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WITHOUT HINDRANCE!


 
 

BIBLE READING

 
 

ACTS 28

 

Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.


7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.


11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.


17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”


21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”


23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:


26 “‘Go to this people and say,

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;

they hardly hear with their ears,

and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts

and turn, and I would heal them.’


28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”


30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

 

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book that had a completely unsatisfactory ending? One of my fondest memories is of watching movies with my Grandmother and if it had an unsatisfactory ending, she would say “that didn’t end right.” My Grandmother did not like stories like that, and couldn’t stand watching a movie or reading a book that ended without a satisfying resolution. At this point in our Acts journey, we have been anticipating Paul’s encounter with Caesar. After three months on the island of Malta, Paul arrived in Rome. He was still in custody but he was allowed to stay on his own, under house arrest with a guard watching over him, rather than in the confines of a prison cell.


We saw way back at the start of our devotional series that the book of Acts is just the beginning of the story of God at work in the world through the community of Jesus, the body of Christ. We might say that it is just the first chapter. Acts 28 brings us to the last page of the story of beginnings. The thought that really grips me is that the rest of the story is being written, in our story as God’s people, as a congregation of the disciples of Jesus. As history unfolds, so does the rest of the ACTS story. Fresh, new and amazing chapters are now being written in our own day. What a huge privilege and joy to be a part of this divine story!


What impresses me and gets my attention about this last section of the Book of Acts is the two last words. Do you notice how the book of Acts ends? Here is the last sentence, Paul “proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! WITHOUT HINDRANCE. That portrays the freedom and liberty of the gospel. Paul was hindered; still chained day and night under the watchful eye of a Roman guard. But he could welcome friends in. He could walk around his house and yard, and he could minister and teach there. Paul was never angry or frustrated or exasperated under this restriction. Think of His letters from this period, Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, are filled with joy and rejoicing. He never seemed worried about his situation, but he welcomed all who came and he sent letters back with them. What tremendous truths are contained in these writings. That will be the subject for future devotionals, I suppose.


We can be grateful that God kept him still long enough to write these letters; otherwise what great teaching and messages we might have been deprived of. Still, Paul had to appear before Caesar. In the next year or so following the ending of ACTS, a severe persecution broke out under the Emperor Nero, this persecution is considered one of the horrific that Christians have ever experienced. I want us all to notice this important declaration. Even in such a persecution “the Word was not hindered.” I don’t know about you, but with all that has been happening in our world, our culture, our church, I have needed to be reminded, in my moments of discouragement, that no matter what the condition of the church, or the world, or cultural pressures, even suspension of worship practices the result of a pandemic, even in the midst of a great season of change, THE WORD OF GOD IS NEVER BOUND.


Tradition and other Scripture suggest to us that, at the end of a two year period, Paul was released. Nevertheless, eventually he was arrested again. This time, instead of being allowed to live in a hired home, he was thrown into a dark and slimy dungeon. There he wrote his second letter to Timothy, which reflects the conditions of that confinement — cold and dank, lonely and isolated. Finally, according to tradition, he was led out one day in the early spring and taken outside the walls of Rome. There he knelt down and the beloved Apostle Paul was executed, decapitated, and the Apostle went home to be with the Lord.


If we will be obedient to what is set before us in such clear language here in the book of Acts, God will supply all the power and vitality we need. The sweeping changes made possible by the life of Christ in his community of followers can occur among us today, just as they occurred in that first century. The power available to us is exactly the same. The conditions of the world in which we live are exactly the same. The life of Jesus through the community of disciples is to go on in this present time exactly as it was lived in the first century. May God grant that we will be women and men and children of faith, with enthusiasm and vision, willing to move with the creative, innovative Holy Spirit in our own time, so that we might share in the victory of the gospel, as we have seen detailed here in ACTS.


 

Father, thank you for the challenge of this book, for what it has already meant to me, and for what it can mean to me in the days and years ahead. Thank you for the challenge of the apostle's life. How I am stirred today to be faithful to the same great cause for which he gave his life!

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