Friday, August 18, 2023

The Vision (8.18.23): The Almost Persuaded Hearer


Image: Knock-out rose, North Garden, Virginia, August 2023.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Acts 26.

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian (Acts 26:28).

Paul began his apologetic sermon before the Jewish king Agrippa by saying “wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently” (Acts 26:3b). This is a plea with which every Christian preacher should begin his sermon.

Paul noted that before his Damascus Road conversion he too “thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (v. 9). He then preached to the king from Scripture that “Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first to rise from the dead, and that he should show light unto the people [his fellow Jews], and to the Gentiles” (v. 23).

The Roman governor Festus, however, interrupted “with a loud voice” (v. 24a), and said, “Paul thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad” (v. 24b).

We should note that Paul had used the same language of “madness” to describe his irrational hated of Christ and his followers while he was yet unconverted. He had been “exceedingly mad” against Christians (v. 11). To the Christian, his old life seems mad and his new life in Christ sane, but unbelievers will often see it the other way around.

Paul responds by saying, “I am not mad… but speak forth the words of truth and soberness” (v. 25).

Paul then turns again to the Jewish king Agrippa, appealing to his knowledge of these things (v. 26). Paul begins spiritually to examine the king, probing his conscience, “believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest” (v. 27).

Agrippa’s response, however, is one of the saddest in Scripture, akin to the rich young ruler who went away “sorrowful” from Christ, “for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22).

Agrippa responds, “Almost thou persuadeth me to be a Christian” (v. 28). The term “Christian” had first been used at Antioch to describe the followers of the Lord Jesus (11:26).

Agrippa declares himself to be an almost persuaded hearer of the gospel.

Paul’s response in v. 29, in turn, is truly astounding. He declares that he wishes that not only Agrippa but all who heard him that day would become as he was, that is, indeed, a Christian, a follower of Christ, a believer in him, except for his chains.

The irony is that spiritually speaking, the prisoner was free, and his wardens were imprisoned.

There are, no doubt, some who regularly attend upon the preaching of the gospel who are still what we might call “almost persuaded hearers.” Let such ones not perpetuate the error of Agrippa, but let them, by grace, be sanctified by faith, repent of their sin, and turn to Christ, producing the works meet or fitting for repentance (cf. vv. 18, 20).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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