Wednesday, 15 February 2012


Gone are the days when Christianity was a central part of the fabric of society. We now live in a society that is increasingly opposed to Christian values and practices. Christians face legal action for holding to Bible truth. Prayers are banned in public meetings. It may not be long until Christian ministers are being locked up for speaking about Jesus.

If that day comes, will it not be a tragedy? Will it not greatly hinder our efforts to see our neighbourhood and our nation reached with the gospel?

The book of Acts closes with a man in chains. In chapters 27-28 Paul arrives in Rome as a prisoner. We might expect the book to end on a high note with Paul boldly standing before Caesar and being acquitted before all the watching crowds in this magnificent city. But this does not happen. The book closes and Paul is still in chains. It is not quite the triumphant ending we were hoping for…or is it?

Before we’re tempted to despair, let us recognise that these final two chapters of Acts tell us some very important things:

Heaven is in Control
None of the events that have brought Paul to Rome are an accident. Paul has known the plan since 19:21, and Jesus has reminded him of this in 23:11. Behind all these events is the risen and reigning Lord Jesus. This does not change in the midst of the raging sea. In the midst of the storm of chapter 27, God reminds Paul that “you must stand before Caesar.” (27:24). He will arrive in Rome.

 God delivers Paul, and his fellow passengers, from the storm (27:44), and delivers Paul from a deadly snakebite. Both of these are God’s demonstration that Paul is an innocent man. Therefore, the message he proclaims ought to be listened to.

Paul’s chains and his journey to Rome are not tragic, but are in the hands of an all-powerful God who will ensure that his salvation is sent to the nations (28:28).

The Gospel is Unstoppable
The book closes with Paul still in chains. However, this is not a problem for Paul’s gospel witness. No, it is exactly the opposite! Paul’s chains create even more gospel opportunities. He has opportunity to speak to the Jews, and the final image of the book is of Paul preaching the gospel “with all boldness and without hindrance.” (28:31).

Paul’s message has been rejected by the Jews (28:25-28), and he has still not been released. Yet this is not a tragedy. No, it is a triumph. In the face of all this opposition, the gospel continues to go out unhindered.

The book of Acts closes in triumph. The gospel of the risen and reigning Lord Jesus continues to advance unhindered. Is this not a great encouragement to us in our times? Heaven is in control and the gospel is unstoppable. No power can stop the advance of the unhindered gospel. Neither the Roman empire, nor Bideford town council.