Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The "End" of Acts

As I finish the first draft of a commentary on Acts (forthcoming summer of 2011), a new school year looms at Ozark Christian College where I’ve had the privilege of teaching for 20 years now. These two have come together in the following introduction to Acts 28:11–31. It pertains to John 3:30 in that the Gospel is not propelled primarily by the great names of church history such as Paul and Peter but much more by the millions of nameless believers who simply live the life of Jesus and speak of his goodness to those they hold dear.

“If Acts were a symphony, this is where the tympani drums would thunder, the strings would crescendo, and the brass would blast the signal of a rousing ovation. Stand to your feet for this is the finale, a long one, but the finale nonetheless. This is not merely Paul’s arrival in Rome, it is the symbolic fulfillment of Acts 1:8. The gospel had penetrated the epicenter of the Empire’s power. As promised, Paul would stand before Nero and present to the Lord of Rome, the galactic King of Kings. Interestingly, the dramatic encounter of Paul with Nero is not even narrated. Historically, that may be because Luke went to press before Paul was released. Literarily, the ambiguity of a “baulked” non-ending fortuitously forces the reader to complete the story him or herself. Such conjecture draws the reader into participating in writing the end of the story. One’s own imagination inflates the flat narrative into a 3D experience. Missiologically, the abortive ending of Acts, along with the perpetual comparison of Peter and Paul in the shadow of Jesus in the Gospel, sucks the reader into the narrative. One intuitively asks, “How does the story then end?” The answer comes as easily as the question when the Spirit replies, “You tell me!” We have the divine privilege of making history with the God who transcends human affairs. Rome, as the symbolic end of the world, is still experiencing the arrival of the Gospel. We, like Paul, still dripping from our own shipwreck, march relentless toward the imposing city armed with the power of the Word and the promise of God that we will stand fearless before rulers because this gospel message is not our own. We are but the conduit of the Holy Spirit."


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