It’s good for us to periodically ask a fundamental question when we pick up our Bibles–“What is this?” As I read this book, what am I reading? Is this simply someone else’s mail? Just an old record of things that happened a really long time ago? Are these the claims of someone who witnessed extraordinary things, but things that don’t really relate to me? What is this big old book, and how could it possibly be worthy of my attention and application after 2,000 years?
Acts 28 stands as a simple signpost at the crossroads of those good questions. What it continues to reveal is worth reflecting upon today.
The apostle Paul had carried the gospel all the way to Rome. He was able to spend a couple of years welcoming all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness (28:30-31). On one occasion, the local leaders of the Jews appointed a day to hear Paul out.
From morning till evening, he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement… (28:23-25)
In this moment, it’s as if Luke–our narrator–pauses, looks us in the eye, lowers his voice, and encourages us to lean in a little closer. He wants to make sure we’re listening intently. “Don’t miss this. What Paul said next is truly significant.” So let’s follow Luke’s leading. Of all the things Paul said “from morning till evening” that day, and of all the things Luke could have recorded, he gave us this “one statement”:
“The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:
‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” (28:25-28)
There’s some foreboding news in those lines, but look again at the opening words of Paul’s “one statement.”
“The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet…”
Do you see the dots that are being connected? “The Holy Spirit said something to your forefathers seven centuries ago.” We know that passage as Isaiah 6:9-10. “What the Holy Spirit said? He was right. It was true. But it wasn’t just true of them. It’s true of you. Those words may have been spoken through God’s prophet 700 years ago, but they endure as a relevant reflection of you. Today.”
What we’ve just been shown is extraordinary! Via Luke through Paul through Isaiah through the Holy Spirit there’s a direct connection from the Scriptures of the past to the hearts of people in the present. Think about that…
For us, for me–in the twenty-first century–it’s easy to reach the end of a historical book like Acts, read the closing verses, shut the book, and move on without realizing the awesome significance of what I’m holding in my hands. “What is this?” As I read this big old book, what am I reading? Let’s allow Luke to continue to connect the dots for us today…
“The Holy Spirit said extraordinary things a long time ago. He captured history, revealed prophecies, conveyed serious warnings, and delivered great promises of assurance and hope. What he said was right. It was true, and it continues to be true, of you and for you. A direct, unbroken connection continues to live from the Scriptures of the past to the hearts of people in the present. Therefore let it be known to you…”
That’s the posture we ought to have as we open our Bibles. “Therefore let it be known to you.” This is the revelation of my Creator. These are the words of my King. This is light for my path provided by the Holy Spirit of God.”
Some were convinced that day in Rome. Others disbelieved. The same is still unfolding 2,000 years later. For all who will listen, the salvation of God continues to be extended.