Acts 26:27-29, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”
What does it mean when Agrippa says “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”? Is this an eternal or temporal context? If temporal, how do we explain Agrippa’s response to Paul’s preaching?
The previously cited questions are those every Bible student should ask when studying this portion of scripture in God’s Holy Word. By examining the context of our study verse, we clearly understand Paul to witness Agrippa believing the prophets. Paul would go on to say he would like “that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds”. By these words, Paul manifests his desire for and to Agrippa and others to be as he was, a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Since Paul understood that eternal salvation was by the grace of God, and grace alone (Romans 3:24; Titus 3:5; 2 Timothy 1:9), one should easily conclude Paul’s effort in preaching the gospel was not to make children of God, but rather to teach children of God about the Savior. Paul said, in Acts 26:18, that God called him “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Paul understood that we have forgiveness of sins before the throne of the Father in heaven by the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). In his preaching efforts Paul wanted those who had the eternal forgiveness of sins in Christ to “receive” forgiveness in their experience (or in their understanding) and become obedient followers of Christ their Savior. Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:10, “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Now, how do we answer someone who disagrees with this interpretation?
(1) Ask them what their definition of “Christian” is in Acts 26:28! The word “Christian” is only found in the Bible three times (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; and 1 Peter 4:16). For the sake of space we will concentrate on only one of these verses. In Acts 11:26 we read about the disciples of Jesus being “called Christians first in Antioch”. In order to be called by a title (rightfully), it is necessary for the characteristics of the title to exist. An example of this is found in James 2:23 where Abraham was “called the Friend of God”. Abraham had shown himself to possess the characteristics of being the “Friend of God” before he was called such a one. Another example is in Romans 7:3 where a woman would be “called” an adulteress because she already was an adulteress. When the disciples at Antioch were “called Christians”, they had already manifested themselves to be obedient followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. So if we use the Bible to define the word “Christian’, it would be one who is a follower of Jesus (obedient to His commands). Agrippa, in Acts 26:28, was not saying you’ve almost persuaded me to become a child of God, but saying (to Paul) you’ve almost persuaded me to become a follower of Jesus Christ. It’s almost as though he said, you almost persuaded me to get baptized and join the Church.
(2) Ask them what it means when Paul understood Agrippa to be a believer? Paul said in Acts 26:27 “I know that thou believest.” In 1 John 5:1 we find it clearly taught that believing is not a requirement for eternal life, but an evidence of eternal life. John said “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God:…” The word “is” in this verse literally means already. I could interpret the verse to say, Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is already a born again child of God. Agrippa, in my humble opinion, was already manifesting that he was born again by believing.
(3) Ask them what they think it requires for one to go to heaven? Those who teach law for salvation, which I actually believed at one time in my life (thank God for the truth in His gospel), will change the requirement from one verse to the next. They may start by quoting John 3:16 and tell you to believe; then they may also quote Romans 10:9 and tell you to confess and believe; or they may even Mark 16:16 and tell you to believe and be baptized. My question??? Which one is it? grin. Since I was raised in a similar order (way of teaching) I know one may receive several different answers on different days. The truth is we are all saved eternally the same way, by the death of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jude vs 3 calls this a “common salvation”, because it is something every child of God has in common with every other child of grace. Obedience to the commandments of the gospel will bring many salvations to the child of grace in this temporal world, but our obedience is not part of eternal salvation. Eternal salvation is by the “obedience of one”, Jesus (Romans 5:19).
In closing, I would like to encourage every Bible student to not be discouraged if a person disagrees with you concerning the truth. The shining light in Acts 26 is not Agrippa, but Paul, who is glorifying God. Even though Paul received a negative response to his efforts; was experiencing an undeserved circumstance (in prison without a legal charge); and even though Paul saw other children of God turn away from an obedient walk with Jesus, he never allowed those things to hinder him from serving Jesus faithfully. I pray that we all may learn something from this example and labor with all of our being to glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ all the days of our life, speaking the truth to any/all who will listen. Amen!