This week we look at the final chapter of Acts, in which Paul preaches and lives and…that’s it. That’s where we’re left. But why? Why not continue with Paul’s story, why leave the ending open? Read on for more insight…
Scripture: Acts 28:23-31
23 After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets.
24 Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. 25 So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah, 26 “Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 27 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’
28 Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him,
31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Background on the Text:
- This is the end of the Book of Acts. It is an odd ending, not telling the reader what happened to Paul. Historical data about the end of Paul’s life is lacking, to say the least. The Church tradition often says that Paul was martyred.
- This journey to Rome began back in chapter 21, where Paul traveled to Jerusalem. He is arrested, put on trial, and in the course of the trial, Paul reveals he is a Roman citizen. Paul appeals to the Roman emperor himself, as was his right as a citizen, and so he is brought to Rome through a very long and dangerous journey.
- Having finally reached Rome, Paul the prisoner is allowed to live under house arrest at his own expense. He is permitted to have any guests that he wants and our story tells us that he specifically met with the Jewish leaders.
Exegesis (close reading) of the Text:
- An odd point in the text is that the Jewish leaders say they haven’t heard of Paul and they say that their only knowledge of the “sect” Paul leads is negative.
- Paul sets a meeting with the leaders. For an entire day he lays out the case for the “kingdom of God” and explains who Jesus was. Jesus’ main message was about the kingdom of God, so we have come back to the beginning of the gospel.
- Paul used the Law and the Prophets to explain all this: he never wavered from his message that the Christ was part of God’s continuing plan of salvation.
- Some are convinced but others still doubt. Paul admonishes the doubters by quoting from Isaiah 6. The words should be familiar as Jesus also quoted them.
- Paul’s final remark is that at least the Gentiles will listen. He continues to “proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the Lord Jesus Christ” to all, however, which means all.
- Two years may have been significant in that some scholars believe if a trial didn’t happen in two years, the accused was set free. This rule may not have been in place at that time though.
Questions the Text Asks of Us:
- Luke chooses not to end this book of the early Christian movement with any story of Paul’s martyrdom or his release from prison. This story ends with one of the main characters under house arrest in Rome. What was Luke’s purpose in structuring his story this way?
- If you were writing the story of the early Christian movement, where would you have ended the story?
- If you were writing the story of the Coop, where would you end the first volume of our history?