I want you to notice a few last points as we end this study of the Acts of the Apostles.
1. The Gospel Paul preached in the twenty-eighth chapter of Acts is the same Gospel preached by Peter at the beginning. It was not a different Gospel because it was being preached to different people, by a different person or in a different setting. No matter who is preaching or where, it is always the same Gospel. It is the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is our Gospel today.
2. The results of the preaching of that Gospel are the same. Some reject it, and some respond to it. It was that way when Peter preached at Pentecost. It was that way when Paul preached at Rome. It is that way when we teach about Jesus Christ today. Some will listen. God will open their hearts, melt their resistance and draw them to Jesus. Others will resist the Gospel. We are not to think that if we experience rejection or resistance we are any different from those who have preceded us.
We may be frustrated by what we regard as the slow progress of the Gospel. But Jesus is not frustrated. His plans are not sidetracked.
What happened to the Apostle Paul? Historians are divided on that. The general opinion today is that Paul was released after two years. Luke does not write about it, because he was not with Paul at the end and because he wants the book to close on this open, optimistic note. Paul may have traveled to other places. The last books he wrote were the pastoral epistles, 2 Timothy especially, and he seems to refer to things in those books that may not have happened in the historical time frame Luke presents in Acts. Paul may have traveled to the west. He may have gotten to Spain. He seems to have gone to Crete.
The tradition in the church—which Eusebius tells us about, though we do not have any New Testament evidence—is that Paul returned to Rome after the great fire of A.D. 64. There was such an outcry from the people because of this fire that Nero blamed it on the Christians. Eusebius says that Paul came back shortly after that, in a time of hostility toward Christians, was arrested and eventually martyred.
But from God’s perspective and from the perspective of the book of Acts, there is a sense in which it does not really matter. What happens to His servants does matter to God, of course. The Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15). What happens to you matters to Him. But there is a sense also in which what happens to us is incidental to the greater story, which is the expansion of the Gospel. At one period of history there may be a great moving of God’s Spirit, and everything will seem to be going well. At other times, times more like our own, the response to spiritual things will be superficial or people will be hostile. But, in a sense, it does not matter.
What does matter is whether we are faithful in the calling to which God has called us. The Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). That end has not yet come. So you and I still have the task of preaching it.
Will we? Will we be found faithful? That is the final question for us from Acts. The Word is not hindered. We are its messengers. Will we take the Gospel to the ends of the earth beginning with our Jerusalem, as we have been instructed to do? If we will, God will bless it to the praise of the glory of His great grace.