By Ron Graham
"Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Acts 26:28
On that fateful day in 1871, the Rev. Mr.
Brundage ended his sermon by saying “He who is almost persuaded is almost saved,
and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.” Seated in the audience
was Philip P. Bliss who was so impressed with these words he was inspired to
write the wonderful hymn “Almost Persuaded”. This powerful hymn has become a
classic today. This song should be sung at the closing of every pastor’s message
just before or during the invitation.
The words “almost persuaded” can take on a chilling sense of loss. As believers we know how awful it is to know the destination of those who won’t see the truth. Many, many have heard the Gospel and were almost persuaded but for one reason or another couldn’t or wouldn’t make the decision to ask Jesus to come into their lives. They were almost persuaded but waited for a more convenient day.
That’s what happened to King Agrippa. In the book of Acts, Paul was called before the king by Porcius Festus to give an account of his innocence. Paul was more concerned about the king’s eternal destination than that of his own acquittal, and as Paul explained his actions and what had taken place in the temple twelve days earlier, he went into his Damascus road experience, describing in detail his encounter with our Lord Jesus. At the end of Paul’s dissertation, King Agrippa made the following statement addressing Paul “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,” Acts 26:28.
That same statement is deafening throughout the pulpits of Christian Churches, and when the altar call is given the most frequent reaction is “You almost persuaded me, but go, Spirit, go thy way”. Today as we hear the message of the Gospel preached, how often do we hear of how urgent that call is? Not one Sunday service should pass without pleading (not pleading as in begging but as a nearly debilitating burden on our hearts for the lost) the importance and the sheer lack of time remaining for the nonbeliever to stop the procrastination. “I’ll wait for a more convenient day”. People think they have forever to make that decision, but all believers know there is no more befitting time than now.
King Agrippa undoubtedly had a huge entourage of servants, guards, and followers who watched his every move. He could have made a decision right then and there for Christ, but alas there were too many stumbling blocks in his path. He probably would have lost his kingship, his castle, his servants, and of course he would have also had to endure all the persecution that the rest of the Christians were enduring at that time. The loss of materialistic wealth, as well as the possibility of losing his friends and family probably weighted heavily on his mind, certainly he regrets that decision now.
Just imagine, if you will, a different scenario unfolding in front of Paul that day. King Agrippa stands for just a moment after hearing Paul’s remarks and then falls to his knees. With his heart breaking and in the mist of his wailing, he asks Jesus to come into his life. Right there in front of all those spectators, Festus, Agrippa’s wife Bernice, all the chief captains and the principal men of the city, not to mention the Jews that had assembled to see Paul thrown to the dogs. What would that have done for all the others in attendance? Why there might have been a huge revival right there in that auditorium. Alas, the words keep returning to mind as a dread of panic comes over us “Almost Persuaded”.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness,” 1 Corinthians 1:18a. “Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!" Acts 26:24. Festus had just heard the truth of the Gospel and declared Paul to be mad; Festus saw the preaching of the cross as foolishness just as Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthian Church.
Today it’s the same type of barriers that prevent the conversion of countless lost souls from joining the ranks of the saved. All too often the excuses of those lost souls outweigh the persuasive sermons of many compassionate Pastors, “Go, Spirit, go thy way.” Not now, but if not now, when? A line from an old Rocky movie comes to mind, it went like this. Rocky tells Apollo Creed, his trainer, that he’ll pick it up (his training) again tomorrow. To which Apollo declares in the most fearsome voice “There is no tomorrow”. People, there is no tomorrow, today is the day and that is the message we should be proclaiming from our pulpits, from our work places, and in the midst of our family members who continually proclaim “Go Spirit, go thy way, I’ll wait ‘til a more convenient day”.
Among the words written by Bliss are these “Harvest is past, doom comes at last” Bliss speaks about the time of the rapture being past and the next thing to expect on the world scene is doom. Certainly it will be a time of great tribulation and most people remaining will not see the final disaster coming until it’s too late, all because they were “Almost Persuaded”.
“En oligo” are the Greek words that are translated into the English word “almost”. The literal translation is “in a few words”. Herod Agrippa, in a few words from Paul’s mouth was almost persuaded to become a believer. Isn’t it interesting how people can come to Church Sunday after Sunday and continually hear the message of the Gospel without ever believing the message, or even knowing they should make a commitment but not yet persuaded of the urgency? It took just a few words to almost persuade Agrippa, and he probably never heard the Gospel again, unchanged, unrepentant, lost and condemned to Hell.
Could there be something wrong with the message as it is delivered to the congregation today that keeps people from grasping the urgency of the hour? Next time you sit in the pew listening to your pastor’s message, give attention to how often he presses the fact that there is very little time left to act. This could be an indication as to why many lost souls continually say “Not today”, they aren’t persuaded of the urgency of the moment or the consequence of that statement “almost persuaded”.
Bliss’ song continues with “Almost cannot avail; Almost is but to fail”. Remember what the Rev. Mr. Brundage wrote, “almost saved is to be entirely lost”. Almost cannot avail, it can only fail. As we head into the last of the last days here on earth our message must be clear and succinct. The Gospel of Christ isn’t difficult to understand and it isn’t for a select few. Christ came to save the world (John 3:16).
It’s clear that all of civilization has heard the message of the cross but it is also clear that many continually dwell in the false assurance that there is plenty of time. If the message is muddled, full of funny little antidotes, and little emphasis placed on the urgency involved, those who might be convinced may very well wait for a more convenient day. Urgency is imperative especially now that we can see the end of all things coming about on the world scene.
Bliss’ song was concise and to the point. “Sad, sad, that bitter wail – Almost, but lost”. Almost just doesn’t get it, and we believers shouldn’t be satisfied with hearing the words, “I’m almost persuaded, but I’ll wait for a more convenient day.” For the believer there is no satisfaction in hearing those words.
Paul had an occasion to preach to the Athenians at the Areopagus on Mars Hill. Paul began at the beginning in Genesis because these people had no knowledge of the scriptures. They knew not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they had many pagan gods that they worshipped. When Paul got to the point where he told them about Jesus’ resurrection most had heard enough. Some mocked him, others said we’ll hear you again on this matter, but don’t call us we’ll call you. Yet there were those few who followed Paul and believed. Paul’s message was simple; it wasn’t full of funny little antidotes or long winded stories that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Gospel. On the contrary, it was terse and to the point.
I’ve included the words from Bliss’ song “Almost Persuaded” below. Use them if you like as you address your family and friends with the truth of the Gospel. Allow the Holy Spirit to work through you as you deliver a message to them, for if they are lost they may be waiting to hear just the right persuasive words that will lead them to Christ. If you allow the Holy Spirit to use you, your words will be exactly what they need to hear.
“Urgent” is the hour to deliver the message of the cross to an unbelieving world.
By Philip P Bliss
“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!
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