Almost Isn’t Good Enough: A Reason for the Defense Part 1

Principle #1:  Reason Your Defense (Acts 26:1)

 

You may be familiar with the somewhat passive aggressive statement “Almost isn’t good enough.”  I heard this phrase a lot growing up, especially in the context of sports. On the one hand, coaches can use this as a rallying cry to motivate athletes:  it’s another way of saying “We’re almost there, two points and we’ll win.” On the other hand, this might be used as a statement which diminishes athletes’ efforts by meaning:  “We won second place but that’s unacceptable for my standards.” Either way, this much is clear: the standards for victory are clearly defined–some athletes meet it and others don’t. There’s victory and there’s defeat.

Acts 25-26 give a stunning account of Paul’s defense of the Gospel and King Agrippa’s defiant rejection which epitomizes this notion of “Almost isn’t good enough.”  King Agrippa ultimately concludes by saying “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28 NASB).  In other words, he feels Paul’s argument is an excellent exercise of intellectual stimulation but he says “No” to accepting the plan of salvation.
 

Paul’s apologetics and King Agrippa’s response in Act 26 provide a clear approach for Christians to follow eleven dynamic principles.  I will address the first today: Reasoning his defense.

 
Christian apologetics rests on two concepts: an effective defense of the Gospel by believers and a definitive response by unbelievers.  “Almost, isn’t good enough” for an indecisive unbeliever. His soul hangs in the balance. He will either accept or reject the plan of salvation, he will either say “Yes” or “No.”  There is no middle ground.
 
In Acts 25, several chief priests and religious leaders brought charges against Paul who was arrested in Caesarea.  The case eventually came before “Porcius Festus, Roman procurator of Judea.”1   In the meantime, King Agrippa arrived to pay respect to Fetus, who invited him to listen to the proceedings involving Paul.
 
Acts 26:1 records Agrippa’s first words to Paul:  “‘You are permitted to speak for yourself.’ Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense” (emphasis added).  “Defense” is translated from a Greek concept of apologeomai from which we get the word apologetics and it means to “defend oneself, speak a defense in one’s own behalf.” 2  This doesn’t involve an attempt to defend oneself through trickery or fancy language but based on skillful, logical, and persuasive arguments (claims) which lead to a conclusion, demanding an affirmative or dismissive response.  
 

Like Paul, all Christians should be prepared to have an apologeomai of the Gospel which includes an approach described in 1 Peter 3:15-16.  We should speak the Word of God and rely on the Holy Spirit to convict and convince unbelievers. 1 Corinthians 3:6 addresses this idea because it reinforces the idea that we are God’s instruments, not unbelievers’ enemy.

 
Practically speaking, we should not view Christian apologetics as a trivial manner:  the decision to accept or reject Christ as Lord and Savior has eternal consequences. In fact, this decision will determine whether unbelievers will spend eternity in either heaven or hell.  So how should we view the statement “Almost isn’t good enough” in this context? Why do Christians have to be so dogmatic? Doesn’t this discredit claims that God loves everyone? Isn’t this insensitive?  
 

This all or nothing approach to unbelievers accepting the call to salvation is grounded in scripture.  In fact, the claim to believe that God exists or accept that there’s a “Higher Power” isn’t good enough because it misses the point.  James 2:19-20 speaks to this. Here, both references to “believe” come from the Greek word pisteuō which relates to thinking things are true rather than having a belief involving saving faith. 3   Stated differently, acknowledging the existence of God and the humanitarian nature of Jesus doesn’t address the fundamental issue Jesus raised with Peter in Mark 8:29.  When we present the Gospel message to unbelievers, they must provide a definitive response.

 
In upcoming blogs, I will speak more about how we should model Paul’s apologetic defense when we encounter an Agrippa in our circle of influence.
 
1 Toussaint, Stanley D. “Acts.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 422. Print.
 

 2  Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) 1997 : Print.

 
3 Ibid.

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