11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered on the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”
23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”  [b]
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
Three months ago, we dove into the book of Acts together. If you will remember with me, we began in Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jewish people, but today we end in Rome, the capital city of the Gentiles. We began with Peter and other apostles ministering to the Jews. We end with Paul ministering to the Gentiles. The direction of Acts is one of ever-expanding global reach. One could say, and many do, that the book of Acts is the story of the early church and the spread of the gospel. It is about that. But more importantly, it is about how the early church and the spread of the gospel were powered by the Holy Spirit.
In the very first chapter, we see the central theme, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). Luke wanted us to know that the good news of Jesus would spread, but it would happen by supernatural power, not human ability. Over and over again, the author reminds us that when something happened to advance the gospel, it was through cooperation with the Holy Spirit. As Pastor Johnny said in the first week of our study of Acts, “God works through collaboration, not coercion.”
It is in partnership with God that we do God’s work. God will never force us but always calls us. God never tricks us or manipulates us, but always offers us a way forward. This is what Peter, the early church, and Paul all discovered. Transformation comes when people trust and follow the Holy Spirit. And the church (a group of people who believe in and follow Jesus) must do the same. Pastor Johnny is worth quoting again, “Only a church fully reliant on and transformed by the Holy Spirit will thrive. The church is meant to be an active force. To collaborate with God through the power of the Holy Spirit to represent Christ in the world, to restore what is broken, and redeem what is lost.”
How are we doing at that, Church?
Dear Lord, Open my eyes and ears to your work around me. Let me see the big and small ways you are answering prayers. Guide to be a light in the darkness, proclaiming your beautiful and magnificent ways. Make me an instrument of grace and peace in the world. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.