Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Monday, December 12, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Dec 13, Acts 27-28

Today's readings are Acts 27-28. Tomorrow's are Col 1-4 and Phm 1.

As a Roman citizen, Paul has appealed to Caesar regarding his arrest and imprisonment and is being taken by ship to Rome for a hearing. Along the way, the boat encounters a fierce storm resulting in the loss of all its cargo and tackle, leaving it helpless and drifting with all aboard in danger of starving (Acts 27). Paul prophesies that none of them will die. The boat shipwrecks on Malta with no loss of life.

While on the Malta, Paul is miraculously healed of a poisonous snake bite (Acts 28). Paul then begins to pray for the healing of many on the island and God heals them. Upon Paul's departure, still in custody of Roman Centurions, the people of the island honor Paul and care for Him. Apparently, they can see the hand of God moving in and through Paul. One has to wonder if the Centurions do and what testimony they will carry with them once the party arrives in Rome.

Acts ends abruptly. Paul is in Rome, preaching the gospel. Tradition has it that Paul was released and may have ministered in the west. Later, when Nero persecuted the Christians, Paul was arrested again, imprisoned and martyred. Between the end of Acts and Paul's martyrdom, he finished the Pauline Epistles starting with Colossians. 

Acts role in the biblical narrative is not to trace the entire history of the new church, but to portray the foundational teachings and spread of the gospel in those first crucial years of its infancy. The scope of Acts takes us from that first sermon in Jerusalem (Acts 2) to the identifying of the first theological/doctrinal struggles of the growing movement to the establishment of a strong, mutually supportive network of churches that will eventually influence the entire world. Along the way, we see God preserving the church, protecting it and refining it through oppression and suffering. While many read Acts paying particular attention to the miracles, signs and wonders, few see that the overall narrative is one of a fledgling church that is rejected by the world and its members people that are persecuted and imprisoned at nearly every turn.  

While others are mentioned, Paul is prominently featured in Acts. Objectively speaking, Paul, by the time he gets to Rome, is an abject failure. He's been imprisoned, beaten, stoned, rejected accused, maligned and thrown out of nearly every town he visited. Converts have been relatively few in each location and opposition has been great everywhere except Berea (Acts 17). 

Paul, abandoned by most of his followers, will eventually die in prison. Even though there are precious few believers compared to the number of people who hear Paul, the Epistles make it clear that those converts will witness to others and the others to even more. Eventually enduring churches will rise up and grow in nearly all the cities Paul visited. The growth of the churches is clearly not the result of Paul's efforts, but by the presence and power of the Spirit of God changing hearts and transforming lives one person at a time. 

Paul has been willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel. He is content, allowing God to produce results even when none are obvious. Paul does what he is charged to do, speak the truth and leave the rest up to God. God uses Paul's faithfulness to help establish His church on earth and prepare His children for heaven.

In order to be fully appreciated, the Book of Acts has to be taken in its entirety not divided up into small pieces and used to support out-of-context ideas and perceptions. Viewed as a whole, we see God's hand moving sovereignly and providentially to establish, protect, preserve and prosper His church. The overall narrative makes it clear that nothing will destroy the church, that God will actually use all that opposes the church to make it stronger. Acts also shows us that nothing will stop the truth of God's word from going forward. 

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