Lesson 52: Paul In Rome
Acts, Lesson #52. Chapter 28 - let's close it out. V.l-3, are you ready? "And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand." O.K., Melita is an island on your map, #48. Sometimes called Malta (M-a-1-t-a). "Barbarous" simply means uncivilized, crude or rough. Yet these people were very kind, to help these shipwreck victims kindle a fire in the rain and cold to prevent exposure. In adding his bundle to the fire, Paul received a poisonous snake bite. It is true, I understand that some snakes actually fasten onto their victim when they bite. From this, I suppose we could get into a discussion of identifying the species, but we won't. It was a very poisonous snake and the natives expected Paul to die quickly. Let's read (v.4-6). "And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god." Undoubtedly, there have always been superstitions associated with snakes. These natives were no exception. This was a miraculous manifestation. Paul was destined for Rome. If the friendly inhabitants understood Paul was a prisoner, that fact may have been stirred into their conclusion that Paul was an escaped murderer. But, when the usual snake bite symptoms did not come about; the pendulum swung 180 degrees, just like Lystra. The Lystrians (Acts 14), when they saw a miracle, first proclaimed Paul and Barnabas gods, then the Jews from Antioch persuaded them to stone Paul to death. Here, the assumption of these Malta residents swung from murderer to a god, just the opposite. Perhaps I should call your attention to Mark 16:18. Jesus said that such signs would follow the apostles: "They shall take up serpents...," etc. This was to confirm the word, according to Mark 16:20. Then Hebrews 2:3 (at a later time) says it was confirmed.
Let's read v.7-10). "In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of the fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: Who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary." Regardless of how crude those living accommodations may have been, you can probably imagine 276 people sacked out after a decent meal on a solid pallet The healing of Publius' father was a friendly sympathetic gesture. We tend to see it in reciprocation for the hospitality Paul, Luke, Aristarchus and the others received. But (as we have discussed before), all these miraculous manifestations were a way of confirming the word. Now, v.8-9 does not indicate any on Malta obeyed but that does not necessarily mean none did. It is abundantly clear that Paul, and no doubt the other two preachers as well, were sowing a little seed. Now they did not give out bibles as our missionaries would do, for a very simple reason, they had no bibles. V.10 clearly conveys the idea these preachers were highly respected by these natives and I would be inclined to think, during their 90 days stay on the island, some were baptized, but I don't know that.
O.K., back to the text (v.l 1-14), let's read. "And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli: where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome." It must have been close to the first of March. The centurion made arrangements to leave the island with his prisoners. It was a ship of Alexandria, same place the wrecked ship had originated. And it had a similar destination. Perhaps both ships were carrying Egyptian grain to Rome. Smith's Bible Dictionary says Castor and Pollux were twin sons of Jupiter, i.e., mythical characters of the constellation Gemini of the night sky. The art work was sometimes represented by stars hovering over a ship. Syracuse was about a hundred miles north (city #49), on the southeastern shore of Sicily, the capital of that Roman province. Luke simply says: "we tarried there three days." . How, we do not know. Then another jaunt up the Sicilian coast maybe 75 miles, they landed at Rhegium, a city on the very southwestern tip of the Italian mainland (city #50). After one day at Rhegium the south wind blew. That's what they needed! Then, one hundred and eighty miles due north in one day, they landed at Puteoli (city #51), a seaport very close to the modern day city of Naples. Still, more than a hundred miles south of Rome. And, the rest of the journey was made by land. Thus, when they came ashore at Puteoli, the sea voyage was behind them. What a tiring trip! Can you imagine? 2000 miles, winter at sea? But then, how refreshing to discover brethren at Puteoli (v.14). Apparently, Julius, the centurion, gave them a week to rest up before heading for Rome. Like Joseph of old, Paul too, by his godly conduct, had gained the confidence of his keeper as a prisoner. What a refreshing week it must have been after such an exhausting journey to enjoy the hospitality and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ of like kindred minds. From this also, we can see how the church had spread over the Roman Empire in less than 30 years. Christians in almost every village. Yet, Christians were by far the minority of the population. They always have been and the same is true today. V.14 closed: "and so we went toward Rome."
Let's read v.15-16. "And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum, and the Three Taverns; whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him." O.K., after two and a half years as a prisoner Paul arrived at Rome. What an ordeal! This was late winter or early spring - three years after Paul had wintered in Corinth and had written the 6th book of the N.T., only a page away from where you are now studying. In that letter (ch.16) Paul sent greetings to more than twenty people by name. And Priscilla and Aquila, the tent makers were at the top of that list. Possibly, other communications had been sent in the interim. But it was most likely some on that list that came to meet Paul at Appii Forum and at Three Taverns. Notice on your map the heavy line crossing Italy. The city at the north end of that line is Rome. The dark line represents the Appian Way, the first and most famous military highway built by the ancient Romans. It is still in use today. The road was named for a Roman official, Appius Claudius Caecus, who started its construction in 312 B.C. - from Peutoli to where they entered the Appian Way is thirty-three miles. They entered that highway at Capua (city #52) spelled C-A-P-U-A. From Capua to Rome is 132 miles on that highway. Appii Forum (city #53), is where they first met brethren from Rome (v.15). Then, they met more brethren at Three Taverns, which is about 33 miles south of Rome (city #54). V.15 closes by saying when Paul met these brethren, "he thanked God, and took courage." Ifs probably hard for you and me to comprehend all that is included in that thought. As Paul rattled those chains for two long years in that Caesarean prison he must have anticipated the day when he would arrive at Rome. Then when he was compelled to appeal to Caesar and make the trip to Rome as a prisoner; he must have wondered how his brethren would receive him in chains. Would they? Or would they be embarrassed and shy away? This verse tells us they did not shy away. They were not "wise in their own conceit," as Paul had admonished them in Romans 12:6. Thus, we see why Paul, "thanked God, and took courage." Now! Inv.16, they came to Rome, the big capital city. Julius committed his prisoners to safe keeping, but Paul was given a special privilege, Luke points out, "to dwell by himself" in the custody of one soldier. Festus likely said in his letter what he and Agrippa had agreed upon (Acts 26:32), i.e., "This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds." Also, Paul's exceptional conduct on die voyage most likely brought him a good recommendation from Julius. Thus, Paul was permitted to live by himself while he awaited trial before Nero. Do you remember the words the Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:16? "I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake." But, even bound with a chain, Paul did not waste his time. Within three days Paul attempted to evangelize the Jews of Rome.
Let's read v. 17-20. "And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hand of the Romans: Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had aught to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." How does the N.T. teach the world is to be converted to Christ? Paul said to the Corinthian brethren, "...it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (I Cor. 1:21). Now, preaching isn't foolishness, as some suppose. To preach is to proclaim, or deliver a sermon. A sermon is a form of serious lesson, giving earnest advice. And that's what Paul was doing. Preaching is teaching, but in the book of Acts a distinction is made. Preaching is used in connection with unbelievers where as teaching is dealing with disciples or believers. If Paul couldn't go to them, he had them come to him. As his custom was he began with the Jews, and with the most respected Jewish leaders. He leveled with them. He told them very candidly, "I'm in bonds, but I haven't committed a crime. The Romans would have let me go, but the Jews, my own countrymen, spake against it. I had to appeal to Caesar. Here I am, just wanted to explain to you why." Just a straight forward, honest appeal. Now, they understood Paul was a Christian but they were honest enough to give him a hearing.
V.21-22, let's read. "And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against." O.K. They have not been informed against Paul, but, they express interest. Christians were spoken against by the Jews everywhere. These men were willing to find out more. This shows Paul was bold and convincing. They made an appointment to come back.
Let's see what happened - v.23-24. "And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not." O.K., when they came back they made a day of it, from morning till evening. Notice what Paul did: expounded testified, and persuaded. Paul told them about the church, Pentecost, how it spread from Jerusalem into Judea, to Samaria and beyond and how Paul had persecuted the church. He persuaded them about Jesus. He read from the Old Testament, the penteuch, Isaiah, Ezckiel, Daniel and other written prophecies. What did he read? What about Deuteronomy 18:15? Moses said to the children of Israel: "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren like unto me" (Moses had said). Peter used that verse in the temple (Acts 3:22). Philip started with Isaiah 53 and preached Jesus unto the Ethiopian treasurer (Acts 8:35). Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah of the O.T. Some were convinced (v.24), others were not. They did not agree among themselves. So, how did it end?
V.25-29, let's read. "And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves." I sense the unbelieving Jews prevailed even though the group was divided in their conclusion. Paul thus read to them this passage to close the sale. Either they would submit or walk away and in this case they walked away. The passage Paul read came from Isa. ch. 6 and Jesus quoted that passage on more than one occasion. V.28 is Paul's comment and conclusion. Salvation was intended for Jews and Gentiles alike and the Gentiles would listen. Thus the Jews closed their ears and eyes and hearts as the verse said and departed rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. How tragic, when they were so near! Almost persuaded, but like king Agrippa they departed. Undoubtedly, the most beautiful figure in the bible is Rev. 3:20. Jesus said: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.." They could have opened that door where Jesus stands knocking, but they rejected Jesus. Notice how Luke closes his second volume, abruptly, with no personal greeting or closing remarks.
V.30-31, let's read. "And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him." Two whole years! V.30 covers (with one sweep) a period of time equivalent to that covered in the last seven or eight chapters of this book Yet, the general activity of Paul during that period is described in these two verses. He spent the entire two years preaching and teaching hi a rented house chained to a soldier (v.31). And as Luke lays down his pen, we gasp for more details. The greatest question is "What about his hearing before Nero? What happened? Was he released? And what about his success in teaching? How many obeyed? Why end the book here? Sorry! Luke laid down his pen! I don't know why. It is generally assumed that Luke wrote the book of Acts during those months while Paul was in prison. Luke was with Paul two years at Caesarea and two years at Rome, it would appear. Since tlis book ends just before Paul's hearing before the emperor, it would appear that is the time Luke finished this book. We assume about A.D. 62, 30 years after Jesus' personal ministry. And it is only reasonable to assume Luke wrote his first volume, the book of Luke, not long before the book of Acts. Now, you should understand, a good deal of informatton can be gleaned from the N.T. relating to the two years of Paul's imprisonment in Rome and beyond that period. First, from fact that some N.T. books were written by Paul during that two year period. Second, because some N.T. books were undoubtedly written by Paul after that period. The books written during that period of imprisonment are sometimes referred to as prison epistles, i.e., letters from prison. This includes Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. In each of these letters, Paul made reference to his bonds. It would be a little out of place here to analyze those letters under ths guise of what we are calling a study of the books of Acts. Yet, I think it appropriate to include some specific facts that are a mere amplification of v.30-31. I'll try to keep it to three or four main thoughts. First, Paul acknowledged a gift from Philippi in Phil. 4:10 and the verses that follow. That may account for the rent on Paul's hired house. Secondly, it is quite evident a number of preachers and former co-workers rallied around Paul and helped with his work at Rome. In thotJc prison epistles, there are a few verses at the end of each letler; I'l! call "final greetings." If you will read the first couple verses and final greetings of each letter you may learn a iot. Thirdly, you should realize that at the other end of that chain connected to Paul was a soldier. The guard was changed or relieved every few hours. Thus, in two years several Roman soldiers were exposed to Paul's teaching, some were converted to Christ. Some even converted others in their barracks as well as other servants and staff in the emperor's palace. Reference is made to saints hi Caesar's household in Phil. 4:22. Fourth and last, let me say it is generally assumed Paul was released after his hearing by the emperor. The strongest evidence on this point comes from I Tim., II Tim. and Titus.
The book of Acts has been a great study! I hope you have tujoyed this study as much as I have. You are to be commended for your endurance and your Interest. May I encourage you, now, to finish the N.T. on your own, verse by vtrse. If you are not a Christian, may I appeal to you once mo'e: do it now. We have covered the steps of conversion. You know what the bible teaches. It's ironic, that in our age of electronic media we can study 52 lessons together and yet not meet each other personally. If you ever cross my path, please tell me so I can shake your hand. I trust you have the hope of eternal salvation. Saying goodby is always a sad thought. But, Christians never meet a last time. Ifs possible we may never meet here. If not, I hope we can meet on that eternal shore with Luke, Paul, all the apostles, Stephen, Philip rind all other saints. Pass it on!