By Cecil Willis
In the past twenty centuries there have been tremendous changes wrought in our manner of life. Our customs have changed. Our manner of dress has undergone changes. Methods of transportation and communication have been radically changed. Many of the things around us have changed. But in the midst of this changing world, there has been one constant change. There has been one thing that has not changed. That is man. Men today are the same as men were in New Testament times. We have the same natures. We commit the same sins. It is true that in many instances we have changed the names of some sins, and in others we no longer look upon these acts as sin. But for the most part, men today are no different than men were in the time of our Lord. Being the same, under the same circumstances, some men today will react as some men did in Bible times, and other men will react as other men did in Bible times. We should be thankful that not all men have reacted in the same way.
There was a governor of Palestine in the long ago that had a tremendous decision to make. Unfortunately for him, he had not the courage to decide in favor of what he knew to be right. I am speaking of Pilate. You will remember that a raving mob of Jews had taken Jesus and were bent on killing him. But they first had to get the consent of Pilate. Pilate was pressed into a dilemma. Pilate wanted to release Jesus, and so he proposed that he either release Barabbas, a murderer and a robber, or that he release Jesus. He felt confident that the Jews would prefer to see Jesus released than Barabbas. But Pilate was not acquainted with the depths to which the mind of man can be brought. They were going to kill this man who accused them and condemned them if it was the last thing they did.
When Pilate asked which one he should release, they said, “Barabbas.” The Bible says “Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified” (Matt. 27:22). In this passage, Pilate asked a question which every man that has ever graced this earth has had to ask and to answer. Many of these men have asked the question and answered it without ever being aware that they were doing either. Some have tried to evade the question. When confronted with “What shall I do then with Jesus?”, many have tried to answer by saying, “I won’t do anything with Him.” “I will neither oppose Him nor favor Him.” “Toward Him I will be indifferent.”
There may be many questions upon which you can be indifferent, but this is not one of them. Even though you decide not to decide, you have already decided. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth” (Matt. 12:30). All you have to do to decide against Christ is to fail to decide to accept Him. There is no middle ground. There is no half-way house.
Man’s reaction to Christ today varies. But it is not more variant than it was in New Testament times. I want to point out some of the ways in which people in the New Testament answered the question, “What shall I do then with Jesus?” As you read this article, see if you can put yourself into one or more of these classes. Have you answered this question as did these of whom we are about to study?
The first group to whom we call your attention will be those mentioned in the very text with which we began. When Pilate asked what they should do with Jesus, without a moment’s hesitation, they cried out “Crucify Him.” The crucifers of Christ have riot all lived in the First Century. The evangelist Stephen shocked his listeners when he told they would act just like their fathers did. He said, “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? and they killed them that showed before of the coming of the Righteous One; of whom ye have now become betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:51-52). The Jews in Stephen’s time would have committed the same sins as did their fathers had they lived in the same age as did their fathers. Many today, were they transposed to the past would commit the same crime as did the Jews of the First Century. They crucified Christ. Many today would have assisted them. In fact, many are doing just this. Paul spoke of some who could not be brought to repentance. He said, “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, arid put him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6). In the same epistle, Paul spoke of those who “hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and bath done despite unto the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29). What sin did these commit to cause Paul to say they had crucified the Son of God afresh? It was the sin of which so many are guilty. They turned their back upon the law of Christ; this law was sealed with His blood of the new covenant. So #o reject Christ’s law was to reject Christ’s blood. If you have rejected His law, you have answered the question, “What shall I do with Jesus?” in the same way as did those who crucified Jesus.
Judas Iscariot answered the question, “What shall 1 then do with Jesus?” in a slightly different manner, but the result was the same. Judas answered the question by saying, “Sell Him.” And this is precisely what he did. Judas saw in Christ an opportunity to make some money. It was not much money, but Judas’ love for Christ was so little that it did not take much money to get him to betray his Lord. The Bible account of Judas’ reply to the question reads as follows: “Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said, What are ye willing to give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they weighed unto him thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to deliver him unto them” (Matt. 26:14-16). All of us are familiar with the fact that Judas carried out his covenant with a kiss. Judas sold Christ. I wonder if we have done likewise. Are you selling the Christ for a few pieces of silver? Are you willing to let a few pieces of silver come between you and your duty to the Lord Jesus?
There are many people today, who like Judas in the long ago, see in Jesus an opportunity to make some money. Christ has become a commercialized Christ in the hands of many men. For the right price some men are willing to preach any doctrine the people want. Paul warned us about such men: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3,4). Preachers of the truth are not popular men. The Bible teaches us that there will be but few saved. Men do not like to have their sins condemned. They want someone to preach to them who will tickle their ears and tell them what they want to hear. For a price, some men will acquiesce. Do not ever think that men will not pay a price for men who will preach what they want to hear.
Some time ago, I read about a man (who had recently died) who since 1950 had been traveling over the country in tent meetings and over wide television coverage, by preaching a popular, ear-tickling message accumulated assets of above $50,000 (Jack Coe). He sold his Lord for a great deal more than thirty pieces of silver. Another very popular preacher in our country took in over $3,000,000 in one year (Oral Roberts). People are paying quite a price for his ear-tickling sensationalism. Some time ago one of our local newspapers reported the financial result of a four-week meeting in Canada. The poor preacher took in only $218,000 in those four weeks (Billy Graham), but he had expenses of $119,000. After everything was paid the preacher had only $99,000 clear. As a preacher of the gospel, I must make sure that I am not seeking the favor of men, but of God. Paul said, “if 1 were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
There is another man who met the Christ through a gospel sermon preached by the apostle Paul. This man had to decide what he was going to do with the Christ. This man was King Agrippa. Paul spoke in his presence, and concluded his sermon to Agrippa by saying, “I know that thou believest.” Agrippa was now compelled to make a decision. He knew about the Christ, but what would he do with Him? There are many bothered today with the question, “What will I do with Him?” We should be much more concerned with “What will I do without Him?” I am sorry to have to say that Agrippa set a pattern that has been the downfall of many men. Agrippa’s problem was not that he did not know about the Christ. He knew. Here is his decision as to what to do with Jesus: “And Agrippa said unto Paul, With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian” (Acts 26:28). He was almost persuaded to become a child of God. Here was a man with good intentions. He was just about persuaded. Now read Paul’s answer to Agrippa: “And Paul said, I would to God, that whether with little or with much, not thou only also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except these bonds” (v. 29).
So far as the Bible tells us, Agrippa died almost persuaded. We have no other record of him changing his mind. We are not told that he became altogether persuaded. He likely died in the condition revealed in this passage. If he did, he died outside of Christ, without the benefits of Christ’s death, and thus lost forevermore. His good intentions would not take him to heaven.
A song has been written on this sad passage of scripture. There are three short stanzas to it. It reads as follows:
“Almost persuaded” now to believe;
“Almost persuaded” Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say, “Go Spirit, go thy way,
Some more convenient day, On thee I’ll call.
“Almost persuaded” come, come today;
“Almost persuaded,” turn not away;
Jesus invites you here, Angels are lingering near,
Prayers rise from hearts so dear, O wand’er, come.
“Almost persuaded,” harvest is past!
“Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail; “Almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail- – “Almost- -but lost!”
This song is but another way of saying what a poet has said-“Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.”
Truth Magazine XIX: 47, pp. 739-741
October 9, 1975