A Commentary by John Stott
In these last two verses of Acts there is no mention of either Jews or Gentiles, as there has been in the previous paragraphs. The most natural explanation of this is that the ‘all’ who came to see Paul included both. The terrible verses from Isaiah 6 meant neither that no Jews were converted, nor that those Jews who believed would be rejected. Nevertheless, the emphasis of Luke’s conclusion is on the Gentiles who came to Paul, who were symbols and precursors of the vast, hungry Gentile world outside. *They will listen!* Paul had predicted (29). And listen they did. For two whole years they came to him and listened to him, as he stayed on in Rome, in his own rented accommodation, or ‘at his own expense’ (RSV, NEB). Probably he resumed his tent-making, in order to pay his way. But when visitors came to him, he laid aside his manual labour for evangelism. And what did he talk to them about? He again spoke about ‘the kingdom of God’ and ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ (as in verse 23), especially in relation to each other. He ‘preached’ the former and ‘taught’ the latter, Luke says. This seems to mean that he proclaimed the good news of the breaking into human history of God’s gracious rule through Christ and that he linked this with ‘the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ’ (NEB), which he also taught, the facts of his birth and life, words and works, death and resurrection, exaltation and gift of the Spirit. It was through these saving events that the kingdom of God had dawned. Probably, however, the distinction between ‘preaching’ and ‘teaching’ has been over-pressed, for all Paul’s preaching had a doctrinal content, while all his teaching had an evangelistic purpose.
The final words of the book (which the NIV misplaces) are the adverbial expression *meta pases parresias*, ‘with all boldness’, and the adverb *akolutos*, ‘without hindrance’. *Parresia* has been a characteristic word of Acts ever since the Twelve exhibited boldness and prayed for more (4:13, 31). And Paul had asked the Ephesians to pray that his ministry might bear the same mark (Eph. 6:19-20). *Parresia* denotes speech which is candid (with no concealment of truth), clear (with no obscurity of expression) and confident (with no fear of consequences). ‘Without hindrance’ means that, although the 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 Jesus Christ. Though he was chained, the Word of God was not (cf. 2 Tim. 2:9). Together Luke’s two adverbs describe the freedom which the gospel enjoyed, having neither internal nor external restraint. In consequence, we may be sure that many were converted, including the runaway slave Onesimus (Phm. 10).
Tomorrow: Conclusion: The providence of God.