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June 13, 2010
Almost thou Persuadest Meto be a Christian
“Almost” is a very sad word.Moses “almost” did what God told him to do. At Kadesh when the people murmured because of a lack of water, God told Moses to take his rod, gather the congregation of Israel together, have his brother Aaron with him, and speak to the rock. Moses did everything that God said except speak to the rock. Instead he struck it twice and said, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Water came forth, but God said, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (Numbers 20:1-12).
The rich young ruler “almost” qualified for eternal life. He had kept the commandments of the law from his youth, but Jesus said, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But he was sad at the saying and went away sorrowful, because he had many possessions. (Mark 10:17-22). The five foolish virgins made “almost” enough preparation for the coming bridegroom; “almost” was not good enough. While they were gone to get oil, the bridegroom came, the door was closed, and when they returned, it was too late. (Matthew 25:1-13).
“Almost” appears in our King James Version of the Bible at a very memorable occasion. King Agrippa, before whom Paul stood while on trial, was “almost” persuaded to obey the gospel. To Paul he said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:28). It is sad to think of “almost, but lost” in this case or any case. But we can really use this as a learning and teaching tool — and not just to learn the lesson of the danger of “putting off” obedience.
“ALMOST” contradicts the popular doctrine of salvation by faith only. Paul had just said, “King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do” (Acts 26:27). See? He had already believed in God and His word from the prophets, but believing alone did not make him a Christian. In another place we find that some rulers also believed on Christ but because of the Pharisees they would not confess him. “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42,43). Even though they believed, they were lost. The faith that saves is the faith that leads one to obey. When Moses failed to obey God’s word exactly at the waters of Meribah, God said, “Because you have not believed Me …” (Numbers 20:12). The devils believe, and tremble, but their faith alone does not save (James 2:19).
“THOU” contradicts the popular doctrine of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. There is the idea that in conversion the Holy Spirit operates directly upon the heart apart from the word of truth to convict and to convert. There is no support of this idea in the scriptures. To the contrary, the “thou” in this passage represents a man, the apostle Paul, who proclaimed the word to Agrippa. If anyone had an opportunity to be converted by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, it was the apostle Paul himself. Though the Lord spoke to him on the Damascus road, he did not tell him that he was saved, but rather told him to go into Damascus and there it would be told him what he must do. After three days a man, Ananias, a disciple of Christ, came to him and told him what to do — ”Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). When one is saved, it is not by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, apart from the word, but by hearing the gospel, believing the truth, repenting of one’s sins, and by being baptized for the remission of sins. (Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:46,47).
“PERSUADEST ME” contradicts the popular doctrine of “mourner’s bench” salvation or “praying through.” This doctrine is the idea that God must be persuaded to save man, that the sinner must plead and beg and implore God to be merciful and forgive. If this were the case, then God would be a respecter of persons, for some feel that they are successful in their persuading, while others may feel that God has not heard their cries. The fact is that God does not have to be persuaded to save man, but man has to be persuaded to obey God. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Paul says, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). And again, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
“TO BE” contradicts the popular doctrine of “getting religion.” The religion of Christ is not something that one gets, but rather something that one does and practices. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter …Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:21,24). Jesus also said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Jesus himself set the example in doing. When Luke wrote the book of Acts, he began his treatise with these words to describe his previously written gospel: “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). James shows that the religion of Christ is not a matter of getting but of doing. “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:26,27).
“A CHRISTIAN” contradicts the idea that there is nothing in a name and the popular concept of denominationalism. The scriptures tell us that remission of sins is in Christ’s name. “And that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Salvation is in this name. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We are to glorify God in this name. “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name” (1 Peter 4:16).
Agrippa was not almost persuaded to be a Mormon, or a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Pentecostal. He said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Wearing of different religious names causes and perpetuates division, which is contrary to God’s will. Paul said, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13).
There is no evidence that Agrippa ever became fully persuaded to be a Christian. This would mean that he passed from this life, even though he had such great and wonderful opportunity to do God’s will, without hope, lost forever, with only the prospect of suffering throughout eternity. How many today are making the same mistake that Agrippa made in the long ago?
— S. Scott Richardson Sr.