Festus made a comment to Paul as he spoke before King Agrippa: Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. What a statement! What a response!
Acts 26: 25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
Festus tried to make it known that Paul was crazy. He didn’t make sense. In a way Festus was correct. Paul told him “I’m not crazy!” Festus was the one who got worked up over the matter. In his desperation he made the statement. It’s true. Paul was beside himself. He was not the person he was before he accepted Jesus. He was a member of the Sanhedrin. In living and practice he was a different person than before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road.
We’re not defined by who we say we are. It’s by what we are. The person we are proves itself through what we do. As Christians we must remember this. We’re expected to live what we say we believe and practice what we say we follow. It’s more than a handle. It’s a change of life. In verses 4-5 Paul spoke of his life. My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. This was Paul’s life before Jesus. He was zealous and highly regarded in religious circles. However, he was a sinner, and it came out regardless of how staunch a Pharisee he tried to be. Convictions and beliefs don’t get you to heaven. You have to be saved. My dad was a hard person to see his need of salvation. He was a very good person and thought he was good enough. God convicted him and eventually he saw his need. Paul had to get to this point.
He thought he was better than most and had earned heaven. He was well educated and a true Pharisee. It didn’t matter. If a person doesn’t have a personal faith in Jesus, his or her testimony and profession is in vain. Paul was getting nowhere being a Pharisee. Shortly after holding the clothes of those who stoned Stephen, Paul was on his way to Damascus, papers in hand, to arrest and/or kill Christians. BUT something happened. In verses 13-15 Paul said it like this. At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
The voice of Jesus was powerful. When Saul hit the ground he opened up to the great light. It calmed his rage and put a stop to his mission. He turned to Jesus as he called his name. I thank the Lord for calling my name. He told me how fallen I was. Paul had the book learning, but he didn’t know the writer. When we believe Jesus is Lord, we can be saved. Paul was changed from this event. That’s what he told Agrippa. It was not a chain of events that happened over time. As soon as he trusted Jesus he was saved. His life was different. He was not disobedient. He became the brother of those he was going to kill and eventually the leader of the church as an apostle born out of due time. The Lord showed Paul what to do.
He told them everything that was done to Jesus was for a purpose. The hope of their forefathers and all mankind is Jesus. He demonstrated it to them; that’s what got to Festus. Paul’s change was evident. Festus felt himself a sinner. I’m thankful for the disturbance caused by Paul’s life. Festus said Paul was mad, but he truly was beside himself. That’s what bothered Festus. Paul was not who he used to be. There were times Paul got in the flesh. He and Peter butted heads. Paul knew that being carnal and yielding to the flesh was possible, but he knew he must let the new man—the spiritual man—rule. He yielded himself as a servant of God.
Is it possible to live right? Yes! Paul was beside himself and out of kilter with the world. The Pharisees said the apostles were turning the world upside down. The truth is the world was upside down and needed to be put right side up. Agrippa knew Paul spoke the truth. He knew about Jesus of Nazareth and what happened to him. He knew of Paul’s life before and after. None of this had been done in a corner. In response he said to Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. Paul brought a king to the threshold of Christianity. He considered it but turned it down.
Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all to that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. That’s saying a lot. Can we say “I wish you’d be like me?” It’s one thing to wish someone was a Christian but another to wish someone to be like you. I asked you to write down an assessment of yourself. The Bible gives us the alternatives in Ephesians 4.
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Is your heart open to God? Have you lost your spiritual sight? Be renewed in your mind—daily. We’re bombarded every day. With Jesus we find the clarity we need. He enables us to do the right thing. We don’t have a permission slip to get mad. Fix it up before the day is through. The devil will take all he can so don’t give him anything. There is more than one way to steal. Don’t be a spiritual thief and withhold back time and energy from the Lord. Put hard feelings aside.
This is a tall order. Are you saying “I can’t do it?” Guess what. You have to get beside yourself. Be like Paul. Others must see a difference. Instead of being harsh, be gentle. Instead of talking about someone, compliment them. We can always find something wrong, but look for the right.
Paul’s manner of life put Agrippa to the point of accepting Jesus. He wished all of the people were like him. Why don’t we do that—live so that God can use us and show others that it does work to be a Christian? It will give hope to those who say they can’t change. Let them see the change God has made in you. Help them trust the Changer.
Paul said I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Let’s be the one God can use.