Talking Like a Madman
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 9:55AM
Jeff Smith in Discipleship, Tongue

Chances are, because of your faith, you have either been accused to the face or behind your back of being a little crazy. The convictions of members of churches of Christ are just that distinctive and enough in conflict with the acceptable creeds of Protestantism that we seem like madmen and rabble rousers to those in the mainstream of Christendom and among agnostics and atheists. Such accusations are examples of usually mild persecution and put us in good company with the likes of Christ and the apostle Paul who were likewise accused of madness.

I. Accused of Madness

A. David the Shepherd

1. one of the greatest Bible characters found that talking like a madman was a good way of throwing off suspicion

2. when David was but a shepherd and a future ruler, King Saul tried to chase him away from Jerusalem to hold onto the throne for himself

3. in his travels, David found that other kings were also worried that he would try to conquer them, and so he came up with his plan (First Samuel 21:10-22:1a)

B. Jesus Christ

1. his creator and descendant, Jesus the Christ, was also accused of insanity based on the things that he taught and the way that he lived

2. gospel writer Mark notes that although Jesus was attracting a large audience and establishing a team of apostles to support his preaching and healing, the Lord’s own family was unconvinced that he was the messiah (Mark 3:13-15, 20-21)

3. John wrote that at this point, “not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5), and while his mother might have been storing up prophecies in her heart, she surely recognized that her son was getting as much negative attention from the rulers as he was positive attention from the common folk

4. eventually, the Jews became very divided over the veracity of his claims and whether he was a madman or a miracle worker (John 10:17-21)

5. when he claimed oneness with Jehovah, the issue was settled in the minds of his enemies, who designed to stone him to death on a charge of blasphemy rather than madness

C. Paul Accused by Festus

1. after the church was established, one of its apostles, Paul, was caught teaching in the same vein as Christ, and was likewise subject to accusations that he was out of his mind

2. he was arrested by the Jews on a charge of corrupting the temple by bringing Gentiles inside and by preaching against the Law of Moses (see Acts 21:27-36)

3. compelled to appeal his case to Caesar, Paul languished in Roman jails for years, eventually appearing before King Agrippa II, son of the man who killed James, the brother of John (see Acts 12:1-5) and great grandson of Herod the Great, who slaughtered the innocents in an attempt to murder the child, Jesus (see Matthew 2:1)

a. King Agrippa ruled over several minor territories at the pleasure of the Caesar; Claudius had given him authority over the temple and the right to appoint the high priest (Josephus)

b. the Roman procurator, Festus, brought them together, not knowing exactly what to do with Paul, but confident that Agrippa understood the Jewish culture better

4. Paul explained his change of heart on the Damascus Road, where Jesus appeared to him and chastened him for persecuting the gospel, and how he began preaching the Christ he had opposed, finally declaring his conviction that this Jesus had risen from the dead

5. at that point, Festus spoke out (Acts 26:24-32)

a. Paul proved his sanity with the dignified way he responded to Festus’s accusation, and although much study can surely drive one crazy, Paul’s perspective had only become more acute

b. indeed, it might seem insane to give up a life of power and ambition to preach the gospel for little money and certain infamy, but Paul was confident that he was finally serving God properly

D. Paul Self-Deprecating

1. there is one other occasion in which Paul seemingly confesses a lack of sanity, but only because his Corinthian brethren compelled him to list his qualifications to be an apostle against the accusations of false teachers who troubled him

2. he knew that boasting was excluded by the law of faith (see Romans 3:27), but chose to list his sacrifices and crosses as evidence before the Corinthian church that he was genuine

3. in doing so, he felt like a fool nonetheless (Second Corinthians 11:16-33)

4. to keep him from going mad with conceit, he says, a thorn was inserted into his flesh to buffet him and remind him of his simplicity (Second Corinthians 12:8-10)

II. Applications

A. Making Fools of Others

1. madmen are often a great danger to themselves and to others, inflicting such great harm that they must be restrained – like the demon-possessed man who cut himself with stones and whom Jesus exorcised so that he was then found “clothed and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15)

2. but sometimes people just act like madmen, only inflicting a similar degree of hurt on their victims; an Old Testament proverb says, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking’” (Proverbs 26:18-19)!

3. most people enjoy kidding around and playing little jokes on their friends, and so long as there is no lasting harm or unbearable humiliation, it is all fun, but there are times when it goes too far and someone gets seriously hurt, whether physically or emotionally, and it is not so humorous anymore

B. Dignified Reply

1. recall the ways that Jesus and Paul refuted the charges that they were out of their minds, not by losing control and visiting their wrath upon the accusers, but by replying with dignity

2. Wesley wrote, “How inexpressibly beautiful is this reply! How strong! Yet how decent and respectful. Madmen do not call men by their names and titles of honor. Thus, Paul refuted the charge.”

3. the Proverbs indicate, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly” (Proverbs 15:1-2).

4. persecution is often limited to accusations that a Christian is out of his mind, that his beliefs in creation, the cross, or the resurrection, are unscientific and legendary, or that the narrowness of his faith is exclusionary and unviable, or that his self-denial and judgment are futile

5. when compelled to make answer, faithful consistency requires the kind of bold, yet respectful answer that Paul made to Festus, and which gave Agrippa no cause to doubt the man’s innocence

6. remember, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:27-28).

C. Boasting in the Wisdom of God

1. and like the Lord and his apostle, we are better served to boast in nothing personal, no accomplishment or quality, but only in the achievements of the gospel itself (Romans 11:33-36)

2. so much human wisdom tries to infect the simple gospel of Christ, in the form of self-help psychologies, denominational creeds, and human opinion and tradition, but when we are content with God’s wisdom, we have a firmer platform for unity and less cause for the kinds of conflicts that are self-inflicted and unnecessary (First Corinthians 1:26-31)

3. the haughtiness that sometimes accompanies education, power, success, physical appeal, or money can drain away the humility so necessary to salvation (First Corinthians 3:18-20)


Paul felt he was talking like a madman because he was compelled to defend himself before the Corinthians, but it is true madness to abandon the simplicity of the gospel for conceit and wrath.

Questions for Review

  1. Why did David feign madness? Could a Christian do this?

  2. Why did people think Jesus was insane?

  3. Why did Festus think Paul was crazy? How did he respond?

  4. Why did Paul feel silly when writing Corinth?

  5. When do jokes go too far?

  6. What is the effect of an out-of-control reply to accusers?

  7. In what should we not boast? In what should we boast?

Update on Friday, June 15, 2012 at 12:08PM by Registered CommenterJeff Smith

Keynote Presentation

Update on Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 1:48PM by Registered CommenterJeff Smith

Download Sermon MP3 Recording

Article originally appeared on ElectronicGospel (
See website for complete article licensing information.