Journey’s End

Acts

Journey’s End

August 12th, 1979 @ 7:30 PM

Acts 28:17-31

And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
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JOURNEY’S END

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 28:17-31

8-12-79   7:30 p.m.

 

 

It is a gladness for us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome the uncounted and unnumbered thousands of you who are listening on the two radio stations: on KCBI, the radio station of our Center of Biblical Studies, our Bible Institute; and on KRLD, the great radio broadcasting unit of the Southwest. 

Tonight, we begin a new program in this broadcasting over KRLD.  The service is delayed on radio and will be heard from nine o’clock until ten o’clock each evening – that is a prime time hour, and will give thousands of additional people opportunity to listen to the preaching of the gospel.  And we welcome you whoever, wherever you are, as you open your heart to the listening to the message of Christ expounded out of the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Acts. 

In our preaching through the Book of Acts, this is the last and concluding sermon.  I have been preaching through the Book of Acts for three full years, and this is the last and concluding message.  The first volume of sermons came out last year.  The second volume of sermons on the Book of Acts will be out by the first of October.  And the third and concluding volume, of which this is the last sermon, will be published the year following.  All of the messages are included in those three very, very extensive volumes.  Usually, there will be in a book of sermons maybe fifteen to seventeen chapters.  In these volumes, every book will have from forty-two or three to forty-five chapters.  As the preacher gets older, he gets more garrulous, and longer, and more verbose, and more to say; we pray and pray God for more time in which to say it. 

Now on the radio, as with us here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, turn with me to chapter 28 of the Book of Acts.  And you can easily follow the message.  Just for a reading together, let us begin at verse 27, and read to the end of the chapter.  Acts – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts – the last chapter beginning at verse 27.  Now, all of us reading it out loud together:

 

For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 

Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. 

And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. 

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,  

Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

[Acts 28:27-31]

 

The message tonight is an exposition of the latter part of the chapter, beginning at verse 16.  It will be presented under three headings.  First, concerning Paul: and second, concerning the Jews; and third, concerning the Gentiles.  Do you notice "When we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the (Praetorian) guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him" [Acts 28:16].  And in the passage that you just read, "But Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him" [Acts 28:30]. That’s a little note about the apostle Paul that is intriguing and most interesting. 

Just what kind of a Roman citizen is this man who has made appeal to Caesar himself? [Acts 25:11].  He describes himself as a citizen of no mean city.  He came from Tarsus, the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia [Acts 21:39].  And he describes himself as born free.  He was born a Roman citizen.  He did not buy it, nor was it conferred upon him, but he was born a Roman citizen [Acts 22:27-29].  And the apparent affluence and prosperity of Paul is seen in many little incidental features of his long life of ministry. 

Do you remember when he was a prisoner in Caesarea under Felix the procurator?  The Book of Acts says that Felix called for Paul many times, in order to hear him and to see him.  And then it adds a little aside, "for he hoped to receive money from Paul in order that he might have cause to release him" [Acts 24:26].  Now, had Felix been just an ordinary poor man, I might understand why he was looking for some kind of a bribe.  But the brother of Felix was doubtless the richest man in the Roman Empire.  His name was Pallas and he lived in the city of Rome.  And I am sure that Felix himself, being the brother of one of the richest men of the ancient world, must have been somewhat affluent himself.  Now it is an amazing thing that this man Felix, the procurator, should believe that Paul had something that he wanted.  And of course, the Book of Acts describes it as being money that he hoped Paul would give him in order to effect his release [Acts 24:26].  That is an interesting aside. 

Do you see another thing in the life of the apostle Paul?  He must have been a financial genius, a financial wizard.  It was Paul that engineered that vast collection over the provinces of the eastern part of the Mediterranean for the poor saints in Jerusalem.  Paul did that, and with many other attendants, presented it to James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem [Acts 11:29-30]. 

Do you notice another thing about the apostle Paul?  When he came to Jerusalem, James, the pastor of the church suggested to Paul that he pay for the vows of the four Nazirites who were too poor to pay the offering themselves [Acts 21:18, 23-24].  But Paul was asked to do it for four of them, as though it was a small thing for him to be able to pay for the offering that was attendant to that Nazirite vow. 

Do you notice another thing about the apostle Paul?  He makes appeal to Caesar himself  [Acts 25:11].  That is the same as if today a man made appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.  And no man could do that in want and in poverty.  It took affluence to make an appeal like that in the days of the Caesars as it would take affluence today to make an appeal like that to the Supreme Court of the United States.  And of course, in our text, when Paul comes as a prisoner and is delivered to the Praetorian Guard, he doesn’t go, in this instance, where all of the other prisoners are kept, but he has his own hired house, and has a soldier to whom he is chained [Acts 28:30], and the soldier changed three times every day.  This man, Paul, apparently is a man of great background.  He is a distinguished and gifted citizen of the Roman Empire. 

Now, it is also no less astonishing to me how the story of the ministry of the apostle Paul concludes here in the Book of Acts.  It just doesn’t conclude.  It doesn’t stop.  It doesn’t end.  It just kind of quits, and that’s all.  There are several possibilities in this unusual ending of the Book of Acts. 

One of the great Christian scholars of a past generation was named Sir William Ramsey, and he almost gave his entire life to a study of the ministry of the apostle Paul.  And he felt that the reason that the Book of Acts closes as it does, ends as it does, just abruptly stops as it does, he says that he thinks that Dr. Luke proposed to write three volumes – one, on the life of Christ that we know of as "The Gospel according to Luke"; the second volume, the one that we have on the Book of Acts, "The Acts of the Apostles," the Acts of the Holy Spirit.; and then he said that he thought Luke intended to write a third and concluding volume, which would describe his appeal before the Roman Caesar and of course, tell us how the trial came out.  But Sir William Ramsey says that he thinks the third volume was never penned because of the doubtless martyrdom of the author, Dr. Luke.  Now, that of course, is a possibility.  Something could have overwhelmed Dr. Luke, and he never had opportunity to continue the story in a third volume. 

Another possibility is, and I think this is the truth of God, this is the way I look at it: the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Acts just stops; well, it stops because there is no more to tell.  That’s how it was up to that moment.  Luke has described the missionary journeys and the ministry of the apostle Paul up to that moment, and he stops because that is where the story is at the time that Luke writes. 

Now, I also think that that is a providence of God.  There is no formal conclusion to the Book of Acts, because God doesn’t conclude the Book of Acts.  We have the twenty-eighth chapter here in our Bible, but God intends for there to be a twenty-ninth chapter.  And God intends that there be a thirtieth chapter, and God intends that there to be a thousandth chapter, and God intends there to be chapters and chapters in the Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit until Jesus comes again.  So, the twenty-eighth chapter is where Luke stood when he wrote it down.  And maybe we stand today at the three hundred thirty-nine thousandth chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit.  And if Jesus delays His coming, maybe our children’s children will stand at the six thousandth chapter of the Book of Acts.  It doesn’t conclude.  It doesn’t stop.  It doesn’t end, but it goes on and on and on until Jesus, the great Lord of glory shall come in power. 

Now, in the closing words of the Book of Acts, I want you to notice an unconscious compliment that Dr. Luke pays to us who are reading the story of the great world-wide missionary ministry of the apostle Paul.  He sums up two years of intensest ministry of the apostle Paul in those two last verses.  Well, I wonder, why that?  That, I think, is a compliment as well as a condensation on the part of the author concerning us.  Having described the missionary journeys and the preaching of the apostle Paul for those years past, when he comes to Rome, Luke says in effect, that we saw, know now the intensest life and ministry and activity of the apostle Paul, that he doesn’t need to detail it any more.  We are acquainted with it.  We know exactly what Paul is doing.

Now, what is that?  What is it that Paul is doing in the city of Rome that Dr. Luke could condense it, two intense years in just two little verses?  Well, somebody might say, "I know exactly what Paul is doing those two years.  As he is waiting trial before the Roman Caesar, he is working on his case.  He’s bringing in the most brilliant lawyers in the Roman Empire, and he is detailing every little presentation, and having gone through the whole defense, then he sentence by sentence and piece by piece, he is re-working every section and he is preparing, so that when the door to that court is opened by the Roman Caesar, he will be prepared to present the most brilliant defense that the Roman court ever heard.  That is what Paul is going to do, and is doing, in those two years."  Is that so?  No.  No, it says here that for two whole years Paul dwelt in that hired house, chained to a Roman soldier, "preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching all those things that concerned the Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 28:30-31].  Now that’s what a man ought to be doing, no matter what his location, no matter what his assignment in life. 

When Paul was waiting for Timothy and Silas in the university city of Athens, while he was waiting, he was preaching the Lord Jesus down in the agora, up there on the Areopagus before the supreme court [Acts 17:15-33].  He is doing the same thing wherever he goes.  And he is doing the same thing in Rome.  While he is waiting for the day of his trial before Nero, he is preaching the kingdom of God and teaching those things that concern the Lord Jesus Christ.  And that’s what we ought to be doing.  Some of us are lawyers, and we do that for a living; some doctors, and we do that for a living; some teachers, and we do that for a living; and some merchandisers, and we do that for a living.  We do those things to pay expenses.  But our great assignment and calling and commitment is to witness to the blessed grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

All right, the second group here: the Jews.  First, Paul calls the chief of the Jews together [Acts 28:17].  Now when you read Roman history, they say to us that there were seven synagogues of the Jews in Rome at that time.  So, after three days, when he had been delivered to the Praetorian Guard, Paul called the chief of the Jews together.  Now, that means that the rulers and the rabbis and the chief men of those seven synagogues were brought together and he speaks to them in verses 17 through 20 [Acts 28:17-20].  Now, in verse 23, he gathers together all of the Jews in the city of Rome, and he expounds to them and testifies to them the things concerning the kingdom of God [Acts 28:23]. 

Now, he has two different messages for those two different Jewish groups.  First of all, to the chief of the Jews; to the rabbis and the rulers of the synagogue, he says to them that he is a prisoner, brought to Rome because of an appeal to Caesar to save his life [Acts 28:19].  That a conspiracy had been planned against him, and because of the death that awaited him by murderers who lay in wait [Acts 23:12-21], that for the sake of sparing his life, he had no other recourse but to appeal to Caesar [Acts 25:11, 28:19].  So he explains that to the rulers and the rabbis of the synagogues.  He says to them, I have nothing against my nation or against my people: "nor have I committed anything to deny the customs of our fathers, but I was delivered as a prisoner to the Romans. . . . because of the conspiracy against me to take away my life" [Acts 28:17-19].  Now that is his explanation of why he is there in Rome to be tried before the Roman Caesar. 

Now, when all of the Jewish people come together, he explains to them and "he expounds to them and he testifies unto them the things concerning the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the Law of Moses, and out of the Prophets, from morning till evening" [Acts 28:23]. 

That to us is the very heart and summation and essence of this Book, the Bible,  the Book I hold in my hands.  All of the prophets give witness to Him.  The whole purpose of the Old Covenant was to prepare for Him.  And he is a Jew who has found hope and blessing and salvation in Jesus the Messiah Christ.  "For he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly . . . but he is a Jew, who is one inwardly; and circumcision is not that of the flesh" [Romans 2:28].  But the true circumcision is that of the heart whose praise is of God, and not of men [Romans 2:29].  

The completed Jew, the Christian Jew, the Jew who has found hope and forgiveness and salvation in Christ, is the purpose of the whole testimony of the Old Covenant.  And the Jew who has found Jesus is the Jew who is found the perfect truth of the witness and purpose of God in the great plan of redemption in this earth.  That’s what Paul is preaching.  And that’s what Paul is testifying [Acts 28:23].  The Christian faith is not a modern innovation, stuck on, attached to Judaism, but the Christian faith is the fruit and the flower of Judaism.  This is a great purpose for which Moses delivered the law.  This is the great consummation of the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.  The whole God-given choice of Judaism was that it might prepare for the coming of the Lord who is the Savior of the world.  And that is the testimony and witness of the apostle Paul.  The Jew is full and finished and complete, arriving at the whole purpose of God for him when he receives the Messiah Christ as his personal Savior. 

Now, the next verse says, as Paul expounded and testified these things concerning Christ out of Moses, out of the Law, and out of the Prophets, it says that "some of the Jews believed these things that were spoken, and some believed not" [Acts 28:24].  That has been a characterization of the reception of the gospel message by the Jewish people through all of the centuries since.  They listen to the gospel of Christ, and some of them are convicted.  Their hearts are opened, and they receive all the promises of God in Christ Jesus.  And then some of them bitterly resent it and reject it.  That is an amazing response of the human heart! 

The same fire that will melt wax will harden clay.  The same sunlight that will bring light to an eye that is well and strong will bring hurt and agony to a diseased eye.  The same word that is the savor of life unto life to those that believe, is the savor of death unto death unto those who reject [2 Corinthians 2:16].  The same Lord Christ is set for the rising and falling of many in Israel [Luke 2:34].  To those who believe, He is a foundation upon which to build life and hope.  And to those who reject, He is a stumbling block of offense [2 Peter 2:6-8].  So, as he testifies, as the apostle testifies and expounds out of the Law of Moses and out of the Prophets concerning Jesus, some believe and are wonderfully saved, added to the kingdom, and others reject for themselves [Acts 28:23-24]. 

Now, look at this rejection.  Paul does the same thing, in speaking to the rejecting Jews, as the Lord Jesus did.  He quotes to them out of Isaiah, chapter 6, verses 9 and 10 [Isaiah 6:9, 10], when they refused, when they agreed not and they departed [Acts 28:25], Paul spoke his final and concluding word: 

 

Well spake the Holy Spirit by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers,   

Saying, Go unto this people, Hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and not perceive;  

For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 

Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it.

 [Acts 28:25-28]

 

That is the death nail of the Jewish nation.  This is one of the most tragic of all the moments in human history.  This is the saddest of all of the sad chapters in the life of that strange and mysterious people called the Hebrew, the Jew.  He has rejected for himself, he has removed himself away from, the great promise of God in a coming Redeemer.  It is sad beyond any way to describe it. 

Just a matter of months after this word of the apostle Paul to the Jewish people in Rome [Acts 28:23-29], in a matter of months, that awesome insurrection began in Judea and in Galilee.  And in a few years thereafter, in 70 AD, the nation was destroyed.  The Lord, using that same Scripture, said unto the people, the Jewish people in Jerusalem:

 

How oft would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, but you would not! 

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. . . .You shall see Me no more, until you shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.

[Luke 13:34-35] 

 

And from that hour until this, the Jewish people as a people, and the Jewish nation as a nation, has been involved in a story of illimitable blood and tears and death and heartache. 

And don’t persuade yourself that there will be peace in Jerusalem today.  There will be no peace until the people of God shall say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" [Luke 13:35].  Jerusalem shall be bathed in tears, and its people drowned in blood, and their enemies oppressing them on every side, until they shall look up and see Him whom they have pierced and shall say, "From whence come these wounds in Your hands and in Your side and in Your feet?"  [Zechariah 13:6].  "And in that day, there shall be a great fountain of cleansing in Jerusalem" [Zechariah 13:1].  And the house of David and the people dear to the heart of God shall say, "We bow in repentance and kneel in prayerful intercession for forgiveness that we have rejected our own Son and our own Savior."  These words carry with them infinite and indescribable tears and sorrow that continue for a thousand nine hundred years.  That continue today and will continue until that great consummation of the age, when the Jewish people shall receive their own Son and Messiah as their Lord and their King [Romans 11:25-26]. 

I must hasten in this brief and final and passing moment.  Third, the Gentiles: "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it" [Acts 28:28].  Here again is an astonishing and unbelievable prophecy.  The Gentiles will hear it.  The Gentiles will accept it.  They will turn and be saved. 

Tell me, just look at this honestly.  In that day when that word was said, somewhere in the 60s AD, any imperious Roman would have looked upon that despised Jew as being a prisoner of an insurrectionist people and a volatile and war-like and disobedient nation.  Any of them would have looked upon that Jew like that and would have looked upon him with scorn and disdain.  Tell me, had you asked in that day, "Who is the greatest Roman?"  Some would have stood up and said Nero, the Roman Caesar; some would have stood up and said Pliny the Elder, or Seneca the great teacher, or Vespasian, or Titus, or his brother Domitian.  Isn’t that right?  Would anybody have stood up in that day and had said the greatest citizen in the Roman Empire is that despised outcast, chained prisoner named Paul?  Would they? 

My brother, had you suggested in the Forum or in the Hippodrome or in the amphitheater that the greatest man in the Roman Empire at that time was that despised Jew, they would have scorned you and ridiculed you and laughed out loud!  The amazing, elective purposes of God; why, we name our dogs Nero!  We name our children Paul!  What a difference God makes. What a difference! We’ll take our gospel to the Gentiles, to the ethnic nations of the world, and they’ll hear it [Acts 26:28].  And around this earth by the millions and the millions, there are those who bow in the presence of the blessed Jesus, who worship in His name, who come to the Father by His grace and mercy, by His sacrifice and by His atoning blood, who are gathered tonight in this very hour; calling on the name of the Lord, the blessed Savior, Christ Jesus. 

It is a marvelous and wondrous thing that God has done.  In those far-away days, missionaries preached the gospel to our ancestors, some of them finally coming to the British Isles; some of them crossing the Atlantic to America; and some of them pressing across the wilderness and the prairies, out to that little town on the Texas line in the far western corner of the Panhandle, and I listened to the message as a boy and was saved.  It’s a wonder.  It’s a marvel.  It’s a glory what God has done, mediating His grace and goodness even unto us.  We who are Gentiles, never taught in the law of the Lord, but strangers from the covenant, now included and loved and welcomed into the family of God, Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and female, all of us as one in the household of the redeemed family of God. 

May we stand together?  Our Lord, such truth is too wonderful for us.  Our hearts can hardly contain it.  Our minds can hardly enter into it.  So infinite, and beyond finding out, are the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus.  Lord, if the taking away of that olive branch meant that we could be engrafted, what a glorious coming day when the natural branch shall be placed back in to the olive tree, and we who are engrafted and they who are of the nature of the tree itself shall be one in the faith, in the kingdom and in Christ Jesus, and a little of that heavenly fellowship we experience in this dear church [Romans 11:17-24].  These who belong to the chosen family and people of God, here they are, seated by us whose ancestors were pagans and heathen.  And in Jesus, we’ve all found our living Lord, praying, happy, rejoicing, praising God together.  And our Lord, in this moment of appeal, may God add to His people and may God add to His church. 

And while we wait before our wonderful Lord, in prayer, in expectancy, if God has spoken to your heart, tonight down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, tonight I give my heart to the blessed Jesus.  I’m accepting Him as my Savior."  Or, "I am coming into the fellowship of this dear church."  A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, make that decision now.  And in a moment when we sing, there will be godly men welcome you, pray with you, down here at the front.  Just come.  Be with the Lord and with us, and when He comes, we’ll be together, happy in Jesus, happy in one another.  Do it now while we wait, while we pray, while we sing.

 

 

 

JOURNEY’S END

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 28:16-31

8-12-79

 

I.          Paul

A.  What kind of Roman citizen is he?

      1.  Born a Roman citizen

2.  Felix treated Paul with marked consideration(Acts 24:26)

3.  Financial genius

4.  Makes appeal to Caesar himself – not the act of a poor man

5.  He has his own hired house(Acts 28:16, 30)

B.  The end of his ministry is abrupt

      1.  No formal conclusion – God intends for the chapters to continue

C.  Author pays us a compliment in the closing words of Acts

      1.  Describes Paul’s intense ministry in Rome in two brief verses

a. Preaching the kingdom, teaching the things of Jesus(Acts 28:31)

b. We ought to be doing the same

 

II.         The Jews

A.  Paul gathers the chief of the Jews together(Acts 28:17-20, 23)

      1.  To the chief of the Jews he explains why he is in Rome to be tried

2.  To all the Jews he expounds and testifies concerning the kingdom(Acts 28:20, Romans 2:28-29)

B.  Some believed, some rejected(Acts 28:24)

C.  Paul’s solemn farewell(Acts 28:25-28, Luke 13:34-35)

1.  Infinite sorrow and tears will continue until the great consummation (Zechariah 13:1, 6)

 

III.        The Gentiles

A.  The Gentiles will turn and be saved (Acts 28:28)

B.  The working out of the purpose of God