Reading for Friday, May 11: Acts 26
First off, Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all the Moms out there. Today I’m giving thanks for the women of faith who have been a part of my life: my wife, my mother, my sister, my grandmothers, my mother-in-law…the list is a long one.
I love the encounter between Paul and Agrippa. One is a king of men; the other a slave to the Lord. But we see Paul at his strongest here (in my opinion), nearly persuading the mighty king to bow before the ultimate ruler, King Jesus. Paul is fearless in his presentation of the Gospel, declaring that he is on trial, basically, for the hope God has given him through the resurrection of Jesus. “And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in vthe promise made by God to our fathers…Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” (v6,8).
Paul says to Agrippa, “I understand why these people are upset. I was once like them, concocting murderous plots against this ‘Nazarene sect’. But my encounter with Jesus changed all of that.” I love the autobiographical flavor of Paul’s preaching. This is the third time we’ve read his conversion story in Acts. I wonder if there’s a message there for us. Perhaps the greatest service we can offer to the Kingdom is to tell our stories: “I once was lost in sin, but Jesus took me in.”
As he recounts his call to ministry, Paul gives credit where credit is due. “To this day I have had the help that comes from God…” (v22). Paul seems keenly aware that God is the one strengthening him, renewing him, aiding him in this call. God has not left Paul empty-handed, but has faithfully provided all that he needs to complete his ministry. Psalm 121.2, “My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.”
The dramatic highlight of this chapter comes in v27-29: “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” In this courtroom scene, Paul is supposedly on trial. But in reality, Agrippa’s fate is what hangs in the balance.
We used to sing a song in church when I was growing up called “Almost Persuaded”. I’ve included the lyrics below; I think they’re an apt description of Agrippa as he considers Paul’s message in Acts 26.
“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 wanderer, 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!