Acts 28:30 – The Main Theme of Acts

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?

8 thoughts on “Acts 28:30 – The Main Theme of Acts

  1. Pretend? Let the question be, Why are we hindered with respect to Gospel?

    Leaving aside pretense, there are a host of reasons we are hindered in the churches. You cite one of them: illiteracy. But no amount of literacy will overcome the biases of the translations we have and our dependence on very dirty glasses with which we view the ancient texts. We are also mired in our lifestyles – rich, and we care not for the poor in our midst. Superior, and we care not for those who differ from us. Righteous, only by putting those sinners in their place who again are different from us.

    The Gospel will come out of us if we are faithful to it. But will we be able to articulate just how this will happen or even know if it has happened? I speak from my experience of reading the entire Tanakh in Hebrew and writing it in English. But now, how should I approach the NT, a Hebraic text written in Greek, and a text which has been used during history for the creation and suppression of ‘the other’ rather than as a joy in the love of the God portrayed in the OT. What have we failed to learn from those Scriptures?

  2. In society today, the preaching of the gospel to non-believers is viewed skeptically. There is so much controversy around the hypocrisy that comes from Christians, that it is hard for non-believers to take Christians seriously when the preach the gospel. Some Christians who are hypocritical in how they preach about how Christians ought to act opposed to how they behave and live reflects onto all Christian believers and the Christian community as a whole. Therefore, Christian believers who are not hypocritical are viewed in a bad light due to those who are hypocritical. This leads to Christians being hindered to share the gospel with non-believers. Paul is a true example on how believers should view the preaching of the gospel. Paul was strengthened by the Holy Spirit to the point of not being hindered by persecution or even imprisonment. He truly is a testament for believers for all generations on how they ought to live and spread the gospel with boldness and without hinderance. In relation to Luke’s statement for the purpose of him writing this letter to Theophilus was to share about how the Lord was working through those spreading the gospel after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, yet at the end of the letter is seems that Luke’s message is to encourage all those who read this letter to be bold in their sharing of the gospel. Luke encourages bold action opposed to simply inform of recent events. This message of encouragement continues to be relevant to believers today, despite their view of being hindered by the gospel due to the hypocritical culture that has been created around the Christian community.

  3. In the 21st century world, the Bible is often observed from a skeptical lens. Non-believers are often not open to hearing about the Gospel, especially with the Bible (especially when taken out of context) appearing as violent and vulgar to the new reader. Another piece that negatively influences non-believers’ perception of the Gospel is the hypocrisy that some Christians tend to walk in. Not one person on this earth is perfect, but no matter what we think, Christians are recognized and observed more than we might think. People watch Christians – they like to point out any and all character flaws. While no one is perfect, some people believe that Christians are supposed to embody perfection. With this stereotype in mind, as a Christian, I know that it is difficult to get people to hear or listen to me because I am held at such a high standard with the expectation of perfection by society. Christians today are still persecuted (maybe a little bit differently), just as they were nearly 2,000 years ago. Paul is an amazing representation of a faithful believer. Paul was nowhere near perfect, but his boldness and faithfulness to God and the gospel is more than admirable. His example can still be, and should be, followed today. Persecution is inevitable because the gospel is inevitably offensive to people. However, Luke encourages us to be bold in our actions for the gospel, without letting ourselves be “hindered”, or distracted, by the persecution of this world. The Gospel should not be filtered, or “hindered”, so that the non-believers are not offended or turned away. The Gospel is Truth and should be explained unapologetically, as represented by Paul (who was the long-term victim of persecution).

  4. It is crazy for me to think that people still downplay Jesus and neglect that he was the Son of God. This reminded me of my Pastor’s message on Sunday. He talked about of those who call themselves Evangelicals, almost one third of them do not believe Jesus was the Son of God. They believed he was “a good man” who did good things or good works but not that he was God (I do not remember the source where he got them from). Like the blog post alluded to, that is not the Gospel. I like how Long says, “Our churches need relationships and social activities, but we need to confront people with the truth of the Gospel” (Long 2019). Jesus is the center of the Gospel and without Him, what is the point of gathering and talking about faith? I also did not realize that some churches preached but neglected using scripture. What is a message without Biblical evidence? Paul is an example for us because his messages were centered around Jesus and referenced scripture. I can see how Christians lack confidence in referencing or using the Bible, and see how the three examples are very true throughout our modern culture. The Bible can be used out of context or not used at all. Paul shows us that it is important to believe in Jesus to be saved (Acts 16:31), and to use scripture and apply it correctly to our lives in order to share the Gospel to others with boldness.

  5. I think Long is very accurate in portraying Biblical Ignorance, Embarrassment, and Replacement as reason for “lack of confidence” in the Bible. I think the same reasons relate to hinderance in presenting the Gospel. Most of the time, the average Church goer can barely remember any Scripture to back up a gospel presentation, then they feel inadequate to share the gospel and rely on their pastors, elders, and the “big” leaders to do all the heavy lifting. They might also feel embarrassed because they do not know how to present the gospel, much less defend it. So when their faith is attacked, they might feel stupid for not being able to answer even for themselves what they are challenged with. But there are more problems to. Problems related to the incongruency between the reality of the western culture and lifestyle in contrast with the expectations set in the Bible for the imitator of Jesus Christ. Christians embrace the idea of peaceable and quiet lives (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and ignore the inclusion of suffering in our calling to be like Christ (1 Peter 3:14-18). Besides being stuck in the comfort zone, the western lifestyle does not allow enough margin on people’s schedules to actually build community and open space for the gospel to be shared and transform people’s lives. In a sense, much freedom only generates the bondage. Or freedom is the ability to choose one’s bondage. I can only speak for today’s society and my participation in it. But I imagine that in Paul’s time, perhaps things were not much different. Or, despite the challenges, it still required boldness to speak without hinderance. Boldness, too, is lacking. Often being framed as some sort of negative -ism. That is why Paul counted on the Spirit and on the Lord in living out his calling. Christians today are capable of doing the same. Like Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

  6. I really like your point about confronting people about the truth of the gospel rather than just encouraging spirituality. I think that the book of Acts does a good job portraying the constant need to share truth as we live in a broken world desperate for a fix. We as Christians shouldn’t stay quiet about our faith and the truth we have because others need to hear the good news. Paul knew this because God called him to it, and as Christians it is our goal/ calling to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth like Acts commands. I think that spreading the gospel is a big theme to the book of Acts, and following Christ despite the ways of the world/ ways of the past.

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