Luke / Acts – A model for mission (7)
In this, my last post on the present Luke/Acts topic, I want to concentrate on the final part of the spreading of the gospel, the story how the gospels goes unto the ends of the earth, the story found in Acts 10 – 28.
In a most unlikely source I found a deeper meaning in these chapters. I had always considered the mentioned chapters merely as relating the story of the spreading of the gospel. In a book which I bought thirty years ago for less than 50 US cents (brand new at the time and out of print at present), the Greek scholars Newman and Nida’s “ A Translator’s Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles”, analysed this part of Acts even further. Acts tells us about the geographical expansion of the gospel, and each time when a certain geographical area had been reached, Luke ends of that portion with a “ concluding” verse. When reading Acts, one would expect to have three or four such concluding verses, indicating the spreading of the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and then to the ends of the earth. However, this is not the case. We actually find six such concluding verses. They are the following:
- Jerusalem – Acts 6:7: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”
- Judea / Samaria – Acts 9:31: “ Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”
- Antioch – Acts 12:24: “ But the word of God continued to increase and spread.”
- Asia Minor: Acts 16:5: “ So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”
- Europe: Acts 19:20: “ In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
- Rome: Acts 28:31: “ Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
What is the implication of this? For Luke (and Paul), Rome is the ultimate “ ends of the earth.” From the start the goal had been to take the gospel into this ungodly city. Acts therefore relates the story of the expansion of the gospel across:
- geographical borders (Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth)
- theological borders (no longer merely the kingdom of Israel but the whole world)
- political borders (Rome, the cradle of the ungodly Roman empire).
The promise (and the hope) that we can get from this is that nothing can stand in the way of the gospel of grace and love. We can continue spreading the good news, regardless of any opposition which we may experience along the way. If Paul was able to take the gospel into Rome, then nothing can prevent us from continuing with this work.
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