Saturday, November 24, 2012

Spread the News

Unit III. - Where Does Faith Take Us? In our lesson review last week (Acts 28:1-10) we found Paul and his fellow voyagers shipwrecked on an island they soon recognized as Melita (Malta). The islanders were considered barbaric in that theirs was of a different language and/or culture. Yet they were very hospitable in making the shipwrecked party comfortable. In exchange for the hospitality, Paul began to heal and minister to them physically and spiritually. The islanders must have been very grateful and full of joy. After three months it was time for Paul and his fellow voyagers to board a ship that had wintered on their coast. (Acts 28:11) The islanders gave them the things necessary to complete their journey. Today we shall study Paul’s ongoing ministry in Rome even though he is a prisoner. The lesson text is recorded at Acts 28:23-31. The devotional reading is recorded at Deut 4:32-40.

Paul’s voyage was like the beginning only in that they boarded a ship of Alexandria. The latter part of their voyage was very calm in comparison. They sailed to Syracuse where they stayed for three days. They also visited Rhegium for a day before going to Puteoli where they went ashore. In Puteoli, there were Christians who discovered Paul was aboard and insisted they stay for seven days. Perhaps they desired a sermon not knowing when and if they would ever hear Paul in person. When the brethren heard him, they began coming from cities as far as Apprii forum (city approx 51 miles) and the Three Taverns (approx 33 miles) from Rome. Paul had written the Epistle of Romans from Corinth. He had written ‘…I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world,…For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established‘ Rom 1:8,11 Paul was very thankful to see the brethren come out to meet him to hear the Word. He was encouraged in the Lord. He and the voyagers continued traveling by land. Upon reaching Rome, Julius the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard. He left Paul under separate house arrest with a soldier. Acts 28:12-16

When no one appeared to prosecute him, Paul contacted the chief of the Jews at Rome after three days to explain he had done nothing against the Jews to warrant his imprisonment or death. He explained how he had been delivered by authorities in Jerusalem to the authorities under Roman government. No one had found him guilty based on evidence presented by the Jewish prosecution, but the Jewish leaders insisted he could not be released. Paul, as a Roman citizen, appealed to Caesar. He had no other way to get away from the Jewish leaders who were determined to have his life one way or another. He did it for his preservation and liberty, but he did not wish to accuse his countrymen who had done him wrong. In response, the Jews in Rome informed Paul they had not been given letters to prosecute him from the Jewish brethren of Judea. This was odd because they had frequent contact. Perhaps the Jewish brethren of Judea did not bother to send letters to the Jews in Rome because Paul was found innocent in all the other courts: Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:29), Felix (Acts 24), Festus (Acts 25:26-27), and King Agrippa (Acts 26:30-31). They must have felt hopeless and did not lodge a formal complaint against him in Caesar’s court. Acts 28:17-21

‘But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. 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.’ Acts 28:22-24 The Roman Jews wanted to hear what Paul had to say. They were negative in calling Christianity a “sect”. Wikipedia defines a “sect” as a group or movement with heretical beliefs (beliefs which deny or doubt core doctrines) or practices that deviate from those of groups considered orthodox.1 Although they believed it was a sect, they were curious because of its popularity. It was spoken against in most orthodox Jewish communities. They wanted to be in the know. Paul was anxious to defend Christianity. ‘How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe In Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?’ Rom 10:14 The Roman Jews set a date to come back to hear the Word of God as taught by Paul. He always began with Moses and the prophets to show how the Old Testament prophesied the coming of the Messiah. Then he taught on the Kingdom of God, salvation, faith, and Jesus as the fulfillment of the law. Paul did not tire, preaching and teaching from morning until evening, while persevering in the faith. He was actually successful in convincing some of the Jews in Rome. ‘For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”…”For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Rom 10:11,13 They knew Scriptures, but Paul had given them a new understanding.

‘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. ‘ Acts 28:25-27 A number of the Roman Jews disbelieved Paul’s teaching of the kingdom of God concerning Christ, out of the law of Moses and the prophets. When he noticed the dissension among them as they began to depart, Paul quoted one last Scripture by the prophet Isaiah. (Isa 6:9-10) In this passage the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet against the stubbornness of the people. They could hear the Word but not understand or receive it. They could physically see what God was doing, but they did not spiritually see it. Their hearts were callous. If they could understand what God was doing through Jesus, turn from their wicked ways and repented, then God would 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.’ Acts 28:28-29 Paul, therefore, proclaimed it was God’s plan to send His knowledge of saving people eternally to the Gentiles. Although some of the Roman Jews embraced God’s plan of salvation, it was obviously a great number who rejected the message presented by God. They were more upset that their Scriptures would be presented to the Gentiles. This led to a great discussion among themselves as they departed. Had God left them? They felt as if they were the chosen people and their God was not to be shared with anyone other than the Jewish nation. Paul had preached to the Jew and now he was to preach to the Gentiles, to whom the message would be received much more readily. ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.’ Rom 1:16 The message was to be preached to all who would receive it.

‘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.’ Acts 28:30-31 For two whole years Paul was imprisoned. He had done nothing to be either imprisoned or put to death. No one ever attempted to prosecute or release him. Yet he remained imprisoned for two years writing epistles in his own house. He did not have to fear those Jews who would take his life for preaching/teaching the Gospel. So renting the house and not having to constantly live on the road for two years proved to be good. He was able to rest and receive anyone who came to hear the Good News he had to preach and teach concerning the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘…the Lord said… he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.’ Acts 9:15-16 Paul boldly continued to confidently preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ without interruption, although he was under continuous watch by a guard.


Written by Deborah C Davis

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