And Paul said, I would to God, that not only you, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am…
By comparing the translation of ver. 28 in the Revised Version, it will be seen that the traditional associations of the words cannot be maintained, and that Agrippa had other thoughts than those which are usually supposed. But it is certain that St. Paul made use of Agrippa's words to point a persuasion, and recognized the possibility of the state which may be described as "almost a Christian." And so we are still justified in basing a homily on the condition of the "almost persuaded" upon this passage. The subject may be pleasantly introduced by a description of the pompous scene. Agrippa prided himself upon his semi-royalty, and so Festus arranged for as much of state grandeur as possible. St. Paul was brought chained to his soldier-guard, and spoke with but one hand free. His fervor and eloquence moved Agrippa more than he cared to admit even to himself. He dreaded any further pressure, and therefore tried to turn aside the apostle's pleadings with the lightness of a laugh. St. Paul was too much in earnest to take the king other than seriously, and so he responds with the passion and persuasion of our text. He turns the king's words into a plea against continuing any longer in an unsaying relation to Christianity. And still we find, in regard to vital personal religion, that very many come up, as it were, to the door, but do not enter in. There are amongst us many - very many - who are only almost Christians.
I. WHO AMONG US MAY WE THINK OF AS ONLY ALMOST CHRISTIANS?
1. The child of pious parents, surrounded by gracious influences, led to the house of God, the child of many prayers, growing up to manhood or womanhood, yet not wholly Christ's today.
2. The regular attendant at Christian services; often moved to tears, and, it may be, to some passing resolves; but emotions pass, decision is delayed, and they are only almost Christians yet.
3. There may even be aged people trembling down to life's close, who, having put off religious decision again and again, seem now unable to make the effort, and are in peril of dying only almost Christians.
4. There are parents who have converted children, but are themselves the old side of the border-laud, yet in "trespasses and sins."
5. There are those who have been aroused to religious anxiety, but whose experience, varying for years, has never yet risen to full surrender. Each of these classes may be described with precise adaptation to the congregation addressed.
II. WHAT REASONS CAN BE FOUND FOR SO MANY REMAINING ONLY ALMOST CHRISTIANS? In the case of Agrippa the message seemed novel and strange, and there seemed excuse for requiring time to think it over. In our case the message may seem old and familiar, and it may have lost its awakening and persuading power. Sometimes the hindrance is:
1. intellectual. It may be sonic perplexity or difficulty in relation to Christian doctrine. Or it may be the influence of the intellectual tone of the society in which a man mingles.
2. Or the hindrance may be lack of sufficient motive: especially an inadequate impression of the evil and peril of sin. To use a figure, the boat lies rocking just outside the harbor bar, and there is not wave enough to lift it over. Therefore must the true preacher find motive and persuasion, urging, in Christ's stead, "Be ye reconciled unto God."
3. But the chief hindrances are moral. It was Agrippa's self-indulgent and immoral life which really turned the shafts aside. The pride of self stands in our way. Decision for Christ involves surrender - a giving up of that "self-reliance" which is so dear to flesh and blood. Illustrate from the story of the young rich ruler; and recall our Lord's teachings about the "strait gate and the narrow way." This may be the reason why we are not "altogether" Christians. There is a cable holding under the water somewhere, and the ship cannot float out free into the ocean of God. Illustrate some cables. The last to yield is usually feeling; we wait for feeling, and, waiting, let the golden hours of opportunity slip by.
III. WHAT REALLY IS IT TO BE ONLY ALMOST PERSUADED? See it in the estimate we form of Agrippa's character. He is utterly weak and ignoble. We admire the confessor and the martyr; we scorn the hesitating and indecisive - such as Reuben, "unstable as water." The people at Athens very properly ordained that every one should be fined who would take neither side in politics. It is a condition which dishonors God more than open rebellion, because it assumes that there really are some considerations to be set against his claims, some reasons why we should not love and serve him. And such indecision effectually shuts us out from the benefits of the gospel provision. The "almost Christian" has
(1) no sense of pardoned sin;
(2) no joy of peace with God;
(3) no strength from the consciously present Savior;
(4) no title to the everlasting heritage.
Impress that in religious matters there really is no borderland. Illustrate by the story of the wreck of the Royal Charter. The fore part ledged on a rock, the back part, flapped by the waves, broke away and sank in deep water with all that were in it. Just at the moment of parting a young man stood on the hinder part, and made a leap for dear life. He was saved, for he could decide and act. Then plead, as St. Paul pleaded, that, whether by little persuasion or by much, men would end their state of indecision, and become altogether Christ's. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.