And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning does make you mad.…
The point of deepest interest in this scene is Paul's reply to Agrippa. There the nobility of the apostle is conspicuously present. But it is worth while to glance, first, at -
I. THE BLINDNESS OF SIN. (Ver. 24.) It makes mistakes of the greatest magnitude; it looks at the wisdom of God and mistakes it for madness. So it judged incarnate wisdom (John 10:30). So we are to expect it will judge us; for "the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man" (1 Corinthians 2:14), whether he be Greek (1 Corinthians 1:23) or Roman (text). That the whole Gentile world should be redeemed from sin and led by repentance into the kingdom of God by means of a suffering Savior - this, which is the wisdom of God, deep and Divine, seemed to the proud man of the world nothing better than insanity itself. Enlightened by his Spirit, we detect in this the very essence of Divine wisdom. If the eternal Father, looking down upon us, sees his own wise procedure mistaken for and spoken of as madness, may we not be content that our human schemes and plans should sometimes receive the faint approval, or even the direct condemnation, of our fellows?
II. THE CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE UNDER ATTACK. Paul was not abashed by the sudden outbreak of Festus, nor did he give way to unsuitable and injudicious resentment. He replied with calmness and dignity to the insulting charge of his Roman judge (ver. 25). When assailed in this way - when charged with folly, error, fanaticism, or even madness - the best thing we can do is to bear ourselves calmly, retaining mental and moral equability. This is the best way to disprove the allegations that are made.
(1) First let us be well assured of our position, not taking our ground until we have made all necessary inquiries and have every possible guarantee that we are on the side of "truth and soberness;" and then
(2) let us refuse to be disconcerted by abuse, oppose quiet dignity to angry crimination, and show a conscious rectitude which is far superior to violence, whether of word or deed.
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S DESIRE FOR ALL WHOM HE CAN REACH. Paul turned appealingly from Festus to Agrippa. Some points in common there must be, he felt, between himself and his royal countryman (vers. 26, 27). The king put off the prisoner with a courtly sarcasm (ver. 28); but the apostle was not thus to be silenced. In noble language and with touching allusion to the fetters he wore, he expressed the earnest wish that, whether with ease or with difficulty, not only the king himself, but all who heard him, might be "such as he was." A pure and passionate desire filled his soul that all whom he could anywise affect might be elevated and blessed by that ennobling truth which the risen Savior had revealed to him. This holy earnestness of his may remind us:
1. That the truth of the gospel is that which can be indefinitely extended without making any man the poorer. If a man divides his gold among the poor, be loses it himself, but he who imparts heavenly wisdom, Christian influence, gains as he gives.
2. That it is the tendency of Christian truth to make its possessor desire to extend it. The contemplation of a God of love, the study of the life and spirit of the self-sacrificing Savior, the purity of the joy which it inspires in the human heart, - these are fitted to produce in the soul a holy yearning to extend to others the blessedness we enjoy.
3. That it becomes us to put forth all our talents to diffuse the knowledge and to spread the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The thought of millions of souls starving that might feed on the bread of life should animate us with keen desire and scud us with elastic step in the path of deliverance and of life. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.