17Three days after we got there, Paul called together some of the Jewish leaders and said:
My friends, I have never done anything to hurt our people, and I have never gone against the customs of our ancestors. But in Jerusalem I was handed over as a prisoner to the Romans. 18They looked into the charges against me and wanted to release me. They found that I had not done anything deserving death. 19 The Jewish leaders disagreed, so I asked to be tried by the Emperor.
But I don't have anything to say against my own nation. 20I am bound by these chains because of what we people of Israel hope for. This is why I have called you here to talk about this hope of ours.
21The leaders replied, “No one from Judea has written us a letter about you. And not one of them has come here to report on you or to say anything against you. 22But we would like to hear what you have to say. We understand that people everywhere are against this new group.”
23They agreed on a time to meet with Paul, and many of them came to his house. From early morning until late in the afternoon, Paul talked to them about God's kingdom. He used the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets to try to win them over to Jesus.
24Some of the leaders agreed with what Paul said, but others did not. 25Since they could not agree among themselves, they started leaving. But Paul said, “The Holy Spirit said the right thing when he sent Isaiah the prophet 26 to tell our ancestors,
‘Go to these people
and tell them:
You will listen and listen,
but never understand.
You will look and look,
but never see.
27All of you
have stubborn hearts.
Your ears are stopped up,
and your eyes are covered.
You cannot see or hear
If you could,
you would turn to me,
and I would heal you.’ ”
28-29Paul said, “You may be sure that God wants to save the Gentiles! And they will listen.”
30For two years Paul stayed in a rented house and welcomed everyone who came to see him. 31He bravely preached about God's kingdom and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ, and no one tried to stop him.
Christianity is not a break with Judaism, but its fulfillment. Christ is the “hope of Israel” (v.20 NIV).
The Roman Jews viewed Christianity as a sect of Judaism (v.22). But Christianity isn’t a heretical form of Judaism. Rather, concerning the hope of Judaism that the Messiah will come, Christianity is the realization that the Messiah has come. This is Paul’s central theme (v.20). Salvation through Christ alone is the basis for everything he preaches and proclaims, both to the Jews (v.23) and the Gentiles (vv.28-31).
Sadly, even though Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism, some Jews believed and some disbelieved (v.24). What happened in Rome continues to happen today. People are deeply divided over what they do or do not believe about Christ.
The whole book of Acts is the story about God’s Spirit striving with the Jews. Now, after Paul’s tried to reach the Jews in many cities and towns, he makes a solemn final dismissive statement (previously made by Isaiah, Jesus, and John) about how the Jews listen to the Gospel but don’t understand and look but don’t see (v.26). It’s a chilling conclusion. It indicates how, through the hardening of their hearts, the Jews had excommunicated themselves from God (v.27).
And so we come to the final two verses of Acts. Paul, the enigmatic messianic Jew, is accomplishing God’s plan by ministering to the Gentiles. Two words epitomized what he did and said when anyone came to visit him. He “preached” about the kingdom of God and “taught” about the Lord Jesus Christ. As it was with Paul in Rome, so it should be in every church, in every city, in every nation today; Christians should serve the King and His kingdom, exalt Christ as the King of kings, preach about the kingdom, and teach that only as the King’s will is done will we know life in all its fullness.
Lord, thank you that Christ is our hope (v.20). Help me be a witness to this hope by bravely preaching about God’s kingdom and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ (v.31). Amen.