devotion 9-12-15

Acts of the Apostles 28.23-31

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. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. 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, ‘Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 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.’ Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Today, we finish our study of the Acts of the Apostles. We end with Paul in Rome – essentially under house arrest. He has begun by asking for a meeting with the Jewish leaders, and when they asked to hear more about his beliefs, he invited them to return to his lodgings. He then explained how the law of Moses and the prophets had foretold the coming of Jesus, as the Messiah, and tried to convince them to accept Christ. Some were convinced; others were not, and they argued among themselves. Paul says this is in accordance with what Isaiah said about this people, that they would listen but not understand, see but not perceive. For their hearts have grown dull, their ears hard of hearing, and their eyes are shut. And then Paul tells them that this salvation has, therefore, been sent to the Gentiles – they will listen.

Do we sometimes – or always – act like that? Are our ears closed to God’s word all around us, in our lives? Are our eyes shut to God’s action – do we shut God out of our hearts? Are we too busy, too caught up in our own gain, our own selfish ends? Paul is right – if we shut God out, then God will take the kingdom to those who will listen!

Paul lived in Rome under house arrest for two years, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching all who came to his house – with boldness and without hindrance!

What happened after the two years? Why does Luke end there? We talked in the beginning of Acts about the date of writing – if Luke was writing at the earlier time proposed, then he wrote shortly after that two years was up and was not yet sure what Paul was doing. If he wrote later, say after the Jewish rebellion and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, he might have avoided saying anything that would further enflame the Romans against the Christians, specifically that Nero had had Paul beheaded! What did happen between the time Paul spent under house arrest in Rome and his beheading by Nero? We do not know the answer – perhaps he did go to Spain; perhaps he went back to Greece and Asia to visit with old friends; perhaps he was put into a more limiting prison in Rome. We just do not know! Whatever happened, however, Paul could say without hesitation, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I only pray that when my time on this earth is up, I can say as much!

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