Our passage today is Acts 28:17-31.
We’ve reached the end of Luke’s Book of Acts. In the King James Version, there are 24,246 words in Acts so it is one of the biggest books in the New Testament. It covers about thirty years but during that time we have read how the Church began with a handful of Jewish believers but grew to include thousands of people across the known world from all kinds of backgrounds. The book began with Jesus instructing his disciples to be his witnesses;
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8)
The words of Jesus were fulfilled with the Gospel being proclaimed first in Jerusalem and then spreading out to the ends of the known world. Paul has become an integral part of God’s plan and now he is to witness for Jesus in Rome.
“Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16)
I think if I had been in Paul’s position I would have at least considered laying low for a while but that wasn’t Paul. He had been promised that he would arrive safely in Rome but the purpose was that he would testify of Jesus. Paul wasted no time in getting the Jewish community together to hear the Gospel.
“Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (23:11)
It’s interesting that Luke records that some; ‘would not believe’. It wasn’t that they couldn’t quite see it or that they needed more time to process this new information; they would not believe. Jesus told a parable of citizens sending a message saying; ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ It’s the message being said today, they don’t want Jesus. That doesn’t mean that we should give up or stop praying for people who are not Christians.
Paul spent two years in Rome preaching of the kingdom of God and teaching about Jesus. From what we can piece together, it seems that Paul was eventually released and went on at least one other journey. He wrote 1 Timothy from Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3), Titus implies Paul had spent time in Crete (Titus 1:3) and he certainly planned to winter in Nicopolis in western Greece (Titus 3:12). A number of early Christian records place Paul in Spain sharing the Gospel after his release from Rome but we cannot be certain.
We can be fairly sure that Paul eventually returned to Rome and died there as a martyr, probably about five years later. Sports people often speak of leaving it all on the pitch – meaning giving everything possible. Paul gave everything. As CT Studd put it;
“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
Or as Paul was able to say shortly before his death;
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Challenging isn’t it?
“I am a part of the fellowship of the Unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit Power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labour by power.
My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear.
I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.
And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colours will be clear for “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16).” (Apparently the words were written by an unknown young African man who was killed for being a Christian)