Persuaded or Lost

Acts 23‑28  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 5
“And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word. Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto his people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I shall heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” —Acts 23-28.
No reflective person could read this chapter without being impressed with the thought of how beautiful and comely is the closing scene of the actual historical life of the apostle Paul, because, though we have his writings after this, yet this is the last bit of narrative of this blessed man.
It is lovely the way the curtain drops on him here. Full of Christ, and pressing Christ on everybody else. Though there was much outwardly to depress him, a prisoner bound with a chain, yet he can speak to those about him of a Saviour. He had something to say about Jesus, and God sent people to hear what he had to say.
He persuaded those who came to hear concerning Jesus! Are you persuaded yet concerning Jesus, my reader? What an awful thing it is that men have to be persuaded concerning Jesus! What an appalling thing for you that anyone should have to persuade you about the Person on whom your eternal destiny hangs! That you are so blind, so indifferent, or so hardened by sin, and led by the devil, that the Holy Ghost has to persuade you to escape hell, and to flee to Christ! Who would need persuading to escape from a burning house? And yet men need to be persuaded to flee from the everlasting burnings!
It is an amazing thought where man is, and where the gospel finds him! Born in sin, and at a distance from God, and liking the distance, his heart opposed to God. “The carnal mind is enmity against God.”
We are on very good terms with ourselves till God opens our eyes, and yet living all our lives strangers to God; perhaps not outwardly opposing Him, but living to do our own wills, to do as we like, and at a distance from God!
It shows what man is, and where man is!
At a distance from God, and liking that distance, and I might say, ever increasing that distance!
Have you not fled from God oftentimes, my reader? You know you have! Fled from God, and from His word, and from His testimony, and why? Because you do not know Him.
Cain went out from the presence of God, and his offspring built up three great systems of trying to do without God—commerce, pleasure, and science. Jabal inaugurated commerce; Jubal, pleasure; and Tubal Cain science and look where you will, the world is divided into these three great streams. Satan uses all three to work on the mind of man, and fill his heart and keep him away from God. He has woven a threefold cord which is not quickly broken, till God in His mighty grace snaps that cord, breaks the heart bound by it, and awakens a man to see that he is a sinner, and a ruined sinner, and more, a wretched sinner, most probably, for man has to own that with all he gets he is not happy if he has not Christ.
Man goes on with a bad conscience, and that prevents his being happy. You, my reader, if you are without Christ, cannot say you have a good conscience, for if God called you to His bar today you would fear to meet Him, You have no peace, no pardon, no knowledge of forgiveness; a knowledge of sins you have, and therefore you have a bad conscience.
Jesus is the only ground of peace for the conscience, or rest for the heart; and therefore, Paul persuaded all who came to hear him concerning Jesus; and similarly I would seek to persuade you concerning Jesus, and first to persuade you that you have not got Him!
Do you ask me “How do you know?” I answer, Can you say you have? Does your heart know at this moment eternal life, forgiveness of sins, the knowledge of cleansing and pardon? Do you love to sit at His feet and hear His words? Does your heart enjoy communion with Him? Can you look up into His face, and have free unclouded intercourse with Him?
“Oh, no,” you say, “I do not know this.” Then it is clear you have not got Him. And you need Him. I ask you, Do you want Him?
I rejoice to tell you Jesus wants you. That ascended man in glory, the friend of sinners wants you, wants to bless you, wants you to have the joy of knowing Him, wants to have you on His throne with Him by-and-by.
Oh! let me persuade you concerning Jesus. He came down to save sinners. Are you anxious for salvation? Here is blessed news for you, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Be persuaded concerning the object of His mission, and when you are persuaded that you are the object of His mission down here, joy will fill your heart.
There is a curious thought in people’s minds oftentimes, even when they see they can do nothing to save themselves. They think it is something that Jesus is going to do that will save them, not something He has done. But it is a finished work the Saviour has accomplished, and that work and that Saviour, the Spirit of God, seeks to put your soul into connection with, that you may know God’s salvation.
What are you waiting for? Why do you delay? Shall I tell you? You are waiting for damnation! You are delaying till the storm of eternal judgment overtakes you.
Now, the mighty hand of God has stayed the tide of resistless judgment, swept it back while the sweet words of His grace are told out, while men are persuaded to accept salvation!
Salvation is pressed on you now, my reader, and there is nothing kept back from you but judgment!
The salvation of God is sent to you, and you are shut up to this, either to receive what God sends or to reject it. Which will you do? If you reject it there may meet you at the next step God’s terrible judgment, and can there be wrath and indignation more terrible than will be poured out on those who have despised God’s salvation?
If there be one thing that can sink your soul deeper into hell than another, it is the fact of your having put from you in cold blood, and perhaps with contempt or bitter scorn, God’s Son, and God’s salvation. Oh, I would persuade you now concerning Jesus, for if you die without Him, you must spend eternity without Him. If you will not have Jesus here, you cannot have Him there.
Do you say, “If I came what would He do?”
He would receive you. “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” Cast yourself on that Saviour’s grace, and you will get pardon for your sins, salvation, peace, blessing, just where you are, and as you are. He will let you know that He has put your sins away out of God’s sight, and He will fill your heart with joy.
But deep though your joy will be, His own will be deeper when He sees you coming to Him. Who was the most glad the day the prodigal came home? The father! It is the father who says, “It is only meet that we should be merry, for I have displayed my heart, my love has turned the fear out of his heart, my house has got a guest today it has long wanted, it is meet that we should make merry and be glad.” That is the God that I would persuade you to turn round to. Give Him the joy today of receiving you, and get the joy to your own heart likewise.
You have often been touched, my reader, I doubt not, but never persuaded. You have often been moved, but never decided. You have been convicted before, but you are not converted yet. Be persuaded now!
Do you say like king Agrippa? “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Almost will never do. The man who is only almost persuaded, is altogether lost.
Almost is of no avail. It is no good to say, “Let me perish at the very gates of glory.” What is the use of that? You perish still. Why perish outside? Why not pass in to those scenes of joy and. gladness? I will tell you why you do not. It is because of want of purpose of soul, want of decision, want of earnestness. Oh, be persuaded! Go in! Taste the joy and the blessedness of the Father’s house; join in its music and its merriment!
Paul says, “I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” “I do not want you to be a captive to a Roman emperor,” he says, “but I would to God you knew the Saviour as I know Him—knew your sins forgiven, as I do, —knew that you had a living, loving Lord up in the glory, and that you were going to spend eternity with Him!”
Do you say? “I have difficulties.” Difficulties to receive Christ! Difficulties to have blessing! There is one difficulty I can tell you of that you will never get over, and that is the difficulty of escaping the judgment of God if once you get under it t Oh, let not your history, my reader, be summed up in these words, “Almost persuaded, altogether lost.”
There are some who will not be persuade as we read, “Some believed, and some believed not.” Turn to Luke 16, where the Spirit of God draws aside the veil and shows us the awful future of a man who would not be persuaded to accept God’s salvation.
Do you say? “This is only a figure, or a picture.” I ask you, Do you think the lips of incarnate truth ever spoke language merely to excite admiration or curiosity, because of the drawing of a vivid picture? Far be the thought! If Christ, the Son of God, gives a picture of what the condition of the lost sinner is, it is drawn with the hand of inviolable truth. He has told out, with awful, solemn reality, what the pit of hell is. Take care lest that terrible pit engulf you!
Mark the pitifulness, the paucity, the scantiness of this man’s prayer, as he says, “Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue;” he who might have had every blessing in this life, if he would only have accepted it, begs now for one drop of water, and his petition is denied.
Look at it, unconverted soul. He does not ask for some chalice, filled to the brim, with the cooling draft. No, only for one drop, on the tip of the finger, and that prayer is not granted!
Do not forget it, my reader; you who never pray on earth, you will pray in hell. Prayers do ascend from the pit of hell, but those prayers are unheeded! They pass unnoticed, and are answered never!
Now, God says, There are streams of living waters flowing, and you may drink of them and thirst no more. Oh, how senseless is the soul to put from him those living streams, and fall into that awful place, where he shall ask for one drop of water, and have that prayer denied; for remember this, there is thirst in hell, but there is no water.
In the end of Luke 16, you have the future of the lost soul portrayed, and not only the future, but the past and the present. “Son remember.” There is the past. “Now—thou art tormented.” There is the terrible present.
“A great gulf fixed.” There is the future.
What about the past? Memory brings before the soul, your life on earth, your lost opportunities, gospel preachings despised, or slept under, Christ and God’s salvation rejected or neglected. Oh, how bitter your memory will be. Your memory and. your sins you will carry into hell. Your conscience and your memory go down with you. “Son, remember.”
Oh, what that memory will bring back to you! You will remember your thoughts, even your despisings of the love of Christ. As you have listened to the gospel on earth, maybe you have often thought the preacher mad, or a fool. In hell you will apply those epithets to yourself.
Look at it again. For the past, memory. Memory goading you with its reproaches as to what might have been. For the present, “Now, thou art tormented.” What an awful now! And for the future what must you see between yourself, and perhaps some of those nearest and dearest to you, some whom you may have loved the best on earth—friends, old companions? A great gulf fixed. They have a better portion than you forever, and for time too, for they had Christ in time. Between you and them there is a great gulf fixed eternally, between you and those scenes of joy and merriment, scenes of holy delight, scenes where Christ is everything, and every heart is filled with Him, Sometimes, I think, those songs of rapturous joy that sound. through the arches of heaven, may reach even to the depths of hell, and as you hear borne on the wave of sacred melody that precious name—Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—theme of every tongue, oh, what uncontrollable agony will fill your heart; what remorse; what bitter, bitter anguish as you think that you might have been there, but you would not!
Who will you blame, do you think, in that day God, No! You will own His righteousness in putting you in hell. Will you blame Satan? No! Satan did his best to persuade you it is true, but you will not blame him then.
Will you throw the blame on inconsistent Christians? No! You will blame the only the right person—yourself. I recommend you to blame that person today. Blame yourself for your unbelief, and be persuaded to turn right round to Jesus!
Are you unpersuaded still, by the grace and love of the Lord, or by the terrors of His judgment? I leave you then, to your own hard and impenitent heart, and to the impending judgement which will surely reach you; and turn to look at a word from the man in Acts 26, who was not almost, but altogether, out and out persuaded.
“I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor heights nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of Gods which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38, 3938For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38‑39).)
Jesus died to make me clean, He lives to keep me clean; who shall separate me from Him?
The apostle Paul takes up difficulties here, and he says, Shall these difficulties prevent the love of Christ from coming down and filling your heart with joy? Not at all. In everything we are more than conquerors through Him who loveth us. The love of Christ is the secret of strength, and the comfort of the heart! What will keep me in the presence of all that can touch me? The love of Christ!
If I get into trouble for Christ’s sake the Lord comes to me; I become the special object of the care of the Lord, if I get into trouble for His sake; I am persuaded that nothing can separate me from His love! Are you persuaded, my reader? This is a blessed persuasion!
Range the whole universe from the highest height to the lowest depth, nothing can separate me from Christ. He is beyond the highest height, and He has gone lower than the deepest depth. Angels do you think of? He is above them. Life? He lives for me. Death? He has gone through it for me and annulled it! Is this your persuasion, my reader? Are you persuaded concerning Jesus? to yield your heart to Him—to be His? Not any longer be like the man who was almost persuaded, still less be like the man who was never persuaded, but be like the man who could say “I am persuaded, that nothing shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, my Lord.” God grant that this may be your persuasion from this day forward.
W. T. P. W.