Two Calls for Commitment in the New Testament

Two great calls to commitment stand out from the pages of the New Testament. While not covering every aspect of a gospel call to commitment, they do provide excellent examples of essential elements of biblical calls to commitment. They are Jesus calling the man born blind to faith in Him (John 9:35-41) and Paul calling King Agrippa to faith (Acts 26:24-32).

CONTEXT

In John 9 Jesus healed a man born blind. This man knew that it was Jesus that had healed him, and made no qualms about attesting this miracle of Jesus. For this reason, he was brought before a tribunal of the Pharisees who sought to discredit Jesus’ healing. And yet, this man did not yet understood that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. But he did stand his ground and would not allow the Pharisees to discredit the obvious miracle of Christ.

After the formerly blind man was cast out of the gathering of the Pharisees, Jesus went looking for him. Having found him, Jesus began a conversation that resulted in the man worshiping Jesus as the Son of God. In this biblical dialogue, we find the man moving from an honest recipient of a miracle of Jesus and one willing to “face the music” of the Pharisees’ antagonism of Jesus, to a genuine faith in Christ.

FIRST CALL TO COMMITMENT

Let us then consider how Jesus brought this man to decision:

  • INTENTIONAL EFFORT: Jesus went looking for him;
  • GENERAL QUESTION: Jesus asked him regarding his faith in the Son of God in a third person way, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
  • PERSISTENT INTEREST: The man responded, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
  • SPECIFIC RESPONSE: Jesus responded by pointing to Himself as the Son of God, “You have both seen Him and it is He that is speaking to you.”

After this amazing interchange, the blind man responded positively both verbally and physically. He first said, “Lord, I believe!” and then he worshiped him—quite likely literally kneeling before Him.

Jesus used a technique that we see Him use on several occasions. He went from the general to the particular. He stated the question in a general way—as if probing the individual’s level of interest. Then when the person showed clear interest, He very clearly and specifically made His point.

In the case of the man born blind, he received the call to commitment positively. Not so for the other example. When Paul called King Agrippa to faith in Christ, he responded with a politically correct question, and even perhaps in a jocular way. King Agrippa provided a classic example of a non-committal person.

SETTING THE STAGE

Let me briefly set the stage for the second call to commitment. Paul, the prisoner, was invited to provide entertainment to King Agrippa, as well as all the leaders and important people of the town of Caesarea (Acts 25:23). Governor Festus considered that it would be a great joke for the whole town to hear Paul, the Jew, try to convince them to become followers of Christ. So he called together this event in the main auditorium of that city.

To the amazement of Festus, Paul addressed King Agrippa directly using singular language throughout his entire discourse. At first glance one would have no idea that Paul was on a stage in an auditorium in front of hundreds of people.

But Paul used this occasion to bring the gospel to the highest ranking politician in the room. A tactic which led Festus to stop Paul midstream and call him a madman. Paul maintained his composure and was respectful both to Festus and to Agrippa.

SECOND CALL TO COMMITMENT

It was at the end of this interrupted discourse that Paul directed a question to King Agrippa.

Acts 26:27, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”

Consider with me 10 key elements of this heart-to-heart call to commitment of the Apostle Paul:

  • RESPECTFUL: “King Agrippa”
  • INDIVIDUALLY FOCUSED: “Agrippa”
  • FORM OF A QUESTION: “Do…?”
  • A SPIRITUALLY AIM: “Do you believe…?”
  • STATED POSITIVELY: “Do you believe…?”
  • SCRIPTURALLY FOCUSED: “the prophets”
  • INCREMENTALLY STATED: “Do you believe the prophets?”
  • FROM INDIVIDUAL CONCERN: “I know”
  • USING DISCERNMENT: “that you do”
  • EXPECTING A POSITIVE RESPONSE: “I know that you do.”

King Agrippa, quick on his feet and the primary political figure in the auditorium promptly took the focus off himself, refocusing it on Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28). And with these sad words, Agrippa leaves the pages of the New Testament as the type of non-committal people with respect to the gospel. And yet God, by His grace, recorded this question in the Bible for the benefit of all in the history of the church who would follow in his example.

CONSCIENCE-TO-CONSCIENCE

Paul’s call to commitment was individual, respectful, and to the heart. It was as if he ignored everyone else in the room and sought to connect directly with King Agrippa’s conscience:

2 Cor 5:11, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.”

Successful evangelism involves the conscience-to-conscience communication of the gospel honed and piercing by virtue of God’s living and active Word.

Rhetorically, as with the general approach of Jesus noted above, Paul used an incremental approach in his question. He focused his call to commitment on the message of the prophets as the object of faith. Agrippa, knowing his intent, divulged Paul’s culminating goal, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Paul, however, handled his aggressive response both wisely and respectfully, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains” (Act 26:29).

So, here we find two examples—two calls to conversion. Even as each is different—and yet each teaches important lessons. Likewise, we should tailor our calls to commitment individually and directly to the heart and soul of those whom we are seeking to bring to Christ.

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