Acts – Paul the Apostle/Part 25
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|Well, in this study we are going to see from the life of Paul that he shares his testimony, and it is literally thrown right back in his face. The key is not in the rejection of the testimony. I think the key and the focus is the attitude Paul had once he realized his testimony had been rejected. That’s the key. When Jesus is Jesus in you and Jesus is Jesus in me, His burden in us will not allow us to do anything but press on.|
Ephesians 1:1; Acts 27
Paul: The Messenger – Part 13
Turn with me to Acts 26. Have you ever shared your faith or your testimony and had it literally thrown right back in your face? Has that ever happened to you? The humanistic world looks at you as if you are insane. The religiously knowledgeable people who are not willing to bow before Christ are curious and cautious, but never willing to bow and to do the things that the testimony would require. Well, in this study we are going to see from the life of Paul that he shares his testimony, and it is literally thrown right back in his face. The key is not in the rejection of the testimony. I think the key and the focus is the attitude Paul had once he realized his testimony had been rejected. That’s the key. When Jesus is Jesus in you and Jesus is Jesus in me, His burden in us will not allow us to do anything but press on. When people throw it back in our face, that’s alright. He never said everyone would receive it. As a matter of fact, He said, “Few there be that find it.” Only a small part of the people who hear it will ever respond to it. Don’t let it suppress your burden when people reject what you share in your testimony about Christ. Let it intensify it. When Jesus is Jesus in us, we will continue to be burdened, even when people reject Christ in their lives.
Well, Paul finally has someone to present his case to who understands him. Finally, he can give his defense before someone who understands what he is going through and understands where he is coming from. Paul has been before Felix, the governor of Judea. His wife, Drusilla, was a granddaughter of the Herod the Great dynasty. She was kin to some of the ones who had done Christianity great harm. Felix, at the request of his wife, asked him to come to meet in a private session. He understood about Christianity, but he got real nervous when Paul talked about righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come. So he put him off and put him off for two solid years. He illegally kept him in custody. Paul has been before Festus. Festus is the new governor who succeeded Felix as governor of Judea in Caesarea. Festus basically didn’t have a clue. I mean, he didn’t know what was going on. He just rejected it from the very outset.
Now Paul is before Agrippa II. Agrippa is a King, a part of Palestine. The Agrippa line, in the past, would have been king of all of Judea, but when his dad died, he was not made King of all Judea, only of Palestine. Even though he is a Roman comrade, he is also a proselyte Jew. Therefore, he understands the Old Testament. He knows the books of Moses, and he also understands the prophets. Finally, Paul can give his defense before a legal authority who understands where he is coming from.
Well, in chapter 26:1-23, which we looked at the last time, Paul gives his defense. He waits until he is asked to defend himself. He has no agenda except that he is what he is by the grace of God. He begins to share. He shows his respect for authority. He goes right to the very core of the problem. He goes right to the very issue. The issue is not in the fact that he has preached against the Law or preached against the Tabernacle. That is not the issue. The issue is Christ. The issue is the gospel, not only of Christ, but the fact that he preached it to Gentiles. They couldn’t handle that, so they drummed up false accusations. Paul got right to the heart of the matter. He said, “I am being put on trial for preaching the hope of the resurrection. I am a Pharisee. King Agrippa, you understand Pharisees. We have always believed in the hope of the resurrection.” He was building a foundation on which to give his testimony. Paul wants them to know he has met the hope of the resurrection. He’s met the One who is the resurrection and the life. All these years as a Pharisee he believed in the resurrection. Now he believes in the hope of the resurrection because he has met that Hope who is Christ Jesus Himself.
He gives his testimony before King Agrippa, and it is a beautiful testimony led by the Holy Spirit of God. We want to see how they responded to his testimony. It was powerful. He got into a lot of things he hadn’t been able to get into before because Agrippa knows where he is coming from.
There are three responses we want to look at: one from Festus, one from Agrippa and Paul’s response to their response. Hopefully these responses will be an encouragement to us. First of all, there’s the disbelieving response of Festus. I want you to see what Festus says. Paul has just finished giving his testimony. Look at verse 24: “And while Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice,” now get the picture here, with mega loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind!” Talk about throwing it back in your face. Here’s the humanistic Roman governor of Judea saying to Paul, “Paul, you are crazy. You are an idiot. You are out of your mind.” Let’s make sure we understand that phrase. It means “out of your mind.” It means “you have lost your senses.”
Let’s look in John 10:20 where that word is used and get an idea of what Festus is saying to Paul here. What does it mean to be out of your mind? In John 10:20, Jesus has just finished talking about Him being the Good Shepherd. He was talking about He is the door for the sheep. Back up to verse 17: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again.” Then in verse 18 He says, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” Now this is hard to take. These are words are difficult, so it says in verse 19, “There arose a division again among the Jews because of these words.”
Now look at verse 20: “And many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon [when you can’t understand something, blame it on a demon] and is [the New American Standard says what?] insane.” That’s the same exact word used over in Acts 26:24. “Paul, you are insane. What you are talking about makes no sense to the mind. You are insane. You’ve lost your senses.”
Look in Acts 12:15. That word is used again. I think these examples really draw a picture for us as to what really is going on. Remember after Stephen was stoned to death there was a great scattering of the Jews. Saul, who is now the apostle Paul, having been changed by the resurrected Christ, was the reason for that. Back then he was a Jewish Pharisee who was persecuting the believers. During that time Herod Agrippa I, the father of the man Paul is dealing with in chapter 26, caused James to be put to death. Now here in Acts 12:15 they have arrested Peter. Not only have they chained him to one man, they have chained him to two men, and he is there in prison. You know the story. Verse 7 says, “And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared, and a light shone in the cell [Peter is in jail], and he struck Peter’s side and roused him [Peter was sound asleep] saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And his chains fell off his hands.”
Simon Peter was an impetuous man. The only reason he opens his mouth is to change feet. I mean, this guy is a real emotional dude. He is really going to be overwhelmed by this experience. Look at verse 8: “And the angel said to him, ‘Gird yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.” He thought he was dreaming. This couldn’t be happening. Verse 10 continues, “And when they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street; and immediately the angel departed from him. And when Peter came to himself [In other words, he realized that he was awake. This was not a dream! This really happened!], he said, ‘Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’ And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. And when she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy, she did not open the gate [she left him standing there outside the gate], but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.” Now watch this. “And they said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’”
“He can’t be out there. He’s in jail chained between two guards. What you are saying doesn’t compute. You’ve lost your senses. You are saying things that are unreasonable.” See the word used there. Look with me in 1 Corinthians 14:23. This ought to amuse you. It says, “If therefore the whole church should assemble together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?” That’s the same word, insane, mad. You are out of your mind. In other words, what you are doing makes no sense. When I listen to it, I cannot add it up and make it come out. One plus one equals two. You are telling me one plus two equals ten. That doesn’t make any sense. You have lost your mind.
Now, what was it that irritated Festus? Go back to our text and just read through 26. What is so unreasonable about what Paul has said? He said, “I used to be a Jew. I used to go out persecuting Christians. I was one of the guys who are after me now, but something happened to me.” Now, if you will go back and look at it, there is only one thing that Festus cannot compute. He cannot make it work out in his mind. He cannot put one plus one and make it equal ten. Look back in at verse 12: “While thus engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun [in other words, it was supernaturally bright] shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect [Paul spoke Greek and Hebrew, but he heard it in Hebrew] ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.’”
Paul didn’t believe in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ when this happened. He was persecuting people who did believe. But one day he ran into Him headlong. Now what are you going to do with that? He said, “Agrippa, He changed my life. He did rise from the dead. I saw Him. I was there. He changed me. What I am now I am by the grace of God.” Festus was listening to that. He said, “What? A man raised from the dead! Paul, you have lost your mind!”
I am going to tell you something. When you share the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is one ingredient to it that you have to share. If you don’t, you have not shared the gospel. The gospel is not that God loves you and has a wonderful plan. That’s part of it, yes, a very valid part. The gospel is not only that God sent His Son into this world. That’s part of it. The gospel is not just that He came to die on a cross. That’s part of it. You see, when you realize He came to die on the cross, you’ve got to immediately see the fact that what caused Him to die on the cross. If He came to bear our sin, that must mean I’m a sinner. Not only did He die on the cross, but He rose from the dead. He raised Himself, for His Father had given Him authority to lay His life down and to take it up. He ascended and was glorified. Do you know what the lost world can’t handle? They can’t handle the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Festus could not put that together. Muhammad was a good man, yes. He died. Abraham was a good man, yes. He died. But not Jesus. How could He die, raise Himself from the dead and live forever? That’s the gospel. That’s the key ingredient to the gospel. If a person does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, he is not a believer.
Look in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul is dealing with that very matter in this passage. I know a man right now, in a very reputable seminary, who does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ and claims to be a Christian. He cannot be, because that is the whole essential ingredient in the gospel message. If you don’t have the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, then all you have is a dead man on a cross. If you only have a spiritual resurrection, then He really wasn’t a man to start with. He was just a figment of your imagination and it wasn’t real blood in His veins. It was something spiritual that looked like blood. You’ve got to have real blood; you’ve got to have a real body; you’ve got to have a real death and a real resurrection, or you don’t have the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 15.
I don’t have time to do the whole chapter. Let me just give you a few verses here. Verse 1 reads, “Now, I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand.” “The gospel” is not Paul’s opinion. That’s what God’s Word states: “by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [now watch verse 4] and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas.”
Skip on down to verse 12: “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” There were some people in Corinth who said, “You don’t really rise from the dead. Once the body is in the casket, that’s it. There is no bodily resurrection of the dead. There is a spiritual resurrection, but not a physical resurrection.” Paul is nailing that here. “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised [Uh oh!]; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ [God has already stated He would do that] whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.” Verse 17 continues, “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”
You must believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. What was it that didn’t compute with Festus? He couldn’t handle the bodily resurrection. He could handle a good man. He could handle Jesus; he could handle all of that, but not the fact that He died on the cross and rose from the dead. It is the resurrection that causes people trouble. It is not something that is taught; the Holy Spirit has got to turn your eyes on and let you catch it. It has got to be revealed to the human heart. You’ll not figure this one out. It is something that God has to reveal to your heart upon hearing the Word of God.
Festus goes on in Acts 26:24 and says, “Your great learning is driving you mad.” The word for “learning” there is gramma. It normally means “letters,” but in this context Festus is referring to all of the content of what Paul had learned. Festus says that is what is driving Paul mad. In other words, “Paul, you are brilliant, but you are in the wrong class. You are studying ideology. You are studying stuff that is leading you to be further insane. Get off of that and come on back to where you used to be. We understood you then. We can’t understand you now. Your learning is driving you insane.”
Paul says something in verse 25 that I think is very important. He looked at Festus, and he said, “Festus, I understand where you are coming from because I used to think just like you think. I thought it was insanity too, but now something has happened to my mind. I see now that what I used to think was insane is the most sane thing that could ever have happened.” Look at verse 25: “But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth.” The word “sober” is the Greek word sophrosune. It comes from the word sophron, which is derived from sozo, which means “saved,” and phren, which means “mind or attitude.”
In other words, when I get saved, God not only saves my spirit and unites with it, He also saves my mind. He delivers me. He switches me from AM, which cannot figure out God, which cannot figure out the resurrection, to FM where God reveals that a man walks by revelation, not self-discovering. Now I am on a brand new wavelength with God.
Paul is saying, “Festus, I used to be as insane as you are, but now for the first time in my life, I am speaking words that are sane. That is sanity. But as long as you will not believe, you will continue to have that response.”
You know, when you share the gospel with people, you must share the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When you share it, expect that many of them will throw it right back in your face. Oh, they can accept religion, but they can’t accept a man who had to suffer and die. Israel could not accept it because their Messiah was supposed to establish a kingdom. They couldn’t accept the fact of suffering. When you think of why He suffered, it makes you accountable for sin because your sin put Him on that cross. You’ve got to deal with it individually. When you deal with it individually, you’ve got to remember He resurrected, ascended, was glorified and is now the door through which you enter to become a child of the Father.
An example of that is James himself, who wrote the book of James. In 1:1 he says, “James, a bond-servant of God.” He should have been. I mean, he came up in a good Jewish family, Mary and Joseph’s. That’s not bad; “and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” What was it that had changed James? In 1 Corinthians 15, which we were looking at earlier, it says that after He had resurrected Jesus appeared to Cephas, to the 200, to the 500, but also to who? To James. When the resurrection of Christ was spiritually revealed to James, upon seeing Him, he saw himself and was literally transformed and was never the same again.
The Holy Spirit of God wants to reveal that to every human heart. There is a measure of faith built into every man that can respond when the Holy Spirit reveals the resurrected Christ, why He died, what He did on the cross and the fact that He resurrected from the dead. When that happens, that becomes the basis of which I can become a believer.
Well, that was the response of Festus. It was a disbelieving response. “Paul, you are out of your mind. You’re an idiot. You are a dummy.” What’s the response of Agrippa? In the same conversation, Paul draws Agrippa into it. It is so beautiful to watch how the Holy Spirit leads him. Look at verse 26: “For the king knows about these matters.” Paul is still talking to Festus, but he draws Agrippa into it: “and I speak to him with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner.” In other words, “Agrippa knows where I am coming from. He’s got the Jewish background.”
Paul does something here. In verse 27, he takes Agrippa where he didn’t take Festus. Festus has already shut his mind down beforehand. He takes Agrippa to the Scriptures. Now listen, your testimony and my testimony will inspire people and convince people, but it will not convict them until the Word of God has gotten into their hearts. That is the seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So Paul backs up his testimony with the Word of God. He doesn’t back up the Word of God with his testimony. He backs up his testimony with the Word of God. This always has to be done. Look at what he says here in verse 27: “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do.” The word “know” there is oida. It means intuitively. Paul said, “I discern in my spirit you know what I’m talking about.” Oh, can’t you imagine the excitement in Paul realizing, “Hey, Festus. I mean, he’s called me an idiot, but Agrippa knows where I am coming from. Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?”
You mean the prophets have something to say about the Messiah and the resurrection? You’d better believe it. As a matter of fact, I started to spend some time on that, but I am just going to have to turn you loose with it. That is a whole other study. You can look at the prophecies, not only of the Messiah’s coming, but of His resurrecting. They are all over the Old Testament. “Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do.”
The saddest words I think in the New Testament come in verse 28: “And Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time [I think it is better in the King James Version. The King James says, “almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian.”] “In a short time, you will persuade me to become a Christian.” The Greek does not say “you will.” It should read “you are persuading me to become a Christian.” The word there is peitho. You are winning me over by your talk. In other words what he is saying is, “Paul, you are good. You are good. Man, you are the best I think I have ever heard.” Paul is the best preacher in the New Testament besides the Lord Jesus. He had the advantage of being with one of the communicators who was gifted and called by the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, Paul just laid it out. Agrippa said, “Whew, in a short time. I mean we haven’t even talked long, but I am already seeing it. It makes sense what you are saying.” Did that mean Agrippa was ready to receive Christ? No. He was acquainted with all this stuff, and because of his knowledge, he was tremendously curious and cautious. But he was not about to receive it. He said, “You are persuading me to become a Christian.”
Look at Revelation 3:. I want to show you something. This is what we have to get used to. This is His Word, not ours. We share. We set the table. We bring the Scriptures out. That’s all we can do. The Holy Spirit has got to take it, folks. You and I can convince anyone that Jesus is God’s Son, but that only leads to further curiosity and greater knowledge. It does not lead to salvation. God has got to do the rest. Let me show you this. God has got to convict. We cannot do that. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
I used to preach this verse as if this was the church that had been saved but was not allowing Jesus to be Jesus in their life. I don’t think that any more. Not after I have studied it. I think this is the apostate church, the age we are living in right now. People are joining the church, but they are not joining Jesus. They don’t have a clue. They are like Agrippa. They love it. “Boy, I like good Bible preaching.” However, they are not about to bow their knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. They won’t do it. They don’t want to hear their flesh is sinful.
Look here in verse 20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.” The first thing that hit me in that verse was “if anyone hears” Paul’s voice? Is that what He said? No, “if anyone hears My voice.” Folks, that’s an ingredient we can’t put into witnessing. That is something God has go to put in there. It starts with us. We had better be under the power and the anointing of the Holy Spirit of God and led of His Spirit. It is all His work. They hear us speaking, but they really hear Him speaking. It is at that moment they have the power to open the door. You can’t open a door that He doesn’t give you the power to open.
God so designed salvation so you’ve got the Presbyterians on one side and the Baptists on the other. You’ve got one group believing in election and one believing in free will. Folks, they are both taught in Scripture. We are going to get to heaven one day, walk in, and see overhead on the gate “Whosoever will may come.” All the Baptists are going to say, “We told you so.” We walk underneath the banner, look back, and it will say, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.” How do you reconcile it? Why do you have to reconcile two things that are not enemies? They are both taught side by side. The best way I know how to handle it is: Take your shoes off and walk in. You are on holy ground.
You can’t figure it out, friend. Somehow God moves first in your life. He gives you a measure of faith. If you ever get to heaven, don’t you pat yourself on the shoulder. He started it. If you go to hell, don’t blame God because you chose against Him. That’s the uniqueness of how he designed our redemption. Man can never for a second take credit for salvation, and he can never for a second blame God because he is in hell. That’s the way God designed it. That’s why we have all this fuss over election and the free will of man. I’ve got to hear His voice before I can open that door. A lot of people can join a church. You can open that door easy, but buddy, when you enter into the kingdom, it’s got to be by His work, and His convicting you of being a sinner. There is no other way possible. Then you respond by the faith that He gives you.
Well, Agrippa cautiously and curiously responds. That’s about it. I want you to see the response of Paul. What did Festus do? “You are an idiot, Paul.” He disbelieved and rejected it. What did Agrippa do? “Whew, that’s interesting. I would like to take a course in that, Paul. Can you come back a little later on? Is there a graduate course in this thing? Can I get a degree?” He’s curious. He’s cautious.
How did Paul respond? In the last verse I want to look at, verse 29, Paul makes a statement, and I am going to close with it. “And Paul said, ‘I would to God [In the Greek, that phrase means, “I wish to express out loud a desire that I have before God.”] that whether in a short time or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.’” What is he saying? He is saying, “Festus, you’ve thrown it back in my face. Agrippa, you are curious, but I can tell you are not really concerned. My prayer for you and everybody in this court who is listening [there was a huge crowd of people there] is that every one of you one day could be transformed the same way I was transformed so you could know the Christ that I know.”
His burden was not suppressed by their rejection. It was intensified because the Holy Spirit of God was the One in control of the burden, not Paul. It was God in Paul. You don’t quit because people reject it.
When Paul was at Mars Hill he got to the point in his sermon about the resurrection of the dead, and some of the people in the crowd said, “No.” They disbelieved. Some of them said, “Hmm, I’d like to come back and hear that again.” Those are the two responses you get many times. Both of them are rejections, but when you get them, make sure your burden is pure. If it’s pure, you don’t give up on them. If it’s pure, you continue as Paul did. You just want the best. You want them to become believers. If it takes a short time or if it takes a long time, that’s the burden of your heart.
Well, it goes on in verses 30-32. Paul is not in the picture now. It says, “And the king arose and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them, and when they had drawn aside, they began talking to one another, saying, ‘This man is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment.’ And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’” Festus probably replied, “Well, the Jews kept pushing him so he made the appeal to Caesar.” Why did Paul really make his appeal to Caesar? Because God said, “I want you in Rome.” God wasn’t through with him yet. He still had business in his life.
You know, in Scripture it says we are seed-scatterers. It doesn’t say that we are Seed Harvest Producers. Some sow, and some water. Who gives the increase? God gives the increase. You know, a seed-scatterer just goes out and throws it You don’t expect all the seed to come up. No. The key is you are getting it out. Are you getting it out? Some people say, “Missions is really not in Scripture.” Are you kidding? That is missions. That is getting it out.
I know when our mission group went over to London they weren’t just rejected. The gospel wasn’t just rejected. They were cursed to their face. That’s the way it is. Don’t get discouraged. He didn’t say everybody was going to receive it. When they throw it in your face, just keep right on going, but let your burden be pure and continue to be burdened, even for the ones who are the most adamant in rejecting your testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ.
The thing that burdens me about me is the fact that sometimes that burden is not there. It’s just not there. One day I was in Florida, and the Lord revealed a truth to me about justification. I had taught it, but I hadn’t understood it. One day He just clicked that little light on. Click! Something happened inside of me. I wanted the guy who was driving the car to pull off the road. I wanted to get in the middle of the road, stop everybody and tell them what God had just shown me. I just wish I could live with that kind of burden every day. It just motivates your heart. I guess that’s why we need mercy and grace. I’m glad I am already accepted. I’m glad that if I don’t go out and do it, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t accept me. He has accepted me in the beloved, folks. I don’t do what I do so He will accept me. I do what I do because He has accepted me. That ought to be all the motivation ever needed in my life.
Folks, when they reject it, back up and do what? Press on. Back up, regroup and just press on. We’ve got to press on. Don’t let their rejection of the gospel alter you whatsoever.