Dear Student of the Word,
Here it is: the last installment of our study of the Acts of the Apostles, which we began in January, 2011. Thank you for your patience as we worked our way through this book; I hope you have found it helpful. I hope to publish it, at least in ebook format, sometime in the near future. We will begin a study of 1 Thessalonians in about two weeks. In the meantime, this is what I wrote in part seven of this final seven-part study:
Study Thirty-Four, Part Seven
26 "'Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving." 27 For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' 28 "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!" 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
28:26&27 – Paul quoted Isaiah 6:9 in this context, just as Jesus had quoted the same (see Matthew 13:14) when He was confronted with the Jews hardness of heart. This prophecy was fulfilled in Isaiah’s, Jesus’ and Paul’s times. They could not hear because their heart had become hard. Even though they constantly sought after and talked about spiritual things, they could no longer hear or see the truth.
The Jews were zealous for the things of God, but refused to adapt to this new revelation about Jesus. They had put God in a box, so to speak, that when God came out of the box in Jesus, they could not accept the truth. They had become spiritually inflexible. We saw previously that some of the Jews would not believe even though Paul undoubtedly made a convincing case for Jesus.
28:28 – So Paul made his declaration that he would now turn his attention to the Gentiles, and he knew by experience that some of them would believe and turn to Jesus. But we know that God was moving among the Gentiles with His eye still on Israel:
I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:13-16).
God isn’t through with Israel yet, but they can only come to God on one basis: through the blood and atoning work of Jesus.
28:29&30 – It almost seems like Acts ends too soon. It would be good to know more about what Paul did, who he talked to, and what happened with his appeal to Caesar. But Luke takes us up to Paul’s presentation to the Roman Jews and then summarizes the next two years in two sentences! Perhaps Luke wanted to finish his work and just decided to wrap it up and send it off to Theophilus.
Again we see that God used Paul’s a trial to provide a wonderful opportunity for him to minister in Rome, which had been one of Paul’s objectives. Perhaps there were times before that when Paul assumed his ministry and life were over. Yet the sovereign Lord opened many doors even after his imprisonment and many Roman officials heard the gospel through Paul’s efforts.
As we close this study, I urge you to make the most of every opportunity to fulfill your purpose, whether in large ways or small. Be faithful like Paul was to make the most of your time and do the work that you were created to do. Truly Paul was one of the great men and leaders of all time. He was not a perfect man, but he was one who did great things for God.
This book could just as easily be referred to as the Acts of the Holy Spirit instead of the Acts of the Apostles. The focus of the book is on the apostles—first those who walked with Jesus (referred to as apostles of the Lamb) and then Paul. But the book is also full of references and examples of the Holy Spirit initiatives that changed the course of history. If you are a non-Jew, then you should rejoice in the truth of Acts, for here we see that God graciously opened His heart to us Gentiles as predicted in Isaiah 65:1 and quoted in Paul’s letter to the Romans:
And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me." (Romans 10:20).
As we close this study, I hope you will consider how you can add to this book. No, I am not implying that we can write Scripture; the canon of Scripture is finished. But we can do what Paul and the others did, and that’s carry our purpose in the power of the Spirit to a dying world that needs Jesus, the only hope.
So Lord, as we close this study, I pray that you would empower us to change our world as the apostles changed theirs. Give us the same dynamic of the Holy Spirit to launch bold initiatives for You. I pray that You would speak to us and lead us. May we not harden our hearts, content to read about You and Your saints. Help us to take our place and continue the work that the apostles began. We don’t want to be history readers but history makers. And we pray all this in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen and amen!
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the unpublished volume of The Faith Files.