A Closing Warning from Luke
We have reached the end of Acts. Paul is finally in Rome and treated quite well for a prisoner; indeed, we might even call it productive, for it is believed that from this imprisonment he wrote his letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (ESV Study Bible, 2145). He writes in his letter to the Philippians that “the whole imperial guard” knew that his imprisonment was for the cause of Christ, and at the end of the letter he writes that the saints “of Caesar’s household” send greetings (1:13; 4:21). Thus we may be certain that Paul’s imprisonment in Rome bore fruit for Christ, showing us once again that God can use us no matter where we are.
The passage tells us that Paul explained to the local Jewish leaders how he came to Rome—the arrest in the temple and his being handed over to the Romans. He naturally maintains his innocence. But these leaders have received no letters from Judea and seem completely ignorant of the whole affair. However, they do want to hear from Paul, “for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” So upon setting a day and time, Jews in greater numbers came to hear Paul expound upon the Law of Moses and the Prophets from morning till evening seeking to convince them that Jesus is the Christ, the inaugurator of the kingdom of God.
And as usual some believe and some don’t which is always the case when the gospel is preached. And here Paul quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10 a passage hard to hear (see also Matthew 13:14-15 and John 12:40): “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.” Paul used these words with regard to his Jewish listeners, and certainly that was Isaiah’s audience as well. But these words have a universal reference. We see and hear the word of God but are blind and deaf to its salvific and healing power, and this is because our hearts are hardened to the gospel. This is the reason why some will never believe: the fault lies in their sinful hearts. And even we who do believe must always examine ourselves, “that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy,” for these are the ways we fail to obtain the grace of God (Hebrews 12:15-16). So “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).