Paul Preaching in Athens, by Raphael
If you were to choose the words to be written on your tombstone, what would they be? Perhaps you have heard of the hypochondriac who had the following epitaph on his tombstone: “I told you I was sick!” My mother has told me what she wants on her tombstone: “Alive and well!”
Acts 28:31 would have been a fitting epitaph for the Apostle Paul’s tombstone if he had one. “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Those few words serve as the ending to the book of Acts. Many have wondered why the book ends so abruptly. The answers are varied. However, this much we can say, Luke set out to write about the Gospel being taken to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Having set forth the fact that Paul preached the gospel in Rome, the center of the empire, Luke achieved his purpose. It is significant that Luke ends his second volume on the note of preaching. The preaching of the word has been the dominant subject of his history and is thus presented as one of the primary keys to the growth of the Church. The abrupt ending to the book of Acts also suggests that we are to continue living out the Acts of the Holy Spirit in our day as well.
So what application does this last verse of this ancient history book have for us today, we who live in an apathetic, anti-authority, anti-preaching age? Is preaching still relevant after all these years, or are we free to discard it and adopt wholly new methods for communicating the good news about Jesus Christ? Furthermore, what is your role in preaching, those of you who sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday?
Let me offer at least one application of this Scripture to your life today, and that is that the Lord wants you to pray for the preaching of the word. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus:
Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19-20)
Paul may have written these words while he was in prison at Rome. And so we may presume that it was the prayers of God’s people in Ephesus that made the effective preaching in Rome possible by God’s grace.
What should you pray for when you pray for the preaching of God’s word? Let me suggest you follow Acts 28:31 as an outline for what to pray. We need to pray for bold, unhindered, educational preaching that is focused on the Kingdom and the King, our Lord Jesus Christ.