Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Acts 28 - The Roman Road

LINK: Acts 28


Paul's Journey under Arrest from Palestine to Rome c AD58-61 
http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm
BACKGROUND

They were on the island of Malta (15) for three months. It had excellent harbors. How appropriate that Malta means "refuge"! 


When Paul did not swell up and die from the viper bite, they thought he was a god. God had promised Paul safety (27:23-25), and this is one more demonstration of God watching over Paul. This reminds me of the story in Acts 14:6-18 when Paul healed the lame man of Lystra, and the Lycaonians thought he was Hermes (Mercury) and wanted to worship him. Paul was not a god but a humble servant who gathered firewood to make a fire (28:3) and healed the sick (28:6-9).


You can follow their trip from Malta to Rome on the map. Their ship bore the image of Castor and Pollux. These were the twin sons of Zeus and were worshiped as the protectors of men of the sea.



File:Via appia.jpg
The Appian Way
Kleuske at nl.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) 
or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], 
from Wikimedia Commons
While Julius, the guards, and prisoners took the famous Appian Way ("the queen of the long roads" is its common name) up from Puteoli to Rome, Roman believers came down to greet Paul at the Forum of Appius (43 miles south of Rome) and Three Inns (35 miles south). How were there believers in Rome? Many Jews from Rome visited Jerusalem for the different feasts. We know that there were Romans at the Feast of Pentecost (2:10) who came to believe. They obviously brought the message back to Rome and a church was established. 

As usual, Paul talked to the Jews first, but he called for them to come to him since he was under arrest and could not follow his usual pattern of going to the synagogue. He assured them that he had done nothing to damage the Jews or their customs and that the Roman authorities found him innocent, but that he had to appeal to Rome since the Jews in Jerusalem continued to accuse him (28:19; 25:11).  His main reason for coming to them was to tell them of the "hope of Israel" (23:6; 24:15; 26:6-7). This meant that he told them that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah! He was destined to go to Rome to preach this truth, even if it meant he would go there in chains! Paul is a rock star!


The Jews in Rome had not gotten a bad report about Paul and only wanted to hear about this "sect" out of Judaism that believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They were open to hearing what Paul had to say so he spoke from morning until evening explaining the Scriptures and revealing Christ through the Law and the Prophets. Again, Paul used the Old Testament because that is all they had, but it is still a good idea to use the Old Testament when sharing the gospel today. When he declared the "Kingdom of God" he was also including the reign and rule of Christ. That was probably difficult for them to grasp. 


Some "began to be convinced" (the Greek verb here is in the imperfect tense meaning that they were not fully convinced) and some "would not believe" (28:24). Paul quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10 just as Jesus had in Matthew 13:3-15; Mark 4:12; and Luke 8:10 and John had quoted in John 12:39-40. The Jews listened, but did they really hear? They saw, did they really perceive? Their hearts were hard so how could the Lord heal them? With this, he announced he was turning to the Gentiles. Acts is a bridge book to the epistle of Romans because it explains how the gospel moved from the Jews to the Gentiles and from Jerusalem to Rome. 


Paul had a busy and productive two years in Rome under house arrest. He preached the Kingdom of God and taught about Jesus to all who would hear. One person who responded to Paul's message was Philemon's runaway slave, Onesimus (Philemon 10-21). Also, his Roman guards listened to his message and some believed (Philippians 1:12-14; 4:22). Also, he wrote the "Prison Epistles": Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon


The people that were with him during this time were Timothy (Philippians 1:1; 2:19; Colossians 1:1), John Mark, Luke, Aristarchus, Epaphras, Justus, and Demas (Colossians 4:10-14; Philemon 24). In addition, Epaproditus brought him a gift from the Philippian church (Philippians 2:25-30; 4:18) and Tychicus delivered Paul's letters to the Ephesians (6:21), Colossians, and Philemon (Colossians 4:7-9). 


We do not know the outcome of Paul's trial from the book of Acts, but many commentators believe he was released and resumed his ministry, traveling as far as Spain (Romans 15:24, 28). He also wrote letters to Timothy and Titus (A.D. 63-66/67). He was arrested again in about A.D. 67, chained in a prison (2 Timothy 1:16; 2:9) and forsaken by the believers in Rome (2 Timothy 4:16-17) and Demas (2 Timothy 4:10-11). We do not know for sure, but tradition says he was beheaded in Rome in A.D. 67/68. 



"Well done, good and faithful servant." 
(Matthew 25:23)



REFLECTION

It was a long journey for Paul to Rome. What an example of a life poured out for the sake of bringing the gospel to the unreached of the earth. 


My husband and I have been trying to get to our "Rome" for many years. The door has not opened yet and circumstances lately make us scratch our heads and wonder what God is up to right now, but this encouraged me today:

Paul wanted to preach the gospel in Rome, and he eventually got there -- in chains, through shipwreck, and after many trials. Although he may have wished for an easier passage, he knew that God had blessed him greatly in allowing him to meet the believers in Rome and preach the message to both Jews and Gentiles in that great city. In all things, God worked for Paul's good (Romans 8:28). You can trust him to do the same for you. God may not make you comfortable or secure, but he will provide the opportunity to do his work. 
(Life Application Bible, p.2020)
Praying God makes a way for all of us to accomplish His work through us, even if that means suffering. I am thankful for Paul's example of perseverance!

APPLICATION 

Are you persevering in the work that God has for you? 

Are you willing to suffer in the process?

PRAYER

Lord, give us perseverance and the ability to see the goal even though circumstances fog us from seeing it. We pray that You would strengthen us for the task that You have for us to do. In Jesus' name and for Your glory! Amen. 
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