ALMOST A CHRISTIAN
Acts 26:27-29 says, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” This saying of King Agrippa is obscure and translators have difficulty in determining the meaning of Agrippa's words. . According to the King James version the meaning is that Agrippa was almost persuaded to become a Christian. However most other Bible translations give this meaning to the passage, Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You are persuading me to become a Christian in such a short time? You are making a short work of my conversion. You are persuading me to become a Christian as suddenly as yourself did.” And they understand Paul to say, “Whether it takes a short or a long time, I pray God you may become a Christian like myself.” It makes little difference which of these renderings give the exact meaning of Agrippa's words, for it seems clear to me that Paul took his words seriously as the words of a man shaken in his convictions and seriously impressed by what he had heard.
Paul was one of very few preachers who had the opportunity of preaching the gospel to kings and rulers. The gospel seldom climbs to the high places of rank and dignity. Paul reminds us of this fact in I Corinth-
ians 1:26, “For you see your calling brethren that not many wise according to flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.” It is a special privilege and a great act of mercy towards rulers when they have an opportunity of hearing a faithful gospel preacher. Although he didn't appreciate it, Agrippa was much favored to listen to such a marvelous preacher as Paul.
The first thought suggested by this passage is the tragedy of the almost. King Agrippa's words “Almost you persuade me to be a Christian,” and Paul's words, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains, “ have touched the hearts of Christians down through the centuries. Whether or not Agrippa was almost persuaded to become a Christian, nevertheless his words remind us that there are great numbers of people in the world who are almost persuaded but not altogether persuaded to become Christians. Paul wished for Agrippa that he was both almost and altogether a Christian. We learn here that it is possible to be almost a
There are many people in the worlds who are in the almost-Christian or almost-persuaded condition. The San Franciso Giants almost won he World Series last year. The person who almost goes home but doesn't, misses it completely. The person who almost gets married doesn't get married at all. To be an almost-bride is to be no bride at all. If I almost caught my plane, I missed it altogether. Lot was almost destroyed in Sodom and his wife was almost saved. Moses almost reached the land of Canaan. Daniel was almost destroyed in the Lion's den, but he was full-minded to obey God and was saved. We all understand the danger of almost in gthe ordinary situations of life, but many don't understand the difference between being an almost Christian and an altogether Christian. A preacher was teaching a ladies group and was emphasizing the importance of being a Christian. A lady spoke up and said, “My husband is a good man and a fine husband. He isn't a Christian, but he is almost a Christian. What about him? The preacher spoke kindly but firmly and said, “Madam, to be almost saved is to be altogether lost”
. Jesus clearly taught that it is is possible to be in an almost-
persuaded condition or an almost-Christian position. A rich young Jewish ruler came to Jesus one day and said, “Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? “ Jesus told him to observe the ten commandments. He replied, “I have kept all these things from my youth.” Then Jesus said, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” When he heard this he was very sorrowful and went away. Christ could have used this talented young man and asked him come and follow him. But he commanded him to get rid of his wealth because it would have been a hindrance to following Christ. When Christ commands us to do certain things to follow Him, if we lack doing one thing He asked us to do, we belong in the class of the almost saved. This young man wen away. Where did he go? Is there any reason to ask? Any reason that we should know. He went away. That is enough. That is self-explanatory. On another occasion and Jewish scribe asked Jdesus what was the first commandment of all in the Law. When Jesus told him he agreed with Jesus and then told Jesus what s the second most important command was. Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”(Mark 12:34). He was not in the kingdom, but he was close. He was almost in it.
There are many people in the world today who are almost-Christians.. They don't lack much being Christians. They are sometimes
just one step out of the church.. They are standing near the door of the church, but for some reason do not enter in . So close yet so far away. These people may believe in God, Christ and the Bible. They even try to conform to the moral standards of the gospel, but for one reason or another they have not obeyed all that God requires for forgiveness and church membership. In many cases they lack but one thing, lack one act of obedience, only one commandment short. It causes great concern to those who are not only almost Christians but. altogether .Christians.
There is an event in the Old Testament that shows the consequences of lacking just one thing God requires for His blessing. It is recorded in 2 Kings 5. The chapter records two great miracles performed by the prophet Elisha. One was the removal of leprosy from a Syrian general named Naaman, and the other was to inflict that same leprosy on his own servant Gehazi for taking money from Naaman and lying about it. Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army , a man of high honor and valor. He heard of Elisha and his great healing powers and decided to visit him. He took with him a letter from the King of Syria and a small fortune to cover the medical expense.
He pulled up in front of Elisha's house with his magnificent chariot, horses and attendants, but Elisha refuse to meet him or even speak to him. To say the least, he did not like that. Naaman did not like it that Elisha simply sent a messenger to him saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your leprosy will be gone.” He didn't like the cure he recommended either and was furious. He said, “Behold I thought he would come out to me, call on his God and wave his hand over the leprosy and heal this leprosy. Are not the rivers of Syria better than the water of this river of Jordan?” If I understand this man's reasoning aright this is what he meant: “What virtue can there be in water? Why should I be told to go and wash at all? I have washed many times, and it never cured my leprosy. This dry disease cannot be ridden of so easily as washing it off with water. But if there is some medicinal value in water, why must I wash in the muddy water of the Jordan? Compared to the rivers of Syria, the Jordan is a mere ditch. Why can't I go and wash in some of my own rivers? May I not go home to Damascus and there wash? The very idea that I should come all the way from Syria to see this prophet, and then all he should tell me was, “Go and dip in the Jordan seven times.” It is so absurd and unreasonable, it cannot be possible; and I will it. So he went away in a rage. Then his servants came to his aid and calmed him down. They said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, “wash and be clean.” So he had
a change of mind and rendered obedience to the command of the prophet. He dipped once, twice, three times, four times, five times, six time, but
still he was not healed. He still had one more step to take to obey the command. There were seven steps to the cure. Was the last step that important? Just as soon as he completed the seventh dip, his flesh was restored like the flesh of a child, and he was cured.
Now what does this story have to do with the chief thought I have presented about people who are almost Christians, but are one commandment short, who lack one thing in being forgiven and becoming a Christian? That one command is the command of immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins(Acts 2:38). What is the difference between seven dips in water and one dip in water to receive a promised blessing from God? After sincere faith and repentance, Christ commands believers to dip in water one time to be forgiven, saved and added to the church. This completes the new birth, to be born of the water and the Spirit as Jesus said to Nicodemus. After Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road, after he came to faith in Christ, after three days of repentance, the preacher commanded him “to arise and be immersed in water” as all sinners are commanded do in he gospel of Christ. There are no exceptions to this rule, for the commands of the gospel are unchangeable. The command of Christ is, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” The command is not, “He who who believes and is saved shall be baptized.” People who reject this clear teaching of Christ and the apostles make the same mistake Naaman made when he said, “Behold I thought.”