By Bruce J. Dehut
One of the saddest proclamations noted in the New Testament is that of King Agrippa in Acts 26:28. Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
The biblical record gives no statement beyond this, of Agrippa’s inclination towards Christianity. As far as we know, the king passed from this life failing to commit himself to the saving power of Jesus Christ. But this fail- ure was not due to a lack of knowledge or opportunity on Agrippa’s part.
An Expert in Jewish Protocol
Agrippa II was the great grandson of Herod the Great. The Herodian house descended from Esau and were of Edomite stock. The land in which they dwelled was con quered and added to the Jewish state about 130 B.C., and they submitted to the rite of circumcision and embraced Jewish religion. Most of the Herods were educated in Rome and were considered ceremonial, half Jews at best (Unger’s Bible Dictionary). The apostle Paul was well aware of this fact, and counted himself fortunate to finally give an account of the charges against him to Agrippa, “especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews” (Acts 26:3). Paul had spent over two years in confinement, pleading his case before Felix, who had a “more accurate knowledge of the Way” (Acts 24:22) and Festus, who couldn’t even put into words the charges against Paul (Acts 25:26-27), because the accusations were based upon what Festus called, the Jews superstition and the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 25:19). Paul knew that not only was Agrippa an authority in Jewish customs, but he most assuredly was aware of the commotion caused by Jesus of Nazareth and his followers (Acts 26:26-27).
He Heard the Gospel Preached
Paul declared to Agrippa that he himself was a devout Jew, looking anxiously for the fulfilment of promises made to the fathers (Acts 26:6-7). He goes on to say that he was a militant Pharisee, persecuting Christians even to foreign cities (Acts 26:11). But he relates to Agrippa his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. How, by the grace of God, he became a minister and witness to both the Jews and the Gentiles concerning the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:16-18). Paul left no doubt that his mission included instructing people to “repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:19). Paul nailed Agrippa right between the eyes when he asked the question he already had the answer for: “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe” (Acts 26:27)
An Ego Problem
Maybe one of the reasons that king Agrippa wavered was due to his lack of acceptance by the people. Josephus mentions that Agrippa’s father, Herod the king, was “keenly fond of popularity and possessed much personal magne- tism.” His status among the Jews was definitely heightened when he harassed the church and murdered James (Acts
12:1-3). However, his son Agrippa II was never popular with his subjects and might have lost even more esteem in the eyes of the Jews if he had converted to Christianity. History tells us that eventually he joined forces with the Romans to abuse the Jews and destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70. So either way, he came out on the bottom of the popularity poll among the Jews.
Fear of Losing Power
King Agrippa could have been hesitant because the Romans were the ones that had carried out the crucifixion of Jesus. Why would they hesitate to remove Agrippa from his throne, strip him of his riches and possibly execute him? But Jesus assures us that nothing is worth holding onto if it costs us our souls (Mark 8:36). God orchestrates the rise and fall of kingdoms (Rom. 13:1), Agrippa’s would be no different.
We could speculate all our lives about why Agrippa chose not to become a Christian that day. But just like the Gentiles that Paul addressed in his letter to the Romans, king Agrippa was without excuse. Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
Lesson To Be Learned
God has an answer for all our procrastinations:
- We all have heard (Col. 1:23).
- We are to put aside our egos (Luke 9:23).
- Hold nothing of this world dearer than our souls (Mark 8:36).
- We are all without excuse, all have sinned (1 John 1:10).
- Why Wait (Acts 22:16).
King Agrippa’s words were obviously the inspiration to Phillip P. Bass’ hymn “Almost Persuaded.” How true the words ring in the latter portion of the last verse:
“Almost” cannot avail;
“Almost” is but to fail;
“Sad, sad, that bitter wail
“Almost – but lost!”
If you are vacillating about becoming a Christian, don’t!