Many have felt that the book of Acts ends somewhat ambiguously. True, there is a sense of climax in that Paul has finally arrived in Rome, the capital city of the vast Roman empire, thus fulfilling Jesus’ command to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel. (Acts 1:8) There is a sense of symmetry in that he meets with the Jews in that city and offers them the chance to respond to the gospel message before recognising that their rejection fulfils prophecy (Is 6:9-10) and paves the way for his ministry to the Gentiles, a pattern we have seen repeatedly throughout his missionary journeys and throughout his exposition to the Romans (Romans 9-11). But we have many unanswered questions, including what happened to Paul himself and what was the result of his appeal to Caesar.
Howard Marshall feels this is deliberate: “The fate of Paul is secondary to that of the gospel. The final picture is of Paul preaching to the Gentiles the same message which he had preached throughout Acts with boldness and without hindrance. All the emphasis lies on that last phrase. The implication is that the charges against Paul were false and that God backed up his proclamation. Nothing that men can do can stop the progress and ultimate victory of the gospel.” (Howard Marshall, ‘Acts’, P 427) Tom Wright makes a similar point, reminding us that the real hero of Acts is not Paul but Jesus, and the journey of the gospel continues to this very day: “The journey is ours, the trials and vindications are ours, the sovereign presence of Jesus is ours, the story is ours to pick up and carry on. Luke’s writing, like Paul’s journey, has reached its end, but in his end is our beginning.” (Tom Wright, ‘Acts For Everyone Pt 2’, P 249)
Just as Luke told us right at the start of Acts that this was a continuation of the story of all Jesus did and taught (Acts 1:1), so too we realise at the end of Acts that this story continues today. We are part of that story; the commission to be witnesses to Jesus is still ours. Where will this story take you?