“He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.” These striking words were the conclusion of an 1870 sermon on Acts 26:28 spoken in the hearing of the well-known hymn writer P.P. Bliss. The writer meditated further on the final words of the sermon and then composed the song, “Almost Persuaded”, a song designed to prompt sinners to conversion to Jesus and to salvation. This song has successfully moved many sinners from “almost” to “altogether” persuaded to become a Christian.
The text that inspired first the sermon and then the song is from the account in Acts of a sermon by Paul to King Agrippa, his wife Bernice and others of importance. While Paul was on trial to determine what charges should be sent along with him to Caesar, he justified his preaching of the gospel by explaining his conversion to Jesus. Festus interrupted Paul and said that he was crazy!
Paul objected and then directed his remarks to the King, not only to prove that he was not crazy, but to persuade the King himself to become a believer. The King hesitated to make the commitment to become a Christian, but instead indicated that he wasn’t quite ready- he was just “almost persuaded” (KJV).
This month we will examine the evidence presented by Paul to Agrippa to persuade him to become a Christian. This is the same evidence that a person must be convinced of today before making a commitment to be Jesus’ disciple. We will then discuss what the person who believes who Jesus is must be convicted of- his soul’s lost condition. Finally, we will look at Jesus’ instructions to the person who accepts who He is and has felt the pain of his lost condition. We’ll see what he must and will do if he is “altogether” persuaded to seek salvation in Christ and become a Christian.
Persuaded of Who Jesus Is
Paul called to Agrippa’s mind the evidence that backed up what he preached about Jesus. He was not crazy, but he spoke words of sober truth! The evidence that supported the claim of Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, was not “done in a corner”, but was rather public information. The apostle was certain that the king himself was well aware of the ministry of Jesus (Acts 26:26).
Jesus’ miracles would not have escaped King Agrippa’s notice. News about His healing the sick quickly spread from Galilee throughout all Syria and large crowds brought their sick and followed Him from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and Perea (Mt 4:24-25). The king would have heard about miracles such as recorded in the gospel of John- miracles that John recorded to bring those of us to belief who did not see them (Jn 20:29-31)- Jesus turning water to wine, healing the nobleman’s son, curing a lame man who could not walk for 38 years, feeding 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, walking on the water, recovering the sight of a man who was born blind, and raising Lazarus from the dead, and His own resurrection from the dead (the ultimate miracle that Paul had borne witness to the king about earlier in his speech-26:12-20).
After referencing the evidence of Jesus’ life, Paul turned King Agrippa’s attention to the Prophets. He said, “King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do” (26:27). Evidently, Paul knew King Agrippa and his religious background well (26:3). He knew him well enough to answer his question for him- to answer with confidence that he knew that he believed the Prophets.
Anyone who knew and believed the Prophets would know that Paul wasn’t talking “out of his mind” about Jesus. More than that, anyone who knew Jesus’ life and who knew and believed in the Prophets could put “2 and 2” together and come up with “4”. They could reach the logical conclusion that Jesus is the Christ (King) whom the Prophets predicted would come. The Prophets made hundreds of detailed predictions about the life, death and resurrection of the Christ that are all fulfilled in one person- in Jesus- who therefore must be the King or Messiah whom the prophets foretold.
King Agrippa could see where Paul was going with all of this. He understood that Paul was not just making a defense, but that he was making an attempt at converting him to Jesus. But, the king was not willing to confess that he believed what Paul’s evidence pointed to about Jesus and to submit his life to Him. Rather, he said that he was “almost persuaded” to become a Christian (26:28).
What about you? If you have not yet concluded that Jesus is the Christ, study the evidence for yourself. Study Jesus’ miracles. Compare His life with the Prophets. What does the evidence point to? Honest study will lead you to the inescapable conclusion of who Jesus is. It will leave you not “almost”, but rather “altogether” persuaded to become a Christian.
Persuaded of Your Soul’s Condition
It is not enough just to believe who Jesus is intellectually. The demons believe and even confess Jesus as the Son of God (Mt 8:29), yet they serve Satan. Peter laid out the evidence of Jesus’ miracles and fulfilled prophecy to bring the Jews gathered on Pentecost to the conclusion that “God has made Him both Lord and Christ- this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). The reaction of those who were persuaded by the evidence was not just, “Peter we accept your conclusion. We are glad that we now know who Jesus is.” Rather “they were “pierced to the heart” (2:37).
Belief comes from facts. Conviction comes from the application of the conclusion that the facts support. In order to become a Christian, a person must do more than come to belief, he must come to conviction. A person must not only be persuaded of who Jesus is, but also of where his soul stands because of who He is.
Many of the Jews who heard Peter’s sermon on Pentecost made the application of his conclusion about who Jesus is to their lives. Their consciences were pierced with guilt. Here are some questions that not only reflect their thought process, but reflect the thought process of anyone who takes the step from belief to conviction:
1) Since Jesus is Lord and King, how does my life compare with His law? Have I ever broken it? 2) Since Jesus is Lord and King, how does my conscience feel as I review my life? 3) Since Jesus is Lord and King and I have broken His law, what has this done to my relationship with God? 4) Since Jesus is Lord and King, what does my sin have to do with his crucifixion? 5) Since Jesus is Lord and King, shouldn’t I be anxious to ask the question, “What must I do?”
True belief causes the piercing of the heart, the feeling of pain and sorrow because of sin committed against God and His Son, whom He has exalted to be Lord and King. No one will be persuaded to become a Christian without first seeing the serious condition of his soul. Here are some scriptural descriptions of this condition: lost, dead, condemned, filthy, captive, indebted, citizen of the kingdom of darkness. The soul’s destiny: hell.
Persuasion to become a Christian lies not only in seeing where one’s soul is because of sin, but where it could be if one became a Christian: found, alive, justified, washed, redeemed, pardoned, citizen of the kingdom of Jesus. The soul’s destiny: heaven.
How far along did King Agrippa get in the conversion process? Did he not accept the conclusion of the facts about Jesus’ identity? Did he accept the conclusion about who Jesus is, but fail to see himself as he was in view of that conclusion? Did he accept the conclusion about who Jesus is, see himself as lost, but fail to do anything about it? We don’t know. But you know about yourself. Where are you in the conversion process? Are you “almost persuaded” to become a Christian? Why stay in this position if you are persuaded of who Jesus is and of your spiritual condition because of it?...
Persuaded to Act
Peter told the Jews who were persuaded who Jesus is and who were persuaded of their desperate condition to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38). Three thousand were persuaded to act. Three thousand received his word and were baptized (2:41). Three thousand were persuaded to become Christians. How many were like King Agrippa and were “almost persuaded” we do not know.
What about you? If you have not become a Christian and you are persuaded of who Jesus is and are persuaded of your lost condition, have you repented and been baptized? Only when you act by obeying these conditions laid down by Jesus will you be saved- will you become a Christian. Only then can it be said that you have been “altogether persuaded” to become a Christian. Do not linger in the state of “almost persuaded” as King Agrippa. Repent and be baptized today!