Through the Bible in One Year

Day 245

Acts 28:11-31

After months of travel and enduring hardships along the way, we now see Paul reach his ultimate destination: Rome.  This final section of Acts is a fitting conclusion to Luke’s account of the raise of Christianity and the early church, because we have now seen what started as an off shoot of Judaism located mainly in Palestine to now having become known worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of followers.

After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.—28:11-14

Three months on the island meant the departure for Rome was in early February.  The departure was quite early in what was considered the safe zone for sailing.  The ship bore an insignia or figurehead that was also its name, Castor and Pollux, the sons of Zeus.  Castor and Pollux were the patrons of navigation.  The trip from Syracuse (a town on the island of Sicily), Rhenium and Puteoli was by sea, skirting under the southern side of Sicily and up the western coast of Italy.  From Puteoli, the trip was by land, ultimately arriving in Rome.

The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.—28:15-16

Paul received delegations of fellow Christians.  The Forum of Appius was the name of wayfaring station about 43 miles south of Rome.  The Three Taverns was the name of another station about ten miles closer.  Paul’s spirit’s lifted because of the meeting.  In Rome Paul had his own rented house, meaning he probably paid for it personally.  The money at first surely came from the generosity of the Maltese, but we also know of gifts from the Macedonians (Philippians 1:3; 4:10-20).  Since Paul was guarded by only one soldier, he was not considered very dangerous.  That soldier would have been bond to Paul by a single chain.  He would have been from the Praetorian guard, the military faction used in Rome, since armed legionnaires were not allowed in the city.  They were generally considered Caesar’s personal guard but were numerous enough to perform police duties in Italy and Rome in particular.

Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”—28:17-22

Soon after his arrival, Paul met with the local Jewish leadership.  This meeting was an expression of his normal missionary practice of “to the Jew first” that has been demonstrated throughout the book of Acts.  In Rome Jews represented a group of around 40,000 to 50,000.  The synagogues were autonomous (without a regional leader) and mostly located across the Tiber River from the city’s center.  Paul reasserted his innocence regarding any civil crime; he had no complaints against his nation; and he claimed the issue was theological—the “hope of Israel.”  This hope presumably refers to the resurrection of the individual, which is ultimately connected to the Gospel.  The response was encouraging and a day was set for Paul to formally present his views.

hey arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.—28:23-24

Paul had written his letter to the Romans a few years earlier, so the scene beginning in verse 23 was not the first Gospel presentation to Jews in Rome.  Before Paul ever arrived in Rome, a church with converted Jews already existed.  Furthermore, the edict of Claudius was likely on the basis of a disturbance about Christ.  Paul’s day with the Jews was long and fruitful in that quite a number were convinced by him.  This persuasion probably means they converted to Christianity.  The source of Paul’s arguments was the Law of Moses and the Prophets, indicating that his evidence was the Hebrew Scripture itself.

hey arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.—28:25-28

At the end of the day, the Jews did not all agree.  When Paul perceived that the evangelistic opportunity was over, he cited Isaiah 6:9-10.  Paul categorized the Roman Jews (and by extension all unbelieving Jews) the same way as those in Isaiah’s day.  Their stubborn unbelief was expressed in terms of their ears, eyes and hearts.  Their stubborn deafness, blindness and non-understanding led them to not return to God.  There is great danger for those who go too far down the road of rejection.  Their opportunity is finite.  The final statement about the Gentile’s reception of the Gospel does not indicate the rejection of ethnic Israel’s opportunity but confirms the sure inclusion of the Gentiles.  As such, the call to continue preaching in the face of resistance was encouraged.

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!—28:30-31

Luke may end Acts so abruptly because he is describing Paul’s present situation.  He tells us nothing about the outcome of Paul’s circumstances because at the time Luke was writing Acts, Paul remained in Rome awaiting trial before Caesar.  Luke’s purpose, however, was not to tell about Paul’s life but to demonstrate the move of the Gospel from a Jewish sect to worldwide movement without leaving any willing Jew behind.  He tells us nothing of the outcome of Paul’s circumstances, though Paul’s journey to Rome has been the focus for nine chapters.  Luke encapsulates two years in a brief summary statement, and there was much interesting information that could have been added.  We know the Prison Letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon) were written during this time (AD 60-62), and these letters tell us much information about Paul’s imprisonment that is not included in Acts.  All this was done at the fulfillment of Christ’s commands in Acts 1:8.  The Gospel was passed from believer to believer under divine leading and providence, through persecution, martyrdom, and resistance from individuals and governments from Judea all the way to Rome.  While Paul was in captivity in Rome, the Gospel was unhindered.  And beyond Acts, the Gospel remains unhindered.  And we will pick up tomorrow with the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Roman church, which is probably one of the most important books in the entire Bible.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Ecclesiastes 4-6, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7, Psalm 47:1-9 and Proverbs 22:16

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