Acts26:24-42 “A decision of faith”

              Today I would like to talk about what is necessary to make a decision of faith.  In today’s passage Festus and Agrippa’s reaction to Paul’s defense is recorded.  The climax of Paul’s defense is verse 23.  The central point of Paul’s message is the cross and resurrection.  Not only that, but this was a vision from heaven.  Through this vision Paul knew that the Messiah, the Savior, that is written about in the Old Testament must be Jesus Christ. Paul explains this by beginning with the way he lived in the past. Today let’s look how Festus and Agrippa reacted to what Paul said. Let’s look at three things that are necessary to make a decision of faith both through Festus and Agrippa’s reaction to Paul’s message and from Paul’s words.

I.                A true and reasonable Word (vs. 24-26)

Just as Paul is getting to the height of his message, all at once Festus yelled, “You are out of your mind, Paul…Your great learning is driving you insane.” (24)  Paul had been speaking to Agrippa, not Festus, so for Festus to interrupt like that was not only very impolite, but wrong. He said this because he was not able to comprehend what Paul was saying.  It was very hard for him to listen about the cross. For Festus who was a Roman the resurrection itself was something of another world. Therefore he thought that Paul’s great learning had driven him insane.  In reality the problem was that he couldn’t understand, but he put the blame on Paul. He’s saying that Paul is saying strange things and that is why he can’t understand.  This is how man is.  Things that he can’t understand, he blames on other people. Even when the problem is within himself that he can’t understand, he says that the contents are too difficult or the person who is speaking is not right, and put the blame on others. However, the real problem, is not others, but himself.  He has to admit that.

Paul’s response to Festus’ words are recorded in verse 25. Paul did not think he was insane.  Of course, no one thinks that they themselves are insane.  However, he had a reason why he could say so.  That was because the words that he was speaking were “true and reasonable.” (25)  The word used for reasonable is the opposite of insane.  What Paul is saying was for Festus maybe insane, but it is “true and reasonable”. (25)  Commonly, even if a custom has no meaning, if everyone is doing it, then a person who does not do it is labeled as “strange”.  Humans have such strange ways of measuring people.  Therefore, they say things like, “You don’t want the shrine’s paper,( an image of god, that if you hang in your house, it will watch over you), and still you are Japanese?”

However, Christians are different.  It doesn’t depend upon whether others are doing it or not, but what is the truth.  If it is true and correct, then we follow it. This is the Christian standard for behavior.

Matt. 7:13,14

The gate to the road to destruction is big and the road is wide so there are a lot of people going on it.  However, just because everyone is choosing that road doesn’t mean that that road is correct.  The gate to the road of life is small and the road is narrow.  There are very few taking that road.  However, the truth will save people.  The truth doesn’t change or isn’t different in the East or the West. Even if a person in prisoner clothes speaks it, the truth is the truth.  Position or status or the amount of people involved makes no difference in deciding the truth. Truth is verified by whether or not it can really save people.

Romans 1:16

This is the real truth.  These words which are of value to our faith are “true and reasonable.” (25)

II.          You can persuade me to be a Christian  (vs. 26-28)

              Festus barged into the conversation and it was temporarily interrupted, but Paul starts talking once again to King Agrippa.  He wanted somehow for King Agrippa to believe.  Therefore, he explains what Jesus’ cross and resurrection is. In other words, “it was not done in a corner,” (26) but was something that everyone knows about and “none of this has escaped his (King Agrippa’s) notice”. (26)  Jesus Christ died on the cross and 3 days later rose again is an historical fact. Everyone knows it.  It is surely not a myth that the Christian church has made up.  To withdraw from looking at such facts causes our lives to fall apart. That’s because our lives are established upon such facts.  Therefore, accepting such facts is not impossible, but natural. Rather it is strange not to accept them.

              Not only that, but Paul continues on in verse 27, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?  I know you do.”  Here Paul is starting a little at time to enter the core of his talk.  Paul urges King Agrippa by taking up the Old Testament which the Jewish King Agrippa should have known well and was the source of the Jews lives and which the King Agrippa should believe in. Paul is saying that if King Agrippa correctly believed in the Old Testament, then he should believe that Christ rose.  Paul is developing his logic standing upon the same foundation of the Old Testament that King Agrippa believed in. 

              Here King Agrippa is also beaten.  If he says he doesn’t believe then he couldn’t say he was a real Jewish believer. It would also put a crack in his position as King. However, if he said yes and accepted it would mean he would have to accept Christ’s Gospel too.  Agrippa didn’t know what to say. Finally he said the words recorded in verse 28.  These words came from hostility rising out of pride.  He thought he wasn’t that simple minded.  His hidden feelings were that he wouldn’t believe that easily.   However on the other hand, in such a short time his heart had been moved is a fact and in a short time he was close to becoming a Christian.  That was his honest thought.  However, the many things that King Agrippa had like, his status and position in society, the influence that he has on others, his prestige as king pressed against his heart and dispelled his heart. Therefore, I think the thought that he couldn’t easily believe in the words of Paul sprung up in his heart.

              Around us there are surprisingly a lot of people like this. They are convinced by hearing different talks. However, by believing easily they would hate to be thought of as superficial person. They think that they should take their time in believing.  When they are about to believe, the reality of their position, or the effect it will have on other people puts pressure on their hearts and dispels their hearts so they say things like “I still don’t know the Bible well so after I study more, I will believe.” or “I’ll study a little at a time.”  However, even if it’s only been a short time, or by an easy way, there is no reason that you can’t become a Christian. Depending on the person the way they enter the faith is different. It is important that when you think that you want to believe in Christ, to simply and obediently receive Christ. To believe simply is not to be a simple person, but is evidence that your heart is obedient.  That’s because whether a person believes obediently or not depends on the hardness of sin in that person. A person who doesn’t seem to ever believe and accept the Lord has a hard heart because of sin.

              All 3 gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke record the event of the children coming to Jesus and the disciples tell them that Jesus is too busy to deal with them.  However, Jesus gives his reaction in Luke 18:16-18

              God’s kingdom is made up of people that are like children, who obediently accept Christ in their hearts.

              Hebrews 4:7

              If we hear God’s voice we need to be careful not to allow our hearts to become hard.  When you hear the Gospel, how do you accept it? Are you like King Agrippa and dodge the issue with, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (28)   Or are you like people who heard Paul talk at the Areopagus in Athens who said, “We want to hear you again” (17:32) and put off making a decision?  Or are you like Felix and his wife who said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” (24:25) and just continually put off the decision. It is important that we don’t dodge make a decision nor put off the decision. nor continually avoid putting off the decision, but to see the problem as your own, deal effectively with the problem, and don’t allow your hearts to become hard and become like a child and simply and obediently accept the Gospel.

III.         Fix your eyes upon God’s grace (vs. 29)

              Paul’s response to Agrippa’s remark, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (28) is recorded in verse 29.  These are really bold words. Paul who is a prisoner in chains professes to the king and governor, “Short time or long-I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (29) It is difficult for us to say, “become what I am.” (29) However, Paul says boldly, “Become what I am.” (29)  That was not because he was a model Christian, a model evangelist, and was a model man of character. It was because he had the experience of the light that he testified to King Agrippa about.  In other words, Paul who persecuted Christ became a person who proclaimed Christ. A person under the power of Satan became a person living under the power of Christ.  Grace was a matter of fact.  It was nothing more than thankfulness.  This sinful me was saved and now I am living in the light.  This joy is thankfulness.  This is what Paul meant by “become what I am.” (29)

              Are you like King Agrippa with your pride controlling you so that you are always concerned about what others think of you and so even though in your heart you want to believe, that is always pulling you and keeping you from making a decision for faith. Looking at Paul we can see that even though he was in chains the experience of grace made him totally blessed.  This was a huge decision that brought him from the dark to the light, from death to life, from judgment to life. The time to make this decision is now.

              II Cor. 6:2

              Let’s not miss this chance to make this decision, respond to the invitation to light and receive grace.