showed up in subtle ways within passages like Acts 26:29 where Paul took the opportunity to pray aloud for God to save Agrippa and all the people present! Based on Matthew 21:22, these will all be reconciled to God because: “...all [things] you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive” (NASB).

Some of the ways the NIV translators rendered
thelō in the New Testament are: want(s)(ed), will(s), is willing, desire(s), would, wish(es), choose(s)(ing), longed, decided, delights, and determined. While the key meaning of thelō in the context of I Timothy 2:3-4 is “wills,” each of the other concepts contained in these English words sheds more light on God's outlook on the great work of redeeming everyone. For example, reconciliation of all is something God really wanted and wished to accomplish; He desired to save all men. The Lord longed for such a comprehensive work to occur. He determined to do so—not grudgingly, but delighting in the task.

Universal prayers like these must have been part of Paul's own practice because he recommended them to Timothy: “I am entreating then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, pleadings, [and] thanksgiving be made for all mankind, for kings and all those being in a superior station, that we may be leading a mild and quiet life in all devoutness and gravity...” I Timothy 2:1-3 CLV. Surely Agrippa and all in that courtroom will be completely reconciled to God and united with Him when He becomes “all in all” (I Corinthians 15:28.)


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*NIV=New International Version; CLV=Concordant Literal Version; NASB=New American Standard Bible.
Other scriptures are personal translations based on the above and on Alfred Marshall's Greek and English Interlinear Translation.
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George F. Howe is founder of TURA (The Ultimate Reconciliation of All).
Write him at 24635 Apple Street, Newhall, CA 91321-2614.
More of his writings can be seen online at
www.ais-gwd.com/~cdevans Once there, click on “Systematic Reconciliation.”