I pray that you are well and experiencing the abiding peace and love of God today. A lot has changed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. This week brought more news of closures and cancelations. Schools have been canceled for the remainder of the year and some businesses have been ordered to shut their doors. As individuals, we have been advised to cut out all non-essential activity and stay at home in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.
During this season, I am reminded of a different type of spread – the advancement of God’s kingdom. We see this in the book of Acts as we read the story of the early church and the spread of the good news of Jesus. It starts with empowerment from the Holy Spirit as Jesus tells his followers that they will be his witnesses, taking his message to the ends of the earth. Beginning with a relatively small group of disciples in Jerusalem, the gospel is proclaimed and many people come to faith. Even through times of hardship and persecution, “the word of God continued to increase and spread” (Acts 12:24), and over and over again we see the triumph of the kingdom of God.
About halfway through the book, the ministry of Paul comes into focus. He carries the message of Jesus to new cities and new peoples. However, he regularly faces opposition, and eventually, he is arrested and turned over to the Roman government. The Jews object to his release, and Paul is forced to appeal his case to the emperor of Rome. He is bound in chains and transported to the capital of the empire.
It is in Rome that the book of Acts comes to an end. Paul is placed under guard, but allowed to live by himself while he awaits trial. The whole story closes with these two verses:
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 28:30-31)
It seems strange that the story would end here, with Paul in limbo, under house arrest, and no hint about what happens next. Is that really an ending at all? Why are we left hanging?
I think we need to look at this from a different angle. It is important to realize that the book of Acts is not about any particular individual. Rather, the story is about the spread of the gospel. While Paul may play an important role, the primary message of the book is the good news of the kingdom of God. From this perspective, the book is brought to a satisfying conclusion.
What, then, are we to take away from these last few verses? Mainly this: The gospel cannot be contained. Paul may be bound in chains and confined to his house, but the word of God is not. No matter the circumstances, the message of Jesus continues to move forward without hindrance. No obstacle or opposition can prevent the coming of his kingdom.
So, as you find yourself at home during this period of social distancing, remember that you are not alone. The Holy Spirit is with you to comfort you, encourage you, and empower you for the task of being a witness for Jesus. We have an incredible opportunity to proclaim his love and grace. While you may feel confined and restricted, understand that God is at work, and he cannot be hindered. He is advancing his kingdom through the spread of his word. He offers everyone peace, joy, and life in the midst of the darkness. Allow him to show you how you can share this hope with the world.
– Pastor Brandon