King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.Then Agrippa said to Paul,Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?Paul replied,Short time or long — I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.Acts 26:27-29
As Paul continues speaking directly to Agrippa he says,
King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe. Do you see what he's saying? He is saying,
You know the historical facts of Jesus' life. You believe the prophets. So put the two together. What did the prophets say the Messiah would do? Where does that drive you? Jesus fulfilled what the prophets wrote.
At this point this enslaved king, mastered by his own lusts, is faced right into the issue. You can just see him squirming up there on his throne. Unfortunately his answer is to turn his back on what Paul says. It is a little difficult to understand exactly what he replied. The Greek is a bit obscure. Certainly he didn't say what we have in our King James Version:
Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. He is not saying,
You've almost got me, Paul. You almost have me convinced. Many a message has been preached on that theme, as though Agrippa had almost come to the point of becoming a Christian. It is much more likely that he said with almost sneering sarcasm,
Do you really think that in this short a time you're going to make me a Christian? You've got to do a lot more than that if you're going to make me a Christian!
Paul's reply is magnificent. With a heavy heart he says,
King Agrippa, whether I had to spend a short time or a long time with you, I just want you to know that the hunger of my heart is that not only you, on your throne with your wife beside you, but that every one in this room could be like I am — except for these chains. This is a magnificent answer! It is hardly the answer of a prisoner, is it? As he stands there he says,
I wish you could be like I am. I wish you had the peace, the liberty, the power, the joy, the gladness of my heart and life.
What an appeal out of a great heart! What a revelation of the greatness of the gospel! It can rise above every circumstance, every situation, and fill the heart with joy, so that a man in chains, bound and a prisoner, can stand before a king and say,
Even though you are a king, and you have all that wealth can buy, I would gladly recommend that you become like I am, so great is this glorious liberty in Jesus Christ. It is a challenging moment, a marvelous presentation of the freedom that the gospel gives, that this chained prisoner could thus challenge a king upon his throne and offer to trade places with him. But remember that Agrippa is a Herod. He is an Edomite, a descendant of Esau. Esau stands throughout Scripture as a mark of that independent spirit which refuses help from God, which turns its back upon all the love of God poured out to reach us, and in independent arrogance refuses the proffered hand of God's grace. That is what this king does. And now he fades from history. He is the last of the line of the Herods. But Paul's great words ring in our ears down through the centuries. There is nothing like the liberty of Jesus Christ. No external condition of wealth or prestige or power is worth a snap of the finger compared with the freedom and the power and the joy and the gladness that a man can find in Jesus Christ.
Father, thank you for the freedom you give me in Christ, a freedom so great that no human circumstance can rob me of my joy in you. Please let this freedom and joy make me unashamed of the Gospel like Paul.
Are we unfettered from our circumstances, liberated by new ownership to the transcendent power of our indwelling Savior and Lord? Are we claiming the liberating practice of Christ's presence as the essence of life?