Acts – Paul the Apostle/Part 28
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|We are going to be looking at verses 11-31, the end of the chapter. Paul is now on the last leg of his journey to Rome. It has been packed with adventure.|
Paul: The Messenger – Part 16
Turn with me to Acts 28. We are finally finishing the book of Acts. Haven’t we had a great time going through the journeys of the apostle Paul? We are going to be looking at verses 11-31, the end of the chapter. Paul is now on the last leg of his journey to Rome. It has been packed with adventure. There was a terrific storm at sea, and they were blown at the mercy of violent winds for days. They could do nothing. Finally the ship is torn apart, and they are beached on the island of Malta. There the natives minister to them. God just provided in a marvelous way. Strangers provided for them. They didn’t even speak their language. They were cold. They were wet. They were hungry, and these natives welcomed them, received them, and built a fire to warm them. God always has someone to minister to the people who are about His work. Even those who were with Paul were blessed because of his faithfulness. Paul was bitten by a viper, and God protected him. He just healed him right there. As a matter of fact, He didn’t have to heal him. It didn’t do anything. He threw the viper off and didn’t swell up and didn’t die. Why? Because God said Paul was going to Rome. How is he going to die of a snake bite and make it to Rome? God just saw to it that nothing hindered what He was up to in Paul’s life.
I believe that is a principle we can stand on. Until God is finished with us, we are virtually indestructible as long as God is using us. That doesn’t mean we won’t have hard and difficult times, but it means that God is going to continue to use us until that which he has begun is finished. It is all His work.
Well, Paul healed the sick on the island. As a result he gained such respect, not just from those barbarians on that island, as the word barbaros, signifies, he also gained a tremendous amount of respect from the Roman soldiers who he was supposed to be a prisoner of. As a matter of fact, they began to listen to him, when he was supposed to be the one listening to them.
I was thinking as I was studying this about those reporters now who are going everywhere. If you shoot somebody, they’ve got to be there to watch him bleed to death and report it to everybody. Imagine if that had gone on in World War II what a chaotic situation that would have been.
Can you imagine what they would be writing back? “Hey, folks, you missed the assignment. Talk about a man! Here is a guy who has the whole group of people in charge of him listening to him. We were on the boat with him. We were about to wreck, and Paul stood up and said an angel had spoken to him and said if they would stick with him, they would be all right. Sure enough, they stuck with him, and they were okay. Not only that, we got on the island, and a snake bit him, but it didn’t bother him. He healed people. Who is this guy?” It would be the headlines in the newspapers today.
You see, God is doing something in Paul’s life to the degree that, as he follows the Lord, people are actually ending up following him. Don’t ever forget that. Father, mother, whoever you are, if you want to be a leader, be a follower. Do what Jesus says in your life, and people will follow you. They are not interested in you. They are interested in the One you are following and without realizing it, they fall right in line behind you.
Well, in verse 11 we begin to catch up with what’s happening. “And at the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead.” Now, “the Twin Brothers” is an interesting phrase that just got my attention. I had to look it up. This came out of Greek mythology. You do realize that Greek mythology was one of the things they would combat even during the days that Paul was preaching the gospel. The Greeks had many, many gods. These two figureheads he speaks of here were Castor and Pollux. They were supposed to be the sons of Zeus. They were the friends of the sailors.
Have you ever noticed how in a thunderstorm on a ship at sea the static electricity is built up sometimes around the mast of the ship. It appears as a strange eerie light around those masts. As a matter of fact, helicopters have to be very careful in stormy weather at sea because of the electricity they create under them. The same type of thing happens. It is sometimes called St. Elmo’s Fire. I don’t know what that is. I have never witnessed it before, but back in that day it was going on just like it goes on today. They thought superstitiously that when that light was created around the masts of those ships it was these two gods appearing to let the sailors know that everything would be all right.
As I thought of that, I thought how odd this picture is. Here is a Greek ship with the two gods that they think are real as the figurehead on the front of the ship. The Romans soldiers who are pagans are there. Here is Paul, and of course, Luke who is writing this, and some other traveling companions he might have had with him. They are surrounded by the paganism of this world and yet, he’s the one who is really in control. Incredible. It is amazing. Think of the potential in the church congregation if you or I would just simply come to the point of abandonment and say, “God, I don’t want to love anyone but Jesus and hate anything but sin. I just want You to use me.” Our lives would become magnetic even to the pagan people we work with every single day of our lives. They couldn’t say anything about us. They would see God in us to the degree that they would want to follow us because they are interested in the person we are following.
Verse 12 says, “And after we put in at Syracuse [Syracuse was the most important city, the chief city, of the island of Sicily. Many of you have heard of Sicily. You might have heard of Syracuse] we stayed there for three days.” Verse 13 continues, “And from there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium.” Have you ever seen the boot of Italy on a map? Well, right at the toe of the boot is where Rhegium is. They finally got around to Rhegium. Now they are in the Italy that we know today.
Then in verse 13 it says, “and a day later a south wind sprang up.” Now why did they want a south wind? That is what they were looking for. The other winds are violent and volatile, but the south wind is what they are looking for to carry them to their destination. “And on the second day we came to Puteoli.” That was one of the principle cities on the western coast of Rome. He is getting close to where he is headed. The roads that led from there to the city of Rome were major roads, traveled heavily by people from all over the world. This was a great seaport that did so much for the economy of the people in that day.
Verse 14 says, “There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.” I mentioned this in our last study. I want to say it again. Doesn’t that strike you as a little funny? Here is Paul, a prisoner. The brethren come out to meet him and say, “Paul, don’t leave us. Would you stay longer?” So he stays seven days. That means the Roman centurion, all the other prisoners and the whole bunch had to stay for seven days until Paul finished visiting and ministering to these brethren. Then they moved on to the city of Rome. You see, what God did on Malta caused such an honor and respect in the life of Paul that as a result of it, he actually is calling the shots. He actually has taken the lead.
Well, finally they come to Rome itself. This is where we begin to finish the chapter. Verses 15-31 tell us the events and the things that he faced while he was there in Rome. It is not the end of his life. As a matter of fact, some of you asked me, “Are you going to leave him in his first trip to Rome, and then drop it?” Oh, no. Wait until the next study. We are going to take him on to the end of his life so we will better understand this man as we get into that great epistle of the Ephesians.
There are four things I want you to see. First of all, I want you to see how the believers received him. It is all in verse 15: “And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” What we are seeing here is the people coming out of Rome, which was a great distance, to meet Paul and to welcome him on the way. It is 125 miles from where they put in there on that port city of Puteoli to the city of Rome itself. When it mentions “Market of Appius,” that is not really what is in the text. It’s a word that I can’t pronounce, so we will stick with this, alright? “From the Market of Appius” means they came out of the city 40 miles to meet Paul on the way. Those that came from the Three Inns came 30 miles to meet him on the way. Now that says a lot. They didn’t have taxis. They didn’t have cars. They might have had something you could ride on or whatever, but it was mostly by foot. This is a long way to come to meet somebody.
First of all, how did they know he was there? Well, now hold it. I told you from Puteoli to Rome there were all those roads that were traveled very heavily. The word travels very, very fast. In that day and time, it was nothing to get the message to the people there. “Paul, the apostle, the one who wrote his epistle three years before to the Romans, has actually come to Rome itself.” The Christians were so fired up, they came 40 miles to meet him on the way. It is very, very significant. Probably one of the most important events in all of church history was the apostle Paul going to Rome. As far as we know and can prove, he was the first apostle to set foot in Rome. He had written them that he was coming, and he followed through with it three years later. He had not known all the delays that would be in his life, but he finally makes it to Rome.
Verse 15 says that when he saw those believers, “he thanked God and he took courage.” Why was he so excited? “Well, he needed encouragement. He is a prisoner. He had been in a shipwreck, and had been on the island of Malta. He needed the encouragement of these believers.” Now think with me for a second. Sometimes you read this, catch a thought and think that’s it without really meditating on it. Did Paul need encouragement that bad? He had just spent seven days with the believers there at Puteoli. Why would he need more encouragement on the way? I don’t think that was why he was encouraged. Yes, it ministered to him, but I think Paul knew God had told him back in Acts 19, “I want you to go to Jerusalem, and I want you to go to Rome.” I think somehow when he saw those believers come out, it wasn’t so much that they encouraged him to do what he had to do, but the fact that he saw “God, you’ve done it again! You’ve paved the way! Look at these believers! Man, with all of these believers here, we are going to see a great work done in Rome.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have flown to a city that maybe I’ve been to before and maybe not. I get there, and some pastor picks me up at the airport. I might know him, and I might not. Most of the time I don’t know them. He takes me to the motel and says, “Listen, I’ll be back or send somebody from the church to pick you up at 6:00 or so. We’ll have a service tonight, and we will eat after the service.” I’m hungry and a little tired, and I am beginning to get a little shaky because I always want to be in the center of where God wants me to be. Yet, in my heart there is a burning desire to be in that place. It’s there. I don’t put it there. I honestly don’t put it there. As I get on my face before the Lord, I say, “God, what do you want me to preach to these people? I don’t know them. I don’t know where they are coming from. I don’t know the preacher. What can I do to be an encouragement to these believers in this church?”
They come to pick me up. Most of the time it’s not the preacher. I don’t know why. They take me over to the church. I like to go in and sit on the front row. I don’t know why, but I like to feel a place. I like to feel the people coming in. I don’t know what that’s saying. I’m not some kind of mystic or anything. I like to just be in a place for a while and sense the spirit of what’s going on inside that place. I don’t know how many times I have been sitting down on the front row, and I hear my name called. Hold it! I didn’t know what this church was all about. I didn’t know the preacher. Who are these people? They’ll come down and say, “Wayne, we are so glad you are here. Let me just introduce you to such and such.” There is a line of people I have never seen before and had no idea that God would ever use me to bless their life. All of a sudden, there is something inside of me that says, “God, you are going to do something in this place. With all of these people here, You have paved the way. I don’t have to lay the groundwork. You’ve laid the groundwork. Now let’s build on what they already know.”
I spoke at the Bailey Smith Evangelism Conference one time. I had never been in something like that. There were about 2500-3200 pastors and ministers there. It was a wonderful opportunity. I was really nervous. First of all, it was an evangelism conference. “Brother Wayne, you are just not very evangelistic.” Well, I am, too, but in my own way. Now you leave me alone. A lot of times people who are interested in evangelism aren’t interested in growing them up. So you need me, and I need you. I am interesting in grabbing a Christian who doesn’t know beans about anything, taking him from scratch and building him up in the faith. That’s where my burden comes from. What am I doing in an evangelism conference? I was standing down there, and God had put a message on my heart. The message was, “The reason we are not loving people outside the church is because we are not loving people inside the church.” My message will always go right to the believer.
I was sitting there on the front row, and I heard my name called. It was a huge auditorium. I turned my head to see who had called my name. A delegation from Virginia had come down, and they said, “Listen, we just want you to know, we found out you were going to be here and that’s why we are here.” They stood around me and took pictures, all these little ladies. They were taking pictures with me, and I thought, “Man, this is great.” Inside my heart it was like God was saying, “You see, when I put the message on your heart, I’ve got the people out there to give you the confidence that what I said I was going to do, I am going to do.” When I stood up in the pulpit, I didn’t know anybody else in the place, but I knew there was a little group of people out there rooting for me. I knew God had paved the way to do what He sent me to do.
I think that’s exactly what happened to Paul. Man, when he got on that road and saw that bunch of believers coming, don’t you know what happened in his heart? “Look at these people coming! Man, they love Jesus. They love His Word. God, thank You. We are going to have a time in Rome. If they will come 40 miles to meet me on the road, what will they do to support me while we are there ministering as You have called me to minister.”
Well, the believers received him, but the second thing I want you to see is how the religious crowd rejected him. You know, there is something here that just keeps coming up in Acts. Some things seem never to change. Isn’t that right? We’ve studied Paul all the way from chapter 9 and everywhere he has been, Asia Minor, Greece, Macedonia, the Greek islands, Judea, and now Rome. Everywhere he has been these Jews were there. When the Bible says “the Jews,” it is not talking about the whole race of people. It’s talking about individuals who are in high places. Mostly that was the Sanhedrin, the religious ones who are forcing people under the bondage of the Law that Jesus came to fulfill. They won’t believe in Christ because they won’t turn away from the Law. That is why they are blinded every time they hear the message of grace.
Everywhere he goes they are there. They were probably more hostile to him because he was once one of them. He used to be exactly the way they were. The basic reason they rejected him was because of his message. He believed Christ Jesus to be the Messiah. They did not.
Secondly, they rejected Paul because he preached his message to Gentiles. They hated the Gentiles. We are going to see in Rome that it’s no different than any place else that he has been. The believers received him. The religious crowd rejected him. It has always been so. It has never been any different.
Well, let’s see how the setting develops. In verse 17 Paul organizes a meeting. These religious Jews don’t come after him. He goes to them. “And it happened that after three days he called together those who were the leading men of the Jews [the Greek word there is protos, which means “the chief ones, the rulers”] and when they had come together, he began saying to them.” Paul went after the top leaders. They were the ones always coming after him, so he took the initiative. He called the meeting.
Now, why did he call the meeting? Remember back in Acts 23:11 God told him, “You have ministered well for me in Jerusalem, now you must witness for me in Rome.” That didn’t mean just to the Gentiles. It also meant to the Jews. So he starts with the Jew first, as it says in Acts, and then moves to the Gentiles. The meeting here was set up by Paul. Why did he call it? First of all, to offer an explanation. An explanation of what? Well, he didn’t know if the rumors had gotten to them that he was some kind of heretic. That’s what they were saying back in Asia Minor. He didn’t know if they had heard that or not. He wanted to solve the problem real quickly by giving them his side before they got hold of this other information.
So we see in verse 17 that he wants to explain his arrest over in Judea. “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people, or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.” He wants them to know, “I had done nothing against the father. I had done nothing against the customs of our people.”
Secondly, he wants to explain his innocence. Verse 18 says, “And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death.” The Jews turned me over to the Romans, and the Romans tested me. They tried me and could find nothing in my life. He wants them to know that.
Then, thirdly he wants to offer an explanation of his accusers and how relentless they were. Verse 19 says, “But when the Jews objected.” Can you imagine? Here is a Roman court, which was the law, the civil authority of the day. They find absolutely nothing in their law or the Jewish laws to convict Paul of, and yet, they hate him. He said, “I was forced to appear to Caesar; not that I had any accusation against my nation.” In other words, Paul was saying, “The only way I could see this thing ending was to come to Caesar because the Jewish people, your people and my people, would not turn loose of me. They would not relent. They were relentless people.”
Well, in verses 20-22, he finds out they didn’t know what he was talking about. I don’t know about that. I’ve had some interesting thoughts go through my mind about that statement. I need to meditate on that a little longer. I thought it was real interesting what they said. Look at verse 21: “And they said to him, ‘We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.’”
The first thing you see here is that Paul calls a meeting. He wants them to understand why he was arrested, what he is doing there as a prisoner and the fact that he’s not guilty of anything. They didn’t know anything about it, but they said, “Hey, this is interesting. You’ve called a meeting, now let us call a meeting.” He organizes one, so they organize one.
In verses 23-29 we find their meeting. Look at verse 23: “And when they had set a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.” Now all of this is taking place wherever he was being held in prison. It was actually not a cell. It was rented quarters, but he was detained there. They’ve got to come to him, but they set this meeting up.
When they get there, Paul begins to talk about what? The kingdom of God. Where would you start with a Jewish person? A Jewish person wants to talk about the kingdom of God. That is what is going to be preached during the seven year period of tribulation, the gospel of the kingdom. It is going to be different than now. Paul is trying to show them, “You can’t talk about the Kingdom of God without talking about Jesus because He is the King, and a Kingdom is the territory where a King reigns. You’ll never enter that Kingdom until first of all you bow before the King.” That’s what he wanted to tell them. He gets a marvelous opportunity to give his testimony. He witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ in Rome. That’s exactly what God said he would do after he had witnessed faithfully in Jerusalem.
What was the result? Well, look at verse 24: “And some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.” That’s about the same thing you could expect anywhere Paul had been. Many of them saw it, and they were persuaded, but many of them just would not put their faith into the message of what he had preached about Christ. The religious crowd gave him an opportunity to speak, but they rejected what he had to say. Some of them believed, but most of them departed and turned their back against the gospel. The believers received him. The religious crowd rejected him.
There is one more thing I want you to see, well, two more things. Not only do we see how the believers received him and how the religious crowd rejected him, but thirdly, I want you to see how Paul rebuked his own people. Here is what he does. I am telling you it is stern and sharp. Look at verse 25, “And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoke one parting word.” Paul sensed in his spirit that they were not going to believe. He came there to deliver a message, not just from him, but from the Lord. That is what an apostle does. Part of that message was that God had turned from them to the Gentiles. Oh yes, there is going to be a day He’ll turn back to Israel, but not now. The reason He has turned away from Israel is because Israel has rejected His Son. That is going to come out in what Paul says here. “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers.” This is what he says that causes them just to leave, to abruptly get up and walk out on the apostle Paul. He quotes from Isaiah 6.9-10. Look at what it says. “God to this people and say, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but you will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I should heal them.’”
He quotes those two verses to the Jewish leaders in the quarters where he was detained. Basically what he is saying is, the Jews of the first century were just as cold hearted and unresponsive as the Jews in the eighth century BC. He wanted them to know when they read Isaiah that those Jews are their forefathers. He said, “You are just like them.” The reason they were like them was they were blinded by their own religion. That always causes a person to not see the true message of what Christianity is all about.
Well, verse 28 says, “Let it be known to you therefore [What is the “therefore” there for? Because of their rejecting his message] that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, they will also listen.” In other words, Paul was saying, “You guys will not listen to me. I was one of you. You won’t hear my testimony. Okay, alright. But I want you to know that the reason I’ve gone to the Gentiles is that God knows that those Gentiles will listen.” Aren’t you glad he went to the Gentiles? As a result of that, you and I are allowed into the covenant that was promised to Abraham. In verse 29 it says, “(And when he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.)”
So you see a reception, a rejection, a rebuke, and there is one more thing. I want you to see how God rewarded Paul for being faithful to not mince any words and to say exactly what God had put on his heart. In verses 30-31 we see God going to use him while he was there. “And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him.” That centurion loved Paul. He let him do anything. He talked him into staying seven days extra when he first got there. I mean, it’s incredible. If you will just go back and think through the influence that Paul has had on these guys and the kindness they are returning to him, it will give you a different idea of what authority is all about. Verse 31 continues, “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness [or boldness] and unhindered.” For two years Paul was able to preach and teach about the Lord Jesus Christ with nothing to stand in his way. That’s God’s reward for a man who has been faithful to His call.
Well, I don’t know what you got out of these studies. I know what I got out of them. I tell you, it has blessed me beyond measure to go through this. We may have taken a while to get to Ephesians, but I think when you go back now and understand when he wrote Ephesians and what was going on in Ephesus and the fact that he had traveled there, it might make the whole book seem brand new to you after you go through it.
One of the things I am looking forward to in Ephesians is the fact that it gives us a documentary of what Jesus did for us and who we are in the Lord Jesus Christ. Is it important to know who you are? Oh, yes. You must know “who” you are. We have been trying to balance that with “whose” you are. Once you get a good dose of “whose” you are, it helps you to know “who” you are. If you don’t know whose you are, knowing who you are will do more to mar your doctrine than anything else that you can ever do. Why do you think some people are out in left field now? They don’t know whose they are. They are trying to go around spouting off at the mouth as to who they are. Folks, when you realize what He has done for us, it will just put you on your face before the Lord.
Ephesians is one of the most encouraging books I have ever studied in my life. In my study I averaged almost an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes per verse. I just took it a word at a time. Do you know what I did? I took the characteristic of the Father first. I didn’t even begin the characteristics of the Son or the characteristics of the Spirit. Ephesians is the richest book I believe I have ever studied. Of course, I’ve said that about every book I have studied, but I really believe this one is.
The timing of this book is important. I bet there are people reading this right now who don’t even understand what salvation is all about. Doctrine is so important, and we are so impoverished so many times. We hear words and don’t even know what they mean. I am telling you, you may just jump up and shout when you get into Ephesians.
I’ve got to finish Paul’s life first. This was his first big imprisonment in Rome. It is not his last. Oh, no. This one was a little different. He had hired quarters. Anybody could come and go as they pleased. There comes a day in Paul’s life when God says, “Okay, buddy, it’s all over. Time to come over here.” All the promises, all the provisions and all the protection are dropped, and God stands back and watches him being martyred a horrible death and takes him to be with Himself.
You’ve got to be careful how you apply the principles that you follow through life. When God is through with us, He backs off, and we have no guarantee as to how we are going to go out of this place. We’ve got to get Paul to that point in his life so you can see the full scope of a man who is “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”