During The Book of Acts
One of the odd things about reading the Bible is that it isn’t entirely in order, or what we would expect “in order” to look like. By the end of this chapter, Paul has written both letters to the Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, a couple of letters to Timothy, one to Titus, and this other book called Romans. To a certain extent, as we move forward into the New Testament, we will be moving backward into the story we’ve just finished.
When Paul last met with a group of Jews, there was a riot, an arrest, several years of imprisonment, trials before three rulers and multiple assassination attempts. But that doesn’t keep Paul from going straight to the Jews in and around Rome and telling them about Jesus and the Gospel. He expects them to be as hostile as what he experienced in Jerusalem and Judea. Instead, some listen and some reject his teaching (just like in Jerusalem) but then they all just go home. There aren’t any riots. Paul isn’t stoned or imprisoned. Things are always political in the capital, where power is everything and reputations are at stake. But when you get farther away from the power politics of Jerusalem, They simply listen, assess, discuss and go home.
While Paul spends the next couple of years in Rome under house arrest, this doesn’t seem to be too arduous. In fact, the final phrase, that he taught with boldness and without hindrance would seem to indicate that these years of house arrest were some of the easiest in his ministry. Preaching to people who don’t try to kill you is easy.
Then the book ends. Almost out of nowhere Acts is over. It seems unresolved at first. Paul is imprisoned after his appeal to Caesar and we want to know the verdict. We don’t know how the churches are doing. What ever happened to Peter?
But the point is that they aren’t the point. The book isn’t about Peter or Paul. It isn’t about the early converts. The book is about the Kingdom. It’s about all of the people and circumstances that led to King Jesus leading a group of men and women into becoming something great with his Holy Spirit power. The end of the book is the moment that the Gospel has gone everywhere it needed to go. While it feels like we have loose ends with Paul, everything with the spread of the Gospel has been accomplished. If it was all neatly concluded, there would be a sense of completeness and finality to it. As it is, Acts presents itself as a launch point and an invitation to pick up where Peter, Barnabas and Paul left off, to take the Gospel to my and your little corner of the world.
We start Romans on Monday! What was your favorite thing about Acts?