Rational Words Boldly Spoken

For some people, when God speaks, all they hear is insanity. As Paul was presenting the gospel to King Agrippa, Festus interrupted him with loud accusations that he had lost it. But Paul didn’t back down from his message at all. He maintained that his claims about Jesus were true and rational. As he said elsewhere, if the resurrection didn’t happen, then believing in Christ is crazy. But since Christ has been raised, then faith in Jesus makes perfect sense. The gospel may be surprising in its shocking graciousness, but it isn’t irrational or crazy.

Paul focused his attention to the Jewish King Agrippa, pressing home the argument that what happened to Jesus was public knowledge, and that it perfectly fulfilled the Jewish hope. The only logical conclusion a Jew could draw is that Jesus is the Messiah, and so Paul presumes on Agrippa’s faith and boldly put him on the spot: “I know that you believe.”

Agrippa understands that saying yes to the prophets means saying yes to Jesus, and so he avoids the question, raising the issues of how quickly Paul is calling for a decision, and just who it is that Paul is talking to. But Paul doesn’t care how long it takes or who it is who hears the gospel. His hope is that everyone who hears will become a Christian, without ending up in chains. And while there is no indication that Festus, Agrippa, or Bernice became Christians, their verdict was that Paul was doing nothing worthy of imprisonment or death, and could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar. But God had a bigger plan for Paul than freedom: Caesar needed to hear the gospel.

For us, I want to focus in on three things: 1) the reality that our gospel sounds crazy; 2) what it means for our witness that the gospel is true and rational; and 3) what our hope should be when we share this crazy gospel.

First, we need to realize that sounding crazy comes with the territory of speaking for God. Since the gospel means so much to you, it can be rattling to share your faith with someone only to have them say, “That’s the craziest thing I ever heard.” If you aren’t ready for that, it’ll knock the legs right out from under your confidence. But if you already expect the sort of reaction that Paul got from Festus, then hearing such sentiments just serves as proof that you’ve faithfully delivered the message, which will cause your confidence to grow. So don’t expect respect and honor. Embrace your calling as a fool for Christ.

Second, it is not simply a matter of adjusting your expectations. If you yourself are not fully convinced that the gospel is true and rational, then you won’t be able to convince anyone else. If you have doubts as to whether your faith can stand up to serious scrutiny, don’t retreat into sentimentalism (“You ask me how I know He lives – He lives within my heart!”) or anti-intellectualism (“It might not be true for you, but it’s true for me.”) Paul doesn’t make an emotional appeal, or claim that truth is a matter of perspective. He doesn’t ask Agrippa to take an irrational leap of faith. Paul believes that an ordinary person, inquiring into the claims of Christianity, will find them to be historically verifiable, and that they will make sense to someone who is thinking carefully and correctly. If you have doubts, start looking for answers. They’re out there.

Third, what should you hope for when you bear witness? Because Paul’s faith is founded on true events available to everyone, he hopes that everyone who hears him speak the good news about Jesus will become a Christian. This is what you should hope for, as well. You are not making a claim about your own preferences or adding another dish to the religion buffet. You are claiming that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and made king of the world, which means that this gospel is for everyone.

God’s word for today is that faithfully bearing witness means being willing to sound crazy in order to speak true and rational words in a personally convicting way, firmly believing that the gospel is not just true for you, but true for the whole world.

Posted on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 by CJ Bowen