A Conclusion, But No End
I rejoice, blessed Lord, that Your love never fails, Your mercy never ends, and Your strength is always available.
Read Acts 28:17-31
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“It [the Kingdom of God] is the rule of God, through his appointed king, Jesus Christ, in the lives of his subjects, world-wide” (Richard Bewes).
In my job as a teacher of literature, I often talk about beginnings and endings as a way of thinking about what a book means. What does the ending of Acts tell us? In some ways it takes us back to the first two chapters, where the apostles are inspired by the Holy Spirit and proclaim the Gospel in Jerusalem to an international crowd. So here, Paul, like Peter (2:17), draws on the Holy Spirit, as evidenced from the Old Testament prophets, to convince the local Jews about Jesus (23,25). The Acts of the Apostles are inextricably linked to the Acts of the Holy Spirit. We see again that the early proclamations of the Gospel were to the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles.
Does this conclusion meet our expectations that ends will be tied up, and rewards and punishments issued? Well, it’s a history book, not a novel, so Luke had to write of what he knew had happened. He writes about a moment before the great persecution under Nero. There is nothing about the martyrdom of Paul, or Peter (which would have made a different conclusion than this). There’s plenty in Acts to encourage and equip Christians facing persecution or less violent opposition to the Gospel, but it is not a history of survival. Acts is more positive. What’s more, Luke goes back to a key emphasis of his Gospel: the kingdom (23,31). It’s not a word that appears much in Acts or in the surviving writings of Paul but it’s a fitting concept for the end of Acts because, looking back, the kingdom, understood as the outworking of the sovereignty of God, has constantly triumphed over a succession of obstacles in this story of the first apostles.
Think of times when God’s sovereignty overcame obstacles in your life. Give thanks for those occasions.
I pray today, Father, for Your rule and reign to be evident in me, my family, my community and my church.