The Mission Begins

Posted: December 21, 2015 in Acts, Route 66

Route 66: Acts, “The Mission Begins”

Everything has a beginning…everything has a birthday.  With the singular exception of the Triune God, everything in all of creation had a starting point.  Be it the earth itself, humanity, the Jewish people, or even the earthly ministry of Jesus.  All of it had a historical point in time that it began.  The same is true with the Church of Jesus Christ.  The Church (speaking in universal terms of all of the people of God, saved by the grace of Jesus through faith in Jesus) has a birthday – a point in time in which it all began.  That’s true with local church congregations (Calvary Chapel Tyler began November 28, 2004), and it’s true with the universal Church, as seen in the 2nd chapter of Acts.

The entirety of the book of Acts is about the beginnings of the Church.  How it all began – how it started to expand – what trials and persecutions it faced – how it moved to the ends of the earth – all of that is chronicled for us in the history provided for us by Dr. Luke.  But it’s more than only a record of the birth and growth of the people of God known as the Church – it’s also a journal of the activity of the 3rd person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has always been shown as active within the world & among the people of God, no matter what the era – but in no book of the Bible is His activity more in view than the book of Acts.  Many of our Bibles list the book as “The Acts of the Apostles,” but it could just as accurately be called, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” 

It is important to note that the book of Acts is not a comprehensive history of the Church, though it is an accurate one.  Only a handful of the original apostles are seen, and there is no mention of the growth of the church in the eastern Roman empire & beyond.  That said, what it does show is of vital importance.  The book of Acts shows (1) the arrival of the Holy Spirt & His ministry, (2) the transformation of timid disciples into bold witnesses of Jesus, and (3) the fulfillment of Jesus’ commission as the Church patiently awaits His return.  In other words, everything the book of Acts shows as beginning, we still see continuing.  The Spirit is still active within the Church, believers are still transformed by His power, and the Church is still awaiting Jesus’ return while fulfilling the Great Commission.  The Acts of the Holy Spirit & the Apostles have begun, but they are not yet finished!

BACKGROUND:
There is little doubt that the book of Acts is the follow-up to the gospel of Luke.  We might even think of it as “Luke’s Gospel, the sequel.”  When Luke wrote his gospel, his obvious focus was upon the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, especially as Jesus reached out to all the world.  In the book of Acts, the focus shifts to the earthly ministry of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit led & empowered the Church to reach out to all the world.  It’s the same basic mission of God, simply led by two different Persons within the Trinity.  Of course, this is exactly what Jesus told us to expect of the ministry of the Spirit, so it’s only natural that this is what Luke recorded.

As with his gospel, Luke addressed the book to a man by the name of Theophilus (lover of God), which causes some to think that the book is addressed to all lovers of God throughout the world.  Though there is an aspect of that which is true, the Theophilus in question here is almost certainly a real historical individual.  Luke’s gospel gave him the honorary title, “most excellent Theophilus,” (Lk 1:3), whereas Acts addresses him in the vocative – a grammatical case most often done when speaking directly to a specific person.

That Luke wrote the book (both books, actually) is something that can be determined through a process of elimination.  First of all, we know that the author of Luke-Acts was a personal eyewitness, in that he switches from narrating in the 3rd person (he/they) to using the 1st person (I/we).  The earliest occurrence of this happens in Ch 16 & continues off & on throughout the rest of the book.  This means the author was a travelling companion with Paul.  From Paul’s personal letters, we know that the man who travelled with him the most that was never mentioned directly by name was the physician Luke.  Considering that the early church from Irenaeus forward also thought Luke was the author of both books, there’s little reason to cast any doubt upon it.

As we mentioned in our overview of the gospel of Luke, it is the date of writing that is the cause of most of the debate.  Liberal scholars insist on a date of 80 or later, but the overwhelming evidence points to a much earlier date…no later than 63AD.  How can we be sure?  The book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome, preparing to preach the gospel to the Gentiles who are there.  Yet we know that Paul was released & continued to minister among the churches.  When Rome burned in 64AD, Nero tried to push the blame to Christians & eventually had Paul arrested once again. Both Peter and Paul were executed by Nero around 67AD.  Knowing that history, it is inconceivable that Luke would not have addressed it, if he had written the book after Paul’s death.  Instead, the book ends very openly, almost as if the words “To be continued…” could be added to it.  There was more work to be done; it was only the book that was completed.

Of course an early date to the book of Acts means there must be an earlier date to the gospel of Luke, and an even earlier date to the gospel of Mark (upon which Luke obviously relied).  These were not myths that developed over time; these were accurate events written down by the people who witnessed them with their own eyes.

GENERAL OUTLINE
The book of Acts is by far the easiest book of the Bible to outline, in that Jesus Himself provides it: Acts 1:8, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."  In a nutshell, that is the book of Acts.

  • The Church in Jerusalem (1-7)…primarily Peter
  • The Church in Judea & Samaria (8-12)…primarily Peter
  • The Church to the ends of the earth (13-28)…primarily Paul

That’s not to say this is all there is – but it certainly provides a great overall depiction of the book’s contents.  Peter and the original apostles are shown preaching the gospel to all of their countrymen, and then Paul takes up his mantle as the apostle to the Gentiles and proceeds on his various missionary journeys.  All of it is done in the specific power & by the leading of God the Holy Spirit, as the gospel of Jesus is taken even into the heart of the Roman Empire.

The Church in Jerusalem
Waiting for the Promise (1)

  • Introduction (1-3).  “Former account.” (1) Review of gospel account
  • Review of ascension (4-11).  Holy Spirit promised, along with His power to be witnesses.  Acts 1:8, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."  Angels speak of Jesus’ expected return.
  • The apostles wait (12-26).  They pray “with one accord” (14).  Choose Mattthias as a replacement for Judas.

The Spirit arrives (2)
Specifically said to be “the Day of Pentecost.”  Annual harvest festival (Feast of Weeks), coming 50 days after Passover.  Jewish tradition celebrates the giving of the 10 Commandments.  Moses saw the fire of God’s glory when the 10 Commandments were given; the apostles saw tongues of fire when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

Speaking in other tongues (4-13).  First instance of spoken tongues in the Bible, usually seen at crucial moments within the book of Acts as the gospel takes another step forward in the Great Commission.  Key things to remember: (1) it was the Spirit who gave the tongues; not the disciples deciding to do it on their own – 2:4.  (2) People heard the disciples in their own language, but the disciples weren’t speaking to them.  The words heard were words praising the wonderful works of God – 2:11. (3) When Peter did directly address the crowd, he did so in the common tongue (14 & following).  The whole point isn’t something that gives glory to the speaker; it’s something that directed the people hearing it to God.  It was an act of worship to God; not a means of interpersonal communication.

Peter’s 1st major sermon (14-39).  The tongues were just a launching pad for Peter to start preaching the gospel.  The point was to take people to the new (and completed) work of Jesus Christ at the cross & resurrection.  Key verse: Acts 2:36, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."  Once the people heard that, all they needed to be told was their response: repentance & faith (shown by their baptism).

Aftermath (40-47).  3000 saved that 1st day, and the church continued to grow on a daily basis!

Initial miracles and persecution (3-4)
Peter & John heal a lame man at the temple (3:1-10).  Miracle serves as an opportunity to preach the gospel (3:11-26).  The power was proof of Jesus’ resurrection, pointing to Him & not to the apostles themselves.  This was the people’s opportunity to respond & have their sins blotted out. (3:19)

The Sadducees had Peter & John arrested, and put them on trial for preaching that Jesus was raised from the dead (4:1-22). (A charge for which they were in fact, guilty…as should all of us be!)  The apostles didn’t back down at all, and went so far as to preach the gospel to the Sadducees themselves.  Acts 4:12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."  The Sadducees knew they couldn’t contest the miracle, so they at least forbade Peter & John from preaching Jesus…a command they directly refused, saying it was better to obey God than men (4:19).  In the end, the apostles were just threatened & released.

The prayer of the church (4:23-31).  In response to the threats Peter & John received, the church actually prayed for more.  They understood this was the result of the gospel going forth, and they wanted boldness to continue.  They received an immediate answer to prayer when the room was shaken, and they were again filled with the Holy Spirit (4:31).

  • This is good for us, too!

The church in action (4:32).  The apostles didn’t just preach the gospel; they lived it out.  All of the church came together & met one another’s needs.  This wasn’t forced – it wasn’t communism – it was simply love in action.  Yet certain people would try to take advantage of it, as Ch 5 goes on to show…

The Spirit’s discipline and protection (5)
Ananias & Sapphira (5:1-11).  This couple tried lying about how much of their wealth they donated to the church & served as an object lesson that no one can lie to the Holy Spirit when God struck them dead.  It wasn’t a matter of their lack of giving; it was a matter of their deception & hardened hearts.  God the Holy Spirit was (and is) not to be mocked or lied to.

Other miracles take place…so many that Luke has to basically summarize them (5:12-16).  Multitudes of people were getting healed, and thus multitudes of people were hearing & responding to the gospel.  That’s when the high priest acted by imprisoning the apostles, who were miraculously freed by an angel in the middle of the night (5:17-21).

The apostles were then re-arrested, and placed on trial in front of the Sanhedrin. Again, Peter refused to stop preaching the name of Jesus, and was so bold that he rebuked the Sanhedrin while telling them the gospel at the same time. Acts 5:29–32, "(29) But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. (30) The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. (31) Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (32) And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”"  In the end, though the council was furious, they understood they might be fighting against God, so they just beat the apostles & set them free.

  • Are we willing to endure the same?

Stephen’s martyrdom (6-7)
By this point the church had grown so much that the 12 apostles couldn’t attend to all of the administrative details of the church.  That’s when they picked the 1st deacons – men who had good reputations & were filled with the Holy Spirit.  The deacons took on the ministry of giving aid to the widows, while the apostles dedicated themselves to prayer & the ministry of the word (6:1-4).

One of the deacons was a man named Stephen, who was used by God to perform signs & wonders among the people (6:8).  The leaders of a local synagogue spread lies about him, and had him brought to the Sanhedrin on false charges.  That’s when Stephen launched into a long history of the Jewish people (7:1-50), all with the concluding point being that Israel had always resisted the Holy Spirit (7:51).  He directly accused them of killing the Messiah & sinning against the prophets of God.

At this the people were outraged & stoned him to death, all the while being supervised by Saul the Pharisee. (7:58)  While Stephen was dying, he had a vision of the throne room of God, with Jesus standing at the Father’s right hand.  (Jesus knows the suffering of His saints!)

The Church in Judea & Samaria
Samaritans & God-fearing Gentiles saved (8)
Saul is briefly introduced as one who persecuted the church, and his persecution was so severe that it caused Christians to flee Jerusalem & scatter throughout Judea & Samaria (8:1).  Interestingly, it was persecution which fanned the flame of the Great Commission (which is often the case).

Luke picks up the account in Samaria with another deacon by the name of Philip.  As he proclaimed the gospel & performed signs & wonders, multitudes came to faith (8:4-8).  Included among the crowds was a sorcerer named Simon.  Eventually Philip needed Peter & John to come and help with the crowds, and together they prayed with people to receive the Holy Spirit.  Simon saw his chance to gain more power & tried to buy this ability, for which he was immediately chastised by Peter.  The power of the Holy Spirit cannot be bought or sold…it is the gift & grace of God.

Another account is told of Philip while travelling between Jerusalem & Gaza.  Along the way, he comes across an Ethiopian eunuch who had gone to worship at the temple.  Seeing the eunuch read from Isaiah, Philip strikes up a conversation & ends up helping the man come to faith.  At the first sign of water, the eunuch request to be baptized & afterwards, Philip is immediately caught away by the Holy Spirit to another place (a miniature rapture).

  • Don’t miss how the Holy Spirit was using normal believers in all of this.  These weren’t apostles; they were just men filled with the Holy Spirit desiring to serve.  And they ended up preaching the gospel to people that the apostles never had access to.

Saul’s conversion & Peter’s miracles (9)
That Saul the Pharisee was converted to Paul the apostle is one of the most dramatic life-transformations in history.  It was crucial to the plan of God to take the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth, and it is something that impacts millions of people on a daily basis 2000 years later.  How many people read a quote of Paul today?  Yesterday?  The day before that?  Paul is arguably one of the top 3-5 most influential people in history (with the Lord Jesus at the very top of the list).  But Paul didn’t start out as an apostle; he wasn’t even desiring to come to faith.  Saul thought he was serving God as he persecuted the church.  That’s when the Lord Jesus reached out & grabbed him.  Jesus appeared to him, blinded him, telling him who He was as the Lord & what His will for Saul was to do. (9:1-9)  Saul had been on his way to Damascus originally to persecute the believers, ended up being led there as a believer himself.  He was given back his sight by a disciple named Ananias, and grew so fast in his faith that he began preaching Christ to the point of being persecuted himself, having to escape Damascus by being let down the wall in a basket. (9:22)  Obviously it took time for Saul to gain trust, so he eventually went back to his hometown of Tarsus & grew in his faith & waited for God’s timing.

In the meantime, Luke hasn’t yet left the account of Peter.  Peter was still performing miracles throughout Judea, healing those who were paralyzed (9:33-35), and even raising the dead (9:40-41).  It’s this final miracle which sets the scene for the next major move of the gospel…

Peter preaches to Gentiles (10:1-11:18)
While Peter was in Joppa after the last miracle, there was a Roman centurion in Ceasarea named Cornelius.  He feared God & while worshipping, had an angel instruct him to send for Peter in Joppa (10:1-8).  While the messengers are on their way, Peter received a vision of his own, where he learns not to doubt God when God declares something to be clean.  The messengers come, take Peter to Cornelius, and Peter quickly understands what God is doing.  In the past, Peter would have considered the Gentiles to be unclean, but through the gospel of Jesus, God was declaring them clean.  Peter can’t even get through his whole sermon to Cornelius’ house when the Holy Spirit falls upon them all, and Peter quickly calls for their baptism.

  • As an aside, that’s what happened to each of us when we were saved.  We were unclean; Jesus made us clean.

Back among the Jewish Christians, there was an immediate backlash to Peter’s evangelism among the Gentiles.  Peter defends himself by explaining the vision God gave him, as well as the events that happened at Cornelius’ house.  In the end, none could argue & they all praised God.

  • God might have plans to save people we believe are unreachable.  Be careful not to limit the ability of Jesus to save!

The church in Antioch (11:19-30)
Luke fills in a few gaps of Saul’s history here.  The church had begun to spread beyond the borders of Judea & Samaria, already seen by the presence of Christians in Damascus (Syria).  Now there is a church in Antioch, to the far north of Syria.  They needed help, and the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to them (11:22).  Barnabas knew he needed help, and he remembered the former Pharisee named Saul, and brought him to Antioch (11:25). Antioch would serve as the missionary base for both men, and actually ends up being the 1st place that people are labeled as “Christians.”

Peter vs. Herod (12)
In the next-to-last event Luke tells us of the life of Peter, we read how he is imprisoned by Herod Antipas, who was looking to kill Peter just as he killed James the apostle.  Peter was miraculously freed from prison by an angel of God, and in a humorous event, the Christians who were praying for his safety & release didn’t believe it when Peter himself was knocking at the door (12:12-16).  Herod was furious & had his prison guards executed.  Luke goes on to tell us of Herod’s death, in which Herod willingly received praise that should have gone to God & was struck immediately with sickness. (He was eaten by worms and died – 12:23).

  • The point?  Man can resist God & work against the people of God, but Man can never stop what it is God desires to do. God had a further plan for Peter, and not even the powerful Herod Antipas could stand in God’s way.

The Church to the ends of the earth
Paul’s 1st journey, with Barnabas (13-14)
At this point, Luke’s narrative transitions almost entirely to Paul.  The Holy Spirit is seen personally sending Paul out to the mission field: Acts 13:2–3, "(2) As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (3) Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away."  (The Holy Spirit speaks.)  Not much is said by way of preparation – it would seem that Saul & Barnabas left at their earliest opportunity.

  • Cyprus to Paphos.  Encounter with Bar-Jesus who is blinded (13:4-12)
  • Paphos to Perga to Antioch-Pisidia (13:13-52).  Saul 1st called Paul (13:16)…probably his Roman name.  Preached to the Jews about Jesus being the son of David who was crucified & raised from the dead.  Once the Jews left, Paul preached the same message to the Gentiles, much to the dismay of the Jews.  Paul & Barnabas eventually leave, being persecuted.
  • Iconium (14:1-7).  Same pattern: Paul preached to Jews, then Greeks, and the Jews stirred up trouble.  Eventually (despite signs & wonders), the missionaries left under violence.
  • Lystra. (14:8-20).  Paul performs a miracle here, and the people immediately begin to worship he & Barnabas as the Roman gods Hermes & Zeus (14:12).  Paul & Barnabas try to stop the people, but the Jews (once again) stir the people up into a riot & Paul is stoned.  Paul survives (miraculously) and they leave town.
  • Derbe to Antioch (14:21-28). Despite all their troubles in the earlier towns, Paul & Barnabas retrace their steps back to them to help build up the church, teach them, and appoint elders.  Eventually they head back to Antioch.

The Jerusalem Council (15)
With all of this activity among the Gentiles, quite a controversy had been stirred up in Jerusalem.  Some believed that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism to be saved; others (like Paul) preached salvation by grace through faith alone.  The apostles & elders in Jerusalem came together to discuss the matter, and that’s when Peter recounted his time with Cornelius the Roman (FYI: this is the last we hear from Peter in Acts).  After Peter testifies, Paul & Barnabas spoke of the work of God among the Gentiles.  Finally, James (the brother of Jesus) gave his opinion not to trouble the Gentiles with Jewish conversion – with which all of the apostles & elders agreed.  Together they wrote a letter to the Gentile churches of their decision, enabling them (and us) to live freely in the grace of Christ.

BTW, there were four requirements from the Jerusalem church: Acts 15:28–29, "(28) For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: (29) that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."  Each has to do with either idolatry or impurity; nothing is legalistic.  The bottom line is that Christians are supposed to live as if they worship the One True God, and that’s it.  Love Him & worship Him alone, using your body to glorify Him.  In everything else, there is liberty.

Paul’s 2nd journey, with Silas (16-18)
At the conclusion of the Jerusalem council, Paul and Barnabas initially wanted to head back to the church plants together, but they parted ways due to an argument they had over John Mark (author of the gospel of Mark).  Mark was Barnabas’ nephew who originally went with Paul & Barnabas on their 1st journey, but abandoned them early on.  Paul no longer trusted him, whereas Barnabas wanted to give him another chance.  In the end, the missionary party was split (thus multiplying their effect), and Paul went out with a Antiochian prophet known as Silas.

  • Derbe & Lystra (16:1-3).  This is where Paul meets Timothy, who as a young man goes off with Paul to serve on the mission field. 
  • Phrygia, Galatia, Asia, Troas (16:6-10).  Apparently Paul had difficulty preaching the gospel in these areas, and Luke even writes that the “Holy Spirit did not permit them” to go into certain cities.  That’s because the Spirit had a different plan in mind for Paul & gave him a dream of a man in Macedonia pleading for help.  With renewed direction, that’s where the group went. (FYI – 16:10 has the 1st use of the 1st person.  Apparently Luke joined Paul at some point prior to his Macedonian call.)
  • Philippi (16:11-40).  This was their first major stop, and Paul immediately finds favor with a merchant woman named Lydia.  She & her household were saved & baptized, and Paul began ministering in town.  He’s bothered by a demonically-possessed slave girl, abused by her masters for her demonization, and Paul casts out the demon.  This causes a ruckus & the magistrates of the town have Paul & Silas caned & thrown into prison.  That night while Paul & Silas were singing, God miraculously releases them (and all of the other prisoners), much to the dismay of the guard who was about to kill himself.  Paul stops him & preaches the gospel to his salvation. 
  • Thessalonica (17:1-9).  Paul engages in his previous pattern of preaching to the Jews at the synagogue & later preaching to Gentiles.  Once more, the Jews cause a riot on their account, and they have to leave.
  • Berea (17:10-15).  Paul had a better time in the next town.  Acts 17:11, "(11) These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."  Always search the Scripture for yourself.  It doesn’t matter if it’s me or even the apostle Paul teaching you, be sure to look at the Scripture with your own eyes.
  • Athens (17:16-34).  Paul was temporarily separated from his companions as Paul was sent away while things calmed down in Berea (due to the Jews again).  He didn’t get any rest, as he preached to the Athenians once he saw their numerous temples to false gods.  He told them of the true God, proven by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (17:31), to which some mocked, but others believed.
  • Corinth (18:1-20).  Paul had a far easier time here, having been promised peace from the Lord (18:9-10).  He was in Corinth for 1.5 years before trouble began there.  Even so, Paul still left in peace, eventually returning to Antioch.

Paul’s 3rd journey (19-20)
During the final journey, Paul retraced much of the same ground, with the account actually beginning in 18:22-23.

  • Ephesus (19).  After correcting some initial incomplete teaching about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Paul stayed here nearly three years teaching & performing miracles.  At a certain point, the idol-makers were losing money due to so many people getting converted, and they start a riot which had to be calmed down by the city clerk.
  • Continued travels in Greece & Troas to Miletus (20:1-12).  Not much is said about these towns, other than Paul was encouraging the churches that had been planted & continuing to build them up in doctrine. [Eutychus – 20:7-12]
  • While in Miletus, Paul called for the Ephesian elders to give them one final exhortation.  Paul knew he’d be headed back to Jerusalem & would experience trouble.  He needed to warn the elders to be faithful to their calling & the doctrine & to beware false teachers & greed. (20:17-38)

Trouble with Paul in the temple (21-22)

  • Paul’s attempt at peace-making (21:15-25).  Took part in Jewish custom to show he wasn’t opposed to the Jews.  However, his reputation preceded him, and he was immediately accused of bringing Gentiles to the temple (which he hadn’t).
  • Seized at the temple by the Jews, arrested by the Romans, and defense to the Hebrews (21:26-22-21).  Almost scourged by the Romans, saved by his Roman citizenship (22:22-29)

Paul’s trials & imprisonment (23-26)

  • Vs. Sanhedrin (23).  Escaped sentencing by splitting the Sanhedrin between Pharisees & Sadducees on the resurrection (23:1-10).  Escaped an assassination plot when Paul’s nephew discovered it & reported it to the Roman commander.  The commander sent Paul to Caesarea to await trial.
  • Vs. Felix (24).  5 days after Paul’s arrival, Ananias the high priest & his lawyer Tertullus make their case against Paul.  Paul defends himself, asserting his innocence from the false accusation of profaning the temple, but also saying how he was on trial because of his belief in the resurrection. (So are we all!)  Felix heard the arguments, but delayed making a judgment because he was waiting for a bribe.  Two years passed, and though Paul continued to talk with Felix, he was still a prisoner.
  • Vs. Festus (25).  As Felix’s replacement, he once again heard the case against Paul & although he knew Paul hadn’t done any wrong, he was willing to do the Jews a favor.  At this point, Paul appealed to Caesar, to whom Festus was now obligated to send him.
  • Vs. Agrippa (26).  Before Paul was sent to Rome, Herod Agrippa arrived in Caesarea to meet with Festus & he was willing to hear Paul’s case.  Paul knew that Agrippa was intimately familiar with Jesus & the growth of the church, and was glad to give his testimony once more.  Agrippa almost became a believer that day, and told Festus that Paul was innocent and should have been set free.  Only now it was too late.  (Or was it?  This was the plan of God!)

On to Rome (27-28)
Finally Paul & his companions (including Luke) are sent to Rome.  Sailing took a while, and after a few stops, they were on their way.  The ship encountered terrible weather (which Paul had warned them about), and in the storm the ship was lost.  All survived (once they followed Paul’s instructions) & made it to the island of Malta.  There, Paul was bitten by a snake, but miraculously survived – which immediately opened the door for him to share the gospel.

Three months pass & the group eventually makes it to Rome & Paul is given quite a bit of leniency, placed under house arrest.  Once more, Paul preaches the gospel to the Jews, and once more the Jews were divided.  Paul is determined to preach the gospel to the Gentiles in Rome, and apparently does so from his house for two whole years, with no one forbidding him. (28:31)

Conclusion:
And that’s where the book of Acts ends.  Paul is alive, preaching the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.  God used persecution not only to build up the church, but to take Paul to Rome & preach to members of Caesar’s own household.  And there was still more to do.  More people needed to hear – more people needed to come to faith.  The work was birthed, but there was still much to be done.

So it is with us!  Today, we are continuing the work of Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and others.  We preach the same gospel – we’re filled with the same Holy Spirit – we have the same commission of Jesus.  Don’t grow weary in the task – be excited about the privilege!  Pray for boldness – pray for power – pray for your eyes to be open to the opportunities all around us.

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