You almost persuade me to become a Christian (Acts 26:28)
by Steven Chan
16 May 2010
After a forceful defense by the apostle Paul to King Agrippa, “then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:28) – to which the apostle Paul replied: “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 26:29)
The disciples of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). The apostle Peter in his epistle exhorted the brethren in 1 Peter 4:16 that “if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name.”(ASV).
What does it mean to be a Christian? In his defense before King Agrippa, the apostle Paul stated thus: “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? (Acts 26:6-9) In Acts 23:6, Paul said to the Jewish council: it is “concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
In his defense as to why he is a Christian, Paul said that it pertained to “the hope of the promise made by God” and it was his “hope to attain” to that promise and it was for this hope that he was being accused by the Jews. And what was that hope? By his reply to King Agrippa, he implied that it was the hope of the resurrection from the dead, when he asked rhetorically, “why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” In Phil 3:11-12, Paul referred to his same aspiration: “if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained…” – and Paul continued and said thus: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”(Phil 3:20-21). Clearly, the hope for Paul and for the Christian is the resurrection from the dead, at which time, our lowly physical body would be transformed as he further elaborated in 1 Cor 15:51-54: “we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.””
Going back to Paul’s defence before King Agrippa, Paul explained thus: “For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come– that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”(Acts 26:21-23). Paul said clearly that the hope of the resurrection from the dead has reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ – specifically that “Jesus would be the FIRST to rise from the dead” implying that others will be raised after Him – and in what manner was Jesus raised? – physically or spiritually? – let “God’s testimony be true but every man a liar” (Rom 3:4) – let’s read the inspired account in John 20:25-28: “So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!””
Over the years many have contended that the resurrection of Jesus was a spiritual one and not a physical resurrection. They argued thus: What is the use of the physical body? It is to be returned to the dust. It is of no use in the spiritual world; after all as stated in 1 Cor 15:50, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption”. So, why does one become so pre-occupied with the idea of a resurrection of the useless physical, earthly, corruptible body!!!? Those who argue in that manner are relying on their supposedly superior human intellectual powers rather than relying on the simplicity that is Christ (2 Cor 11:3) and that one should trust in the Lord and not lean on our own understanding (Prov 3:5). When they quoted I Cor 15:50, they failed to read further that that is the precise reason why at the resurrection, our bodies will be immediately changed or transformed: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”(1 Cor 15:51-52). “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first”(1 Thess 4:16)
All the powers of the human reasoning will not changed the indisputable fact that the so-called “useless, physical, earthly, corruptible body” of Jesus was actually, really and literally raised. Consider the record in Luke 24:36-43: “Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.”
The apostle Paul said in his defence before King Agrippa that Jesus would be the first to rise from the dead.”(Acts 26: 23) clearly implying that others will also rise from the dead – that is the hope that Paul sought to attain – just like Jesus Himself was raised. In his epistle to Titus, the apostle Paul exhorted towards “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) because when Jesus appears our hope of being raised is realized (as death is overcome) and our ultimate salvation is realized and we will receive our inheritance in heaven – as Peter also wrote about in 1 Peter 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” John 6:40: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Brethren, there is a resurrection that we hope for – when Christ comes again – on that last day – when our corruptible bodies will be replaced by the incorruptible – “for our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body”(Phil 3:20-21). Those who teach that Jesus has already come in AD70 and that He will not come again, in effect attempts to rob us of our hope – the hope that is also stated in Heb 9:27-28: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”
Let’s heed the exhortation in 1 Cor 3:18-19: “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”
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