“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).
“Almost” is a chilling word. In many situations almost is enough, but not when it comes to accepting Christ. As believers we know the destination of those who won’t see the truth and we don’t want anyone to be “almost persuaded.” So many people hear the gospel and are almost persuaded “to be a Christian” but for one reason or another—won’t make the decision to ask Jesus to come into their lives.
They are almost persuaded, but have decided to wait until later to accept Christ into their lives. Are they waiting for a more convenient time? What do they think they have to give-up? The joy of eternal salvation should be reason enough to accept Christ’s sacrifice. We can do our best to persuade others to accept Christ, but we cannot make the decision for them. “Almost thou persuadest me.” (Almost, but not quite.)
Paul’s life is a great example of how becoming a Christian can change someone. Saul, who was later known as Paul, was a brilliant man. He was a Jew who studied under Gamaliel, a highly respected teacher of the Law. Saul was zealous in his love of the Law. His persecution of the new group known as Christians was notorious. One day his life was eternally changed when he was headed to Damascus to arrest more Christians, but he met Jesus and his life was changed.
Saul certainly had to “give-up” some things in order to follow Jesus. For instance his status among the Jews was sacrificed. As time went on he gave-up personal comfort; he was beaten many times and often imprisoned. What did he gain? Eternal life. He knew nothing could ever come between him and Jesus:
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Paul wasn’t, “Almost persuaded.” He was fully persuaded that God’s love is eternal.
Paul had gone on mission trips where he had established Christian congregations in various cities and he wrote many letters of instruction, reproof, and encouragement. He had surrendered his life to Christ and his desire was to bring others to salvation. Paul served Jesus with the same zeal that he had persecuted Him before he was “persuaded” to serve Him.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Paul lived to serve Jesus, but he also looked forward to spending eternity with Him. As his service to Jesus went forward the Jews began persecuting Paul, and eventually they placed him under arrest and brought him before the procurator, Felix, in Caesarea. Among other things Paul was accused of being the “… ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5b).
Yep, he was accused of being a Christian! Paul’s defense was the testimony of his faith. Although Felix didn’t find him innocent, he didn’t find him guilty. Paul was placed in the custody of a centurion, but he was given liberty and was able to visit with friends. He was also visited by Felix and his wife. Paul’s testimony seems to have made them curious. Had he almost persuaded them to believe?
Paul reasoned with them hoping they would be persuaded to accept Christ:
“And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25).
Paul had confronted Felix with his sins and he trembled, but he was not persuaded to accept Christ as his Savior. Instead of having his sins forgiven he chose to hold onto them. He was almost persuaded, but still lost.
After two years Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus, and Paul was still under arrest. I wonder how many times Felix had talked with Paul and how close Paul had come to persuading him to accept Christ. When Festus took office he decided that Paul should be brought before King Agrippa.
Once again Paul gave his testimony. He told how he persecuted the Christians and of his experience on the road to Damascus, describing in detail his encounter with our Lord Jesus. At the end of Paul’s dissertation, King Agrippa told Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).
Like Felix, Agrippa used that chilling word, “almost.”
Almost is not enough.
That same statement is heard throughout the pews of Christian congregations today. The preacher may preach a very convicting sermon but when the altar call is given the frequent reaction is, “You almost persuaded me, to be a Christian.”
The call is urgent. The sheer lack of time remaining for the nonbeliever to stop procrastinating should put that urgency upon the heart of every Christian.
Every one of us needs to share our testimony and live our lives so there is no mistake that Christ is Lord over our lives. When we hear our loved ones say, “I’ll wait for a more convenient day,” ask them why. What could possibly be more important than being ready to face eternity? People think they have forever to make that decision, but all Christians know there is no more convenient time than now.
A car accident, a sudden heart attack, a crazed person shooting in a mall or school…any number of other happenings can abruptly end a life. Is that convenient? The choice of where you spend eternity is up to you. God does not send anyone to hell, but if you choose to put off accepting Christ’s free gift of salvation, you may put it off too long.
In speaking to King Agrippa, Paul’s love for Christ is evident. He didn’t lament the fact that he was under arrest, but he did yearn for the salvation of those present and listening.
“And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:29).
King Agrippa undoubtedly had a huge entourage of servants, guards, and followers who watched his every move. He could have made a decision right then and there for Christ, but alas thought there were too many stumbling blocks in his path.
He probably would have lost his kingship, riches, his servants, and of course he would have also had to endure persecution like the rest of the Christians of that time. The loss of friends and family probably weighed heavily on his mind. We don’t know if sometime later in his life he remembered Paul’s testimony and accepted Christ, but if he didn’t he certainly regrets that decision now. Today the same barriers exist that make it seem inconvenient to accept Christ.
Will you lose your job? Lose a friend? Will you have to change a lifestyle? All too often the excuses of the lost souls outweigh the persuasive witnessing of Christians. “Christianity isn’t convenient now, maybe later.” If not now, when? Tomorrow may be too late.
Just imagine, if you will, a different scenario that day. King Agrippa stands for just a moment after hearing Paul’s remarks and then falls to his knees with a broken heart. In the midst of his wailing, he asks Jesus to come into his life. What a powerful witness that would have been in front of his wife, Festus, all the chief captains and the principal men of the city, not to mention the Jews who had assembled together.
There might have been a huge revival right there in that auditorium. Alas, it was not to be. Those sad, empty words keep echoing down through the ages, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
Those who have heard the gospel and rejected it only see foolishness in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa were just like many people today who think Christians are crazy.
“Now as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself: much learning doth make thee mad” (Acts 26:24).
Festus had just heard the truth of the gospel and declared Paul to be crazy; the preaching of the cross was seen as foolishness just as Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthian Church.
Make no mistake:
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Share the Good News—the Gospel of Christ—with everyone you come into contact with. Study God’s Word in order to clearly explain why everyone needs Christ’s free gift of salvation. Genesis chapter one isn’t a fairytale, an allegory, or a metaphor. Adam’s sin really did bring about the fall of all creation.
But the Good News is this:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
The cross may be foolish to those who are perishing, but it is eternal life for all who have been fully persuaded of the truth of God’s Word.
We all have friends and relatives who we have witnessed to and prayed for but who just can’t make the choice to follow Jesus. It is heartbreaking to think that someone we love will not make the choice to “be a Christian.” If you are reading this and are “almost persuaded” (don’t put off accepting Christ another minute).
Almost is not enough.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham