The Hope of Israel

As we near the end of our journey through Acts, we are seeing the plan that Jesus outlined in Acts 1:8 being perfectly fulfilled. Within a generation after Jesus’ ascension and sending of the Spirit, the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord has spread from Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria to the end of the earth through the bold preaching of Christ’s apostles. In chapter 28, Paul’s story and the narrative of the whole book of Acts come together as the gospel reaches Rome.

Of course, Paul does not introduce Christianity to Rome. There were Christians in Rome very soon after the death of Christ, and in verse 15, as Paul and the others traveled along the Appian Way, they were met several times by Roman Christians who had received word of Paul’s imminent arrival. And when he meets these saints, Paul thanks God and takes courage for his unique mission. What needs to happen in Rome is not the initial planting of a church or the first preaching of the gospel, but something else: Paul is going to give an official apostolic presentation of the gospel to the Jewish leaders in Rome, and he is going to formally present the case for Christ to the Roman emperor. The Jews in Rome and the Roman Empire itself will be given the chance to kiss the Son before they are broken by His iron rod.

And in light of this weighty, world-transforming task, Paul is encouraged and strengthened to see brothers in Christ. He is about to stand alone before Caesar, but the appearance of these other faithful Christians assures him that he is not alone. This gift of encouragement and companionship is one of the most important gifts that Christians can give one another, and it’s as simple as showing up and meeting another Christian on the road. And so as a point of application, think of one way this week that you can communicate to a Christian brother or sister that they are not alone, in order to bring them great joy and encouragement.

Verse 15 finishes up the journey, and in verse 16, Paul has finally made it to Rome, just like God had promised so many times. Paul’s journey to Rome almost ended badly on numerous occasions, but God preserved him through legal trouble, through becoming a political football, from assassination, from natural disasters like shipwreck or snakebite, from slander, and so on. This is the encouragement you should take from Paul’s journey to Rome: there is nothing on earth that can prevent God from keeping His promises. This is a big part of why Paul’s story is written down for us: so that we can see God at work on behalf of His saints, and so that we can have strong confidence and full assurance that what God starts, He finishes.

After three days in Rome, not in prison but under guard, Paul calls together the local Jewish leaders to introduce himself, and seek out an opportunity to present the gospel to his kinsmen in Rome. Before he, a Jew, went on trial before Caesar, he wanted to let them know that he was not there as a great embarrassment to the Jews, but because of the hope of Israel. Paul has not come to Rome as their opponent; he is their representative, as long as they share Israel’s Messianic hopes. He might have used his audience with Caesar to try to settle scores with the Jews who had so mistreated him, but instead, his goal was to speak to his own people first and win them over with the good news that their Messiah had already come in the person of Jesus Christ, who had overthrown sin and death through His own death and resurrection.

Hear these three things from Acts 28:11-22: first, encourage your brothers and sisters. Meet them on the road, and lift their spirits. Second, strengthen your faith in God’s promises as you see them fulfilled in Paul’s life as he arrives in Rome. God will fulfill His promises to you, as well. And third, even if your faith is spoken against everywhere, be bold to proclaim Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the hope of Israel, and the hope of all the ends of the earth.

Posted on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 by CJ Bowen