Pastor Allan Kircher
“The End of the Beginning!”
Paul was a great missionary because he was willing to be one every single day of his life.
• No matter where he was.
• Or what he was going through.
• Every Christian in this room is a material witness to what God is doing in their lives.
Now, I don't know if you've been counting,
been studying/Acts together for almost a year
Today is the last message.
I bet you were beginning/wonder if we'd ever finish/series!
Eight years of my collegiate career, I found the most difficult part of my studies was the beginning.
In all those hundreds of papers to write
It was the beginning/start/initial thought or commitment.
Once that was achieved the rest all fell in place.
So it is with every message.
Sometimes it takes several days to figure out where the Lord intends to take his Word that week.
Once the Lord reveals it to me, the message flows like a living fountain.
I get excited, my heart races in anticipation/coming words.
So it is with our ten month study on the book of Acts.
I mean the most difficult part was to begin.
For the Lord to speak to each of us of how we to begin a journey.
once we get over that initial commitment
That initial surrendering of your life
There’s no stopping us from being a vibrant and productive witness for the kingdom of God.
Now we are in the midst of our walk.
• We have heard the principles of an Acts church.
• It’s up to us now to follow where/Lord commands/us to go.
In this year we’ve learned:
• Powerful testimonies/Peter/Paul/Barnabas, Philip, James.
• Power of prayer.
• Peter's miraculous release from his prison cell in the Antonia Fortress in answer to the prayers of the church?
Ethiopian Eunuch/Philip taught us about the kind of attitudes we need in order to be successful as personal evangelists.
Peter's experience with Cornelius, that Roman centurion who wanted to become a Christian...helped us to see the evils of prejudice.
It reminded us that we are all equally in need of God's gracious love-and are all equally the focus of it!
It is a foundational biblical truth that obedience brings God’s blessing, disobedience His chastening.
o In Luke 11:28, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it.”
o James reveals that it is the “effectual doer” who “shall be blessed in what he does” James 1:25.
Paul had desired for many years to visit Rome.
Acts 19:21 he said, “After I have been there [Jerusalem], I must also see Rome.”
He repeatedly expressed that desire to the Roman Christians.
At long last, the time had come for God to grant His faithful servant’s desire.
After two years in a Roman prison
a terrifying two-week-long storm at sea, and his fourth shipwreck
Paul would at last see Rome.
It has been a long time for us also, I pray for God’s to grant His faithful church entrance into our new journey.
I sincerely believe that our future as a church will depend on how well we as its members remember all that we have learned in this past year.
In my first sermon in Acts, I told you that many churches these days fail to live up to their potential.
In essence they don't pattern themselves after God's intent for the local church as seen in the original design.
Instead they operate according to the latest trend or gimmick.
They copy what other churches are doing
When this happens churches eventually become less and less like the New Testament model and more and more like the fallen world around them.
Remember? In February I told you it's the same sort of thing that happens when you use a photostat machine and copy a copy of a copy of a copy.
o Eventually you get a very blurred image-after a while you can no longer read the writing.
o So, fellow DISCIPLES of Jesus Christ, Who loved the church and gave Himself for it-hear me on this!
It’s important we remember the things we have learned in our study of the FIRST CHURCHES if we are to be the church God has called us to be as we minister in His name here in Beaufort County.
• Don't get me wrong.
• I'm not saying we'll never try new things
• We have and will continue to do so.
• But we must never stray from the principles of church structure that are found in the New Testament model.
Otherwise we will be in danger of forgetting those timeless tasks God has called us-His church-to fulfill.
Paul-the “hero" of this portion of the book of Acts-had just been shipwrecked on the shore of the island of Malta.
Acts 28:1 , Luke says, “When all [the prisoners and crew] had been brought safely through, [all 276 making it to shore] then we found out that the island was called Malta."
Malta is located about fifty miles south of Sicily.
It's a rugged island/eighteen miles long/eight miles wide.
In Paul's day the island's name was actually Melita, which was the Canaanite word for "refuge."
And rightly so, it was such a welcome refuge from their long nightmarish ordeal at sea.
I can understand why the “Canaanites” would say that.
I mean, can you imagine how wonderful solid land must have felt under their feet after weeks in that storm-tossed sea!
Luke refers/island residents/"barbaros" in Greek.
It's the word from which we get our word "barbarian."
Your Bible may even use that word in its translation/verse 1.
But this doesn't mean these islanders were barbarians
o Greeks in that day called anyone barbarian if they spoke a language other than Greek.
o because to them other languages sounded like a cacophony of sounds in which they could distinguish no words.
o They thought/noises made/people speaking other languages sounded like variations of the sound, "bar-bar" hence their word, "barbaros."
I take the time to point this out because I want you to be sure and understand that the people who lived on this island were ANYTHING BUT barbarians.
o they helped Malta live up to its name as a place of refuge
o They were very compassionate/Paul/fellow castaways.
Look at verse 2 Luke tells us, "The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all."
Look also at verse 10 Luke goes on to say, "They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed."
next three months the Maltans took care of Paul and his companions
feeding them, providing shelter, and no doubt clothing,
helping them recuperate from their near death ordeal,
they prepare themselves for the final leg of their journey as they rested and waited for the winter storm season to pass.
But-don't misunderstand me here.
These months on this island weren't a vacation for Paul.
I mean he didn't spend the time just sipping coconut juice under some Maltan palm tree.
No, he used this time to minister to the islanders themselves.
For example, the head of the Roman government on Malta was a man named Publius.
verse 7 Luke tells us that, "He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably."
Luke also tells us that Publius' father was very sick-
but that Paul went to see him and after a prayer
He placed/hands on him/God miraculously healed the man.
Verse 9 says that God also used Luke's skill as a physician to help the rest of the sick and injured on the island.
Busy months of compassionate ministry in Jesus' name
Ministry that opened the door for Paul to share the Gospel!
Well, in the early spring the weather finally grew favorable and they boarded another Alexandrian grain ship-and began the final leg of their journey to Rome.
Take your Bibles now and read along with me, beginning with verse 11-14
By the way, Castor and Pollux were the names of the twin sons of Zeus and were revered as the protectors of men on the sea. Many Roman ships bore their image as a plea for safety.
Now, imagine how Paul felt at this point.
He had wanted to preach the gospel in Rome for years.
in Acts 19:21 He said, "After I have been to Jerusalem, Macedonia, and Achaia, I must visit Rome also."
And, in Romans 1:15 he said, “I am EAGER to preach the gospel to you who are at Rome."
For years, not being able to get to Rome, Paul did the next best thing.
He wrote to the believers there and in this way they had become long-distance friends-sort of international pen pals.
He had heard about them through mutual acquaintances
in admiration of their courageous faith
He had written them a letter-his doctrinal masterpiece, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans.
And now, after a harrowing journey on the high seas, Paul had finally arrived to meet them fact to face!
He must have been thrilled!
And these Roman believers were excited to finally meet him as well.
In fact, many of them journeyed several miles down the famous Appian Way to greet him. Acts 28:15-31
1. First/past year we have seen/power of a HEALTHY CHURCH.
When I say "healthy," I'm referring to a group of believers who show by their actions that they truly acknowledge Jesus Christ as Head.
Healthy churches obediently yield to Jesus will in all things.
their acknowledgment of His headship is seen clearly in their relationships
Relationships that reflect the way Jesus relates to each of us.
In short, they act like Jesus to each other.
Well, this leads the outside lost world to recognize Jesus in them-and the result is a healthy church that literally draws lost people to our Lord.
It's just as Jesus promised in John 12:32, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men to Me."
"People are not persuaded, they're attracted. We communicate far more by what we are than by what we say."
We saw this important principle of church growth in the first church in Jerusalem.
The 2nd and 4th chapters of this book tell us that these first believers did indeed acknowledge Christ as Head-
Seen in the way they so obviously got their "Christlike one-anothering" right!
I mean, they weren't perfect-no church is-
their corporate dedication to careful study of the Apostle's teaching and to the worship of God gave them a truly blessed fellowship-
• One/God used in a powerful way to draw/lost/faith/ Him.
Take your Bibles and flip back to those chapters and I'll show you a couple examples.
Acts 2:45 says,"Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."
Acts 4:32 says that "...no one in this church claimed that any of his possessions was his own, ...but they shared everything they had."
Because they related in this selfless way
Because these first believers lifted up Christ in their sacrificial relationships the church grew.
As Acts 2:7 says,"...the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Think of it. This first group of believers was a powerful witness for the love of God in spite of the fact that they met right under the noses of the Jewish religious leaders, the same leaders who had plotted Jesus' death.
Luke sums up this important principle of church health in Acts 4:32 when he refers to this first church and says, "All the believers were one in HEART and MIND."
• They were one because they each acknowledged that Jesus was the HEAD-and the HEART of that church.
• They allowed Him to use their flesh to lovingly minister to the world around them.
We must remember this lesson from Acts and commit to do the same if we are to be and do all God calls us to be and do here at Shell Point.
We must realize that in order for our church to be the powerful witness God wants it to be-
in order for us to be a healthy church
we must each strive to obey Jesus in everything we say and do because, as someone once put it,
"The world will never be won to Christ until we are one IN Christ."
We are to be very much like one body
United in love as we face both the good and bad of life.
we are to bear one another's burdens.
We are to look at each other and say,
"If you've got a problem, I've got a problem."
"If you're hurting I'm hurting."
we literally walk together through life together
Pooling our strengths in a way that makes up for our weaknesses.
We do this because we have the same Father
o the same Head-and the same Heart
o Jesus' heart beats here-a heart for the lost sheep of this fallen world.
As long as we remember this principle
• as long as we work in response to Jesus' will-
• as long as we strive to be "one in heart and mind"
• well then like the church in Jerusalem,
This will be a powerful church
• a church that God uses to do amazing things in His kingdom-
• A church that draws lost people to Jesus.
Etch it in your mind. We must never forget this truth that Acts has taught us.
2. And then, his past year we have also learned a great deal about the Power of the HOLY SPIRIT.
The best illustration/seen/lives/disciples themselves.
There’s no way that on their own they would have been capable for the task that Jesus gave them in Acts 1:8.
From a purely human standpoint it was ridiculous to think that those eleven men-
Fearfully hiding behind closed doors in that upper room could be His witnesses in Jerusalem-
Much less in Judea and Samaria and to the utter most parts of the earth.
I mean, their courage was just too weak.
Remember? They had not acquitted themselves well during those hours and days surrounding Jesus' arrest and crucifixion.
They fled in eleven different directions.
Only John came back.
they not only failed in PUBLIC WITNESS
But also in PRIVATE LOYALTY and PERSONAL FAITH.
The best example of this was seen in the behavior of their LEADER, Peter, who as you know vehemently denied even knowing Jesus.
Plus there were things these men and women still did not understand about the Kingdom of God-
Even after 40 days of instruction at the feet/our RISEN Lord.
there was no way that on their own this ragged group of losers could fulfill Jesus' commission-
But our study of this history book shows they did exactly that!
And they were able to do so because they received power and guidance and wisdom from another Source-
God's HOLY SPIRIT living inside each of them.
With HIS POWER at their disposal they WERE able to turn the world upside down!
the same Holy Spirit power is available to us
to each and every Christian.
When we repent of our sin and ask Jesus to come into our heart and life as Lord and Savior, He does.
Jesus promised He is WITHIN us... "always-even to the end of the earth." (Matthew 28:20)
So, as Christians, we can relate to what Emerson has said, "What lies BEHIND us and what lies BEFORE us are tiny matters to what lies WITHIN us."
1 John 4:4, "Greater is He Who is IN YOU, than he who is in the world."
Ephs 1:19-20, "How tremendous is the POWER available to us who believe in God."
You know, so many local churches fail to do anything significant because they ignore the instructions of our Lord and only attempt things they know they can do in their own power.
Well, unfortunately, many churches are like that
Monuments to past glory.
They look like a church but they don't do what a church was called to do.
They are weak and powerless.
It is my prayer that one thing this study will have taught us here at Shell Point is that we can avoid this fate as long as we obey our Head
o Remembering that we can do ALL things through Him Who strengthens us.
o God will do amazing things
o Exciting things through us as long as we obey Him even when.....no, ESPECIALLY when
o He calls us to tasks that are beyond our strength.
"We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God."
"We serve a GREAT God, why should we not attempt to do GREAT things for Him?!"
3. And then our study has also taught us the unstoppable power of the GOSPEL.
in spite of repeated persecutions-
in spite of continued opposition by many of the Jewish leaders
in spite of the hardship of storms and shipwrecks
in spite of poisonous snake bites like Paul received while building a fire on Malta's beach...in spite of all this,
The good news of the Gospel spread just as Jesus said it would, "to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth." (Acts 1:8)...
o Such that by the time we get to chapter 28, Christianity has become a world religion.
o All this shows that just as Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, nothing will stop the spread of the gospel!
o Not even "...the gates of Hell will prevail against it."
We see/perfect example/Chapter 28/Paul is under arrest
Confined to an apartment chained 24 hours a day seven days a week to a Roman soldier, a member of the crack Praetorian guard.
You'd think this would stop Paul from doing what God had called him to Rome to do-share the good news of the Gospel.
o But it didn't! You see, the Praetorian Guard were not just any run of the mill soldiers.
o They were the very elite, Imperial Guard of Rome.
o Their unit had been founded by the Emperor Augustus himself
o Made up of a body of ten thousand handpicked troops-the best of the best.
o They were literally the power behind the throne of Rome.
It was the Prefect of the Praetorian Guard-the commanding officer of this unit-to whom Paul was handed over to when he arrived.
Do you begin to see the picture here?
Twenty-four hours a day, in six hour shifts each,
One after another of these select soldiers was chained to the Apostle Paul and forced to be with him.
They heard the conversations Paul had with his visitors as they discussed spiritual things.
They listened as he dictated his epistles.
During those two years in that apartment
Paul wrote Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
And every word was heard by a member of this unit.
They were constantly bound to this man who prayed without ceasing. Talk about a captive audience!
"Little did the Romans realize that the chains they affixed to his wrists would release Paul instead of binding him!"
Paul's experience shows us that nothing can stop the gospel
not even this imprisonment
God used it as an opportunity for the gospel of Christ to penetrate into the ranks of the most powerful men in the empire
and from them into the city of Rome and from Rome to soldiers stationed all over the world
Another thing-Paul's confinement encouraged other Christians in Rome to share the gospel more boldly.
They decided/God could use Paul IN prison, He certainly could use them OUTSIDE of prison.
Paul's courage gave them courage to share their faith throughout the capitol city.
In Philippians 1:14 Paul referred to this, "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."
Because of Paul's imprisonment Jesus was literally the talk of the town.
this shows that nothing stops the spread of the Gospel.
It should remind us of Jesus' promise, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14)
The Gospel will spread UNHINDERED until all have heard-then Jesus will come.
In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the last word of Acts in the Greek is "UNHINDERED."
So, I guess the question we must ask ourselves is will we decide to be a part of this or will we sit on the side lines?
o Will we join God in His work of telling the whole world of His love in sending Jesus?
The Rest of the Story.
o Wondering what happened to Paul. Luke doesn't tell us.
Using tradition/other Scriptures we can piece together the story.
End of a two year period/released from his confinement.
Paul did appear before/emperor and his case was dismissed.
Letter of Titus tells us/went back/island/Crete where he left Titus in charge of organizing the ministry there.
• Paul also visited Ephesus again, leaving Timothy/lead/ flock.
• Likely that he went to Spain as he had hungered to.
• Many scholars even think he took /gospel as far as Britain.
In any case, it is clear that eventually he was arrested again.
• A.D. 64 Nero suddenly slammed shut/door/religious freedom.
• Insane and infamously cruel, he blamed the Christians for the terrible fire in Rome that he himself had ordered set.
In this way he ignited a vicious persecution of believers
Paul was probably arrested as part of this and dragged to Rome as a prisoner.
This time, instead of being allowed to live in a hired home
o He was thrown into a dark and slimy dungeon
o The Mamertime Prison-which, you can still visit in Rome.
In that cell he wrote his second letter to Timothy, a letter that reflects the conditions of that confinement: conditions so cold and dank, that he asked Timothy to bring him his winter coat.
Finally, according to tradition, he was led out of his cell one day/early spring AD67 and taken outside the walls of Rome.
They marched him to the third milestone on the Ostian Way, to a little pinewood in a glade-a glade of the tombs, known now as Tre Fontane.
There he knelt down and a sword flashed in the sun severing his head from his body and in that instant the apostle went home to be with the Lord he had served so faithfully.
Luke doesn't include this last chapter of Paul's life in his book
The book is not about Paul
But rather about the spread of the Gospel
and it has continued/spread UNHINDERED/long after his death.
As I told you in the first sermon, this is an unfinished book
o one that Christians like you/me/SPBC/continuing to write.
Remember, the literal Greek translation of the title of this book of Luke's is this: "Acts of Apostolic People" –
no definite article, just ACTS...as if there are more ACTS to come.
And there ARE because as Christians, WE-you and me-WE are apostolic people!
o We are just like Peter and Paul and the others
o we are people who know Jesus personally
o who bear personal witness to His presence/power/our lives.
You and I are living out the subsequent chapters of "The Acts of Apostolic People"
• sharing the gospel as we go about our lives
• And we will continue/do/until Jesus returns/take us home.
So this book does not have an end.
In fact as we read verse 31 we have come not to an end but just the end of the beginning!
As we enter our time of invitation I would challenge you to begin a new chapter of the Acts of God in your life right now.
Commit to always listen when His Holy Spirit speaks-pledge to trust in and rely on His power-instead of your own.
Decide right now that you will always ACT when God tells you to.
Like young Samuel even now say, "Speak Lord for Your servant is listening."
And if God tells you to respond publically as we sing then do so. Come and join our church family-profess your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior or just come to the altar and pray.
But come-ACT-on any prompting of God's Spirit.