Today is our last day looking at the Book of Acts, and on this last day, we finally see Paul reaching Rome. Paul had been on a journey to Rome for some time, and he had just suffered through a shipwreck in order to get there – in chains. Tomorrow, when we start the Book of Romans, we’ll read where Paul told the Roman Christians “I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented)” (Romans 1:13). We will see Paul had longed to go to Rome for many years.
And here, in Acts 28, he finally made it. “And so we came to Rome.”
At the start of the Book of Acts, Jesus told his disciples they would receive the Holy Spirit in power, and they would be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). We saw that playing out in the narrative of Acts.
Things started in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Persecution broke out there, and the gospel moved to Judea and Samaria (see Acts 8 specifically). And then with the apostle Paul’s ministry, the gospel began to move out farther, toward the “end of the earth.”
Rome, at that time, was the capital of western civilization. The Roman Empire was one of the most powerful empires the world had ever seen. And the caesar – the emperor – was viewed by many as a god. And that’s who Paul was going to see – to stand before the most powerful man on earth who thought he was a god in order to tell him about a man from a nowhere town in Judea who actually was God.
Paul had his heart and mind set on going to Rome (Acts 23:11). It reminds me how Jesus, “when the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
Jesus took his good news into the capital city of God’s people, to fulfill the prophecies made to them. Now Paul was taking the good news of Jesus to the end of the earth, to fulfill new prophecies made by Christ (Mark 13:10).
The way of Jesus and the way of his servant Paul were of mission. They were unrelenting in their purpose. Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Their purpose was that many would be saved for eternal life.
Not all of us are evangelists or preachers and teachers (in the formal sense). And not all of us are traveling missionaries, taking the gospel to unreached peoples. But surely there is a way to pursue the mission even as we live in the here and now, in seemingly ordinary lives. We get up. We go to work. We go to the grocery store. We put food on the table. We pay the bills. We work on projects around the house. Sometimes we go out and play.
Can the mission of Christ and of Paul fit into a life like that? We know that it can. It takes some creative thinking. And it takes boldness and persistence and hearts unafraid of failure or rejection. I am thinking about this today.
Let’s all think about this as we begin our study of Paul’s letter to the Romans.