by Roger McCay
17 January 2021
Sermon Passage: Acts 28
Link to Audio Version
At the Milan Cathedral there are three inscriptions over three respective doorways. Over the right-hand door there is this motto: “All that pleases is but for a moment.” Over the left-hand door the words are: “All that troubles is but for a moment.” But over the central door there is a simple sentence: “Nothing is important save that which is eternal.” 
While there can be a tendency to be “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good,” that is not what the wisdom of the doors to the cathedral is endorsing. Rather, the reminders over the doors reinforce a focus on the eternal, putting earthly pleasures and troubles in their place, as fleeting things (what the writer of Ecclesiastes calls “vanity”). They remind those who pass through to focus on what really matters (the ever-present, irrepressible, task at hand for a Christian), following Jesus, in obedience of faith, to the Lord’s glory (Eccl. 12:13).
The past few weeks have been quite a doozy for us in the U.S. Among many, many concerns, a particular one has been the censorship inflicted by the social media giants this last week. For us Christians, their power play serves as a reminder, whether you agree with their actions or not. If the media powers that be can block the President of the United States and his supporters’ voices on social media (even shutting down a whole social media platform that would not conform), due to a disagreement with the president and his supporters’ politics … If they can do that, they can likewise block Christians and the message we proclaim on every form of media they control, even promote the slandering of us, if they disagree with our religion. The very same rationale they use for one can easily be used for another. All they have to do is classify some portion of the message of God’s Word we preach and teach as being hate speech (if they feel it doesn’t line up with the politically correct message of the day), thus giving them the self-righteous justification to cancel Christians and everything we have to say.
Yet, there is no need to get caught up in worry over this. Giving in to the tendency to focus too much on earthly hindrances (realized or potential), proves only a detrimental state of mind. We need to keep the long view in mind, as Paul urges in Col. 3:2: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This is because, ultimately, like the writer of Ecclesiastes says, it’s all “vanity.” The gospel does not rely on big media in any form. Modern media is simply a convenient tool. It is not necessary or important. No matter what hindrances the world might put up, the gospel will be proclaimed; God’s chosen will believe (every single one of us, without exception); and the Lord’s purposes will remain unhindered. The Lord is irrepressible.
In our study of Acts over the last two years, we’ve seen this irrepressibility played out over and over and over. The enemy threw every conceivable hindrance in the way of the proclamation of the gospel. Yet, through it all, steadily and surely the fulfillment of Jesus’ vision in Acts 1:8 came to fruition. The gospel was proclaimed in Jerusalem, then to all Judea and Samaria, continuing to the ends of the earth. The gospel exploded throughout the known world, faithfully carried by the Lord’s messengers, gathering the elect to him. Thus, throughout Acts the case was made and proven over and over that there is no way to stop the good news of Jesus Christ—ever. It is irrepressible. God’s people will be saved.
The 28th chapter of Acts provides no exception. It reinforces the irrepressibility of the gospel in actions of mercy, gospel life among believers, and the continuing gospel proclamation to the world from then until the Lord returns in glory—unhindered.
After the shipwreck in Acts 27, Paul and all those with him found themselves on the small island of Malta, unharmed, like the Lord had promised. Paul arrived on the island with nothing, a prisoner among other shipwrecked men. Yet, he found himself the center of attention.
First, this was due to God’s action of mercy upon him when he was bitten by a viper, which occurred as he was placing the firewood he had collected on the fire. Protected by the Lord, Paul just shook the poisonous snake off, unharmed, bringing him very much to the attention of the islanders, who now called him a god. Paul had been there before, when he and Barnabas were called gods in Lystra, and, like then, he surely pointed away from himself, bringing glory to the true God.