Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Acts Part 5 (Chapters 21-28)

The final years of the thirty year narrative of Acts finds its focus on what I refer to as Paul's fourth and final missionary journey.  In Acts 20:16, we see that Paul is seeking to put the pedal to the metal because he desires to arrive in Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost.  A side note to consider is how the earliest and final chapters of Acts both begin on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem roughly 25 years apart.  I think it is worthwhile to notice and perhaps contrast the differences.  Leaders were the primary persecutors in the early years when Peter first proclaims the gospel, but it is much more of a rejection by the masses by the time Paul proclaims it.

Paul knew what was coming his way.  From an uninformed view, these final chapters seem to detail a sad and tragic ending for Paul.  He is first nearly killed by an angry mob who reject his proclamation.  He is questioned before a corrupt leadership within Jerusalem.  Next, he appears before two corrupt Roman officials and a local king.  Finally, he barely survives a shipwreck to arrive in Rome imprisoned and awaiting his day before Caesar to state his case.  Not spoken of within Acts, but widely accepted as history, is the fact that at some point within the next few years, Paul is executed in Rome. 

The difference between the above version which sounds like the ending to a Greek tragedy, and the insights we are given as we read through chapters 21-28 allow us to see things quite differently.  Paul, as stated earlier, knew something like this would happen.  He even learns in Acts 23:11, years before he leaves, that God intends for him to proclaim his message in Rome.  We see God protecting him and those around him every step of the way.  We see God providing for his needs again and again, sometimes miraculously.  In Acts 20:18-24, Paul states the single greatest thing that transforms the final years of his life.  From the outside Greco-Roman (worldly/unbelieving) world, his ending affirms a sort of sad inevitable tragedy that seems in their minds to undermine the hope he claimed to have.  However, in verse 24, Paul opens up to the leaders of Ephesus and us the key to seeing his final days with clarity.

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

Also, in the letter(written while he was imprisoned in Rome) to the church of Philippi, Paul writes,

"I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear."  Philippians 1:12-14


"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."  Philippians 1:21

1 comment:

Patricia Delcamp said...

I have recently read this account in Acts....I could only restate what Paul says about living or dying for Christ. I want to live like that. I want my life to count for Christ and every move I make and every word I say be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Even as a Christian, I have tried to control my own life....It doesn't work! I think Paul knew this better than anyone.