Daily Readings/ Editorial
Scriptures to be read before the sermon on Sunday, August 24:
Monday: Acts 27:27-44
Tuesday: Acts 28:1-16
Wednesday: Acts 28:17-31
Thursday: Acts 27:27-44
Friday: Acts 28:1-16
Saturday: Acts 28:17-31
EDITORIAL: “The End That is Not an Ending”
In his study guide on the book of Acts for the Interpretation commentary series, Pastor Charles Williamson writes that we should not leave the study of Acts without looking at the closing verses (28:30-31). “Paul lived there (that is, in Rome) two whole years in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, without hindrance.”
(Mounce Reverse Inter-linear Version)
At first glance, it doesn’t look like much of an ending. Endings, as Pastor Williamson observes, are supposed to pull together all the loose ends of the story and wrap up everything in a nice, neat bow. But Luke doesn’t do that in these final verses of the book of Acts. Pastor Williamson suggests that after verse 31, we almost expect to turn the page and continue reading. That may very well have been Luke’s intention because the story about the work of the Holy Spirit in the church does not end with the last verses in Acts.
As we saw over and over again (in facts 61 times in the book of Acts), the Spirit keeps moving the message forward through Jesus’ witnesses, from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). The outpouring of the Spirit not only enabled them to continue sharing the good news but also sharing faith in community, that is, the church. Specifically, we are told they continued in the Apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, praying, helping the needy and praising God. The preaching about Jesus and sharing in other ways was not limited to just the early followers of Jesus, but included others who were full of the Holy Spirit, like Philip, Stephen, Barnabas, and Saul (who became the Apostle Paul). Paul was clearly filled with the Spirit (9:17) and throughout his missionary journeys was led to say and do many extraordinary things “in the Spirit” which helped others come to faith. Even the appointment of elders in Paul’s mission churches was through the leading of the Holy Spirit (20:28). The Spirit was not restricted to just Jewish people either; the Holy Spirit came upon Gentiles like the household of Cornelius (Acts 10) and many others. There are, however, times when the Spirit kept Paul from preaching the good news in one place in order that he might preach in other places (Acts 16:6-10). Throughout the book of Acts we find summary statements like Acts 9:31 where the church continues to grow throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, being strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit.
When we come to Acts 28, we find Paul in Rome speaking the truth of the Holy Spirit (28:25) to all who will listen amidst challenges that are not surprising given what we have read throughout his missionary journeys. It is, however, surprising that the final word in the original Greek text of the book of Acts is “unhindered.” Paul was under house arrest and more than likely in chains (perhaps chained to the guard assigned to him). Those sound like hindrances. But as Pastor Williamson points out, that would be the case if Paul were the primary actor in the story. Caesar’s chains may hinder Paul, but not the Holy Spirit, who is at work in and through Paul.
Pastor Williamson concludes, “The promise of Acts is that even in what seems to be the most hindered of circumstances, the Holy Spirit continues to work and the church continues to grow as good news of Jesus is shared. For twenty centuries since then, faithful followers of Jesus have added chapters to this ongoing story.” There is no question but that the Spirit will continue to work until Jesus comes again. The only question is whether or not additional chapters will be added through us regardless of the hindrances.