Tuesday, March 15, 2016

THE GOSPEL CANNOT BE HINDERED

The Book of Acts closes on an amazing note. The final two verses find Paul in chains, under house arrest, and guarded by Roman soldiers. Yet, read the joyous note with which Paul’s situation is described: “Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:30–31).

The original Greek for forbidding here actually means “hindering.” The New American Standard Version says Paul preached and taught the gospel “with all openness, unhindered.” What an amazing statement, given that Paul was imprisoned. The gospel was “unhindered,” meaning unstopped, unobstructed. The author uses this testimony to close Acts with a powerful declaration: “The gospel cannot be hindered!”

Make no mistake, there were hindrances on all sides to Paul’s message. When he called on the Jewish leaders in Rome to visit him in his chains, they were indignant. They said, “We don’t even know you. Who are you to us?” When Paul finally did preach Christ to them, they ended up squabbling among themselves. At the same time, the Emperor Nero was torturing and killing Christians in the streets of Rome.

Given these mountainous hindrances, how did God plan to impact the godless Roman Empire? What would be His method for building a church in Rome that would influence the world throughout the Empire for ages to come? Could it really be this jailed, Jewish former terrorist, whose speech was said to be contemptible? Was Paul God’s best instrument to evangelize Rome and all its vast territories?

For two years, the apostle was shut up in this nondescript house on a side street. He had no associate evangelist, no Timothy or Barnabas, to work alongside him. He had no microphone to broadcast his messages. He had no consultants or political connections to help him. Paul simply had no planned program or agenda. And even if he had, there was no way to advertise it. He couldn’t go door-to-door evangelizing or hold street meetings.

He declared, in so many words, “Here I am, Lord. Use me as You see fit.”

No, Paul was just there. And yet he was absolutely content with where God had had placed him. He declared, in so many words, “Here I am, Lord. Use me as You see fit. I don’t know Your plan, but I do know You put me here. Your gospel will go forth unhindered.”