We’ve come to the end of Acts, and what an ending it is. The trajectory of this book has been toward Rome from the beginning. Jesus said the news of his name would spread to the “ends of the earth.” Not one apostle could have imaged that in the span of just thirty years the gospel would go from a small prayer room in Jerusalem to the highest seat of power in the empire. But it did.
The last quarter of Acts chronicles the Apostle Paul’s journey to Rome. This was not a planned mission trip. Paul went in chains. He was on trial. Nearly killed before he left Jerusalem, with a near-death experience on the way, he “came to Rome” (Acts 28:14). From Luke’s presentation of Paul’s conversion to Christ and commission by him, we come to see that getting to Rome was a life calling. It’s like Paul was born for this purpose.
So, in Rome we expect high drama. Like William Wallace in Braveheart, we’re waiting for Paul’s version of the “Freedom!” cry before glorious martyrdom for the cause of independence. But what do we get? Paul in his own apartment, “welcoming all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God, and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:30-31).
That’s a rather anti-climactic scene after such a build-up to Rome. But that’s the end of Acts.
The first question everyone asks is, “What happened to Paul?” That’s understandable and, to some degree, knowable. The consensus among historians is that Paul was released after his trial before Caesar, and that he spent a couple of years doing ministry before being arrested again and executed in Rome.
But that’s not how Luke ends Acts. He leaves us with Paul quietly and faithfully talking to people about Jesus.
The question that arises from the end of Acts is not “What happened to Paul?” but rather, “What’s next?”
There is no way to read Acts without seeing that the ending is really not an end to anything. The work of gospel advance and church growth continues. Paul is last seen welcoming all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God, and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the ongoing mission of the church. We are meant to see that after Acts comes more activity: welcoming, preaching, and teaching. The Spirit has been given, the mission has been defined, and the message is clear. So the next thing to do is to keep doing the same thing the apostles did.
Grace Community Church is called to live in Nashville, Tennessee, welcoming all who come to hear. We have membership standards for those who join our church. These include salvation, baptism, and affirmations of certain aspects of our life together. But all are welcome to come and hear.
We are called to proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the Lord Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God is the rule of God that has come to us in Jesus Christ, that we enter into by faith in Christ, and that will come to us fully when Christ returns.
What’s next for Grace Community Church after Acts? A new sermon series on the love of God, and more of the same welcoming, proclaiming, and teaching ministry in Nashville.
This weekend, read Acts 28 with someone. I hope to see you Sunday as we worship together.