Acts 26:19-32

Worlds in Collision by Emmanuel Velikovsky is a book that proposes that our narratives, traditions and histories are built upon the reality of ancient worldwide global catastrophes of a celestial origin. I find the whole matter rather spurious, but the title of the book, Worlds in Collision interests me. In a real way, when the worldview of those who believe in Jesus and those who do not meet head on, it is a sort of Worlds in Collision — or, perhaps, more properly: Worldviews in Collision.

Our nation today is the setting for worldviews in collission. We all know the tension of family gatherings where worldviews get exposed and counter worldviews rise to answer: when Uncle Earnest opines on the “dangers of the Christian right” or the fact that “everyone knows there are different ways to get to heaven — it’s all just religion anyway!” When you sit with a knotted stomach trying to figure out what to say!
In Paul’s defense before the local Roman officials, Festus and Agrippa, we see worldviews in collision. Believing that the Lord has something for us here which can speak to our worldview tensions today, we will consider the task of sharing our faith when worldviews collide.
I. The Ebb And Flow of the Trial In Acts (Acts 26:19-23)
The worldview of Paul and the Roman governor and King collide in these passages. Like oceans surging back and forth under the power of the storm, Luke opens up the portal of the narrative to see the shifting back and forward of the dialogue. First Paul presents the Gospel, then Festus answers him, then Paul responds, then Aggripa weighs in, and finally the Apostle Paul reveals his heart in a final exhortation to the King.
Let’s begin with Paul.
Paul’s Worldview: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Supernatural Event in Humankind that has been Prophesied from the days of the Ancients in the Scriptures (Acts 26:19-23).
Paul’s view is the classical statement of the believer: that according to the Word of God recorded by Moses and the prophets, the Messiah would come to save not only the people of Israel, but from there to save the people of the whole world. The central message of the Gospel is that Messiah would suffer, be the first to rise from the dead — intimating, of course, that the grave would be defeated by all of those who have faith in Him, and that His life and Word are light and life to all who are brought into His kingdom through repentance and faith with their changed lives attesting their faith.
Paul’s worldview is the same as Jesus’ teaching in Luke 24:44-47: “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem'” (Luke 24:44-47).
Paul would also emphasize that the Gospel is so basic in our understanding, so easily presented, that he says in 1 Corinthians 2:2: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
The Gospel is a simple truth: God has entered the world by becoming Man. God has done for man what man could not do for himself This is the very ground of the Apostle Paul’s worldview. But, worldviews do not stand in a vacuum. Festus, a skeptic, weighs in on Paul’s assertions.
Festus’ Worldview: The Study of the Scriptures and the Belief in Christ is Maddening (Acts 25:24). Festus interrupts Paul and yells out that Paul has studied so much of that stuff for so long that he’s gone crazy. Such a simple Gospel, such a view of history, such a hope for mankind is essentially insane according to Festus’ worldview.
The worldview of unbelief is essentially fatalistic. “Man is born, he lives a few years and dies and rots. That’s it. No more. History is a disconnected series of events, governed only by chance, and perhaps some alien despotic force, if we are given to that sort of thing.” That is the worldview of Festus and those like him. In that view, to think that a sovereign God is in control, that He is a personal God of love who would come down and save us by dying on a cross, and then to say that He would rise again — the first fruits of others who would also rise again — is ludicrous in the minds of naturalists like Festus.
Nothing has changed. That worldview continues and possess the minds of many today. Again, the distinctively evangelical Christian worldview is not advanced in a vacuum. This is what we face.
What does Paul say?
Paul’s Worldview in Response: The Gospel is not maddening but rather Truthful, Reasonable, and Fully Provable (Acts 26:25-27). This is the force of Paul’s response to Festus, and so he refutes the skeptical, naturalistic view of Festus by confidently declaring that the Gospel is not a fanciful idea, not insane, but, to the contrary, the Gospel is true and, he adds, reasonable.
Why? He turns to Aggripa again and says that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ “did not happen in a corner.” He is saying that “because none of these things have escaped the attention of the world — the coming of Christ, the miracles of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the miracles surrounding His resurrection, the changed lives of His followers, including his own life — Christianity is true and reasonable. Christianity is rational. It cannot be linked to the primitive pagan religions which make a god in their own image. The God of Christianity is, rather, out of this world, yet come into this world.
Our God cannot be imagined. The glorious message of the Gospel is so inconceivable, the love of God so remarkable, that none could have ever created such a story! The amazing and unique character and content of our message, thus, all the more proves our point. And more than that: Our God does His wonders in the course of history and in time and space and His works may be attested by human beings.
Paul, ever the evangelist, turns the tables on Aggripa. He challenges Aggripa with the evidence and then demands a verdict from the heart of Aggripa: “Do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”
The Christian Gospel is not a philosophical idea to be considered; it is a message that must be embraced. Paul is asking Aggripa, in the presence of the Jews and his pagan court, to acknowledge Christ publicly. If Aggripa says, “No, I don’t believe the Scriptures” he risks insulting the Jewish leaders who were in the audience. If he says, “Yes, that’s right, I’ve seen those prophesies in the Scriptures,” he risks proving Paul’s point and being associated with the despised “sect” called Christians.
What is his response? The NKJV says, “You almost persuaded me to become a Christian.” The NIV reads, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
While some have seen his remark as sarcasm, Simon Kistemaker of Reformed Seminary says that “Aggripa resorts to a delaying tactic … [and] does not want to be identified as a Christian.”1
Moreover, there is a “time element” in Aggripa’s response, as if he is thinking, “It is impossible for me to accept what you are saying in so short a period of time. These things need to be thought out, pondered, considered.”
What is he really saying?
Aggripa’s Worldview: Anything worth adopting as a worldview — if it were profound and meaningful — could never be presented and received as truth in only a few moments (Acts 26:28). Again, that is probably a delaying tactic, a smokescreen, a cover for not having to make a decision about Jesus Christ, but he is saying that a man cannot be persuaded in such a short time to adopt such a radical worldview as Christianity.
Paul will not let up. He responds with a sort of prayer: “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”
Reminding Aggripa that his imprisonment was unjust, he nevertheless tells him that he wished he would yield to Christ and follow Him and that all others would as well. So Paul is admitting his worldview.
Paul’s Response: With God anything is possible (Acts 26:29). In this response, we see Paul’s heart. He preaches, he argues, he is called mad, and his Gospel is spurned. So what does he do? He prays. He offers Christ yet again. The force of this Scripture calls us to make some considerations. As Christians how do we respond to worldviews in collision?
II. The Christian’s Response to the Difference in Worldviews
We Present A Simple Gospel. While we respect other’s and can’t force ideas on anyone, we must faithfully preach the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ as the historical answer to man’s sin. Charles Hodge of old Princeton told his preacher-boys in the 19th century, at the height of debate between the anti-supernatural views and the higher critical views coming from the German theological schools, “We teach nothing new here.”
This morning, I preach Jesus Christ as the answer to your sin problem. Turn from your sins and have faith in Jesus according to the Scriptures. Turn from every other competing worldview and receive Christ as the living Lord of history, and as your personal God and Savior. There is no other way. And believer, follow Him. Make your calling an election sure, as Peter admonishes us. Christianity isn’t just a proposition, not just a syllogistic logical formula, though it is the most reasonable answer to the mystery of life: Christianity is a story of grace, a personal story of new life, a personal story of our encounter with a living God.
We cling to the Foolishness of the Gospel as the Power of God. Festus thought Paul was crazy because of such a view of history, such a faith that holds to the hope of the resurrection, such a hope that peoples of all races and tribes will come to believe in Him is crazy. But this foolishness of the cross, this scandalous and outrageous act of God in history is our Gospel. Paul wrote: “We preach Christ crucified to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. “(1 Corinthians 1:22-25).
Yet we also say that while we preach a supernatural Gospel, we are confident that faith in Christ is the most truthful and reasonable thing to do. Paul’s response teaches us that we must preach the Cross and the Resurrection and call men everywhere to repent and believe in Jesus, and that upon faith in Him they will be saved. Yet, we say that this is the logical, the wise, the reasonable thing to do. Pascal’s argument was based on Paul’s defense. Paschal said that if Jesus was wrong and those who follow Him are wrong, then we lose nothing. Unbelievers don’t gain anything by not believing, unless you count the joy of the Christian life, the superiority of the Christian life as producing happy families and productive lives.
Yet if Christ and those who follow Him are right, then unbelievers lose everything — they die in their sins and go to Hell! It is, thus, syllogistically, logically, the only reasonable choice to believe in Jesus and fall before His Gospel message in repentance and faith. Our faith is supernatural, but reasonable.
Finally, this teaches us that the grace we have received when God opened up our blind eyes to the reality of Jesus Christ, this joy which we have been given, compels us to continue to pray for the salvation of even the most unlikely people to be saved.
I had a young seminarian tell me today that I presented the Gospel too much. He was concerned that I was advocating a type of preaching that called for immediate response to Christ. He said that he preferred that people think about it and talk to him later. I asked him to show me where Jesus or Paul or any of the Apostles ever let someone off the hook. I told him that when I read the greatest preachers of the English language, I have read of men who week-to-week presented Christ and Him crucified and called for people to turn to Him whether expositing Leviticus or John. I told him that I follow Richard Baxter who said, “I preach as if never to preach again and as a dying man to dying men.
The model of Paul is before us. His Gospel was powerful enough to save an old sinner like Paul and Paul presented Christ to the Jews and Gentiles, to the rich and to the poor, to the servants and to kings and rulers, to unbelievers for salvation, and to believers for hope and holiness of life.
Our response can be no less. This leads me to consider, very briefly …
III. The Unbeliever’s Challenge
Festus and Aggripa remind us of the challenges that you face if you have not received Jesus as Lord and Savior, but I have time for only one thought that I present to you:
Almost won’t cut it. I say again that if Christ is true then you are faced to make a stand. “Almost persuaded” reminds us that Aggripa did not believe, but either out of pressure to conform, embarrassment over Jesus or a love of his own intellect and a love of his own supposed control over his life, his “almost” is a no.
My friend, almost Christians can go to Church. Almost Christians can look like real Christians. Almost Christians can sing hymns and quote Scripture. Almost Christians can do a lot, but Almost Christians cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Almost Christians are lost and dead in their sins without Jesus Christ.
To quote Paul, “I would to God” that you repent and abandon your “Almost” for “Altogether” and confess your sins, confess Jesus as the resurrected and reigning Savior and follow Him in every area of your life.
IV. Man’s Therefore and God’s Nevertheless
When worldviews were in collision, Paul preached a simple message, His hearers were skeptical, but Paul didn’t give up, and he presented Christ once again. So don’t you give up.
I want to end with a simple but profound thought. Recently, in reading a 20th century German theologian, I came across the idea of Christianity, the distinctive worldview of our faith, in the words, “the therefore” and “the nevertheless.”2
The theologian said that the natural man’s worldview must end with “therefore.” For instance, this man’s father was a drunk and no good, “therefore” his son will also become a drunk. “Therefore” — man’s logic continues — one may rightly believe that he, too, will produce derelicts and no-goods. The idea is that there is a logical syllogism at work in the world which limits the outcome of our lives. Christianity rejects the “therefore” and breaks the natural syllogism with the “nevertheless.” Yes, the man’s father was an unrepentant sinner, but as the son turns to Christ, “nevertheless” he shall be saved. The testimony of Paul, a blasphemer and persecutor of the saints, was a splendid display of the “nevertheless” of God. The Testimony of John Newton, a slave trader and prodigious sinner “nevertheless” was saved and lived his life for Christ and influenced millions of others through his “Amazing Grace.”
This morning, I present to you the smoking gun of Paul’s defense, the core value of Christianity: it is the “nevertheless” of God in Christ, the “yes of God” in Jesus Christ and the offer of joy and new life and eternal life, if we will repent and believe and follow Him.
1Simon Kistemaker, Acts (Baker), 906-907.
2See The Epistle to the Romans by Karl Barth (London: Oxford, 1933) (see his commentary on Romans 3:21-26), excerpts of which may be found in a fine brief summary of Barth’s writings, Karl Barth: Theologian of Freedom, edited by Clifford Green, from the series “The Making of Modern Theology,” John W. de Gruchy, General Editor (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 132-3.

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About The Author

Michael A. Milton is a theologian, pastor, broadcaster, author, professor, U.S. Army Reserves chaplain, and musician. He's founder and president of Faith For Living, Inc. a North Carolina religious non-profit engaged in Christian discipleship, education, and communication. He is also the author of several books.

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