WE PERSUADE YOU TO BE A CHRISTIAN!
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans
Using the prophets of old, Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to King Agrippa. The king believed the prophets, but he was not ready to obey. He therefore exclaimed: "In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian"? (Acts 26:28). These words effectively settles the question of the king's sincerity. Paul with love replies, “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” (Acts 26:29).
Who is a Christian? This is a pertinent question. But before that, there is another question of momentous importance: Who is Christ? Upon this question everything is suspended. The Holy Spirit presents Christ as the highest ideal, the highest and best interpretation of the possibilities of humanity, and as a universally needed Savior. Blot Jesus Christ of Nazareth from Christianity and the gloom of eternal death would settle upon it. Who is Christ? He is the Son of God. He is the son of man. He is the Prince of peace. He is the revelation of God. He is the revelation of man's possibilities. He is the perfect man. He is the light of time. He is the sun of righteousness. He is the dawn of the light from beyond the grave. He is the great example. He is the personification of love. He is the King of earth and heaven. He is the Savior of the lost. He is the friend of the friendless. He is the leader, the hope, and final advocate of man.
Again, we ask, “Who is a Christian?” The word Christian expresses kinship to Christ. It was derived from Him, from His name. How gladly we should wear it (1 Peter 4:16). It covers the world's needs. Nothing else does. It expresses the highest and best that can be achieved by mankind. It satisfied the people who lived nearest to the day of the Christ on earth. It ought to satisfy us, and it will do so if we will follow Him and let creeds and speculations sink into nothingness. A Christian is one who knows Christ, who loves Him, who obeys Him, who loves what He loves, who hates what He hates, who follows where He leads, who is akin to Him by adoption into the family of God, who wears His name, who loves His church, who supports His cause, who denies himself, who follows on: in the day or in the night; through joy or through sorrow; through hope or through fear; through smiles or through tears.
A Christian only…only a Christian. This is primitive, Biblical, apostolic, and catholic. Sectarian tests of fellowship and denominational shibboleths never entered into Paul's sermon or Agrippa's conclusion. The king was almost persuaded to be a Christian - a Christian without prefix, a Christian without suffix; in other words, just such a Christian as were Paul, Peter, John, Bartholomew, Andronicus, Junia, Epaenetus, Amplias, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, Philologus, Aquila, Priscilla, Timothy, Titus, or Jude. Christianity was everything. Nothing else was considered. Nothing else was thought of.
NOTICE: Paul persuaded Agrippa. This is an important truth. It is fundamental. It is all‑prevailing. He did not force him. He did not frighten him. He did not harrow up his inmost soul by opening the graves of the departed. He reasoned with him. Man has gone astray in his mind ‑ his thought ‑ and the preacher recognized this. Persuasion is the result of argument. Argument is based upon fact. Paul began with the great fact of Christianity ‑ Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Upon this he built his argument of man's need of help, the efficacy of the death of Jesus, and His subsequent assumption of all authority (above and below).
Paul made the king see what we must all see, that Christianity is not an abstraction, is not a speculation, but a revelation converging in the heart, mind, and personality of an individual ‑ the Son of God. He made the character of Jesus ‑ His personality ‑ stand out in such surpassing grandeur that the king (for a moment) forgot himself, forgot the preacher, forgot the surroundings, and thought only of Him. He saw a person worthy of his admiration, a King worthy of his fealty, a Savior worthy of his profoundest gratitude and undying love! It is no wonder that his heart leaped. It is no wonder that he was convicted. It is no wonder that the strings of his nature were for a moment attuning to the music of truth and hope.
To be a Christian is to be akin to Christ. Can you wonder that the king desired to enjoy this heaven‑born relation when under the power of the Gospel? To be a Christian is to be like Christ in His love. Is it any wonder that the king felt the utter worthlessness of all earthly achievements while gazing on such beauty, such symmetry, and such inexhaustible love? To be a Christian is to follow Christ. Who would hesitate to follow such a matchless and unconquerable leader? This truth underlies all revelation. The order is fact, argument, persuasion, conviction, conversion, and pardon. Who doubts that the Holy Spirit spoke through the apostle? Note that the work was Divine but carried on through human agency. We must repeat and emphasize this thought: Man must carry the news of salvation to his fellow man! Human agency cannot be eliminated. Man's work must be done.
Is there anything here for us? Unquestionably. What is it? We must teach the people. We must proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation. We must lift up the fallen, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry. We must individualize. We must bring men and women face to face with duty and destiny. We know the terrors of the Lord and must therefore persuade, urge, entreat, beseech men to come to Christ (2 Cor. 5:11). We must teach ourselves the weight and sanctity of the obligations that press upon us. We must be more direct in our appeals. We must cry aloud and spare not, and keep it up unto victory.
We persuade you to be a Christian on the ground that it is best for you even in this life. This may seem like a selfish view, but whatever tends to elevate and idealize this life is best for us. Our lives are measured by our thoughts, our aspiration, and our acts. Whatever elevates our thoughts, broadens our aspirations, and corrects our deportment is undeniably best for us. We must have an ideal or an example, and Christ is undoubtedly the best the world affords. Whether fictitious or real, men must admit that He is peerless in the annals of time. No thoughts compare with His thoughts. No hopes light up the pathways of life ‑ its dark and gloomy valleys ‑ like the hope inspired by His promises. No sacrifice is so unreserved, so unselfish, so absolute as His. No one marks out so straight a path as He; and finally, no one else sheds such a benediction upon those with whom He comes in contact.
You may say that Jesus is a myth and Christianity a stupendous falsehood. If so, we meet you with the triumphant assertion that this myth, this fabrication, this delusion has done more to elevate, to civilize, to purify, and to help the human race than the concentrated truth and wisdom of all generations. We also ask you to answer this question: Could the sinful heart, corrupted mind, and diseased imagination of man invent Jesus?
We can prove by the wicked that it is better to be a Christian even in this life. Sinner, look back on your past life. Now look at Jesus. Now look at Christianity. Honestly meet the issues and you are bound to confess that in the last ten years Christ could have saved you from volumes of misery. If you had been a Christian you could have been saved from the awful consequences of the terrible oaths with which you have bombarded the very gates of the temple of the King. If you had been a Christian you could have been saved from the mighty stream of bad thoughts by which your mind has been corrupted. If you had been a Christian you could have been a better husband, a better citizen, and you could have found consolation and peace in hours of darkness and sorrow. Whoever attempts to imitate the character of Jesus will be made better and happier. He has the secrets of a happy life. Draw nigh to Him and the cares of life will be lightened. Draw nigh to Him and poverty will lose its austerity in the prospects of unfading riches in His eternal kingdom. Draw nigh to Him and even in that dark hour we call death ‑ when the lights of time go out ere the light of eternity dawns - you will have comfort, peace, and triumph (2 Cor. 2:14).
We persuade you to be a Christian ‑ only a Christian, a Christian only ‑ on the ground of the certainty of the punishment due to sin (Romans 6:23). This truth is self‑evident. Open your eyes. Look around you. Why all these prisons, all these courts of justice, all these awful executions? There is, there can be, but one answer: "The way of transgressors is hard" (Prov. 13:15); sin brings a swift and unavoidable punishment upon the sinner (cf. Gal. 6:7). Punishment follows sin as quickly as thought follows thought, and as naturally as light follows the sun. This is imbedded in our constitutions. We cannot deliver ourselves from it. The whole history of the race is proof of it.
Punishment for sin begins with the gnawing conscience. You cannot run away from your conscience any more than you can run away from yourself! Sin brings its own rewards (James 1:15). It brings them quickly. It brings them surely. Punishment begins with the first sin. Follow the sinner. See his conscience harden. See him wander farther away from truth, goodness, and purity. Trace him down to the end and go with him as far into the dark ocean as you dare, and the results of sin hold on to him with tenacity greater even than death. Do you think the mere act of laying aside the body in which he has lived will absolve him from guilt? As well might you affirm that the man who goes to bed poor will awake reveling in riches. As well might you affirm that the profane swearer who goes to bed with an oath in his mouth will awake a pure, clean, and devout servant of God. As well might you affirm that the beggar who goes to bed in rags will arise a prince. As well might you affirm that the man who goes to bed drunk will arise with the morning sun a paragon of purity and sobriety. Death does not, cannot change the character. It rather places the stamp of unchangeableness on the character formed here.
If you were to discover a rich vein of mineral and trace it a thousand miles and find that with every step it became richer, wider, and deeper until you trace it into the Atlantic Ocean, what would be your conclusion? That it stopped? By no means. Rather that it extended on and on and on! If you can trace the punishment of impenitent sin down to the very water's edge of the dark ocean beyond us, what is the conclusion? That it goes on forever and forever! Sinner, these thoughts should be enough to make you tremble. In the name of the Lord we offer you salvation on the terms of the Gospel today (2 Cor. 6:2). God help you to take up the cross today!
We persuade you to be a Christian on the ground that it offers rich rewards to those who love and serve the Lord, even here. Virtue is often rewarded here. There are tastes of heaven along the journey. There are songs of rejoicing by the way. Beyond the grave the Christian has the promise of a crown of righteousness, citizenship in the everlasting Kingdom, and the assurance that the Lamb will lead him beside still waters and wipe away all his tears. He has also the consoling promise that he shall see his faithful loved ones and live with them without being subject to the pains, tears, and mutations of time. What more can you ask than this?
We persuade you to be a Christian because of the security of the children of God. Life is full of changes, disappointments, and sorrows. Only the Christian is secure. The earth may quake beneath his feet; celestial, mysterious, and fiery visitants may tramp through the sky; earthly hopes may fade and die, but the Christian - the working Christian, the consecrated Christian - is safe. Jesus Christ is pledged to help him, Jehovah's everlasting arms are about him, and the Holy Spirit is pledged to comfort him. He is the child of the King. He is the victor over self, sin, and death. What more does he need? What has he to fear? Who can harm him? Who can overcome him? Who can vanquish him? Who can discourage him?
We persuade you to be a Christian because of the absolute uncertainty of life. You are here today; tomorrow you may be in "torment" with the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). Today your eyes are open to the beauties of the natural world; tomorrow you may open them on the awful realities and mysteries of eternity. Today your ears are open to the voices of this world; tomorrow you may hear the dreadful voices of the damned. Today your heart keeps time to the joys and sorrows of this life; tomorrow it may be still in the icy grasp of death. This decision means everything to you. It means peace to your conscience, quietude to your fears, and joy to your heart.
We persuade you to be a Christian because Jesus is a matchless leader - He leads only to victory! We persuade you to be a Christian because He alone can clear up the mysteries of life, death, and immortality. We exhort you to do it now because this is the only opportunity you have promised in the Word of God. To you the morning may never dawn (cf. Heb. 9:27). Oh the dangers that beset you and the results that may hang on the decision you make today!
Almost persuaded?; how near and yet so far. Almost persuaded?; how terrible the thought. Almost persuaded?; but stubborn, insolent, and rebellious still. Almost in sight of the city; but we tremble to say it ‑ lost! Almost in sight of home, and loved ones gone before; but ‑ lost! Almost a child of the King; but disinherited forevermore! Almost persuaded?; but called to judgment while indecision trembles on the lips! Almost at rest; but turned into hell with those who forget God. Almost a Christian, almost redeemed; but saints and angels weep ‑ banished into the blackness of everlasting night! We Persuade You To Be A Christian!