Completing the Journey
Today, we finish our study of the Book of Acts. John Phillips described the closing scene with these words: "That is where Luke put down his pen. He gives us this final glimpse of Paul, living victoriously despite his bonds, seeking to engage the affections of all to the Lord Jesus Christ. What better place could there be to end the inspired written history of the Christian church -- not just looking back but looking ahead!"
Paul was always trying to reach people for Jesus, and we can see this happening again in vs. 16-20:
16. Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.17. And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: "Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans,18. who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death.19. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation.20. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.''
Pray: Lord Jesus, as we have looked at the early Church and the activities of Paul we find that they were always trying to reach people for Jesus Christ. May God help us to do the same, because our witness is crucial, in Jesus’ Name Amen.
These verses remind me how urgent it is for us to reach out to lost people. In vs. 17, Paul only waited 3 days before he contacted the Jewish leaders to share the gospel with them. As soon as he got settled in, he tried to tell them the truth about Jesus. Paul could not go to them, but he didn't let that keep him from witnessing. Paul invited the Jewish leaders to come to him.
There was a lot Paul could have said to accuse both the Jews and the Romans for the terrible way he had been treated. But Paul didn’t do that; Paul treaded lightly over the events that led up to him becoming a prisoner because he was seeking to win the good will of his visitors.
Our witness must be tactful, because it is so crucial. We must try our best to reach people for the Lord. And we can! We can serve the Lord by reaching out and sharing Jesus Christ.
As Christians we have the only real hope for the world! Paul reminds us of this truth in vs. 20, where he told those men: "For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.''
Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the whole world! There is no hope without Jesus. Warren Wiersbe tells us that in Paul's day, a typical grave inscription went like this: "I was not. I became. I am not. I care not."
There is no hope without Jesus Christ! George Bernard Shaw was a superstar playwright and sharp-tongued personality of the early 20th century. He was best known as the author of "Pygmalion," which later was famously adapted to stage and screen as "My Fair Lady." Shaw was a vegetarian and teetotaler, but also a radical socialist and atheist. He died in 1950 at the age of 94.
Here is a quote from George Bernard Shaw's last writings: "The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, led instead, directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshippers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith."
There is no hope without Jesus Christ, but as Christians we have hope! Paul explained it this way in Ephesians 2:11-14: Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace. . .
In Romans 5:1-2 Paul also wrote: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And in Romans 15:13 Paul said, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
The Church of Jesus Christ must keep moving ahead, and it will keep moving ahead if we keep spreading the good news about Jesus Christ! That is what Paul did in vs. 20-23 when he spoke to the Jewish leaders in Rome.
There Paul said: "For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.'' And they said to him, "We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.'' So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.
In vs. 20 Paul talked to them about the hope of Israel. He wanted them to know that the hope of Israel and the only hope for the world is Jesus Christ! Then in vs. 23 when the Jewish leaders came back, Paul talked to them all day long about Jesus. The heart and soul of Paul's message was always Jesus Christ.
Some years earlier Paul had written a much needed letter to the church at Corinth. They were having all kinds of problems, and Paul dealt with many of those issues. As Paul opened his first letter to the Corinthians, it is impressive to see the intense focus he put on Jesus.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:1-10, and count the number of times we hear the name Jesus Christ:
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Ten times! Paul specifically referred to Jesus Christ ten times in those verses! And that doesn't count the pronouns. Paul always kept the focus on Jesus, and so should we as today’s church.
Marilyn Anderes told the story of a devoted Christian lady named Cheryl Stephens. Cheryl was a young mother who struggled with cancer, but was determined to keep ministering to others. She went home to be with the Lord on November 19th, 2003 at the age of 44. Cheryl's friends said she lived out Philippians 1:21, where Paul said: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Listen to a poem Cheryl wrote in 1984, long before she began her struggle against cancer:
"Remember me not for who I was But for who Jesus was in me. Remember me not for the things I've done But for the things Jesus did through me.
Remember me not as one who loved Without remembering that 'He first loved me.'
Remember me not as one who gave But one to whom much was given.
Remember me not as one who spoke of God But as one who knew God through His Son, Jesus.
Remember me not as one who prayed But remember the One to whom I prayed.
Remember me not as one who was strong But as one who cried out to God to be my strength.
Remember me not as one who died But as one who lives forever because I have believed.
Remember not my life and death for they will profit you nothing. But please remember the life and death of Jesus. For He gave His life that we might live.
He died that we might never have to and He rose again that we might have eternal life. Remember not me, but do remember Jesus."
That is the spirit God wants us to have! We go forward by keeping the focus on Jesus. So Church, keep speaking about our Savior.
Also keep studying the scripture. In vs. 23 Paul showed deep knowledge of the Scripture. This verse tells us that Paul "explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening."
This is the very same thing the Lord did on the day of His resurrection in Luke 24:27, with two of His followers on the road to Emmaus: "Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Later in Luke 24:44-45, Jesus appeared to the eleven, He ate with them, and then said: "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.'' And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
God wants us to understand the Scriptures: Both the Old Testament and the New Testament. There will never be a time in our Christian lives when God wants us to stop studying His Word. And one of the things God wants us to know here in vs. 23 is that we can certainly find Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. We find Jesus in prophecies, pictures, and Old Testament appearances.
There were hundreds of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. For example, there were prophecies of His suffering like we see in Isaiah 53:4-6: Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
In addition to the prophecies, there are Old Testament pictures of Jesus. For example, in Genesis 3:21, after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, an animal was killed. Its blood was shed to provide covering for their nakedness.
Then in Genesis 7, we have the picture of Noah's Ark. That Ark was the one and only way of salvation. Noah and his family were safe in the Ark, just as we are safe in Jesus.
Genesis 22 gives us a picture of Christ in the story of Abraham and Isaac. There God commanded Abraham to do what our Heavenly Father would do one day: Provide His only Son as a sacrifice. And there on the mountain, God provided a ram, just as He later provided His Son Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The story of Joseph is another Old Testament picture of the coming Messiah. Joseph was loved by his father, hated by his brothers, sold for the price of a slave, taken to Egypt, tempted, falsely accused, bound in chains, placed with two other prisoners and after his suffering, Joseph was exalted.
Of course, the Passover Lamb was another picture of Jesus; the blood spread on the wooden door posts of the homes. The Children of Israel were protected by the blood of the lamb. And Christians, so are we! There are many other pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament.
There are also Old Testament appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ.
Remember that in John 6:46 Jesus told us that no one "has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father." This means that every Old Testament appearance of the LORD was the pre-incarnate Christ.
For just a few examples, the LORD appeared to: Hagar in Genesis 16:, Abraham in Genesis 17-19, Jacob in Genesis 32, Moses in Exodus, Joshua in Joshua 5-6, Gideon in Judges 6:, Isaiah in Isaiah 6, and Job in Job 42.
Who did all of these people see? It was not God the Father. It was God the Son. Jesus Christ is most certainly found in the Old Testament! In fact, every book of the Old Testament has some kind of connection to Christ.
Just a few examples: In Genesis He is the Seed of the Woman. In Exodus He is the Passover Lamb. In Deuteronomy He is the Prophet like unto Moses. In Joshua He is the Captain of our Salvation. In Ruth He is our Kinsman Redeemer. In Esther He is the one behind the scenes watching over His followers. In Psalms He is the Lord our Shepherd. In Isaiah He is the Prince of Peace. In Jeremiah He is the Righteous Branch. In Ezekiel He is the one who makes the dry, dead bones come to life again. And in Daniel He is the Fourth Man in the fiery furnace.
We could spend a hundred lifetimes and never learn all that Jesus is to us. But we can go forward by studying the Scripture.
Two thousand years ago in Romans 1:16, Paul said: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the same power today! And we can be sure that as long as we are in this world, God can use us to introduce more people to Jesus Christ.
Just like we see here in vs. 24-28: And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, 'Go to this people and say: "Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; For the heart of this people has grown dull. their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.'' Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!''
Many, in fact most people will surely and sadly be lost. That is no surprise to God. The Holy Spirit spoke about these unbelieving Jewish leaders in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. But in vs. 24, some people did believe! And they still will today.
John Phillips wrote: "Thus the gospel always divides. Its message is one of life unto life, or of death unto death. Whenever the gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit drives His plowshare through the audience. Some believe, some do not; and between the two henceforth is a great divide, a great gulf fixed. Every time the gospel is preached, heaven and hell are in the balance, eternal issues are at stake."
I remember a time in my life where I saw this truth so clearly. Friends would try to witness to me by sharing Jesus and I would ridicule them and put them down; tell them they were weak and even curse at them. That had always worked because those folks never shared Jesus with me again.
But one day a man I was working with began to share Jesus with me and I reacted in my typical way; ridicule, cursing, etc. yet his response was inviting me to dinner with his family; I was blown away. Our families began to occasionally spend time together; they would invite us on a Saturday to go water skiing with them. Another Saturday maybe a picnic, we always had a good time and as we parted they would invite us to church Sunday morning.
As we worked together Junior would slip in little comments about Jesus or church but always in a pleasant way. Every Friday his last words to me would be “see you in church Sunday?” I would respond by saying maybe, lying every time I said that.
Saturday evening I would get a phone call inviting me to church; my response would always be the same, an out right lie.
This continued for months, and in spite of my responses we became good friends. One Friday as we left work I got the usual invite to church and I gave my usual response, maybe. That Saturday evening my usual phone call came, but it wasn’t an invite, Junior said He wouldn’t be going to church in the morning because his wife was sick; now absolutely lying I said Junior I’m so sorry your wife is sick because I was planning on going to church in the morning.
About one minute later the phone rang and it was Junior’s wife saying I’ll see you in church in the morning, sickness will not keep me from this. I had to go. That was the beginning of my Christian journey; for the first time, I was aware of the presence of God. It was indescribably profound. God was patiently drawing me to trust in the Lord, and a few months later, by the grace of God, I was redeemed! Jesus took my sinful nature and gave me His righteous nature, glory!
Some will reject the message, just like I did, but we must keep trying to reach them. Multitudes gave up trying to reach me but, praise God He sent a man of God that didn’t give up.
We must try to reach as many people as we possibly can! God's not through saving people yet! The fields are still white unto harvest! Be encouraged. Some will be saved! We can keep moving forward by believing that some will be saved.
Verses 30-31 close out the Book of Acts by saying: Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
God wants us to boldly go forward, serving the Lord with all confidence. We all need to be like Paul. Keep striving to go as far as we can as long as we can for Jesus Christ. Do your best! Make every effort!
Paul is serving till the end—steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord!
Let us be like Paul—Serve God to the end; do your best; make every effort; find a place of service in the church and keep on serving—in good times and bad; in sadness and in joyfulness; on the mountain and in the valley; in victory and in defeat. Keep on keeping on! Keep advancing the kingdom of God.
Acts concludes with a rather interesting word. The word is not apparent in our King James Version, but if you will put in brackets the last four words of the book, you will see the words “no man forbidding him.” This is actually the translation of one word in the original language. “unhindered”
Acts 1:8—But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
We have traced the movement of the Christian faith from its beginning in the city of Jerusalem all the way to the place where it is now planted in the city of Rome. I think it is a word of completion.
Paul is saying, “unhindered, I have accomplished my purpose.” It is like a shout of triumph—unhindered! Paul is a prisoner, but the Word of God is not bound—unhindered. Nero is on the throne, but God is still on His throne—unhindered. It is a word of completion. No man could hinder the work of the Lord going forward.
It's not only a word of completion, but I think it is a word of continuation. You find in the book of Acts what the Lord intends for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to be doing. The Lord is saying—here’s what I want churches to do. In one sense of the word, you and I should be writing an Acts 29. We should be writing a chapter in the history of the Christian church—moving forward, nothing hindering, unstoppable.
2 Peter 1:3--According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Everything we need to live in victory has already been provided.
Romans 8:35-39-- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31--what shall we then say to these things; If God be for us who can be against us.
“If God is working on our behalf (and He is), then who could succeed in opposing us?” His point is that no adversary or enemy is of any account when God is for us.
When God is on our side, nobody can stop us; sickness cannot stop us, poverty cannot stop us; in Exodus 15:26 the great physician Himself said I am the Lord that heals you. Nothing can stop us.
Romans 13:1--Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Nothing can stop us.
Fall into a pit, the pit cannot stop you, ask Joseph. Giants cannot stop you, ask David. Our mistakes cannot stop us. Time may be against us but it can’t stop us.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5--(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Romans 8:37-- Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Whatever is thrown at us, it must bow at the feet of Jesus.
Romans 14:11— For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me. Nothing can stop us.
Paul said I am persuaded. Each of us need to have our persuasion in place.
Philippians 2:10--That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; Everything is subject to Him! Nothing can stop us.
We are an arrow shot forth out of the hand of God and we will hit the target. We will reach your destiny! Nothing can stop us!
Philippians 1:6-- Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?
Isaiah 54:17--No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.
2 Corinthians 2:14--Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
The most courageous women and men are arising within the ranks of believers. Boldness will characterize their fearless passion to make Jesus famous. Like Queen Esther that said, 'I will fulfill my life destiny no matter what it costs me, even if it demands my own life!'
There is a higher aim than building our own kingdom. Don't build scaffolding that must be torn down, build with passion, courage, and laying down your life. You won't regret it in that great Day!
"You will rise with fresh courage."
We’ve finished the book of Acts! Here’s a pretty good summary of the book: The Savior went up; the Spirit came down; the church went out; and the lost came in.
The church is still to go out, and the lost will still come in. The fact is the story of Acts is not over yet—we’re still living it!
Let’s keep on keeping on for our Lord and let’s SACRIFICE financially to advance the kingdom of God and let’s SERVE Him in His church, the only institution on earth He established and sanctioned to do His work and let’s WORSHIP HIM in Spirit and in truth and with passion and love; and let’s LOVE ONE ANOTHER in the body.
May God help all Christians to keep serving the Lord, because we serve the Lord God Almighty! And because Jesus is the only real hope for the world and we’ll conclude with a hearty Amen!
To listen to Pastor T's Sunday morning, March 7, 2021, sermon, click here or
read it below.
When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible, please click here and may you be blessed by singing along with "Win The Lost At Any Cost."