AFTER THESE THINGS WERE ENDED
Acts 19:20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. 21 After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. 22 So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.
There is much more than meets the eye in the words of our title! For with only a casual reading, one might think that we are being told that the Apostle Paul and his ministry were just proceeding on to the next city to evangelize and plant a church as he had been doing. But that, most assuredly, is not the case. The words of our title actually reveal the finish of all the former ‘business as usual’ by this great Apostle! And they are a road sign to open up the final section of this book, and to begin a far different ministry of this apostle.
Listen at his assessment of that which is now before him. Acts 20:22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
You can see by this revelation from the Holy Spirit that the former things were now to pass away. All things hereafter were to become new. For he was now shown that from here on out bonds and afflictions were to be his portion, rather than evangelism and planting churches! In fact, it is summed up in a verse in his letter to the Philippians. I am set for the defence of the gospel. (Phil. 1:17). And that is exactly what he was called to do from this point on throughout his remaining ministry. He must now stand before both religious and political powers to defend himself and the work the Holy Spirit had done through him. The instruction to Ananias at the very outset of the Apostle Paul’s ministry was now to be put into effect! But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: (Acts 9:15).
In order to fully comprehend the precise termination of past methods, it will be beneficial to spend a little time and space in this article to look at the Greek wording used in our title. For that Greek word, here translated, were ended, holds the key to this understanding.
First of all, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance tells us the Greek word means, “to cram (a net).” That means that there can not be one other fish added! It is full! It is “complete.” And that word, “complete” is how our Greek word is translated in Colossians 2:10 and 4:12. We also find it listed in Acts 7:30 as, “when … were expired.” Therefore his former activities are now “complete,” and have therefore “expired.”
This word is also used multiple times in the Book of Matthew regarding our Lord Jesus Christ. And we find it mostly translated into English there as, “it might be fulfilled.” Let me list some examples.
Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. As you see the translation of our word (here underlined), you understand that this particular prophesy of the scriptures was now “complete.” Their need of fulfillment was now “expired.” They “were ended.” The virgin’s son could not be born a second time. And he could be named, “Jesus” but once!
Another examples in Matthew’s writing are as follows: Matthew 2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Matthew 2:17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Matt. 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
It goes without saying that each of these occurrences fulfilled the prophesy concerning them and needed not be repeated again! The child Jesus could only be brought out of Egypt this once in order to “complete” that prophesy. And Herod need only once kill all the children in the area for Jeremiah’s prophesy to be fulfilled. And the man, Christ Jesus, need only come to dwell in Nazareth but once in order to fulfill the prophesy of his being called a Nazarene! Therefore seeing that this same Greek word is used concerning the Apostle Paul’s ministry, we see that it can only set forth the same constant meaning of his former activities being completely ended!
There is another scriptural event that need be examined to also see this principle. It is found in the Book of John. And it will certainly show us just how dedicated our Lord was in his obedience to fulfilling the prophesies concerning him. John 19:28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Did you really read that? Then did you see that the Lord determined only to fulfilled scripture by saying, “I thirst!” And in so doing he also sets forth the true character of the believer concerning eating and drinking. 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. He was thirsty! But he only sought to quench that thirst for the glory of God in the fulfilling of the scripture! And then when all the scripture was fulfilled, and not before, he pronounced that his mission on the cross was ended. The Father was now satisfied! (Isa. 53:11). Redemption was complete! Now he pronounces, “It is finished!”
Listen at his teaching concerning his determination to fulfill God’s purposes for him in his earthly work: Luke 22:37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And his earthly mission did end when he pronounced, “It is finished.” For at that point he had “fulfilled all righteousness!” (Matt. 3:15).
Let us now begin to see some things to lead us into Paul’s last portion of ministering as becoming a defense of the gospel. As has been said, he was formally on the offense, going to regions beyond other men’s missions in his unrivaled evangelistic work. (2 Cor. 10:16). But now he must be on the defense to make sure that work would be sustained by his support of it, even in bonds.
He would now be subject to many personal slanders. He was slandered in Jerusalem by Jews from Asia, even when he had done perfectly right by their law! Acts 21:27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. 31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.
Next he was even misinterpreted by the Roman officer, who came to quiet the mob and protect Paul. Acts 21:37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? 38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? 39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.
And then we read that the Jew’s lawyer, Tertullus, tries to blacken his reputation before the governor. Acts 24:5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: Satan, the Father of lies, was certainly after him!
But why such persecution, slander and lies leveled against this great apostle? It was partly because the salvation and doctrine of the many churches he had planted (1 Cor. 3:6), were strongly linked to his character! And it was partly due to the fact that those souls graced with washing in the blood of the Lamb are always hated by the world – especially by the world of religion!
Listen at the Apostle Peter’s instruction concerning this: 1 Peter 2:19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
Christ’s personal life must be perfect before the Father! For had there been any slight infraction, he would have justly tasted death as a sinner, and could not have been raised from the dead! And if he were not raised, we would have no justification and would remain in our sin! (Rom. 4:25; 1 Corin. 15:17). And in this pattern, the apostle’s former work in evangelism is now to suffer loss or to be fortified by whether he is cleared and delivered from these slanderer’s and their slanders!
Listen now to his temperament as revealed by his expressed attitudes. He had no vengeful spirit towards Israel! Acts 28:19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
He was properly related to money, the love of which is the root of all evil! Acts 20:33 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Yet listen to the attitude of Felix towards money. Acts 24:26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.
And no one surpassed him in loyalty to Christ! Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 21:13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
Now hear his own testimony regarding his discipline for the gospel’s sake. 1 Corin. 9:1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? 2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. 3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, 12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
He begins all his letters with an effort to set forth proof of his apostleship. And none greater than these few words written to the Galatians: But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11-12.)
Pastor Gene Breed