Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 6/21/2018
(edited October 2020)
King Agrippa of Ancient Judea has ordered that the Apostle Paul be sent to Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire at that time, to be tried before Caesar (recorded in Acts 26:31-32 to Acts 27:1). That would be something like one of us taking our case before the Supreme Court in Washington DC today.
Acts 27 goes on to record the perilous journey by sea that Paul faced as a result of Agrippa’s order. Paul was under arrest and traveling in custody. It was not going that well so far, including one shipwreck (as described in Acts 27:21-26). But all along the way, no matter what was happening, Paul both believed and asserted that it was all within God’s Will. The Lord was using strange circumstances to allow Paul to fulfill his great commission to get to Rome, and to strengthen the Church, and to testify to the lost there. Let’s pick up the account of this journey, right after the shipwreck, here in Acts 28:
Verse 1: “And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.”
The soldier responsible for Paul allowed him and the other prisoners to live when the ship sank near this island and it became a case of “every man for himself” to get to safety. The Romans had been known to kill prisoners that they could no longer confine during a disaster to avoid escape attempts. But the soldier in charge wanted to spare Paul’s life, thank God.
Verses 2-4: “ And the barbarous people shewed 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. 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.”
The citizens of Melita got it wrong. They thought Paul was running away from God’s Will. But Paul was moving within God’s Will and willing to do God’s Will!
Verses 5-6: “ 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.”
Being under arrested on false charges, beaten and suffering many other hardships wasn’t deterring Paul at all, was it? So, I think, just as he does with us sometimes when discouragement fails, Satan was trying to appeal to Paul’s vanity here.
Verses 7-9: “ 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 a 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:”
Apostolic physical healings were a form of evangelism, I’ve always thought. And Paul wasn’t saving all his evangelism for Rome and Caesar! Now, I know I can’t physically heal myself or anyone today, but by sincerely serving others and being mindful of their needs, sometimes just with a kind word or showing some respect, I think we all can open the door for evangelism to the unsaved that are all around us.
Verses 10-12: “ Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary. 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.”
By God’s grace Paul’s ministry was flourishing, even during his incarceration! Dr. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, and other disciples were apparently being allowed to travel with Paul at this time and record the events of this journey.
Verses 13-15: “ 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. 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.”
The Christian fellowship and unity being shown here must have really strengthened Paul’s faith at that time. Is it any wonder that, still to this day, the Devil constantly tries to divide believers? There is real power in Christian Unity, and the Devil knows that to be true and apparently wants desperately to discourage it. We ought not to help him in that effort, no matter what! Amen?
Verses 16-22: “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. 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 hands 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 ought 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. And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed 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.”
Paul’s “invasion” of Rome begins with the Jews there were there, as was his custom.
Verse 23: “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.”
Was Paul succeeding in life? Many would say no way, not a man in the custody of the state and facing trial (some even say he was eventually executed in Rome). But, look at it this way, Paul had gotten to the city he was supposed to get to and was bringing the message he was supposed to bring to the people there! Praise the Lord.
Verses 24-27: “ And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias 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.”
It bothered Paul a lot that some of his fellow Jews would not accept Jesus. Some did, but it bothered Paul a lot that they did not ALL come to Christ and embrace the Gospel. For Paul, one unbeliever was one too many! Does that bother you and I like it should, today? We should not write off anybody. We should not fully rest until everyone believes or, at least, has every opportunity to believe and be saved.
Verse 28: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
This must have sounded really crazy at that time, don’t you think? I mean, come on, many of the Jews didn’t even believe Paul or want Christ! Does God’s will for you ever seem a little crazy? It certainly may. But that doesn’t always mean it’s wrong!
Verses 29-31: “And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. 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.”
And on that note, the Book of Acts comes to an end. Well, it’s two thousand years later now. Did Paul’s vision from God and confidence in the Lord pay off? Did his preaching bear fruit in Ancient Rome? The answer is a resounding YES! Unlike in Paul’s time, the Christian Church today is largely made up of Gentiles, though there are certainly many Jewish believers in Jesus. And I would say to you that much of that can be traced back here to this one man, determined to follow the Lord’s will no matter how twisted his own life story became. And today Rome has ultimately become a major center for Christian activity, hasn’t it? If that isn’t a victory, I’m not sure what would be. Praise God. Let’s pray.