One Last Word

open gateHe lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. Acts 28:30-31 (ESV)

Have you ever noticed the very final word in the Book of Acts? It is hard to see in the English texts, but in the original Greek it is the word “unhindered.” Most English translations use two words “without hindrance” (ESV, CSB, NIV) when translating it. But I believe that Luke, the writer, wanted readers to see it as a pivotal stand-alone word, summarizing all the astounding gospel advance throughout the Book of Acts, and then looking forward to the continued advance of the Gospel into the future.

“But wait,” you may be thinking, “there are a lot of hindrances to my ministry. You have to be out of touch with reality to think that God’s mission goes unhindered.”

I don’t blame mission workers for thinking that. After all, they face a multitude of “hindrances” from many different directions: national governments who refuse or complicate visa processes, local authorities who restrict outreach events, religious leaders who see Christian missions as a threat, jealous/ambitious local church leaders who see the missionary as a barrier to their desired place of prominence/control, family members who don’t understand why their loved ones are “wasting their lives” in a far away country, lack of adequate funds, lack of adequate help, lack of adequate resources, cool interest in churches back home, sickness in the family, dangers on every side, occasional out-of-touch directives from the home office. Yes, when looked at from one’s immediate context, there seem to be many hindrances to the missionary calling.

However, Luke is asking us to step back and look at the bigger picture. “The kingdom of God,” which bookends his book (1:3, 28:31), is continuing to advance through the “teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Though Paul was restricted, he was not silenced. He still found a way to proclaim the gospel. Paul took to writing (i.e., the Prison Epistles) and to meeting with people who became believes (i.e., runaway slave Onesiums). He found ways to keep the gospel moving forward “without hindrance.”

Commenting on “unhindered,” John Stott says: “although military surveillance continued, there was no ban by the authorities on Paul’s speaking. Though his hand was still bound, his mouth was open for Christ Jesus. Though he was chained, the Word of God was not… (it) described the freedom which the gospel enjoyed, having neither internal nor external restraint.”[1] Paul did not allow his constrained circumstances to keep him from using other creative means for advancing the Gospel. Over the course of his two years of confinement, he did not shut up or give up. Though in the least desirable of circumstances, he kept working “with all boldness.”

Notice that Luke did not choose another word to end the book. He didn’t say that the work was “unopposed” – for it was. He did not say that it was “unrestricted” – for it was. He did not say that it was “undisturbed” – for it was. He said “unhindered” – for he saw the bigger picture. As should we. The gospel is unstoppable.

“Unhindered,” closes the book of Acts on a high note of optimism! As Stott points out, it related to God’s providence, which “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11).[2] It reminds us that no opposing grand scheme, no ambitious devious plan, and no amount of resistance can prevail. It encourages us to keep-on-keeping-on, even in the face of what may seem to be opposition. Let us too move forward “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

 [1] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990, pages 400-401.

[2] Ibid.

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