Friday, July 13, 2012

Acts 28 – Paul in Rome and Act's Open End

(read Acts 28)

The last chapter of Acts wraps up Paul's arrival in Rome as her prisoner and his time of waiting for trial before Caesar.

Partway to Rome, Paul is shipwrecked. The ship's passengers stay on the island of Malta off the coast of Italy. While there, Paul has more opportunity to demonstrate the Kingdom, and share about Jesus.

Paul arrives in Rome still a prisoner, but he has favour and a great deal of privilege despite his legal circumstance. For two years he waits for his trial, always under house arrest.

Christian traditional history tells us that Paul was tried before Caesar and released. Once free, he traveled to Spain to continue to spread his message, but was captured and executed by Rome soon after. Since this history is not under great dispute, many scholars suggest Acts was therefore written before the end of Paul's life. The significance of his victory in court would likely have been recorded had Luke had knowledge of it. This is also evidence that Acts and Luke themselves may have been written or compiled to be used as evidence in Paul's defense in court.

In any case, the open-ended conclusion of Acts has Paul continuing to share as he dud throughout his missions. He shares with the local Jewish congregations, making clear that he still considers himself wholly Jewish and a brother to them. Some believe him, and some do not. Paul continues to preach nonetheless.

It has been suggested by some that Paul's message about Jesus was somehow different than the message of the Kingdom of God that Jesus himself preached. But the concluding words of Acts provide a summary that illustrates the unity from the beginning of Luke to this final chapter.

The Good News is freely shared with outsiders as much as with religious insiders (v28).

The Good News is the Kingdom of God (v31). Though Paul becomes known for preaching a more personal and individual application of this news, the message is still the same. The Kingdom has come. The order is changing. Rulers will be removed, and the humble exalted. The last shall be first.

Jesus Christ is Lord (v31). In calling Jesus the Christ, Paul proclaims his the chosen and promised sent one of God. In calling Jesus Lord, he subverts the claim of the Roman Empire (the "Gospel" that "Caesar is Lord"). If Jesus is now Lord, Caesar is not. The practical consequences of the Gospel are as clear at the end of Acts as in the beginning of Luke.

The Kingdom has come.
Acts 28:28-31 (ESV)
28 Therefore let it be known to you 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.


vv3-6 – His life was spared because it was not God’s time for him to die.
v17 – Paul appeals to the authority of the Jews again.
vv23-25 – Paul gets another opportunity to share the gospel.
vv30-31 – Two more years Paul continues to preach, though he is under house arrest.

The end of Acts is open enough to invite us to write the next chapters ourselves in our own lives. We are invited to share in the community of free Kingdom life now. The age of empire has ended, and we are empowered to resist.

We live in the 29th chapter of Acts, continuing to participate in the living Kingdom of God growing in the world around us. We resist with hope. We share love and justice with hope. We know that our King, who calls us free,  will return, and therefore all our efforts toward justice and freedom today will remain for eternity. No matter what battles we appear to win or lose, in the end this earth will be laid up for us, the meek, the poor, the oppressed. We participate in a movement that will succeed, and it is in this hope we live and share together.

All glory to the only true King.

(read Acts 28)

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