Skip to comments.It’s Not About You: A Meditation on the Abrupt End of the Acts of the Apostles
Posted on 05/27/2016 7:19:13 AM PDT by Salvation
Last week as we finished the Easter Cycle and crowned it with Pentecost. We also finished the lengthy reading of the Acts of the Apostles. There are two parts of the Acts of the Apostles: The Acts of Peter and those of Paul. But to be honest, the book has an unfinished quality to it. Lets consider that.
First, a quick summary: The second part of Acts is focused on the evangelical mission of St. Paul as he made four journeys into Asia Minor and then into Greece. The final chapters of Acts deal with Paul’s arrest, imprisonment, and appearance before Roman officials (e.g., Felix and Festus, Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem and Caesarea).
Paul appeals his case to Rome and is sent there on an ill-fated journey that ends in shipwreck at Malta). After finally making it to Rome, Paul is imprisoned and awaits trial. The story seems to be building to a climactic conclusion, but then the story just ends! Here is the concluding line of the Acts of the Apostles:
[Paul] remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:30-31).
And thats it. Acts just ends. But Luke, don’t just leave us hanging! Did Paul ever go on trial? Was he acquitted (as some traditions assert) and then made his way to Spain as he wanted? Or did he lose his appeal and suffer beheading right away? What was the outcome of the trial?
How can we answer this exasperating and unsatisfying end?
The simplest answer is that the Acts of the Apostles is not really about Paul. Its about the going forth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the nations. Luke chose to recount this going forth of the Gospel by focusing first on Peter and then on Paul.
Once Paul reaches Rome (and though under house arrest is able to freely preach the Gospel there) the story reaches its natural conclusion. While others had preached the Gospel in Rome before, Luke chose to illustrate the going forth of the Word of God through Pauls activities, and so once Paul arrives there the goal has been accomplished. From the central hub of Rome, the Gospel would now radiate outward, by the grace of God, to every part of the Roman Empire.
But what about Pauls fate? The answer is that it doesn’t matter. It never was about Paul; it was about the Gospel. Paul himself testified to this when he said, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given methe task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).
We are often focused on personalities, and in so doing lose track of what is most important. Frankly, the person we are most focused on is often our own self. Acts never really was about Paul. And your life is not about you; it is about what the Lord is doing for you and through you. We often want things to revolve around us: around what we think and what we want. But truth be told, we are not all that important. We must decrease and the Lord must increase (Jn 3:30).
Some of these notions hit hard in todays culture that is so focused on bolstering self-esteem. But in the end, our true glory is not our own; it is the glory of God radiating in us. If we decrease, the Lord increases. That does not mean that we are swallowed up and lost in Christ. Rather, it means that we truly become the man or woman God has always made us to be, one who reflects the very glory of God. Perhaps it is best to let Paul himself have the final word:
For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of (Jesus) Christ (2 Cor 4:5-6).
This video is a depiction of the conclusion of the Acts of the Apostles. The scene begins with Paul speaking to Jewish leaders in Rome. (Note that the epilogue, which shows Luke leaving Rome, is not part of the Acts of the Apostles.)
Monsignor Pope Ping!
Good reflections. I suspect another reason it ended in Rome was because it had caught up to Luke’s current events. Since it was a letter to “Theophilus”, Luke ended it with Paul in Rome because that was what was happening as he penned the letter.
Oh, how I wish there had been a Luke to follow Thomas on his missionary journeys to what we today call Iraq, Iran, and India. The “narrative” of early Christianity, that it was primarily a European [in contemporary racist terms, a “White man’s”] religion, would be shattered, as it should be: the gospel was preached in Africa, throughout the Middle East, in India, and via the Silk Road to China, as well as in Europe, within a generation of Pentecost.
I accept that I'm not all that important. Come by the Undead Thread and hear about my life, if you're having trouble sleeping or something.
However, I still want to know, in detail and from an authoritative source, what happened after the end of the book of Acts!
And what makes our ignorance even worse, is that starting in the 7th century, the forces of jihad swept through the area, killing, exiling or subjugating the indigenous people, that is, the Christians and their already-ancient churches, in many cases extirpating every scroll, every carved rock, every relic, every sign of their history.
And the few precious traces that remained, have been smashed by resurgent jihadi forces over the past dozen years. Blown up, bulldozed, buried before our eyes.
1. You are so important because our good Lord created your soul in His image and likeness, IMMORTAL and with FREE WILL. That sounds pretty important to ME. You get to CHOOSE God (or not). WHO would be so foolish as to choose Satan? I shudder in FEAR at the thought!
2. Lol. Having a dull, boring, monotonous life means PEACEFUL. My thrills were left on "Blueberry Hill" after I turned thirty. My life is WONDERFULLY peaceful now and I wouldn't change it for anything.
3. I would like to know it too. Probably, it was a giant denouement: martyrdom. Christianity spread far and wide. St. Thomas went to India and TODAY there are still a plethora of Catholic males in southern India named THOMAS. I worked with a couple in the KSA.
There WILL be a price to pay for worshiping "Baal"; always is.
Excellent points all around. Regarding #3, there are some historical/legendary materials - I used to have a book that summarized them, but I gave it to my mother-in-law. However, that’s not the same as having something on the order of Tacitus’s history.
1. Thank you.
2. I liked my mother-in-law very much. At first she didn't like me because of my heritage and faith. BUT, I grow on folks, like a benign fungus. :o)
3. SO true! We don't seem to have that objectivity anymore. Too many agendas.
I like my mother-in-law, too, even though she’s a Sicilian from New Jersey ;-). I don’t mind that she kept the book.
I don’t know how “objective” Tacitus was, but he gave a good impression of it. His “Germania” is one of my favorite pieces of classic literature. Herodotus, on the other hand, just reported absolutely everything anyone told him and let the reader decide what to believe.
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