In chapter 28 we come to, what seems to us, an abrupt ending of the story of Paul. But remember, Acts was not written as a biography of the life of Paul, but rather a book of the spread of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit upon the early church. It is a history of the expansion of the gospel in certain areas. The author was selective and did not trace all developments or describe how the gospel was first preached in all regions. We are told how the Christian message was originally proclaimed in Jerusalem, and then in Judea and Samaria, and so throughout the Empire to the capital city of Rome, in fulfilment of the Lord's command and promise in Acts 1:8. We learn of early Christian worship, fellowship, bold witnessing of plain and simple laymen, and the opposition the early church met. Throughout it all we see how the Holy Spirit worked through merchants, travelers, slaves, jailers, church leaders, the rich and poor, male and female, Jew and Gentile. Plain everyday people who allowed God to work through them to make an impact on the human race.
It is a story of missionaries. Paul stands out in our minds because Luke was his companion and wrote so vividly of his missionary efforts. Other missionary works were done by other apostles and others not recorded in this book. Let's not forget the efforts of Luke, Aristarchus, Peter, Timothy, Barnabas, John Mark, Aquilla and Priscilla and others who traveled to spread the news of a Messiah who could save one's eternal soul from separation from God. Missionaries who loved God so much that they couldn't help but love the human race created by that God and felt the pressing need to share the message of God's love with their fellow man no matter what the color of the fellow man's skin, his status in life or his theological background. Missions was a VITAL part of the early church work.
The book of Acts does seem incomplete. Perhaps for a reason. Perhaps Luke intended to write a third volume, but possibly he was martyred in Greece soon after this writing. Perhaps Luke is waiting to write the third volume until the mission is completed. The spread of the gospel is not complete. It's as if the book is written to be a cliff-hanger and the plot resolved next season. It's a never-ending story until the end of the Earth.
Today, missions continue to be a vital part of the Lord's church. There are still millions and millions of people on this earth who have no idea how to form a HOPE of eternal life with an all-powerful God. One omnipotent, omnipresent God is a foreign concept to them. In their most vivid imaginations they have not even dreamed of meeting such a God, yet we know that all men have an appointment to meet with God. How are they going to know and prepare for that meeting? Who will tell them of that God and judgement day and how all sinners will be removed from God's presence forever? Who will tell them how God sent His Son to die on the cross so that even the greatest sinner can be presented pure and sinless to God on that day? Who will tell them? The role of missionary is not an ancient, defunct position of the early church. It is as vital today as it was 1900 years ago.
Some of us recently watched a Partners in Progress video about Romania and Bulgaria. This area is just north of where Paul traveled with the gospel when he went into Macedonia. Yet the need is there today for more mission work. These missionaries spoke English. There were a few preachers, but mostly common Christians--housewives, businessmen, retired couples, etc. They were successfully studying with and bringing precious souls to Christ. It would have been inspirational to see.
With the opening of the once godless, Communist countries, the need is there once again to hear the wonderful story of Jesus - His life, death and resurrection. The people have no hope without this message. The field is white for harvest, as it is in other parts of the world where men have been taught of no god or only false gods which offer no hope of an eternal life after death. Who will go and share the only Hope available with these people?
I've heard it expressed before, "Why spend thousands of our dollars to send missionaries to other countries when people all around us have physical and spiritual needs and illnesses, too?" I'll give you just two reasons that popped into my mind. Someone else could probably come up with more reasons.
As the Holy Spirit directed the early church to send forth missionaries, so the Spirit directs today. You are the missionary who is intended to share the gospel here in your own community. So share it. You MAY be the missionary who could reach many souls in Guyana or Eastern Europe or Russia. If you had seen the video, you would have known that those missionary Christians were just common everyday Christians who had the love of God in their hearts and a compassion for lost souls and felt compelled to travel as a missionary for a brief time. The message they share is simple. They come back home and go about their daily lives just as you and I do and are eager to go again. But, they have an added blessing. Their journeys are very fruitful. And their lives are never the same again.
I want to urge you to consider yourself a missionary. You may never be a Paul, or a Priscilla, but if you love God and love others, the Spirit is urging you to do something about it. Go to that neighbor, go to that foreign country. Both can be frightening, but never wrong to do. Through all the problems, persecution, and opposition faced by the early church in the book of Acts, still the early church grew. It will grow today with your help. YOU HAVE A MISSION to change the world with that same changeless message - that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord of all who call upon Him and accept His message. You may never have your name included in a book about missions and church growth, but you can be an unsung hero in the continuing story of the spread of the gospel. It is the message that we Christians are to take to our world so that many more may hear and believe. It is our duty and our privilege. Let's fulfill our mission and share God's message to all mankind.
by Randy Becton
Upreach magazine, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1992
Father, they say Christianity
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR