Sunday, May 18, 2014

Acts 28: Paul in Rome as a Prisoner

Acts 28:11-31 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier that guarded him. After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, "Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain." And they said to him, "We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against." When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: "The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 'Go to this people, and say, You will indeed hear but never understand,and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull,and with their ears they can barely hear,and their eyes they have closed;lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.' Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen."  He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. 

After being arrested by the Roman soldiers in Jerusalem, the Jews tried to secure his death before the Roman tribunals under the governor Felix followed by Festus. But Paul knew that both Felix and Festus were eager to please the Jews. When Festus was about to release him to the Jews, Paul as a Roman citizen used his citizenship rights to appeal to Caesar. So, after appearing before King Agrippa, Paul was sent under Roman guard to Rome. After months of perilous travel by sea, he finally arrived in Rome and was put under house arrest while awaiting to appear before Caesar.

Paul's first priority was to meet up with the Jews, for they knew the Scriptures. But after speaking to them, some believed but others rejected Paul's assertion that Jesus was the Christ Moses' Law and the Prophets spoke of. When Paul saw that few Jews in Rome were convinced by his exposition, he said to them: "Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen." So, from that point onward, the Church grew and became essentially a Gentile spiritual movement as it left its Jewish roots in Judaism.

For two years, Paul remained under house arrest as he waited for his trial before Caesar. He used those two years to proclaim the kingdom of God and taught about Jesus Christ. So, the book of Acts began with Jesus explaining the kingdom of God to His eleven disciples before his ascension and it closes with Paul proclaiming to all who came to him the kingdom of God and Jesus' role as the Mediator and Master of the Kingdom of God.

Father, thank You for the book of Acts which record for posterity the character of the early church. May we share the same passion and power to proclaim the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ as our Lord and King. Amen.

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