Thursday, October 31, 2013


Acts 28:23-31

"Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen." —Acts 28:28


28:28 After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. 24Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. 25So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: "The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,

26 ‘Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 27For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.'

28Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen." 30He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, 31proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.


Imagine Paul's anticipation as he departed from Malta on the last leg of his journey. Although an imperial appearance was the premise for the journey, Paul's visit would allow him to pursue another phase of his missionary program. He would meet with the Jewish community there from whom he hoped to add more converts.

The presence of Christianized Jews in Rome means that other missionaries had some successes there. You may recall reading about Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18. They probably left Rome after Emperor Claudius ordered all Jews to leave around 49 A.D. At the end of Claudius's ban about six years later, many returned to Rome. Based on Paul's greetings to Priscilla and Aquila in Rom. 16:3, we have reason to believe that they may have been in the throng of enthusiastic believers who hurried to welcome Paul.

In v. 16, the "we" narration of Acts ends at the conclusion of the final travel story. This passage records Paul's attempts to convince the Roman Jews that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of all their hopes. Like Jesus did on the road to Emmaus, Paul uses the Scriptures, from Moses to the Prophets, as his teaching points (see Luke 24:27). Like the disciples, who mixed joy with disbelief when Jesus appeared to them in Luke 24:36-41, some of the Roman Jews remain unconvinced.

The inclusion of Isa. 9:6-10 is a bit curious. One might read it as Paul's frustration that his people are rejecting the complete salvation that Jesus offers. Its inclusion might be interpreted as affirmation of God's ongoing work with the wayward people of Israel and all humankind. Because some Jews rejected Paul was no cause for him to give up. Paul was no quitter, as the rest of the passage clearly indicates.

Paul preached the realm of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. He used Scripture to draw pictures of God's realm. He wanted to nurture a beloved community of .believers who lived out the lessons Jesus taught. In today's Scripture, we see glimpses of some of these lessons in action. Paul welcomes all who come to him, who provide for his needs and share generously with others. He spent long hours in discussions with other religious leaders, using familiar texts to underscore his points. He pledged his allegiance to God's rule, not to the emperor, while establishing himself as one of God's chosen people. Speaking to the power of the gospel, Paul refused to let the Jews retain exclusive rights to their status as chosen people. Paul affirmed that the gospel is freely given to all who would hear it and believe, Gentile or Jew alike.


Paul taught and preached boldly and without hindrance. Along with Peter, Stephen, and many others, thousands of converts began to be followers of the Way of Jesus. Yet many others remained unconvinced. It was no doubt discouraging for the apostles, as it is for contemporary Christians who wish to share the joy of our salvation with others.

The extravagant promises of salvation continue to hold appeal for the underserved and underprivileged today. There are many who are hopeless enough to see the radical good news as life giving. For those of us who live more comfortable lives, the prospect of sharing all things (see Acts 4) may hold little attraction. We have grown used to a "What's yours is yours, and what's mine is mine" way of living. Is it so surprising, then, that the fastest growing bodies of Christ in the world are in the Southern Hemisphere, Asia, and Africa? In parts of the world where economic, social, and political justice is but a dream, Christianity offers a hope unlike anything offered by an earthly ruler or power structure.


It is tempting to simplify the world into black and white when shades of gray predominate. Acts does not limit the world to two camps, children of light and children of darkness. It includes the people of Malta, who hosted Paul but did not convert to follow the Way and others who did not heed Paul's call to follow Christ. God seems to have been working God's purposes out even through nonbelievers. Outsiders were brought into the fold, however. They included the Ethiopian eunuch of questionable sexual identity; Cornelius, the Roman citizen; and many in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and elsewhere who did not growing up hearing about Moses and the prophets at their parents' knees. The audience Luke intended to address was a persecuted minority fighting for its life. Acts is not a description of a self-satisfied, secure band of believers. Instead it tells the story of dispersed groups of believers who remain under threat and are at risk of losing hope. Perhaps one of the lessons today's church can take from a fresh reading of this amazing book is its witness to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the world.

Perhaps another lesson we might discern is the continued existence of dissent and disagreement among people of faith. Paul and his colleagues remain in conversation with those who believe differently or do not believe at all. Differences in communities of faith existed in each community in which Paul traveled, as his letters to Rome, Corinth, and Galatia attest. Yet they remained part of the wider church. They were part of a fellowship grounded in the realm of God, the reign of Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We belong to denominations often at odds about what constitutes essential matters of faith and practice. We live among other Christians who do not believe or do as we do. As citizens of an increasingly global world, we interact with people who follow no god or other gods, or who believe differently in the same God. As we do so, we might acknowledge the existence of disagreement, dissent, and unbelief. Instead of wringing our hands over its existence, perhaps we should give thanks that it provides us ongoing ways to share the good news with all whom we meet, in ways that work for our audiences and in our time.


How many other Christian houses of worship exist in your community? What non-Christian traditions are represented? Have you engaged in intentional interfaith dialogue with others? Why or why not?

What parts of this study of Acts have been most helpful to you? Which remain problematic?

What teachings of Jesus do you most need to hear on a regular basis in order to remain a faithful witness to the good news?


Ever-living, ever-teaching God, we have much to learn in order to be faithful followers of Christ. Open our hearts and heads, and use our hands and feet to show what good news looks like in everyday and extraordinary ways. Use the words of our mouths—spoken and written—to tell others the stories of Paul and Priscilla, of Martha and Mary, of Ruth and Noah, and of your Son, Jesus, and all the disciples and apostles who follow him throughout the ages. Amen.

Compiled from The Present Word and Congregational Ministries Publishing is not liable for for the content of this Bible Study and Blog.

From The Present Word © 2012 Congregational Ministries Publishing. Used by permission.

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