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Are These Christians Crazy?

28/01/2022

Are Christians Crazy?

Text. Acts 16:24-32 

Paul’s insistence that ‘Christ is Risen from the dead’ would provoke some reactions!  Let’s look at them…

1. Objection No. 1: INCREDULITY.  v24  

Belief in the resurrection of the dead was standard among the Jews, and particularly among the Pharisees, but how would a Gentile – a Roman like Festus react to it?  His reaction, actually, is similar to that of many modern pagans: 

  • Christians are all mad!  Festus lived in the Gentile worldview of the Romans, and there was no place in that secular, radical worldview for a resurrection. Dead men don’t rise – do they?  Not in the Roman world.
  • Even clever Christians are mentally deranged. Paul was a teacher.  No doubt his cell at Caesarea would have contained his scrolls, the equivalent of the bible of his day.  He was clearly a clever, highly learned man.  So Festus acknowledges Paul’s educational standard, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.  

Look at Paul’s rebuttal.  He counters with two forms of argument:-

  1. Paul is perfectly sane! V25 Paul insists that in fact he is speaking the truth, and doing so with complete self control!  He’s not ranting like some deranged mad man, – his words are measured, and thought through, and believable!  
  2. Agrippa believes the same thing!  Now Paul tries to enlist the King, his judge as a witness.  Agrippa is a Jew, he knows that the Jews have a fervent belief in the resurrection. V26  But there’s another reason why the king would know this… 
  3. It is common knowledge!  for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.  Agrippa, is not just a Jew, – he is a leader among Jews.  Despite his ungodliness, Agrippa not only knew that the Jews expected a promised Messiah, and that they believed in the resurrection of the dead, but knew what was going on among the Jews in Jerusalem. And he knew about Jesus’s resurrection!  Paul insists that he could not fail to know, for there was nothing secret about the resurrection – it happened in full view.  He was being spoken about at the next Day of Pentecost, when huge crowds of people, thousands, were converted to Christ.  It was headline news!  

So Paul makes it personal. He challenges the king, King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.But how would Agrippa react to being put on the spot like this? Let’s see… 

2. Objection No. 2 SARCASM. V28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Now we come to one of the best known verses in the book of Acts, especially among evangelicals. “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian!”   What’s going on here? Is Agrippa hesitant about making his decision for Christ?    But it is not my decision that saves me – it is Christ’s death on the cross.  God’s grace works effectually in the life of the elect sinner to bring that sinner to salvation in Christ. Agrippa’s words are SARCASM, PLAIN AND SIMPLE! It’s a simple matter of CONTEXT!  Paul has forced Agrippa into a corner.  He is in a quandary, and embarrassed, so does he admit before Festus that he believes in the orthodox Jewish belief in the resurrection and look like a fool like Paul, or does he deny that he has read the OT and anger and alienate the Jews? He responds with sarcasm.  The key lies in the translation.  A better rendering would be, “a little more of this – and you’ll be making me out to be Christian!”  εν ολιγω με πειθεις χριστιανον γενεσθαι. “In a short time like this you are trying to make me play the part of a Christian” It’s not conviction, it’s cynicism!  

Let’s look at Paul’s second rebuttal.  Agrippa may not appreciate Paul’s earnest appeal, and he may not want to dragged into the witness box to defend Christian belief, but Paul is serious!  Look at his reply in V29  Paul earnestly desires that every one of these people, the King, his consort, the governor, the merchants and town leaders, the soldiers, that every one of them would come to the same knowledge of the Saviour that he had – except that they would not be prisoners.

3. The Court Rises.  V30-31  

I wonder had Agrippa heard enough at this point.  He didn’t like being embarrassed in front of his Roman masters. He stood, and when he did the court rose with him, and they retired to deliberate on their decision.  Of course, this court had no sentencing capacity, it was purely exploratory, to help prepare a brief for Rome.  But it is significant, that even after that embarrassing little incident, when Agrippa’s reputation among the pagans almost took a nose dive, Agrippa still conceded that Paul was not guilty of anything worthy of death or imprisonment.  Still, he had appealed to Caesar, and off to Caesar he must go.  Paul’s time in Caesarea was at an end, and when we meet him again, he is boarding a ship, destination Rome!

© Bob McEvoy January 2022

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