Acts 26:25
But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
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(25) I am not mad, most noble Festus.—There is something characteristic in the union of a calm protest with the courtesy which gives to rulers the honour which is their due. Comp. the use of the same word by Tertullus (Acts 24:3). The painful experience of Acts 23:3 had, we may well believe, taught the Apostle to control his natural impulses, and to keep watch over his lips, so that no unguarded utterance might escape from them.

The words of truth and soberness.—The latter word was one of the favourite terms of Greek ethical writers, as having a higher meaning than the “temperance” of Acts 24:25, to express the perfect harmony of impulses and reason (Aristot. Eth. Nicom. iii. 10). Here it is contrasted with the “madness” of which Festus had spoken, looking, as he did, on the Apostle as an enthusiastic dreamer. There was doubtless a deep-lying enthusiasm in his character, but it was an enthusiasm which had its root not in madness, but in truth.

Acts 26:25-29. But he said — Calmly, and with a perfect command of himself, not in the least provoked by such an invidious imputation; I am not mad, most noble Festus — A title properly belonging to a Roman propretor. How inexpressibly beautiful is this reply! How strong! yet, how decent and respectful! Madmen seldom call men by their names and titles of honour. Thus, also, Paul refutes the charge. But utter the words of truth — Confirmed in the next verse; and soberness — The very reverse of madness. And both these remain, even when the men of God act with the utmost vehemence. For the king knoweth of these things — Is not an entire stranger to them. Paul, having refuted Festus, pursues his purpose, returning naturally, and as it were step by step, from him to Agrippa. Before whom also I speak freely — Imboldened by his permission, and assured of his candour. For I am persuaded that none of these things — Of which I have been speaking; are entirely hidden from him — No, not what I have related concerning my conversion to Christianity. Agrippa could not but have heard of it, having been so long conversant among the Jews. For this thing was not done in a corner — He seems to refer not merely to one particular fact, such as his conversion and commission to preach the gospel, but to include the other great facts of Christianity; and particularly the death and resurrection of Christ, and the miraculous powers conferred on his disciples, which were all matters open and notorious, of the truth of which thousands had opportunity of being certainly and thoroughly informed. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? — He that believes these, believes Paul, yea, and Christ. The apostle now comes close to his heart. What did Agrippa feel when he heard this? I know that thou believest — Them to be written by divine inspiration, and art aware of the weight of those arguments which are derived from the authority of their testimony. Paul, it seems, knew Agrippa to be of the sect of the Pharisees: for his father, being a zealous Jew, had educated him in the Jewish religion, according to the strictest form. Here Paul lays so fast hold on the king, that he can scarcely make any resistance. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian — Paul’s doctrine, concerning Jesus of Nazareth, appeared to Agrippa so conformable to the things written concerning the Messiah, by Moses and the prophets; and his testimony concerning the appearing of Jesus to him by the way, was rendered so probable by the total alteration of his sentiments and conduct, that Agrippa declared he was almost persuaded of the truth of the things which Paul affirmed concerning Jesus, and therefore to become a Christian. The meaning of his words is not, Thou persuadest me to be almost a Christian, or, to become an almost Christian; but, as it is here expressed, Thou almost persuadest me to be a Christian, a true Christian, that is, really to embrace the religion of Christ. See here, Festus, altogether a heathen; Paul, altogether a Christian; Agrippa, halting between both. Poor Agrippa! But almost persuaded! So near the mark, and yet to fall short! Another step, and thou art within the veil. Reader, stop not with Agrippa; but go on with Paul. And Paul — Powerfully struck with so remarkable an acknowledgment, said — With great fervency of spirit, and yet with perfect decency; I would to God that not only thou, &c. — Agrippa had spoken of being a Christian, as a thing wholly in his power. Paul gently corrects his mistake; intimating that to be a Christian is the gift and the work of God; but also all that hear me this day — It was modesty in Paul not to apply directly to them all; yet he looks upon them and observes them; were both almost and altogether such as I am — Christians indeed; full of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. He speaks from a full sense of his own happiness, and an overflowing love to all. Except these bonds — For my afflictions I am willing to bear myself, till Providence shall release me from them, without desiring that any others should share with me in them. He wishes that they might all be happy Christians as he was, but not persecuted Christians; that they might taste as much as he did of the blessings that attended Christianity, but not so much of its crosses; that they might be in bonds to Christ, but not in bonds for Christ. Nothing surely could be said more tenderly, nor with better decorum.

26:24-32 It becomes us, on all occasions, to speak the words of truth and soberness, and then we need not be troubled at the unjust censures of men. Active and laborious followers of the gospel often have been despised as dreamers or madmen, for believing such doctrines and such wonderful facts; and for attesting that the same faith and diligence, and an experience like their own, are necessary to all men, whatever their rank, in order to their salvation. But apostles and prophets, and the Son of God himself, were exposed to this charge; and none need be moved thereby, when Divine grace has made them wise unto salvation. Agrippa saw a great deal of reason for Christianity. His understanding and judgment were for the time convinced, but his heart was not changed. And his conduct and temper were widely different from the humility and spirituality of the gospel. Many are almost persuaded to be religious, who are not quite persuaded; they are under strong convictions of their duty, and of the excellence of the ways of God, yet do not pursue their convictions. Paul urged that it was the concern of every one to become a true Christian; that there is grace enough in Christ for all. He expressed his full conviction of the truth of the gospel, the absolute necessity of faith in Christ in order to salvation. Such salvation from such bondage, the gospel of Christ offers to the Gentiles; to a lost world. Yet it is with much difficulty that any person can be persuaded he needs a work of grace on his heart, like that which was needful for the conversion of the Gentiles. Let us beware of fatal hesitation in our own conduct; and recollect how far the being almost persuaded to be a Christian, is from being altogether such a one as every true believer is.I am not mad - I am not deranged. There are few more happy turns than what Paul gives to this accusation of Festus. He might have appealed to the course of his argument; he might have dwelt on the importance of the subject, and continued to reason; but he makes an appeal at once to Agrippa, and brings him in for a witness that he was not deranged. This would be far more likely to make an impression on the mind of Festus than anything that Paul could say in self-defense. The same reply, "I am not mad," can be made by all Christians to the charge of derangement which the world brings against them. They have come, like the prodigal son Luke 15:17, to their right mind; and by beginning to act as if there were a God and Saviour, as if they were to die, as if there were a boundless eternity before them, they are conducting according to the dictates of reason. And as Paul appealed to Agrippa, who was not a Christian, for the reasonableness and soberness of his own views and conduct, so may all Christians appeal to sinners themselves as witnesses that they are acting as immortal beings should act. All people know that if there is an eternity, it is right to prepare for it; if there is a God, it is proper to serve him; if a Saviour died for us, we should love him; if a hell, we should avoid it; if a heaven, we should seek it. And even when they charge us with folly and derangement, we may turn at once upon them, and appeal to their own consciences, and ask them if all our anxieties, and prayers, and efforts, and self-denials are not right? One of the best ways of convicting sinners is to appeal to them just as Paul did to Agrippa. When so appealed to, they will usually acknowledge the force of the appeal, and will admit that the solicitude of Christians for their salvation is according to the dictates of reason.

Most noble Festus - This was the usual title of the Roman governor. Compare Acts 24:3.

Of truth - In accordance with the predictions of Moses and the prophets, and the facts which have occurred in the death and resurrection of the Messiah. In proof of this he appeals to Agrippa, Acts 26:26-27. Truth here stands opposed to delusion, imposture, and fraud.

And soberness - Soberness σωφροσύνη sōphrosunē, wisdom) stands opposed here to madness or derangement, and denotes "sanity of mind." The words which I speak are those of a sane man, conscious of what he is saying, and impressed with its truth. They were the words, also, of a man who, under the charge of derangement, evinced the most perfect self-possession and command of his feelings, and who uttered sentiments deep, impressive, and worthy the attention of all mankind.

25, 26. I am not mad, most noble Festus, but, &c.—Can anything surpass this reply, for readiness, self-possession, calm dignity? Every word of it refuted the rude charge, though Festus, probably, did not intend to hurt the prisoner's feelings. St. Paul with all meekness makes his reply to the governer, and not taking notice of his sharp censuring of him, returns an answer in most respectful terms unto him; as his blessed Master, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, 1 Peter 2:23.

Soberness, in contradiction to madness; modestly waiving the reflection, and denying the charge Festus had laid upon him.

But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus,.... That is, Paul said, as the Alexandrian copy, and some others, and the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions read: he replied to Festus, to whom he gives his title of honour, not out of fear, nor flattery, but according to custom; and though he used him in such a reproachful manner, as if he was not himself, which he denies; nor did what he had said show anything of that kind, but the reverse, to which he appeals;

but speak forth the words of truth and soberness; which are true in themselves, being perfectly agreeable to the Scriptures of truth; and are what Christ, who is truth itself, had spoken, and of which he is the subject; and which the spirit of truth leads into, and owns and blesses: the Gospel in general, and all the doctrines of it, are words of truth; they are true, in opposition to that which is false, there is nothing of falsehood in them, no lie is of the truth; and to that which is fictitious, as the counterfeit Gospel of false teachers, which looks like the Gospel, and has the appearance of truth, but in reality is not; and to that which is but shadow, the Gospel, and the truths of it, are solid and substantial ones; hence the law and truth are opposed to each other, John 1:17 and there are particular doctrines of the Gospel, and such as the apostle had been speaking of, or referred unto, which are called truth, words of truth, and faithful sayings; as that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; that he is God manifest in the flesh, or is God and man in one person; that he came into the world to save the chief of sinners; that he suffered, died, and rose again from the dead; that justification is by his righteousness; and that as he is the first that rose from the dead, others will rise also; or that there will be a resurrection of the dead by him; see 1 John 2:21 1 Timothy 1:15. And these are "words of soberness" also; they are words of the highest wisdom, which contain the wisdom of God in a mystery, even hidden wisdom, the deep things of God, and such as could never have been found out by the wisdom of men; they are the means of bringing a man to himself, to his right mind, who before was not himself; of causing a man to think soberly of himself, and not more highly than he ought to think, even to think of himself, that he is the chief of sinners, and the least of saints; and of speaking soberly, wisely, and prudently; and of living soberly, righteously, and godly: they are doctrines, as delivered by the faithful ministers of them, which come from a sound and sober mind, and have a tendency to make wise and sober; and therefore should be spoken "forth", openly and boldly, freely and faithfully, constantly and continually, as they were by the apostle, whatever reproaches, calumnies, and reflections may be cast upon them for so doing, even though they may be called fools and madmen.

But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
Acts 26:25. Ὁ δέ] μετὰ ἐπιεικείας ἀποκρινόμενος, Chrysostom.

ἀληθείας κ. σωφροσ. ῥήματα] words, to which truth and intelligence (sound discretion) belong. ἀλήθεια may doubtless accompany enthusiastic utterance, but it is a characteristic opposed to madness. For passages in the classics where σωφροσύνη is opposed to μανία, see Elsner and Raphel. Plat. Prot. p. 323 B: ὃ ἐκεῖ σωφροσύνην ἡγοῦντο εἶναι τἀληθῆ λέγειν, ἐνταῦθα μανίαν. Comp. also Luke 8:35; 2 Corinthians 5:13.

ἀποφθέγγομαι] “aptum verbum,” Bengel. See on Acts 2:4.

Acts 26:25. Οὐ μαίνομαι κ. Φ.: whatever may have been the sense in which Festus addressed Paul, there is no doubt as to the courtesy of the Apostle’s answer, μετὰ ἐπιεικείας ἀποκρινόμενος, Chrys. κράτιστε: “most excellent,” R.V., see above, Acts 1:1.—ἀληθ. καὶ σωφροσ.: veritas not veracitas, objective truth; no suspicion had been raised against St. Paul’s truthfulness of character (cf. John 18:37); as our Lord stood before Pilate as a witness for the truth, so His Apostle stands face to face with a Roman sceptic as a witness to the existence of a world of real existences and not of mere shadows and unrealities (Bethge, p. 294). σωφρ.: the opposite of madness, cf. Plato, Protag., 323 [404] (Xen., Mem., i., 1, 16), ὃ ἐκεῖ σωφροσύνην ἡγοῦντο εἶναι τἀληθῆ λέγειν, ἐνταῦθα μανίαν. The two nouns are only found here in St. Luke’s writings, but cf. σωφρονεῖν, Luke 8:35, Romans 12:3, 2 Corinthians 5:13; cf. ῥήματα ζωῆς, chap. Acts 5:20.—ἀποφθ., cf. Acts 2:4; Acts 2:14, of the Pentecostal utterances, and of the solemn utterances of St. Peter; “aptum verbum,” Bengel. St. Paul was speaking with boldness like St. Peter, and under the same divine inspiration; in LXX of the utterances of the prophets, cf. 1 Chronicles 25:1, of philosophers, and of oracular responses; like the Latin profari and pronuntiare, see above on Acts 2:4. and Grimm-Thayer, sub v.

Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

25. most noble [R. V. excellent] Festus] The same title of respect which is given to Felix (Acts 23:26, Acts 24:3). As St Chrysostom remarks the Apostle now answers with gentleness, not as to the high priest (Acts 23:3).

soberness] The word, in classical Greek, is the opposite to that “madness” unto which Festus had said Paul was turned.

Acts 26:25. Κράτιστε φῆστε, most noble Festus) Madmen do not use names and terms of respect. Thus also Paul refutes Festus.—ἀληθείας καὶ σωφροσὐνης, of truth and soberness) “Soberness” is opposed to madness: “truth” is confirmed in the following verse. Both remain still, even when men of GOD act with the greatest vehemence.—ἀποφθέγγομαι, I speak forth) A suitable word.

Verse 25. - Paul saith for he said, A.V. and T.R.; excellent for noble, A.V.; words for the words, A.V. Most excellent (κράτιστε). It appears to be the proper title to give the procurator (see Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3). St. Luke also applies it to Theophilus (Luke 1:3). In classical Greek οἱ κράτιστοι are the aristocracy. Soberness (σωφροσύνη); sound or sober mindedness; just the opposite of the μανία of which he was accused. See the use of σωφρονεῖν (Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35; 2 Corinthians 5:13, etc.), and of σωφρονίζειν σωφρωνισμός σώφρων, etc. So also in Plato, σωφρωσύνη is opposed to μανία. Acts 26:25Speak forth (ἀποφθέγγομαι)

See on Acts 2:4.

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