Almost persuaded

In Acts 9:16, Paul was told how much he would suffer for the name of Jesus. He was arrested during a riot in Jerusalem. Then 40 men vowed to kill him. The Roman army successfully carried him to Caesarea to safety. When the lawyers for the Jews in Jerusalem came to take Paul back for trial, Paul went before Felix, who was an immoral ruler. Paul preached and Felix trembled.

Acts 24:24-27: “A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming Day of Judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him. After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison.” NLT

But Satan never allows a more convenient time for repentance, and Felix never called. Then Festus took the place of Felix:

Acts 25:1-12: “Three days after Festus arrived in Caesarea to take over his new responsibilities, he left for Jerusalem, where the leading priests and other Jewish leaders met with him and made their accusations against Paul. They asked Festus as a favor to transfer Paul to Jerusalem (planning to ambush and kill him on the way). But Festus replied that Paul was at Caesarea and he himself would be returning there soon. So he said, “Those of you in authority can return with me. If Paul has done anything wrong, you can make your accusations.” About eight or ten days later Festus returned to Caesarea, and on the following day he took his seat in court and ordered that Paul be brought in. When Paul arrived, the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem gathered around and made many serious accusations they couldn’t prove. Paul denied the charges. “I am not guilty of any crime against the Jewish laws or the Temple or the Roman government,” he said. Then Festus, wanting to please the Jews, asked him, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there?” But Paul replied, “No! This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here. You know very well I am not guilty of harming the Jews. If I have done something worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die. But if I am innocent, no one has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me. I appeal to Caesar!” Festus conferred with his advisers and then replied, “Very well! You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar you will go!” NLT

Festus asked Paul whether or not he would return to Jerusalem for trial. Paul knew that the “deck was stacked against him” in Jerusalem, so he appealed unto Caesar. Festus accepted. But what would be the charge?

Then Agrippa and Bernice entered the picture: Acts 25:13-27: “A few days later King Agrippa arrived with his sister, Bernice, to pay their respects to Festus. During their stay of several days, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. “There is a prisoner here,” he told him, “whose case was left for me by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the leading priests and Jewish elders pressed charges against him and asked me to condemn him. I pointed out to them that Roman law does not convict people without a trial. They must be given an opportunity to confront their accusers and defend themselves. “When his accusers came here for the trial, I didn’t delay. I called the case the very next day and ordered Paul brought in. But the accusations made against him weren’t any of the crimes I expected. Instead, it was something about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who Paul insists is alive. I was at a loss to know how to investigate these things, so I asked him whether he would be willing to stand trial on these charges in Jerusalem. But Paul appealed to have his case decided by the emperor. So I ordered that he be held in custody until I could arrange to send him to Caesar.” “I’d like to hear the man myself,” Agrippa said. And Festus replied, “You will—tomorrow!” So the next day Agrippa and Bernice arrived at the auditorium with great pomp, accompanied by military officers and prominent men of the city. Festus ordered that Paul be brought in. Then Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are here, this is the man whose death is demanded by all the Jews, both here and in Jerusalem. But in my opinion he has done nothing deserving death. However, since he appealed his case to the emperor, I have decided to send him to Rome. “But what shall I write the emperor? For there is no clear charge against him. So I have brought him before all of you, and especially you, King Agrippa, so that after we examine him, I might have something to write. For it makes no sense to send a prisoner to the emperor without specifying the charges against him!” NLT

Now Festus didn’t know much about the Jews, but Agrippa was an expert. Because of his knowledge and experience with the Jews, King Agrippa II was asked by Festus to help decide the charges against Paul! King Agrippa II was the great grandson of King Herod who tried to kill Jesus as a baby. His uncle was Herod Antipas who killed John the Baptist and mocked Jesus at His trial. His father was King Agrippa I who killed James and imprisoned Peter in Acts 12. God Himself killed Agrippa I by striking him dead with worms.

Agrippa and Bernice were brother and sister, living in an incestuous relationship. Later in her life, Bernice was the mistress of both Vespasian and Titus at the same time, father and son – both of whom became the emperor. There could never be a greater contrast between the audience and the speaker, kings in royal purple and a preacher in convict rags. Who was important? Agrippa? Festus? Paul? Without Paul, Agrippa and Festus would be unknown. Paul dominated the scene. Paul was in command. Paul totally focused on Agrippa – whom some have called a hog-wallower sinner. Sin-sin-sin!

In our evangelism, sometimes we drop people who commit certain sins. However, God’s grace is even for the world’s worst sinners. Agrippa and Bernice were mixed up in marriage, incest, etc. Yet Paul still preached to them. Preachers are sent to sinners. Here we see the world’s greatest preacher preaching to the world’s greatest sinner.

If Jesus could not save Agrippa, then His blood cannot save anyone. The gospel is still God’s answer to all sin and sinners. The gospel is for all!

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” NKJV

Acts 26:20-29: “I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.” Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!” But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—” Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” NLT

Acts 26:28 – “Agrippa asked Paul, “In such a short time do you think you can talk me into being a Christian?” CEV

Acts 26:28 – “Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” NASB

Acts 26:28 – “But Agrippa did answer: “Keep this up much longer and you’ll make a Christian out of me!” The Message

Acts 26:28 – “King Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian in such a short time?” NCV

Acts 26:28 – “And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a little while you might persuade me to become a Christian.’” Modern Literal Version

Acts 26:28 – “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” NKJV

Acts 26:28 – “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” KJV

Paul claimed to be the world’s worst sinner in 1 Timothy 1:12-16: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” NLT

But when he heard the message, he repented and obeyed. He told this story to Agrippa. What is the point? He was saying “I did, you must too.” Agrippa knew that Paul’s facts were true. Paul believed Agrippa believed the prophets, so he pressed for a verdict. Agrippa was deeply moved. He knew that Paul was trying to convert him.

Festus thought that Paul was mad, Paul knew that Festus was. But Agrippa? The argument will always rage. Was Agrippa sincere or insulted? Paul thought Agrippa was “almost persuaded.”

The Greek reads – “In a little/short time me you are persuading a Christian to become!” Paul did his best. He did not fail. Jesus was lifted up, God was glorified.

One never fails when he preaches the gospel – Agrippa failed by not accepting it. Hell will have an additional pain for him. He will have to hear Paul’s sermon over and over throughout eternity.

Notice the three rulers who Paul preached before. Felix said “I will call you later, when it is more convenient.” That time never came and Felix sank deeper into sin. Festus said “Paul, you are mad.” He thought the gospel was a superstitious story of a fanatic. Agrippa said “Almost…”

What about you? Are you guilty of procrastinating? Are you, in your heart, telling Paul that you will talk about it later, are you telling him he is mad, or are you almost persuaded like Agrippa? Hell will be filled with the victims of procrastination! It is a great privilege to hear the gospel. Do not turn it down when you hear it!

You may feel that you are too bad a sinner for God to love and forgive – “I could never be forgiven for what I’ve done, I’ve gone too far, I’ve sinned too much, there is no hope for me, there is no way that God could ever love me or forgive me.”

You think wrong! There is no sin too bad, or too great, that God won’t forgive, every single time! If we can truly repent, God will surely forgive no matter what: Isaiah 1:18 – “No matter how deep the stain of your sin is, I can take it out and make it clean as freshly fallen snow.” TLB

1 Corinthians 6:9–11: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” NKJV

Perhaps the greatest lie the devil ever told the human race was that they had “plenty of time” to obey the gospel, become a Christian, and be saved at a later time – not that there’s no heaven, not that there’s no hell – but that there’s no hurry!

Are you believing the devil’s lies, or do you believe the Word of God:

James 4:14 – “…for what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” NKJV

Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” NKJV

“Today is the day of salvation – tomorrow may be too late!”

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