Summary: What’s so persuasive about the Gospel of Christ? It depends on who’s telling it. Those that live it can tell it with power.
There were seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia. They had been on a 16 day mission and were just 16 minutes from landing. They were almost home. Almost.
As the shuttle was entering the atmosphere something went terribly wrong. Later studies indicate that some of the heat shield may have been damaged even as they were taking off. But they almost made it. Almost. That “almost” was not enough and 7 lives were lost.
There is an invitation song by Paul Bliss that we used to sing when I was growing up entitled Almost Persuaded. Listen to the words:
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 wandr’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!”
I read in the memoirs of his life:
It was just before Christmas in the mid 1870’s, and Mr. and Mrs. Bliss were busy getting presents for their children. One day as Paul Bliss was on the street he noticed a little girl, poorly clad, standing in front of a toy-store window, gazing intently and longingly at the dolls displayed in the window. He stopped and kindly and earnestly said, "Now just pick out the one that you want, and you shall have it. I will go in and buy it for you." He would have been delighted to do so, he said - had already done it in his own mind - but the child looked around at him with a painful expression of distrust and unbelief, and, gathering her shawl over her head, hurried away, not heeding his repeated assurances that she could have a doll if she wanted it. "That is just the way sinners treat Christ," he said. "I was grieved that the little one wouldn’t let me do for her what I wanted to, and that she distrusted me, when I just wished with all my heart to make her happy. I think I understand a little better how the Lord feels at our unbelief of His precious promises."
Our study in Acts brings us to the 26th chapter. Here we read of Paul’s defense before King Herod Agrippa and governor, Festus. This is the third time in Acts that we read of Paul’s conversion. It is his testimony. In it he not only tells how he became a Christian, but by implication, he extends the gospel to those who hear him. While there are others present to hear this defense, Luke records only the reactions of the governor, Festus and king Agrippa. One is obviously not interested, but the other responds in such a way as to leave you wondering.
Look at what is happening here: Paul is a prisoner, under Roman guard, and has been that way for over two years even though his accusers, the Jews, have nothing substantial to charge him with. As a Roman citizen he has certain rights and protections that have kept them from being able to kill him. Above and beyond all that is on the surface, God has a plan. Paul is going to go to Rome and preach the gospel there. This is another testimonial time along the way. Notice, each time Paul presents how he became a Christian he gets a response. In Acts 22 the Jews wanted to kill him. Here before Festus and Agrippa Paul gets a mixed response. There is something persuasive in his words. Something very compelling about it that demands some sort of response. You have to either believe that Paul is crazy or that he is telling the truth.
What is it about this speech that makes it so important that God makes special plans for it to be heard more than any other conversion in the Bible? We have it told three times just in the book of Acts. Paul will tell it in part again and again in the epistles as he defends the gospel and appeals to his listeners to be faithful to Christ.
Let me suggest a few things about this that make it a powerful presentation.
First, it is true. Paul will say things like, I’m telling the truth, I’m not lying!
1 Tim 2:3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,