Monday, September 10, 2012

In Search Of Truth, Acts 28:16-30 (And Intro To Next Series)

At last Paul arrives in Rome to stand trial. Because there are no real charges against him and he is a non-violent prisoner, he is allowed to have his own living quarters, though he is constantly under the watch of a guard, probably even chained to him, as the text here and the customs of this time both suggest.

Paul was allowed to have visitors, and so called a meeting with the leaders of the local Jewish synagogues. He explained to them that no real charges had been able to be set against him, and that he was ultimately being imprisoned because of the hope given to him by the promised Messiah, as revealed in the Jewish scriptures.

The Jews in Rome would have been aware of the controversy surrounding Jesus, but seemed far enough removed from it and Paul that they were genuinely interested in hearing his case and giving him a fair shot. So they set up a time and brought more of the Jewish community along to hear Paul's entire case for Jesus presented.

For an entire day, Paul reasoned with them from the Jewish scriptures, trying to convince them of the truth about Jesus. The reaction was mixed at best, ending in disagreement and Paul's quotation of Isaiah 6:9-10. Despite being God's chosen people, the message bearers of God to the world, they had a long-standing pattern of stubbornly refusing to see the truth when it was right in front of them.

Paul seemed to be doing everything right here. He was warm and inviting toward these Jewish leaders, even though his experience with Jewish leaders so far had been pretty bad. He called them "brothers" and reasoned with them logically, using scripture to establish his case. But still many of them disagreed with him. A reality we face in our efforts to share the truth with others today.

But God's plan to lovingly rescue humanity would not be thwarted. Although many of the Jews rejected the truth about Jesus, God still moved forward with his agenda, extending his invitation of rescue to non-Jews (Gentiles) as well.

This seems to be a theme in the final chapters of Acts. God's plan simply will not be stopped. God often uses us to carry out his plan, but he doesn't RELY on us to carry out his plan. If we're unwilling to be a part of what he wants us to do, he mourns our decision and leaves the invitation open, but also moves on in his plan without us. If we feel like we're failing, as Paul may have now and then, we can remember that our strength is not required to accomplish God's will, and that his will may look differently than we think it should.

We're told Paul spent two more years in Rome. We're not sure when he had his audience before Caesar or his officials, but the evidence indicates that Paul was eventually released for lack of evidence or legitimate charges against him.

This doesn't mark the end of Paul's story, or the story of the early church, but it is where Luke chose to end his writing about both.

It also marks the end of a long journey of study here at The Spirit Blade Underground. When the podcast first launched about five years ago, we were looking at the Gospel of John. After that, I decided to take us through the book of Acts, stopping for detours into other New Testament books as they fell in the chronology of Acts.

It's been a really rewarding journey for me and I hope it has been for you, too. Next week I'm planning to start a new investigation into the Bible. One I've done before, but it's been a number of years and I want to refresh my study of it. We'll be coming back to the New Testament eventually and picking up chronologically where we're leaving off here, I think. But first I want to go back into the Tanakh, the Old Testament, and see if we can get a little more acquainted with Yahweh himself.

My plan is not exactly to do a book study, but to survey some key passages regarding God's relationship to humans, specifically his chosen people, the Jews. I want to unpack and examine some of the ceremonies and customs, especially related to the sacrificial system, that we see in the Old Testament.

If you're like I was at one time, that might sound incredibly boring and irrelevant to our lives today. But I think your mind might be changed as we discover what the symbolism behind these ceremonies tells us about who God is, who we are, and how much he loves us. Not only that, but I'm convinced this study will intensely enrich our understanding and experience with the New Testament when we come back to it. Stay tuned for that starting next week!

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