Who doesn’t love book ends?
Bookends are great, and make awesome decorative accents.
Literary bookends are the same way. They frame what lies between as a clue to the reader what takeaways are important.
Like Die Hard movies 1 and 3, which reminded the viewer that Die Hard is awesome, even if what lay between the bookends was admittedly off topic, confusing, and not in keeping with the franchise.
Bookends are important, and they are the topic of today’s post.
Spreading the Gospel
Many many people before me have focused on Acts 1:8 as a departure point for the entire book.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my Witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.
And rightfully so. The trajectory of the book is such that it begins in Jerusalem where the first believers were gathered, then it spread throughout Jerusalem (ch. 2-9) and to the Samaritans (ch 10-11), and to the “ends of the earth” (Paul’s ministry in the rest of the book, and also Phillip’s baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch in chapter 8).
The bookend to complete the set
The end of the book of Acts closes so artfully with a perfect bookend to pair with the first.
Paul has made it to Rome as a prisoner of the empire. While awaiting his hearing with Caesar, he summons he Jewish people in Rome to explain the hot water he’d gotten into woh the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, and to plead his case. On he day when he has set to explain himself, a great crowd is drawn, and here is what Scripture says about Paul’s defense:
From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus . . . . And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement:
“The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.
Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
Acts 28:23-28 ESV
The Jews left when Paul proclaimed, through the Spirit and through the Prophets, that their rebellion would compel God to bring salvation to the Gentiles. This is the point of Acts.
The bookends show this.
It’s not a book primarily abot spiritual gifts, or even primarily about the early church and their methods, although there is MUCH to be learned along those lines.
These bookends show that the message of Acts is that Salvation has come to the Gentiles, or “non-jewish people.” Salvation is available to all, and all we must do is put our trust in Jesus’ blood and obey the Gospel.
This makes one more thing clear, I think, as it is a theme through the book. Simply being a member of the house of Israel is no longer sufficient for establishing that a person belongs to God; God judges the heart.
Over and over again, we see Paul do the same thing in every [gentile] town he visits. He goes first to the synagogue, to reason with the Jews, but when they reject his message, then he takes it to the gentiles.
Part of the message of the book of acts is that God is replacing his covenant with Israel (one in which people are under the covenant by virtue of birth) with a new covenant, one where his word is written on the hearts of men, and where membership is attained by trusting in the blood of Jesus and him alone.
And that is open to anyone.
Jesus sent out his witnesses to the Jews first, and then to the ends of the earth. The Jewish nation refused to listen; and so salvation has come to the gentiles.
To you and me.
Now that’s a pair of bookends I wouldn’t mind adorning my home.
This is day 4 in a one year (or less) series through the Bible. Click here for the previous day, and here for the full series.