This Week's Focus Passage

‘Thy much learning is turning thee mad.’

Focus Passage: Acts 26:24

‘Thy much learning is turning thee mad.’

We are told very little about the Apostle Paul’s personal history after his remarkable conversion experience on the road to Damascus, recorded in Acts 9. Yet we may be able to imagine some possible circumstances if we synthesize our own history with Paul’s. While we certainly each have widely differing histories, there will surely be many common denominators because of the common salvation that we enjoy. God works differently in the lives of individuals, yet there is a commonality in the application of salvation by God the Holy Spirit upon every subject of the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Indeed, as Christ pointed out wonderfully to the Pharisee, Nicodemus, in the third chapter of John’s narrative of the life, ministry, and death, of our Savior, ye must be born again. This new birth is the shared experience of every child of God. Yet the specific manner and circumstance may be incredibly different according to the design and purpose of our God with respect to His intended instrumentality of the person under consideration. In the case of the apostle Paul, it was the purpose of God to make use of an eminent ‘doctor of the law’ to be the means of the conversion of many of those to whom this former persecutor was sent after that astounding confrontation on the road to Damascus. As each and every soul—each living stone—has their own intended purpose in the design of God in the building of His church, so our Lord employs variations of the selected means employed in the conversions of each of these chosen vessels and instruments of His grace.

As every experience in the vastly differing lives and circumstances of many people allow for widely broad blessings as well as varied challenges, so even as the conversion experiences do not follow some stated pattern, neither do the methods of individual sanctification follow any certain pattern, other than sharing the common goal of eventual conformity unto the Lord Jesus Christ. While the destination of every Christian is the Celestial City, the highways of reformation, transformation, and conformation leading to that blessed abode are not uniform. Although they shared the same faith in the same Lord, yet the broad distinctions between a Peter and a Paul well illustrate this reality. The ups and downs of a David and a Jonathan, in spite of their hearts being knit together, were conspicuously disjointed in multiple manners. All have beginnings and ends unique unto themselves, fitted for usefulness in the wonderful plan of our Father in heaven. Yet there are a great number of the particulars that are the common lot of many. Our focus passage has put me in mind of one such particular. While we may not each have had the radical experience of a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ to which Isaiah was exposed in Isaiah 6, neither the radical experience of our apostle when accosted by Christ as he was making his way to the city of Damascus, every one of us that is in Christ today has experienced the RADICAL CHANGE of regeneration; that which is called a new creation.

In our passage, Paul was in the process of making his defense before king Agrippa and Festus. His defense amounted to a testifying of the risen Christ who had changed him from being a persecuting Pharisee to being

A minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me.

To put it most simply, Paul had experienced the RADICAL CHANGE; he had been born again from above. This activity of God the Holy Spirit in His office of applying the salvation that Christ has accomplished through His own blood, it goes without saying, is a supernatural activity. It is therefore beyond the understanding of natural man, as Paul himself has written, Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him. This reality caused the response which Felix blurted out with a loud voice, Paul, thou art mad; thy much learning is turning thee mad.

This outburst of Felix toward the things spoken by Paul coupled with the conspicuous change in the life and behavior of this former persecutor has been the common lot of many believers. They are no longer what they once were. Family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, in a very real sense, don’t recognize them any longer, and are at a complete loss for any explanation that would satisfy their natural understanding. While every believer may not have undergone, to the same extent, such an outburst as was emitted from the mouth of Felix, yet it is extremely likely that if there were such an opportunity or occasion to confess Christ before family, friends, neighbors, or acquaintances, such would be their response whether vocalized or not; whether vociferous or not. Peter addressed this issue when he wrote in his first epistle, saying, For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles, and to have walked in lasciviousness, lusts, winebibbings, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatries: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you. And while these folk may not blurt out that you are mad, it is quite likely that they are only suppressing that feeling that is in their heart and mind. They truly think that you have lost it. We should not be surprised at this even though it is difficult to take rejection. They have not rejected you, Christ would remind us; they have rejected me. They have rejected the Truth; the living Truth; Jesus Christ. We should rejoice in this; not that they have rejected Christ, but that they have seen Christ in us and have rejected His image. Old John Newton, in his own inimitable way, put such a joy into these following words: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” Amen?

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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