“Word for Today” – Acts 26 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 26, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Toyota 1“What would it take for us to close this deal…today?” the Toyota salesperson asked me with a clear edge of determination in his voice.  I, however, was just as determined to stand my ground as he was.  I fired back:  “If you want to close this deal today, then don’t try to convince me to close this deal today.”

I have never been affable to high-pressure sales tactics.  Especially in an auto showroom, I live by the moniker, “If they push me hard, I’ll just push them back harder.”  More than once, I have defiantly walked out of a salesperson’s office, even after hours of negotiations and paperwork, announcing that I was not happy with the deal.  Indeed, I am quite cynical toward vehicle shopping and dealers and salespeople.  Such was the case when I was shopping for a new car for my wife.  At first, the Toyota salesman was genial, easy going, and helpful.  He almost had me persuaded.  But as time went on, he began to turn up the pressure and I began to grow suspicious.  He finally tried to pressure me into buying then and there.  I bought Melody a Honda the next week.

In our reading for today from Acts 26, Paul is once again making his case for following Christ.  In Acts 24, he makes it before Felix.  In Acts 25, he stands before Festus.  Now it is King Agrippa II’s turn to hear Paul’s presentation of the gospel.  As in Acts 22, when Paul stands before an angry mob of Jews, Paul once again shares his personal testimony – how he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus (cf. verse 15-23).  But Paul knows that this will not be enough to convince Agrippa of the centrality and supremacy of Christ.  He needs something more.

The Talmud tells us that King Agrippa’s mother, Cypros, who was the wife of King Agrippa I, took a keen interest in Jewish theology and learning:  “The king is guided by the queen, and the queen is guided by Gamaliel” (b Pesahim 88b).  Gamaliel, of course, was a preeminent Jewish rabbi of the first century, teaching none other than Paul himself (cf. Acts 22:3).  Thus, Agrippa’s mother was influenced by Gamaliel and, in turn, influenced Agrippa himself and made him sympathetic to Jewish theology and learning.  Agrippa too, it seems, was at least curious about the God of Israel.  Thus, when Paul is making his case for Christ as God’s Messiah, he ends by asking Agrippa:  “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?  I know you do” (verse 27).  Paul’s line of reasoning is this:  If he can just get Agrippa to confess his belief in the Scriptures, then he can convince Agrippa from the Scriptures that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scriptures!  Paul is turning up the heat on Agrippa.  “What would it take for you trust in Jesus…today?” This is what Paul is essentially asking Agrippa.

Agrippa, somewhat taken aback by Paul’s high-pressure evangelistic tactics, pushes back and threatens to walk off the lot.  “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to become a Christian?” he asks (verse 28).  Agrippa’s statement here is notoriously difficult to translate from its original Greek.  It may be either a question, as in the NIV, or a statement:  “In a moment, you will persuade me to become a Christian.”  The King James Version translates Agrippa’s words tendentially:  “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”  Whatever the translation, it seems as though Agrippa has come very close to believing the gospel, but is not there yet.  Agrippa is having second thoughts.  Agrippa is not quite ready to trust Christ.  “Almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian,” he says.

In the late 1800’s a Baptist preacher named Pastor Brundage preached what is perhaps the most famous sermon ever given on Agrippa’s words.  He warned his congregation, “He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.”  “Almost” is never enough to enter into the Kingdom of God.  Faith in Christ as God’s Son and your Savior must be had.  To almost believe in Christ is to be entirely lost.  And unlike buying a vehicle, you can’t go find a savior somewhere else, for Christ, and Christ alone, is the Savior of all.

Almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian,” says Agrippa to Paul.  And Paul responds with the heart of a pastor:  “Short time or long – I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains” (verse 29).   Paul does not want Agrippa to be lost.  He does not want anyone to be lost.  And neither should we.  We should never be content with an “almost.”

So today, with whom can you share Christ?  For whom do you need to pray that the Holy Spirit would move them from the “almost” which leads to hell to the faith which leads to salvation?  May we never be “almost persuaded” to Christ.  Instead, as Paul writes in Romans, may be “fully persuaded that God has power to do what he had promised.” For such faith is “credited to us as righteousness” (Romans 4:21-22).

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 25 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 27 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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