Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do 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 today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:24-29)
An Almost Christian Is Not A Christian
The apostle Paul had some remarkable opportunities in his life. Before he became a Christian, he was the power behind the first intensive persecution of the early church. By God’s grace he learned the truth of Jesus Christ and became the driving force for the success of the early church. His preaching took him in many corners of the Roman Empire teaching intellectuals, fishermen, scribes, religious leaders, women gathered by a river and often leading Roman officials. He could touch the hearts of the common people and make uncomfortable governors and kings. Felix, governor of Judea and Agrippa the king had an audience with the man from Tarsus learning firsthand the powerful testimony of the gospel of the King of Kings. Paul was unashamed to speak clearly and direct to these men of power. Standing before a throng of Roman officials, the apostles declared plainly the story of Jesus Christ moving Agrippa and Festus to imprint immortal words upon the pages of God’s word.
King Agrippa was a ready audience for Paul. He was an expert in the customs of the Jews knowing the nature of the Hebrew doctrine. Weaving the testimony of his own conversion, Paul appeals to the heart of Agrippa to believe Jesus as Christ the Son of God. Festus listened closely moved by the words of Paul. It was the governor who first could not hold back his feelings as he shouted with a loud voice Paul was mad. The heart of Festus could feel the truth of Paul’s words. Truth and reason tore through the mantle of the governor’s heart with the clarity of a burning sun. A remarkable thing happened when Paul turned to Agrippa and directly asked him if he believed the prophets. The chained prisoner addressing the King with such a direct and challenging question struck deep in his heart. Paul answered for Agrippa bringing home the message of truth. The king was moved. His heart was conflicted because he knew Paul was telling the truth. With all the testimony and the evidence that Jesus was the Son of God, Agrippa cowardly replied that Paul almost persuaded him to become a Christian. Sadly, the governor and king left never to become a child of God. Almost but lost.
No one is saved by getting close to heaven. Eternal life is given to those who are saved; not almost saved. A person who is drowning can almost be saved but they will be lost. Believing in Jesus Christ alone does not save. The demons believe and they tremble (unlike many today) yet they are doomed to destruction. On the day of Pentecost, Peter told the multitudes to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Repenting alone would not save. The eunuch from Ethiopia saw water but until he was immersed, he was lost. Cornelius was a devout man who feared God with all his household, giving alms to the people and praying to God always. He was lost although he was a religious man. It was not until Peter came and baptized them they became Christians. Paul’s conversion did not happen on the Roman road to Damascus. It came about three days later when Ananias came to him and said, “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Waiting did not save Paul. Obeying did.
There are many ‘almost Christians’ in the world today. Those who believe in Jesus Christ and are moved like Festus and Agrippa are on the right road but have not been washed in the blood of Jesus. Almost obeying the gospel is being totally lost. Obedience requires fulfilling the will of God in every way. Satan has successfully convinced the religious world that faith alone will save; being a good person will save, works alone will bring redemption and a myriad of lies that make a lot of ‘almost Christian’s convinced they are saved – when they are not. Paul declared to King Agrippa that he wished he would obey the gospel of Christ fully. The apostle was not an ‘almost Christian.’ He had obeyed the word of God granting him salvation by the grace of a loving and merciful God. The moment he became a child of God was when Ananias lifted him from the waters of baptism. He was a Christian through and through.