Topic:The End of the Beginning
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ — with all boldness and without hindrance!
This is what I like to call the end of the beginning. The book of Acts is just the beginning of the record of the operation of the body of Christ at work in the world since his resurrection and ascension. It is just the first chapter. We have come now to the last page of that chapter. The rest of the record is being written as history is being unfolded. Fresh and wonderful chapters are now being written in our own day, ultimately to be incorporated into this account. It is a tremendous privilege and joy to be a part of this divine record.
One of the most impressive things about this last section is the two last words. Do you notice how the book of Acts ends? With the word without hindrance. That describes the freedom of the gospel. Paul was hindered; still chained day and night to a Roman guard. But he could welcome friends in. He could walk around his house and yard, and he could minister and teach there. Paul never chafed under this restraint. His letters from this period are filled with joy and rejoicing. He never fretted about his condition, but he welcomed all who came and he sent letters back with them. It was during this time that he wrote Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the letter to Philemon. What tremendous truths are set forth in these letters which he had time to write because he could no longer travel abroad.
You and I can be grateful that God kept him still long enough to write them; otherwise we might have been deprived of these great messages which have changed history. Still, Paul had to appear before the emperor. In the next year or so, a great persecution broke out under the vicious Emperor Nero which was one of the greatest that Christians have ever experienced. But the Word was not hindered. No matter what the condition of the church, the Word of God is never bound.
Tradition and other Scripture suggest to us that, at the end of a two year period, Paul was released. Nevertheless, eventually he was arrested again. This time, instead of being allowed to live in a hired home, he was thrown into a dark and slimy dungeon. There he wrote his second letter to Timothy, which reflects the conditions of that confinement — cold and dank, lonely and isolated. Finally, according to tradition, he was led out one day in the early spring and taken outside the walls of Rome. There he knelt down and a sword flashed in the sun. His head was cut off and the apostle went home to be with the Lord.
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If we will be obedient to what is set forth in such clear language here in the book of Acts, God will supply all the power and vitality we need. The sweeping changes made possible by the life of Christ in his body can occur among us today, just as they occurred in that first century. The power available to us is exactly the same. The conditions of the world in which we live are exactly the same. The life of the body of Christ is to go on in this century exactly as it was lived in the first. And may God grant that we will be men and women of faith, with vigor and vision, willing to move with the creative, innovative Spirit in our day and age, so that we might share in the triumphs of the gospel, as recorded here in Acts.
Father, thank you for the challenge of this book, for what it has already meant to me, and for what it can mean to me in the days and years ahead. Thank you for the challenge of the apostle’s life. How I am stirred today to be faithful to the same great cause for which he gave his life!
God’s method of proclamation is through his people! Are we limiting the spread of the Good News by our apathy? By deliberate disobedience? Because of fear of rejection or persecution? Do we realize the enormous consequences of our response to this incomparable opportunity?