by Steven Chan
Becoming a Christian is not a result of some “better felt than told” kind of experience. It is based on “truth and reason”.
Paul expressed his desire to persuade not only King Agrippa to become a Christian but also all who heard him: ““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)
His attempt to persuade King Agrippa and all those who heard him comprised the following:-
- Relating his own conversion story of how “according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Acts 26:5) and how he had attempted to dissuade people from becoming Christians, and yet, God was merciful to him by showing him the risen Christ (1 Tim 1:12-17):
““Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11). When the first known Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death by those who opposed the faith, it was recorded that they had “laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen” (Acts 7:58).
The stoning of Stephen unleashed a great persecution against the Christians: “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” (Acts 8:1-3). Just then, the risen Christ appeared to Saul (as Paul was known then) and ““he who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” (Gal 1:23)
- “to open their eyes, in orderto turn themfrom darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26:18)
- “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” (Acts 26:20)
- “saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewishpeople and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)
- “speak the words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25)
Paul was humble to acknowledge his earlier misunderstanding/ignorance of the facts concerning Jesus that caused him to reject Him. When he learned the truth about Christ and His resurrection from the dead, then just like Apollos in Acts 18:26, he then had a more “accurate” understanding of the Scriptures, knowing that Christ had indeed risen from the dead – and that fact was consistent with that “which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 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 26:22-23).
Paul was tasked to preach the gospel so that people will “open their eyes” and change their minds and turn to God (that’s “repentance”: from “darkness to light”, and from being enslaved by the “power of Satan” to the freedom that comes from “the power of God” – John 8:32) evidencing that change by doing works consistent with their repentance; the end objectives are that they may receive two wonderful blessings:-
- “Forgiveness of sins” – which is received when one repents and is baptized (Acts 2:38), and
- “an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ” as was also preached by the apostle Peter:
“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, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet 1:3-5) Paul wrote thus: “ looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The Bible says in Heb 9:28: “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”
Our living hope is in the hope of the resurrection at the second coming of Christ when we shall receive the crown of life, our inheritance reserved in heaven (1 Cor 15:50-58; 1 Thess 4:13-18; 2 Tim 4:8; Rev 2:10)
In preaching the gospel or good news of salvation (i.e. forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal inheritance in heaven), we “speak the words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25). Brethren, the truth of the gospel is reasonable. The truth about the hope of the resurrection is reasonable: “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”
That’s why Paul reasoned with King Agrippa and said: “For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?”
Why should it be incredible for one to believe God “raises the dead”? If God is the all-powerful Creator, then why would it be incredible for one to also believe that He can and will raise the dead as revealed by Jesus in John 6:39-40, 44; 5:28-29; 11:25-26? God had already raised Jesus from the dead; He is the firstfruits of those who have died (1 Cor 15:20):
“But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:23-26)
Let us be bold to speak the words of truth and reason when we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus has been raised from the dead (His tomb is empty) and so we have the living hope promised by God that we will likewise be raised from the dead. That’s the hope that brings comfort to all of us, especially when we know that “death” separates us from our loved ones; we can look forward to the great reunion “in the air” at His coming (1 Thess 4:17-18): “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Having this hope, why won’t we want to persuade all men to be Christians? Paul said in 2 Cor 3:12: “ Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech”. When we have helped others to become Christians and to remain faithful until the coming of Christ, we can truly look forward with great joy at His coming:-
“ For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thess 2:19-20)