Notice: I did not preach on Acts 27. I had another engagement that week, and our guest speakers spoke on Acts 27:21-26. The following week, I resumed with chapter 28 to finish the series. To open this sermon I quickly summarized chapter 27 for context.
Acts: For the Cause of Christ #34
Title: The Unfinished Task
Chapter 28 closes the book of Acts with Paul in Rome still working out his commision and doing what he needs to for the Cause of Christ.
Now that Paul and the other 200 people are on the island, what happens next? Where are they?
Verses 1-10 is the time spent in Malta
Verses 11-16 is leaving Malta for Rome
Verses 17-29 Paul is the Jews
17-22 intro and diplomacy
23-29 discussion and unbelief
Verses 30-31 Close
So, now that we see that Paul makes it to Rome, what now? What is the Holy Spirit telling us in this chapter. I see a few things in this chapter, so let’s take a look.
In this chapter, we see that Paul continues to example evangelization. Paul has never stopped doing the work of the ministry. On Malta, he showed his servant attitude in assisting in keeping the fire going by gathering more wood. After being shown kindness by the island official, he returns the kindness by praying over and healing Publius’ father. He then is able to minister to the people of Malta as many who were sick came seeking to be healed. Paul engaged the people of Malta. Though the text doesn’t tells, I think it is safe to assume that Paul took these opportunities to explain the gospel.
Then when Paul makes it to Italy, we see that he received encouragement from some local Christians. Fellow Christians came from Rome and met them at these two small towns that were mere stopping points on the way to Rome along the Appian Way. Paul must have been blessed to meet these Christians after the recent shipwreck, the trial before Festus two years after being tried before Felix. These Christians expressed Christian love and fellowship with Paul.
After Paul was in his private residence in Rome, he invited some of the local Jewish leadership. On the day he discussed what the Christian sect was and who Jesus of Nazareth truly was, he did so emphasizing the Scripture. I’m sure the Holy Spirit was with him assisting him in this discussion, but we are told plainly in Acts that he was using both the Law and the Prophets. We have seen this throughout Acts, Paul, Peter, Stephen, Philip all using the Scriptures to explain who Jesus is. Yes, Paul and Peter were at times receiving new revelation, but these additions to Scripture was for the Church to know how to behave, how to function. Now we have the completed Canon of Scripture and we have the ability to use the verses these men penned to aid in our evangelism, but Paul used the Old Testament to explain things, especially to the Jews.
We also see that Paul didn’t let house arrest stop him, or the unbelief of many of the Jewish leadership. Paul spoke with anyone who came into his home over the next two years about Jesus and the gospel. He took any and every opportunity he could, and you know he talked to the Roman guard that had nothing better to do for four hours a day but listen to Paul. I’m sure that Paul was discussed back in the barracks as well. It is generally thought that during these two years Paul wrote Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians. In Philippians, Paul makes to comments about the progress of the Gospel in Rome. In 1:12-13 Paul writes, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ.” Then as he closes the letter he writes in 4:22, “All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” Through Paul’s persistence and the work of the Holy Spirit the Praetorian Guard and the members of Nero’s house had heard the gospel and some had come to Christ.
Ok. Great. So what? What are we supposed to do with this information now?
Acts closes in an incomplete way. We are left with Paul spending two years in Rome proclaiming the gospel from his house arrest. We don’t really know the state of the church in Judea, we don’t know the state of the many churches in Asia Minor and Greece. We know that the church continued, we know that a great persecution would begin in a few short years at Nero’s order; but the book is left with the task unfinished.
In one sense, the book does complete. Remember we said at the beginning that 1:8 was the key verse for Acts, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts recorded the beginning of the Church, spreading from a regional beginning in Judea to the seat of one of the greatest empires in the western world in ancient times. But this book also shows us how to evangelize. We need to engage the people where they are, we need to emphasize the Scripture in our witnessing and as our guide for faith and practice, we need to expand to every person, not a select people group, or type of person. But all of this has to be done with the power of God and in His way, not our way. Paul say in 1 Corinthians 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” God will bring in the harvest, we need only to go and labor. H. A. Ironside in his work on Acts closes with these lines, “What almost seems like the unfinished character of the book of Acts, from a merely literary standpoint, is doubtless intended to teach us that until the fulfillment of the angels’ prophecy that ‘this same Jesus’ shall return even as He went away, the work of evangelization for this age will not be completed . We are to heed the Word – ‘Occupy till I come.’” (Ironside, H. A., Lectures on the Book of Acts © 1975, p 650-651)
Acts is a reminder to us that what the mission of the church is.
First the Church’s mission is to make disciples – Mt 28:19-20, Ac 2:41-42, 14:15, 18:8
This includes proclaiming the gospel – Ac 20:24; Rom 15:20
Bearing witness to Jesus – Ac 5:30-32
Bringing honor to God – Eph 3:10-11; 1 Pet 2:12
Second our objective is all creation – Mt 24:14; 28:19; Mk 16:15; Acts 1:8
What are you doing for the Cause of Christ? Are we doing our part in this unfinished task? How can we do more?