Acts 28:30 – Boldly and Without Hindrance (Part 2)

The books of Luke – Acts end with the phrase, “boldly and without hindrance. Since Paul is in prison when the book ends, it is quite remarkable that Luke could describe Paul’s activity not being hindered. But the statement is not about Paul but the rather the Gospel. How is it that Paul’s preaching can be described in this way?

First, Paul’s preaching in Acts and throughout all his letters is based on Jesus as Messiah and his work on the cross. That the person and work of Jesus is the basis of the gospel is clear from the preaching of the apostles in Acts. Beginning with the preaching of the Apostles in Acts 2:22-24, the central theme is Jesus Christ, that he was crucified and rose from the dead. On Acts 13:26-31 Paul emphasizes the death and resurrection of Jesus. Notice that in both Peter and Paul’s sermon the fact that Jesus was crucified is clear, but also that God raised him from the dead and exalted him to his right hand, proving that he was in fact God’s son, the messiah. In fact, in 16:31, Paul says that the only want to be saved is to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is tempting to downplay the centrality of Jesus to our faith since he is still as controversial today as in the first century. People seem to like the idea of spirituality and religion, but they are not attracted to Jesus – the scandal of the cross is very real in contemporary culture. “Spiritual but not religious” is a movement which rejects religions, advocating love and respect without being dogmatic on who Jesus is or whether there is a God or not. It is also possible to place such a strong emphasis on building relationships and social activities that there is no confrontation with Jesus. Our churches need relationships and social activities, but we need to confront people with the truth of the Gospel, the Gospel demands a response!

Paul’s preaching centered on Jesus and what he did on the cross, and what this atonement for sin means for people in the present age. Paul brought his sermons to a decision. As the jailer in Acts 16:31 asks, “what must you do to be saved?”

Second, Paul taught freely and with boldness because his gospel was based on Scripture. If we go back in Acts and read Paul’s sermons, we find that they are based on the fulfillment of scripture. The same is true for the letters, Paul constantly quotes scripture and alludes to the Hebrew Bible as the revealed word of God.

Using Paul’s sermon in Acts 13 as an example, he blends several verses from the Hebrew Bible in order to show that Jesus is the messiah. In fact, ever apostolic sermon in Acts is laced with references to the Hebrew Bible, whether that is Peter in Acts 2 and 3 or Stephen in Acts 7. The only exception are the two sermons of Paul in pagan contexts, but even there he alludes to the story of the Bible without directly quoting it. This implies that Paul knew his Bible well and was able to apply that scripture to new events. In this case, to show that Jesus is the messiah and that his death on the cross means salvation for both Jews and Gentiles.

Here is another potential problem for modern Christians. We lack confidence in the Bible for several reasons:

  • Biblical Ignorance – Biblical illiteracy is a problem in the church, it is an epidemic in the world. Most church kids are taught the Old Testament by vegetables, most twenty-somethings only know the few Bible stories that were on the Simpsons. This is a problem which must be overcome, but not by downplaying the text of the Bible.
  • Biblical Embarrassment – some of the stories from the Hebrew Bible are difficult to read in a modern context. When I teach freshmen Bible survey classes, frequently I hear from students, “I had no idea that was in the Bible!) There are stories in the Hebrew Bible that are attacked by secularists as violent, misogynist, or portraying God as a sociopath.
  • Biblical Replacement – it is sometimes easy to get people to a spiritual idea without using the Bible. (Using movie clips at camp, teaching the gospel through a secular song or literature, the Gospel according to Lord of the Rings, for example). This is a legitimate way to generate interest, but if the Bible is not the foundation of the sermon, it does not matter how crafty your illustration is.

As shocking as it seems, there are churches in America that do not peach from the Bible. Their people do not bring Bibles to church because they do not own Bibles and there is little need for them in the sermon.

Third, Paul taught freely and with boldness because his preaching of the gospel was the fulfillment of God’s plan. We are looking at the last line of the book of Acts and seeing how Luke wanted to end the story. But the idea that God is fulfilling the great story of redemption in the work of Jesus is a major theme of his two books.

Luke 1:1 states that his purpose for writing was so that Theophilus might have an accurate record of the “things which have been fulfilled among us.” Luke 24:44-49 concludes the book of Luke with the same idea, Jesus himself states that everything that happened fulfilled scripture. Acts is the story of how that fulfillment works it’s way from Jerusalem to the rest of the world, and ultimately to Rome itself.

If I absolutely knew how a sporting event was going to come out, I would be able to wager with confidence. I might even have a boldness to “bet it all” on the outcome of the game. What Luke is telling us in the last few verses of Acts is that we can have confidence in the outcome because God has already planned the key events of salvation history and he has already won the victory in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Standing on the foundation of the scripture, we can have confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ and share our faith “with boldness” and “without hindrance.”

Why is it, then, that we pretend we are hindered in our presentation of the Gospel?

10 thoughts on “Acts 28:30 – Boldly and Without Hindrance (Part 2)

  1. I agree with what you say about it being a statement about the gospel, not necessarily Paul. The events at the end of Acts are a proof of this, even despite all of the things that happen to Paul. He is shipwrecked, bitten by snake, and put in prison. Yet the Gospel moves forward without hindrance. In fact, the obstacles that Paul faces actually seem to advance the Gospel. I also think that Biblical illiteracy is a big problem in the church today. Paul’s preaching always involved a knowledge of Scripture. Even in chapter 28, Paul uses Scripture with the people. “From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets” (28:24). He used what he knew from the Old Testament to explain the Gospel. In present day, we ought to be using Scripture even more as we have the Old Testament and the New Testament to be able to explain the Gospel. We have the full canon of Scripture that we can study and use. We should be encouraged all the more present the Gospel. I think that we should also be able to use the redemption story to draw people’s attention. Our society today loves movies and stories, so we have the opportunity to use the redemption story from the Old Testament to the New to explain the Gospel as a grand story that would captivate them. The redemption story is not cut and dry, it is full of plot twists, climaxes, and incredible emotion. Our challenge is to remember that and present it to the people around us.

  2. We pretend because of fear. We, as Christians, are deathly afraid of what the world thinks of us or what they will do to us. This is especially true of America. American Christians have grown accustomed to the comfortable, hassle-free, day-by-day life. We don’t have many problems past the usual bills and car problems. We don’t need to risk anything. We have accepted the world as something to fear and be desired. It may be strong to say that we desire the world, but it is true. Why else would we be afraid of what they thought of us? We want their approval. We want their acceptance. We don’t want to be thought of as strange, crazy, or mentally ill. However, the Gospel demands this kind of action. Paul’s boldness was definitely supernatural, as no man can have a boldness like that without the Holy Spirit. He was most likely seen as crazy or strange. Did he care that people thought of him as such? No. He stepped out in boldness and spoke the Gospel like so many of us today are afraid to do.

    We have become complacent and comfortable in this “American Dream.” God is calling us to a higher way of living. He is calling us to be bold like Paul and be willing to be called crazy for Him. He is calling us to spread His Gospel like wildfire throughout the world. There are few people in America who would are willing to be this bold. We hide behind the expectations of the world. We cower in fear at the possibility of humiliation. Christians need to step out of their dark corners and become the light of the world as God has called them to be.

  3. I think that, as you pointed out, our hindrance comes from fear and ignorance. We are afraid of saying things that are wrong. Even more than that, we are afraid to offend people, to make anyone uncomfortable. Paul’s preaching never shied away from making people uncomfortable, even to the point of stirring up riots. It’s ridiculous that we are so afraid to preach the Gospel, because we have the two truths that made Paul so confident. Our society is so about individualism that the Gospel message is only important when it can be used for personal benefit. The only time we are willing to speak boldly is in an argument where the Gospel can be used to win. The only time we speak without hindrance is when we are sure that it won’t make anyone mad. It saddens me that, in order to “connect”, with people we forget the depth of what God is, and the ugliness of faith. How can faith be effective without suffering? Eugene peterson says that the Gospel “can only be sounded in a world in which Job’s doubt and pain are affirmed, a world in which David’s disintegrating family and harassed weeping are acknowledged—a world of shipwreck and rejection, famine and plague, a world in which Jesus Christ hangs on a cross feeling in every nerve-end the physical and spiritual disorder of a world that says no to God. Anything wrenched from its context in God’s creation and God’s salvation is without substance” (Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work pg164). The Gospel is not a complete gospel if it does not have the harsh side, the dark side, the sad side, the ugly side. All of this ugliness and pain, is what truly shows us the beauty of God, and the beauty of resurrection through Jesus. So, when we speak without hindrance, and remember all of these things in our Gospel, that is when we speak in a way that truly glorifies God’s beauty on Earth.

  4. Personally I think that we have strayed from the original plan and commission that God has given us. we are called to GO MAKE DISCIPLES who make disciples who SHOULD make disciples. this is Evangelism with follow-up and committed teaching. The Christians in early churches were being taught scripture and life lessons from Paul and Peter and other apostles but today’s churches, like P.Long’s post states, some do not teach from the bible and I am certain that of the teenagers who go to church, 80% do not have their own bible. Many times we hear about conversions and people coming to a knowledge of Christ but the follow-up is not there. someone can not learn to be a follower or disciple of Christ without a teacher or mentor and then be expected to make more disciples. This is the reason people are ill-equipped to minister or spread the gospel. God can use anybody who is ready and willing and he wants us to prepare each other and build each other up to the confidence without fear of spreading the gospel.I think that in “saving” someone we aren’t making disciples of them but making them “christian”. we are supposed to continually be trained as a disciple and always growing and also to disciple others and continue to grow them.
    Fear is the main reason i hear from people about why they do not share. boldness comes from the confidence given by God and sometimes people do not feel confident enough in themselves but i like how P.Long addressed that in his post and said that we have confidence from the bible. The bible is accurate and we need to remember that and stand firm on that in order to “Be bold and without Hindrance.”

  5. The books of Luke – Acts end with the phrase, “boldly and without hindrance. Since Paul is in prison when the book ends, it is quite remarkable that Luke could describe Paul’s activity not being hindered. But the statement is not about Paul but the rather the Gospel. How is it that Paul’s preaching can be described in this way? Why is it, then, that we pretend we are hindered in our presentation of the Gospel?
    I think the main reason that I am hindered in spreading the gospel is that the spreading of the gospel takes the focus off me. Whatever I am doing, whether it be selling life insurance (which is one of the things I do), hanging out with friends, playing basketball, doing homework or doing blog posts, if I start spreading the word of the gospel I can no longer think about me and my goals. I have to sacrifice whatever I am doing to bring the focus of the conversation or event onto Jesus and what he does. As bad as that sounds, it is true. I am a motivated individual with goals and ambition. If I take a break to tell people about Jesus and what he does for me in my life, I can no longer focus on bettering myself.
    I am being extra harsh on myself in order to get to the bottom of this issue but this line of thinking runs parallel with the first statement in P-Longs Blog post describing Paul as preaching “with boldness and without Hindrance” found in Acts 28:30. Paul did this even though he was locked in prison and his fate was yet to be decided.
    “First, Paul’s preaching in Acts and throughout all his letters is based on Jesus as Messiah and his work on the cross” (Long). Paul’s entire mission work, letters, and preaching did only one thing; place the importance solely on Jesus Christ as the reason he is redeemed and able to be right in God’s eyes. Paul could preach without hindrance because he did not encounter the same struggles I do regarding bringing every conversation and every event to the gospel. Paul lived out his Christian Life without any masks, what you saw is what you got. He walked the walk and talked the talk. He wasn’t fake. He was one hundred percent genuine. I can’t say it any differently, Paul never had a problem taking all the attention off him, and putting it right on Jesus for the reason he as living the life he was living.
    I would also like to touch on the Biblical replacement portion found in the post. This greatly convicted me because I have not been diligent enough in my bible lessons to my Sunday school. I look for a handful of verses that line up with my personal opinion that I am trying to convey and use them with a small thought on context. I use my opinions and my words rather than the scripture that God gave us to give to the world.
    This post is even more important in light of today’s events at the Boston Marathon. No one is really sure what has happened, but it seems that an individual or group deliberately tried to hurt innocent runners for no good reason at all. Christians can no longer pretend that what we have to say needs to be watered down or offered with an apology. The world needs to hear the gospel and experience the love of Jesus Christ as he is described in the Bible! One hundred percent un hindered and with reckless abandon. Jesus threw himself on the cross and paid for our sins. We can tell the world that what they have done doesn’t matter. It literally does not matter. As we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Our debt is paid, and people need to know about it.
    I love how April describes the evangelism process as one that involves the Domino effect. One disciple makes two that make two that make two. However, it all starts with one. I am excited for the call and look forward to life as a Christian.

    • Thanks, Nick, this is a wonderful response. I appreciate your comments!

  6. Since it looks like you are wrapping up at least this segment of the study of Acts, I’ll make a couple summary remarks, along with “Thanks” for your time and effort, Phillip. I see a lot of things in Acts that are different than your views or general Evangelical ones (or traditional–Catholic, etc.). That comes only out of a whole lot of study! I want to encourage anyone studying either particularly Acts or the rest of the Bible to not be afraid to probe the questions raised by any given section and by a comparison with other Bible authors and speakers (such as Jesus, who left us no writing).

    One key to any kind of study or research is learning to ask the right questions. Also to observe “between the lines” as well as the lines themselves as to an author’s intent (often stated) agenda (often unstated) and context, sources, etc.

    In the case of Luke, it is critical to compare his accounts of things, omissions, etc., with Paul’s writings on the same subjects. It gets complicated, admittedly, but is a truly vital and fascinating pursuit!

    It is right at the core of the current discussions both WITHIN Evangelical circles and between “traditional” views and Progressive Christian ones (outside the Evangelical fold) as to what “the Gospel” is and is not. Part of this is Paul in comparison to Jesus… as to teachings and points of focus… Not just nit-picky small stuff, either… e.g., was Jesus’ death a martyrdom or an atoning sacrifice or perhaps both? (And did his direct disciples, perhaps contra Paul–as I’m fully convinced–believe only the former? Did they NOT find, unlike what the later Gospel writers would have us think, a human or “God-man” atonement at all in Jesus’ teachings, their Scriptures or as evidenced in their experiences of the Risen Christ or Pentecost and after, etc.? Did they find inspiration and great faith without such an understanding? I believe the NT does show how, though centuries of tradition makes it hard for us to imagine, let alone see.)

    Acts is particularly central in figuring this crucial kind of thing out. And it goes further as to understanding the earliest forms of Christian belief and practice, particularly as centered in first Paul, and then James, Peter and John (in that order of “the Pillars”, as Paul makes clear and Luke basically disguises tho cannot completely avoid or cover up). I mean “first” for Paul as our earliest direct source (written) by at least a couple decades, probably well over.

    However, James was clearly the earlier and more fully authoritative voice for the early believers, along with mainly Peter and John, all centered in Jerusalem, where Paul spent almost no time, per his own witness combined with Luke’s (one of dozens of issues, most being important ones, where there is significant difference in accounts).

    Just to wrap up where you did, with Acts itself, Phillip: Luke does carefully choose when and how to end his apologetic; his effort (largely successful in terms of the result) to support and propel Pauline theology even while he so often distorts the picture Paul gives us of important theological disputes, competition and acrimony between him and the Jerusalem leaders, etc. He may not have known just what happened to Paul at the end of his imprisonment, likely in Rome.

    But he certainly could have included another several years, at minimum (probably decades) of crucial developments for early Christianity in its struggles to understand its exact relation to Judaism, synagogue worship, the legacy of the Jerusalem believers all apparently dispersed before or during the devastating, horrendous Roman-Jewish war of 66-70, never to effectively regather (as far as we know). It, however, fit his obvious purpose and slant to focus about 2/3 of the book on Paul, almost as though nothing much, after Paul’s conversion, was going on even in Jerusalem or Israel, let alone the rest of the Mediterranean world. But he does leave plenty of tidbits and clues for further exploration… IF we “have eyes to see”. And a probe into them can be a faith BUILDER, as it has been for me, even though some may see it as threatening (which indeed it is for an overly rigid or detailed set of doctrines.)

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Howard. I am “wrapping up” Acts, or maybe I should say I am running out of Acts to comment on….I have a few post-Acts things to post, sort of a “what happened next” thing. I am leaving for a short student-tour of Israel in the first half of May, so that will occupy the blog until mid month. In the fall I am going to focus on Pauline Theology, although I have not worked out what that will look like yet.

      James is certainly a bigger presence in the early church that the post-apostolic church lets on, probably because he did not contribute as much written theology to be studied and systematized (like Paul did). As Christianity shifts to a largely Gentile church, the Jewish-ness of the earliest founders was lost (or ignored, I am not sure I want to say suppressed though). John is another writer who left a huge impression on the shape of later Christianity, with the “Johannine literature” taking up nearly the same space as Luke-Acts or the Pauline letters.

      Yet for Luke, James is not the focus nor John (who is a non-factor!). He wants us to know the core of the gospel (Jesus’ death and resurrection) and how that Gospel came to spread throughout the world (Paul’s mission), which in the reader’s day is still going out to the whole world boldly and without hindrance!

  7. Thanks for the detailed reply Phillip, and I’m glad for your great opportunity to go to Israel… never been myself. I have just in the last few weeks found it fascinating to finally read what I mostly skipped over in all my decades dealing with biblical studies and theology… archaeology of the Holy Land. (I’ve learned via this excellent book by Wm. Dever — 2003, so not fully up-to-date — that “biblical archaeology” was already then an outdated concept for most in the field, and he seems open and balanced though admittedly “secular” and apparently agnostic.).

    Off the subject, but in a nutshell reading only parts of the book due to time, it confirmed my prior view of basically “take the Bible as reflecting general historical frameworks and events, but not as anywhere close to entirely historical or “factual” on details. But also not, on the other hand, entirely legendary or “mythological” — in the positively functional sense). This is apropos to our discussion re. historicity in Acts. (I shouldn’t have been surprised that Dever helped me realize how Luke mainly continued a pattern followed for centuries in the way the early Heb. lit was re-worked and followed historical sources and materials with LOTS of “liberties” of interpretation and spicing up, addition of detail, probably “out of thin air,” etc.

    I was very gratified to see that Dever repeatedly pushes for more of an inter-disciplinary approach which I’ve tried to follow, building layer upon layer from different angles, although I’d not pursued much at all of the archaeological one… I now have more interest to do that also…. You should have some great, even if brief chances re. that while over there! (Do you happen to have read this, “What Did the Bible Writers Know…” book or others, or substantive articles, by Dever? If not, I highly recommend him… He seems to resent and oppose the “revisionists” or “minimalists” almost as much as Evangelicals or “conservatives” do, though for somewhat different reasons… and makes it clear repeatedly.

    When you say “Johannine” lit, are you including Revelation? Seems to me very sketchy to say that the same author wrote that and the Gospel/Epistles, tho the same author for the latter two I can imagine. If anything from minimal study re. Revelation authorship, dating, I think it may be relatively early (60s or so?) vs. an almost certainly well later date for the Gospel; and themes, core issues seem to hardly overlap, tho the gospel has, to me, an enigmatic mix of very universal, compassionate and very rigid, “us” vs. “them” and condemning. So maybe that fits the tone of Rev. fairly well (??) And I haven’t even thought about whether I think “John” wrote out of actual visionary experience or merely a vivid imagination… neither of which I see having much authority or reliability. Well, off on a tangent, so must just QUIT I suppose… Later.

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