Preached at Trenton Baptist, February 19, 2017

Much Knowledge, But Not Persuaded

Acts 26

It is said that truth always wins out. But is that the truth? Is that a true statement about truth? Does truth always triumph? Many people readily answer in the affirmative.

Gandhi famously said, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always.”1

Truth did not work out for him in January 30, 1948. He was murdered by a man opposed to his doctrine of nonviolence.

Saint Paul presents the Truth in his case before King Agrippa and in the presence of Festus. If truth always wins we must ask why does Paul remains a prisoner? Why do Festus and Agrippa remain unconverted to the Lord Jesus Christ? Paul makes it clear he is seeking the conversion of his listeners altogether.

The truth is that telling the truth can get us in a lot of hot water in a world consumed in corruption. It can seem the liars are the ones who get ahead.

People who promote lying to get ahead are never in short supply.

Facebook has over a billion subscribers. Most pages are for friends sharing with friends. But many are set up to promote business; others are created by churches for exchanging information among members; still others promote special causes. Among those billion or so pages is one called Truth Always Prevails.

It is a site created to encourage Muslims and promote Islam. You already know the Koran allows lying if it benefits Islam. Lying also is allowed in several other situations. Dr. Don Boys writes:

Muslims are permitted to lie: (1) to save their lives, (2) to reconcile a husband and wife, (3) to persuade a woman into a bedroom and (4) to facilitate one on his journey. Muslims are even permitted to disavow Islam and Mohammed if it is not a genuine heart-felt rejection. Muslims will tell you that concealment of a truth is not an abandonment of that truth if it benefits Islam.

Mohammed gave permission for a follower to lie in order to kill a Jewish poet who had offended Mohammed.2

It appears Sophocles is correct in The Sons of Aleus. He says, “What people believe prevails over the truth.”

Agrippa is very knowledgeable about Jewish beliefs and customs. The word translated “expert” in the KJV is the Greek word gnoce’-tace. It means a discerning judge of specified matters. It can be translated “a connoisseur.”

Agrippa has an encompassing knowledge of the matters Paul now presents to him.

Paul further asserts Agrippa not only knew about the issues, but he also believed a lot of things correctly.

But that did not lead the titular king to the King of Kings. It did not open his eyes and heart to the One who is Truth, Jesus Christ. Agrippa believed the prophets. He knew about the hope of eternal life, but that knowledge did not produce life giving faith in him.

A person can have good knowledge and correct beliefs about many things, but still not have soul-saving faith.

Paul now tells the assembly how he came to saving faith. He was once full of knowledge but short of saving faith!

Like Agrippa, Paul had previously believed correctly much of scripture. He had been an expert in all matters of Jewish law and customs. He believed rightly and did correctly according to tradition. He had correct knowledge about all those things. But he was lost; he did not have saving faith.

Paul says he was converted when he had a personal encountered with the Risen, Lord Jesus. He was enlightened by the Light of the Glory of Christ.

Paul is aware that Agrippa must go beyond knowledge and beliefs. Agrippa must leave the comfortable ground of knowledge and belief and set out into the spiritual arena of faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Knowledge and belief do give us a sense of comfort. It can, however, be a false comfort.

When we seek comfort in what we know, we don’t have to deal with what we don’t know. Or rather in the case of salvation, with whom we don’t know.

Without a personal encounter with Jesus, we have nothing but an information religion. It becomes a religion consisting of little but creeds and forms.

We may maintain a library of accurate information in our brain about Jesus without having true saving faith in our heart. We may believe about Jesus without having faith in Jesus.

Our comfort in our beliefs may stem from the fact we have created a catalog of tailormade beliefs which require nothing of consequence from us. Our comfort level seeks an encounter with Jesus without being changed by the encounter.

A life comfortable in that kind of knowledge and belief will not likely change simply because someone tells them the truth. They will simply move on until they find someone who will tell them what they want to hear.

They will remain like Agrippa, almost persuaded. They, like Festus, will declare the truth-teller to be mad.

When we look at truth in that way, truth does not always prevail. It does not always win.

What is right about truth is this. The One who is Truth will ultimately prevail. He will win because He has already won the victory.

Our victory is in Him; it is not in a set of tailormade doctrines. It is a victory not over people or events, but over our own sin.

1 John 5:4, For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.

The faith of those born of God overcomes the temptations and corrupting influence of the world. We live freed from the maxims, ideas, and mores of a world living in sin and spiritual darkness. That for us is the meaning of overcoming the world.

By the Spirit of Christ, we rule over our own heart. We are not under the control of worldly sin. Truth has set us free because we know the Truth rather than just knowing about what is true.

Now what is true for us is not in force in the world. People say, “What is true for you is not true for me.” They hold truth to relevant and situational.

There can be no truth if that is so. But still the notion persists because it allows people to be comfortable in whatever they wish to believe.

Isaiah testifies to that fact in chapter 59, verse 14. He says, And judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

So, truth in this wicked world does not always make right. It does not always win out over sin in the life of everyone exposed to it.

It takes more than just hearing the truth for a person to be born again. It takes the Holy Spirit of God to make alive the human spirit dead in trespasses and sin. It takes more than hearing; it takes being born again.

We cannot speak truth into people. They must receive it. Therein is why truth does not prevail in the life of most people. They refuse to give up the way of death and be born again of God unto a new life in Him.

The Truth will win out ultimately in destroying both sin and sinners in this world. But that time is not yet. Truth’s final victory is an eschatological hope.

Meanwhile we must keep to the task at hand in declaring accurately the One who is Truth. We preach, teach, and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ until the day He comes for us.

Paul here knows that he is to be delivered over to Caesar no matter what he says. But he keeps speaking the truth and leaving the results in the hands of God.

William Cullen Bryant lays it out clearly for us in his poem The Battle-Field.

ONCE this soft turf, this rivulet's sands,

Were trampled by a hurrying crowd,

And fiery hearts and armed hands

Encountered in the battle-cloud.

Ah! never shall the land forget

How gushed the life-blood of her brave

Gushed, warm with hope and courage yet,

Upon the soil they fought to save.

Now all is calm, and fresh, and still;

Alone the chirp of flitting bird,

And talk of children on the hill,

And bell of wandering kine, are heard.

No solemn host goes trailing by

The black-mouthed gun and staggering wain;

Men start not at the battle-cry,

O, be it never heard again!

Soon rested those who fought; but thou

Who minglest in the harder strife

For truths which men receive not now,

Thy warfare only ends with life.

A friendless warfare! lingering long

Through weary day and weary year;

A wild and many-weaponed throng

Hang on thy front, and flank, and rear.

Yet nerve thy spirit to the proof,

And blench not at thy chosen lot,

The timid good may stand aloof,

The sage may frown yet faint thou not.

Nor heed the shaft too surely cast,

The foul and hissing bolt of scorn;

For with thy side shall dwell, at last,

The victory of endurance born.

Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;

The eternal years of God are hers;

But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,

And dies among his worshippers.

Yea, though thou lie upon the dust,

When they who helped thee flee in fear,

Die full of hope and manly trust,

Like those who fell in battle here.

Another hand thy sword shall wield,

Another hand the standard wave,

Till from the trumpet's mouth is pealed

The blast of triumph o'er thy grave.3

Far too many church members stand in the same place of Festus and Agrippa. The one thinking those who speak the true Gospel are out of their minds. The other living a life of being almost persuade.

Where are you, my dear friends? Are you almost persuade or are you born again in the full knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?

End Notes:, February 17, 2017

  1., February 17, 2017
  2. The Battle-Field, William Cullen Bryant, Library of World Poetry, Ed. By William Cullen Bryant, Avenel Books, New York, page 373, J.B. Ford & Co, 1970.