Unhindered: Acts Series #42
The last chapter of the book of Acts has been called the last page of the first chapter of the history of the Christian church. It has also been pointed out that the book of Acts concludes with a rather interesting word. The word is not easily apparent within translations, but in the New American Standard Bible, it is the word, “unhindered.”
It has often been noted that this is a rather unusual way to conclude a book. This is not how you would normally conclude a book and this has puzzled Bible teachers through the years. There are some who believe that Dr. Luke intended to write a third volume. He wrote the Gospel of Luke, the Book of Acts (history of the early church), and some say he intended to write a third volume.
I believe there are some other reasons that come into play for why the Holy Spirit has chosen to use this particular word, “unhindered,” to conclude the book of Acts. First, it is a word of completion. It says to us that Dr. Luke has accomplished his purpose in writing the book. In Acts 1:8, he is told specifically what he is to write. We are told what the book is all about. It says, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you and you shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” He has traced the movement of the Christian faith, from its beginning in the city of Jerusalem, all the way to the place where it is now planted in the city of Rome.
Luke is saying, “Unhindered, I have accomplished my purpose.” It is like a shout of triumph—unhindered! It is a Gospel flag that has been planted in the heart of the capital of the ancient world—unhindered. Paul is a prisoner, but the Word of God is not bound—unhindered. That demonized idiot, Nero, is on the throne, but God is still on His throne— unhindered. It is a word of completion. No man could hinder the work of the Lord going forward.
Second, it is not only a word of completion, but I think it is a word of continuation. You find in the Book of Acts what the Lord intends for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to be doing until Jesus Christ comes again. The Lord is saying— here’s what I want churches to do. In one sense of the word, you and I should be writing an Acts 29. Our fellowship here should be writing a chapter in the history of the Christian church—moving forward, nothing hindering. Unstoppable! Moving forward to do what the Lord has intended for us to do.
In that atmosphere, we come to this last chapter. We look at the life of the Apostle Paul who is a great example for us and who teaches us many lessons about the ways of God and the works of God in the lives of individual believers.
I want to take Paul’s life and draw some lessons from it. I want to say to you that in the will of God, following the plan of God, nobody can stop you. You are unhindered in the will of the Lord doing what God wants you to do.
I. We Have A Defended Life
We read in Acts 28:1-6:
“And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita (that’s the island of Malta). And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness; for they kindled a fire, received us, everyone, because of the present rain and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And Paul shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly; but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”’
Do you see how his life was protected? Do you see how God took care of him? How God got him out of the sea and the shipwreck, and how God guarded him from the bite of this poisonous snake. God always guards His children. God reaches around His children with His arms of protection. Out of the sea they come to an island. God always has an island. It is the island of Malta. It’s about 60 miles south of Sicily. You may remember it was the most bombed spot on the earth in WWII. The name, Malta, means refuge. God had a Malta for Paul.
Here’s another chapter in the continuing saga of the hardships Paul endured for the Lord. You may remember he escaped from a basket from Damascus. He was stoned in Lystra. He was laughed at in the city of Athens. He was driven out of the city of Ephesus. He was shipwrecked in the Mediterranean. But God has a Malta for him. God has a refuge for him.
In every story, or sea, of your life, you can be sure of the fact that God has an island of refuge for you. God will guard your life. God is protecting your life. I have often thought about a Christian. Many a Christian is like a cork. You can take a cork and push it down, but it will come right back up. That’s the way it is in a Christian life. A Christian may go down for a little, but he or she will come back up.
Here they are on the island of Malta and the Bible says in verse 2 that the barbarous people there. Don’t get the idea that these were vile savages. The word there just simply means they did not speak the Greek language. In those days, if you didn’t speak the Greek language, you were called a barbarian. They couldn’t speak the Greek language but it is very clear that they spoke the language of kindness because they were very kind to Paul. In life, sometimes it’s sad, but true, that lost people can show kindness when many times God’s people are not as kind as they ought to be.
This is a fascinating account, especially because I don’t like snakes. They build a fire and Paul is doing his part, he is gathering up some sticks to put on that fire. The Bible says there was a snake in those sticks. Do you like snakes? Just one good look at a snake and I’ll keel over and be dead to the world. But Paul is putting that wood on the fire and a poisonous snake bites him in the hand. The natives of the island say he is absolutely a murderer and he’s not getting away with it. The gods are not allowing him to live.
Then, would you believe it? He just took that snake, and the Bible says he just shook it off of his hand and he didn’t feel any harm. Do you remember that the Lord Jesus in Mark 16 said that his apostles, in carrying out the gospel mandate, that if they took up serpents they would not harm them? Here is a fulfillment of that promise of the Lord.
When you are in God’s will, God will guard you. It does mean that God will protect you and that God will take care of you. He was bitten by a snake, he shook it off, and he felt no harm. To this day, there are no poisonous snakes in Malta. God cured the snakes on Malta from that time on of poisonous snakes. Paul was so full of the Holy Spirit that the snake slithered away singing, “There’s power in the blood!”
Unhindered! Nothing can stop you! Your life is guarded.
II. We Have A Developed Life
Did you know your life is gifted? Our Lord has developed us who we need to become. We read in Acts 28:7-10:
“In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius: who received us (Paul and his party— specifically Dr. Luke) and lodged us three days courteously. And it came to pass that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So, when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed. Who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed they laded us with such things as were necessary.”
It is obvious that Paul is a gifted man. God has given Paul a gift; He has the gift of healing. However, you are a special, unique person. You are a marvelously gifted person.
There never has been anybody like you. There never will be anybody like you. You are an absolutely unique and special individual. That’s amazing, isn’t it? God had a great plan for you because He made only one of you. This teaches us that you are unique and it also teaches us that you are gifted. God has given you something that only you can do.
Paul was gifted. God gave him a very beneficial gift. It was the gift of healing. We know from I Corinthians 12:28-30, that Paul did have the gift of healing. We also know from that chapter that not everyone has the gift of healing. Paul used that gift in beneficial ways. He didn’t use the gift to put on a show. He didn’t use the gift to draw attention to himself. But he used it to help human suffering and to help human needs.
All of us can pray for the sick. But here’s a man who had the gift of healing and he used it not as a toy to play with, but as an instrument to bless with and to help people.
God has given you unique gifts. I don’t know all of them, but God has given you unique gifts in order that you might be a blessing to other people. Maybe the Lord would want you to use them as a part of your ministry of telling others about Christ and living for the Lord and being a positive benefit in this world.
If Paul were speaking to you, I’m sure he would say that it was a bestowed gift. Paul would be the first one to say, “Oh, no, it’s nothing in me. It’s what God has given to me.” Is that not true of all of us? Anything we have and anything we can do is because God has given us the power. God has given us the ability to do so. In fact, Paul said one time, “What do you have that you did not receive?” The power always comes from God.
I think there’s a beautiful combination here. It’s not apparent in our English version, but in verse 8 you see the word, “healed.” In verse 9, you see the word, healed again. It’s two different words for healing. The second word is where we get our word, therapeutic. You go in for physical therapy. That’s where we get the word, therapy. There are some indications that what you have here is a beautiful partnership. You have Paul using that supernatural gift of healing in one manner. Also, you have Dr. Luke. When he says in verse 10, us and we—it’s Luke talking. Luke was Paul’s personal physician. Could it be that we have a partnership going on? We have the preacher, and we have the physician. They are both using their God-given gifts.
Physicians are trained. They get their gift of healing from their skill and training. Every Christian doctor you will ever talk to and many who are not Christians will acknowledge to you that the ability to make people well does not reside in their own training. It resides in God’s touch upon the individual.
I want to encourage young people to commit whatever God has given to you back to Him and use it for His glory and for the good of other people. Dare to dream big dreams for the Lord. You may never win first place. You don’t have to be the greatest in everything. That’s not the point. The point is that your life is gifted. Nothing can stop you.
III. We Have A Destined Life
When we are in the will of God and trying to do God’s business, God will destine us.
In Acts 28:11, we have the final lap of Paul’s journey to Rome. He sails for a little while. In verse 13, he comes to a place called Puteoli. In verse 14, it says there were some Christian brethren and they asked him to stay for seven days. Next, we read, “and so we went toward Rome.” It was about 140 miles by foot to Rome.
In verse 15, some Christian brethren in Rome heard that he was coming, so they went out to meet him. They meet him at the Appii forum. Then, about ten miles down the road another group comes and they meet him at three taverns. Paul saw them and he thanked God and he took courage. Then, in verse 16 it says, “and when we came to Rome.”
That tells us that God is guiding his life. God is leading him in his destination. Paul had a great desire to go to Rome. God told him he was going to Rome. In fact, in Acts 9:15 the Lord, when He saved him, showed him how great things he should suffer. Also, that he would witness before the Gentiles and before kings. He’s going to witness before Caesar in Rome. All along the way God gave him assurances.
In Romans 1:10, Paul says, “If by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come to you.” He’s talking about the Romans. He was praying for a prosperous journey, but it was a perilous journey. Nevertheless, he got there.
Do you know where you are headed? If you get there will you know you are there? Do you have a sense of destination in your life? Too many Christians are like brooms. They are going off in all directions. God wants you to be like a sword—have one point and one focus in your life. Paul said, “This one thing I do.” Your life has a destination. Do you know where you are going? God has a plan for your life. The greatest adventure of life is surrendering your will to God’s will. “Lord lead me. Give me a destination. Send me where you want me to go.”
Let me give you a promise which has meant a lot to me and I hope it will mean a lot to you. Psalm 37:23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” That means you have God’s promise of His guidance.
Paul comes to Rome. He has a destination. Paul is also guided in the proclamation he makes of the Gospel. Paul is not in Rome to sightsee. Paul comes as a soul winner, not a sightseer. He’s there to preach the Gospel of the Lord.
He lets us in on it in the first chapter of the book of Romans. In verses 14-16 in Romans 1, he lets us see his heart for a moment. In verse 1, he tells us about his sense of obligation. “I am a debtor, both to the Greeks and the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise.” God had saved him and it changed his life. Now, he feels a sense of obligation. Rome was a city of over 2 million people. From that city of Rome the Gospel could go out to the entire known world. He was a debtor.
You and I are debtors. How can it be right for you and it to know the saving gospel of Jesus Christ that keeps people out of hell and gets them to heaven and not have a sense of obligation?
Not only does he have an obligation, but also he has a sense of dedication. In Romans 1:15, Paul says, “So as much as in me is, I’m ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” His mind was saturated with the Gospel. His heart was stirred by the Gospel. His will was surrendered to the Gospel.
Also, Paul had a sense of satisfaction. He says in verse 16. I wish I could put into my voice how I believe he is saying this. He is not apologizing. He is rejoicing. He is expressing satisfaction. He says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”
You can be satisfied with the Gospel, and you don’t have to be ashamed of the Gospel. Young people don’t have to be intimidated by this world. I want you to know that the Gospel can stand the test. Let them hurl their insults. Let them hurl their arguments. This old book of God has stood the test. You don’t have to be ashamed of the Gospel. You don’t have to be ashamed of the Bible. You don’t have to be ashamed of the Church. You don’t have to be ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are told in these concluding verses that they allow him to have his own hired house. The Jews come and he gives his initial statements to them about why he’s there and the circumstances that brought him there. Then we will notice in verse 23 they set up a specific day. They came to his lodging. While they were there the Bible says he expounded and testified to the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets (that’s the Bible he had in those days) from morning to evening. He had a Bible study.
Just as Paul was unhindered, we are unhindered today!