By Matt Redmond
I do not know how my life will end. Neither do you.
The Lord, in His wisdom, protects us from knowing these sorts of things—and this is most certainly a kindness. A mercy. If we knew such things, we might spend more time preparing to die than actually living.
As we come to the end of the book of Acts, we know some of what happens to Paul, but not everything. We know he is taken to Rome as a prisoner. And we know that he most likely died there as a martyr, although he was in Rome for several years before his death.
When the book of Acts ends, the author Luke does not reveal (and maybe doesn’t know) what would come of Paul. But when he tells us Paul made it to Rome, I detect a note of joy in his words. This was a dream of Paul’s—to take the gospel into the heart of the Roman Empire (Romans 1:8-15).
In today’s passage, Luke does not frame Paul’s imprisonment there as a negative, but as a situation that actually served to strengthen the Church. Christians who had come to know Jesus through Paul’s teaching heard he was there, and they came to care for him and learn from him (Acts 28:17). Because he was under house arrest, Paul’s place of incarceration became a gathering ground for those who had been set free by the gospel he proclaimed. This went on for at least two years (Acts 28:30).
The traditional position is that Paul was released from this imprisonment but stayed in Rome as a missionary, and was arrested again later. This second imprisonment was the one scholars believe led to his execution.
When we consider the arc of Paul’s story—from his early days as a persecutor of the Church, to his missionary journeys, to his last days in Rome—we see a man who had to lose everything in order to find the life he knew. He lost his position, his reputation, his career path, his circle of friends, even his hometown. Paul’s life looks to me like a candle that was lit on the road to Damascus, and from then on was burning down to its inevitable end.
I believe the reason Paul continued to boldly minister to the people of Rome, even though the gospel he proclaimed was the very reason he had been brought there as a prisoner, was because this had become his life. Paul knew nothing else but this cycle of risking his freedom to bear witness to the One who could set others free.
When we come to the end of Paul’s story, we find him not preparing to die, but continuing to live, confident in the gospel and unafraid of what might come his way.
I don’t know what is coming my way, and neither do you. But the book of Acts tells us the story of what we have—a risen Savior, an indwelling Holy Spirit, a continuing Church, and a gospel with the power to set captives free. For these things, may we give thanks to our Father in Heaven, and trust Him for all that we cannot see as we continue to live on.
Written By Russ Ramsey