By Russ Ramsey
I don’t know how my life will end. Neither do you. The Lord, in His wisdom, protects us from knowing these sorts of things. This is His mercy.
As we come to the end of Acts, we know some of what happens to Paul, but not everything. We know he is sent 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, Luke doesn’t reveal (and maybe doesn’t know) what happened to Paul. But when he says Paul made it to Rome, I detect a note of joy in his words. It was Paul’s dream to take the gospel to Rome (Romans 1:8–15).
In today’s passage, Luke doesn’t frame Paul’s imprisonment in Rome as a negative, but as a situation that served to strengthen the church. When Christians who had put their faith in Jesus through Paul’s teaching heard he was there, they came to care for him and learn from him. Because he was under house arrest, Paul’s residence became a gathering place for those who had been set free by the gospel he proclaimed. This went on for at least two years (Acts 28:30).
Early Church tradition says 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 look at 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 to find his life. He lost his position, his reputation, his career path, his circle of friends, and even his hometown. Paul’s life looks like a candle that was lit on the road to Damascus, and from then on has been burning down to its inevitable end in Rome.
I believe the reason Paul continued to boldly minister to the people of Rome, even though the gospel he proclaimed was the reason he’d been brought there as a prisoner, was because this had become his life. He knew nothing else but this cycle of risking his freedom to bear witness to the One who could set others free by giving them life.
As we reach 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. 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’ve been given, come what may: a risen Savior, an indwelling Holy Spirit, a continuing Church, and a gospel with the power to set captives free. For these things and so much more, let us give thanks to our Father in Heaven, and trust Him for all that we cannot see.