Acts 26:24-28 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defence. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted.  “Your great learning is driving you insane.”  “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable.  The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him.  I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.  King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?  I know you do.”  Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

Whenever I read the account of Paul before Governor Festus and King Herod Agrippa, I think of Philip Bliss’s hymn: “‘Almost persuaded’ now to believe, ‘Almost persuaded’ Christ to receive; seems now some soul to say, ‘Go, Spirit, go  thy way; some more convenient day on thee I’ll call.’”, and I hope that his hard heart might have been softened before he died, although, sadly, there seems to be no evidence that it was.

Paul’s argument was convincing enough, but only the Holy Spirit can soften a hard heart.   The apostle Peter wrote: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, …” (1 Peter 3:15).  Paul certainly modelled this apologetic in his defence.  He himself was fully convinced of the truth of the message the Lord Jesus had commissioned him to proclaim to the Gentiles.  His thorough knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, his encounter with the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus, his examination of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in the light of the Scriptures, and his seeing the power of the preaching of the Gospel to save sinners, all left him in no doubt that all God’s promises had been fulfilled in Christ.  This Gospel was the most plausible, logical explanation of the meaning of life in God’s world.

Nevertheless, the Jews treated Paul as a traitor and a fraud, and Festus thought he had gone mad!  So he appealed to Herod Agrippa’s reason and his familiarity with Jewish thought.  This is how it always is in the task of evangelism.  When our eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit and we have experienced for ourselves God’s grace in Christ, we find it difficult to believe that not everyone is convinced about the validity of Christianity.  But when we try to share our faith with others, some become angry, some mock, some pity us, and some treat us as insane.  This is what the blindness of sin does.  Our reaction should always be to make our message as reasonable as we are able without compromising its truth no matter how unpalatable that might be – and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Cor. 3:6)

– Bruce Christian