23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
Today, we end our journey through the book of Acts, also known as the "Acts of the Apostles". Paul finally makes it to Rome, after a stop off in Malta, where he shook off a snake after it had bit him. The islanders thought he was bit from some crime he had committed, but when he lived they thought he was a god. After Paul healed the chief official's father of dysentery, the rest of the islanders brought their sick to him, and they too were healed. Through Paul, the kingdom of God had reached this remote island. You can read about Malta on the internet, and the history since Paul first landed there. There were many bishops in early church history, they send representative to the early church councils in 451 and 500 AD. Now the island is primarily Catholic.
So Paul finally makes it to Rome, his final destination, where he would spend the rest of his life under house arrest though with certain privileges. When the Jews heard Paul was there, they were interested in hearing from him. They were not predisposed against him, as no detractors from his past came to Rome. As usual, he spent a considerable amount of time in the Jewish assembly explaining the Old Testament. He explained how the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets, and how they all pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. Some listened, and some were not convinced. Paul closes with a verse from Isaiah, which the prophet foretold of how God's own people, the Jews, would harden hearts so they would not see or hear, and be healed. In conclusion, Paul let's them know that the Gospel has been sent to the Gentiles as a result of their rejection of it. After having reached Rome, Paul for all intents and purposes had fulfilled the call God gave to him when he appeared to him on the Road to Damascus.
Paul's message to his young protege Timothy typifies the life he had lived and the hope he had in store for himself.
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
I hope you have enjoyed this incredible and amazing story of how the church went from received the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost to now having many churches planted across Europe and Asia and Africa. This is how the Church was planted and now there are 2 billion people who name the name of Christ and thousands of local churches of all denominations. So what can we learn from this dynamic, spirit filled and missionally potent young church?
1. The subject of Paul's preaching and teaching was persuading people that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. He was foretold by the prophets, and came into the world to save it from sin, death and the power of the devil.
2. Paul preached to the Jews first, and explained to them all about how the scriptures pointed to Jesus as the true Messiah. But due to their pride and spiritual blindness they did not believe.
4. Thus Paul went to the Gentiles in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham back in Genesis 12, that he would be a blessing to all nations.
5. The book is called the "Acts of the Apostle's for a reason. When Jesus left the disciples/apostles at the end of the gospel of John, he said to them. "You will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. He will send you the appointed Holy Spirit who will be with you and guide you into all truth."
Since God's kingdom is still here but not yet fulfilled, I don't know about you but I want to be part of its expansion. Wouldn't you like to be able to say what Paul said at the end of his life. "I have finished the race, I have kept the faith! Now is laid up for me in heaven the crown which will never fade away" God has called you like Paul and set you apart to be a missionary. To share you story with all those you meet about how Jesus is the Messiah, and He is YOUR MESSIAH.
Tomorrow we start in the book of Romans, the city where Paul ends up in Acts.