Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Gentiles Will Listen: The End Of The Book Of Acts

I've blogged a lot about the book of Acts because I have been teaching through that book in our local church. We recently finished after 54 weeks! I was so blessed with the way Luke ended Acts.

I think if I had never read Acts before, I would have expected Luke to end Acts by telling us what continued to happen to Paul; his ministry after Rome, where he went, how he died, etc. But, after several chapters giving us the details of Paul's journey to Rome - his 2-year imprisonment, his defense before rulers, his amazing sea voyage that ended in shipwreck, and his adventures on the island of Malta (where he was bitten by a viper and healed all who were sick on the island!) - Acts ends with Paul making it to Rome and preaching the gospel there.

But that is fitting. All along the way Luke has carefully shown us the spread of the gospel through the Spirit-empowered church. It started with Jesus rising from the dead and appearing to his followers, telling them they would receive power when the Spirit came upon them; that they would be his witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). This happened at Pentecost, and Luke traced the journey of the gospel through the church, by the Spirit, to the ends of the earth, which was pictured by Rome. Luke is highlighting the triumph of the gospel, just as Jesus had said!

Acts ends with Paul as a prisoner in Rome. But he is able to preach - chained to a Roman guard and all! The last words we hear on Paul's lips are these, as he finishes sharing the gospel with local Jews, who are divided over his message:
The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 'You will indeed hear but never understand...For this people's heart has grown dull...' Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Acts 28:25-28, ESV
Wow! Acts ends with Paul telling Jews who have rejected Jesus, his church and his gospel that this message was now going to go to the Gentiles, and that "they will listen." They will listen! A guarantee that the gospel will triumph to the ends of the earth! What an end to Acts!

Indeed, for the last couple thousand years the Gentiles have been listening by the multitudes! The church has been born in nation after nation as the gospel continues to triumph. Personally speaking, I am a Gentile. And by God's grace, I heard the gospel, and I listened! Glory to God! Paul's words have proven true in my own life!

Jesus said, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). We have the Lord's promise - a guarantee - that the gospel will triumph to the ends of the earth, and that many will listen (John's vision of heaven revealed a song of worship from people from "every tribe and people and language and nation," Revelation 5:9)! Yes, the gospel will triumph. It cannot be stopped! Jesus will see all his redeemed people come to faith in him, and THEN the end will come.

The book of Acts ends with Paul's words ringing in our ears, "They will listen." With such a guarantee, should we not be encouraged in our gospel work? Some will laugh at us, despise us and even persecute us. But many "will listen."

Have you listened to the gospel with a God-opened, receptive heart? Has the message of Jesus' death for our sins on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the grave changed your life? Have you repented of your sins and believed on Jesus Christ?

Are you connected, committed and devoted to local believers and doing your part in that church's gospel mission? What things in your life have taken the place of the Spirit's gospel mission through the church?

Be encouraged, believer! The gospel will triumph to the ends of the earth, and Jesus will come back like he promised! Let us be faithful and joyful as we yield to the Spirit in taking the gospel from where we are to the ends of the earth.

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