The apostle Paul stood on trial, accused of heresy and polluting the temple of God.
Initially his ongoing legal battle had been undertaken by the Roman authorities of Judea as an effort to appease the Jews of Jerusalem. But recognizing the true motives of his Jewish accusers, Paul had taken advantage of his legal rights and had appealed to Caesar, asking for a trial in Rome.
His appeal had been granted. But that left the Roman procurator Porcius Festus something of a legal quandary. He didn’t have any actual Roman crime to hold against Paul. They could send him to Caesar, but he felt a little foolish sending a man to trial without any actual legal accusation having been made.
So Festus asked King Herod Agrippa II to help him come up with charges. For his part Agrippa was interested in hearing the apostle speak. He knew somewhat of Christianity, being of Jewish persuasion himself, and so the King agreed. (cf. Acts 25)
When the day arrived, Paul was given a chance to explain himself. For the apostle, such an invitation was all that he required. Rather than giving a detailed legal defense, discussing laws and like, Paul chose rather to explain why he was a Christian. He spoke of how he had persecuted Christian, he talked about how he had personally seen the resurrected man, Jesus Christ, and how in response to the command of the Lord, he, Paul, had preached the gospel to the lost. (cf. Acts 26:1-23)
When Festus heard Paul preach about the resurrection of the dead, Festus proclaimed that Paul must have been driven mad by the profundity and magnitude of his education (cf. Acts 26:24). But Paul was not mad. Rather he was making an attempt to convert his audience. In particular he was trying to reach the heart of King Agrippa. Agrippa, confronted with this spiritual appeal, weaseled his way out of the situation, famously saying, “Almost you persuade me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:28).
Almost persuaded, but not convinced.
History tells us quite a bit about King Agrippa. He was the last king of the line of Herod the great, and was a Jew. Having authority over the population of Jerusalem, he was not always liked by the Jews, and was rumored to have been involved in an incestuous relationship with his sister Bernice. He and his sister were eventually expelled by the Jews from Jerusalem, and when the Romans marched on the Jews, he sent troops to aid them, and even fought in battle on behalf of Rome, being injured in the process. Following the destruction of Jerusalem, he and Bernice moved to Rome, where he was given a new title and new lands.
Agrippa died, so far as history knows, never having converted to Christianity. According to the words of the Lord, he died in his sins, and did not enter into that blessed realm where Christ awaits (cf. John 8:21-24)
There are many, many people who are in much the same position as was King Agrippa. They have heard the gospel preached, but they resist obeying it. When the preacher comes calling, they make vague promises about getting right with God at some future date. Hearing the gospel makes them uncomfortable because they know it’s true, and they know it condemns them in their sins, but they don’t want to make the changes that Jesus is calling upon them to make.
They are, in short, almost persuaded.
Such individuals may go on to do many things in life, even as Agrippa did. They may fight important battles. They may earn important honors. They may have success as the world counts success. But when they die, they will stand before God unprepared. Rather than words of praise, they will hear that sad, final condemnation, “I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23)
Almost persuaded is fully lost.
The church of Christ invites you to hear and obey the Gospel of Christ; won’t you come study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.