Finally in Rome

Tom Nettles
| Acts 27–28 (Focus 28:17–31) | February 20, 2018

Introduction: A Profitable and perilous journey to Rome – Julius, the centurion, was initially in charge and was friendly to Paul. Luke was with Paul as was Aristarchus from Thessalonica.

A) A short leg of the journey with a stop at Sidon, where the commander allowed Paul to visit with friends.

B) They journeyed to Myra, where the centurion put Paul and his company on an Alexandrian ship.

C) They sailed with great difficulty to Fair Havens, where Paul advised them to spend winter there because he sensed there would be disaster if they continued. (27:10).

D) They sailed anyway upon the advice of the ship owner, seeking a harbor in Crete where they could winter (27:11, 12).

E) The ship was captivated by a massive storm, blacking out sun, moon, and stars for several days, leading all on board, (with the possible exception of Paul, since God had told him he would witness for him in Rome) to lose hope and fear all was lost.

F) Having a vision from an angel sent by God, Paul told the entire group that though the ship and all its cargo would be lost, all lives would be preserved. They must, however, run aground on an island.

G) Paul stopped an attempt by the sailors to escape and encouraged all of them to eat. He took food and gave “thanks to God in the presence of them all” and began to eat.

H) The ship was destroyed, but all lives were saved and they came on ground on the island of Malta.

  1. The inhabitants were kind and started a fire for these wet, weary, and bewildered survivors of the storm.
  2. In helping with the fire and gathering wood, Paul was bit by a serpent but shook it off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.
  3. A man named Publius received them to his estate. Paul healed his father; this led to many other sick people coming to Paul who healed them all.
  4. The vision, the lack of any ill effects from the viper bite, and the healings are among those events that Paul would describe as “signs of an apostle, . . . in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12) and again as “mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God (Romans 15:19).

I) Three months later, they sailed for Rome, by way of Syracuse, Rhegium, and Puteoli “where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days.” A last, what Paul had written in his earlier correspondence to the Romans had come to pass: “Always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you . . . in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles” (Romans 1:10-13).

 

I. He called together the Jewish leadership. As we have seen, this was a common practice of Paul. Though he was designated as the apostle to the Gentiles, he wanted to observe wherever possible the principle of “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).

A. He explains why he is present with them in Rome (Verses 17-19).

  1. He professes innocence of any crime against the Jews or even of a violation of their customs. He was, in fact, in pursuit of fulfilling a vow and completing an act of mercy toward the Jews when he was apprehended (21:24, 26; cf. also 24:12, 13).
  2. He was delivered to the Romans who investigated the charges and found no grounds for executing him as was being demanded by the Jews.
  3. A Jewish plot against him however, made him appeal to Caesar to keep from being transported back to Jerusalem (verse 19) (cf. 25:3, 9).

B. He Identifies that nature of the charge against him. He wanted to talk with them to explain why he considers the Jewish action against him unwarranted, for his chains come precisely for the reason of his proclamation of a truth that is the hope of Israel.

 

II. The Jews Reception of Paul (verses 21, 22)

A. They were unaware of how the Jews had charged him. (21) They had heard nothing about the charges against Paul either by letter or by anyone in person. They said this probably to indicate that they were not prejudiced in any way by preemptive testimony, for they had heard nothing bad about Paul. They would hear him out and draw their conclusion on the basis of his explanation.

B. They were interested in hearing his views. (22)

  1. They wanted to hear from him and to learn firsthand what his views were, particularly in light of his claim that he was in chains for the “hope of Israel.”
  2. They had heard of the “sect” for whom he spoke and of which he was one of the main architects, as far as human agency was concerned. We know that the other apostles also acknowledged the depth of Paul’s doctrine and the fullness of the revelation given to him (See 2 Peter 3:15, 16).
  3. They were aware that this sect was “spoken against everywhere.” Could he really mount a defense that would prove the negative ideas about Christianity as unfounded?
  • We should be careful in believing evil reports about people or movements. Seeking ways to get first-hand information and making our judgments on the basis of biblical truth is always good policy.

 

III. Paul’s teaching to the Jews (verse 23, 24)

A. They set a day and came to his lodging “in large numbers.” Following up on their desire to hear him, they arranged a time and place, gave some publicity to the event, and gathered a sizable crowd to hear about this novel movement from the mouth of its main spokesman.

B. He taught concerning the “kingdom of God.”

  1. He began here because of the importance of the “Kingdom of God” in the Jewish understanding of their being the messianic nation, looking for the enthronement of the Son of David.
  2. John defined his ministry in terms of the immediate coming of the kingdom of God (Matthew 3:2). As he preached “Repent,” and said that the axe was being laid to the root of the tree, he defined the kingdom in terms of the provisions of the new covenant. God’s people would be identified, not by ethnicity or ceremonial law, but by the spirituality of internal repentance.
  3. Jesus also began his preaching ministry with that message (Matthew 4:17). He declared also that in his manifestations of power over the forces of evil, “The kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). The king is here, so Jesus claimed. Spirit and truth constitute the essence of worship (John 4:21-24).

C. He sought to persuade them concerning Jesus.

  1. Jesus of Nazareth, the humble carpenter who was crucified at the hands of the Romans after being rejected by the leaders of his own people, was the one who fulfilled all the requirements of the one who would sit on the throne of his father David (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
  2. Paul took his time and went into detail on these issues. He went from morning until evening. He knew that true faith depended on a person’s being persuaded in his own mind that these things were true. One could not trust in a historical person who performed a historical act that would result in the forgiveness of sins, justification, and eternal life apart from accepting the truths involved in those propositions.
  3. He used the entire Old Testament to demonstrate the things he was teaching about how Jesus was the King, the Savior King. Specific prophecies, ceremonial practices, the various offices (prophet, priest, and king), the Son of Man, the Angel of the Lord, the one that Yahweh addressed as God (Psalm 45:6, 7) all converged in Jesus, his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
  4. Of those who heard,, “Some were persuaded.” Other, however, “disbelieved” (ESV) or “would not believe” (NASB).

 

IV. Paul’s warning (verse 25-28)

A. He identified the words of Isaiah (6:9) with the speaking of the Holy Spirit. As he had been assuming throughout his teaching, he approached Scripture as inspired of God, thus the words of the Holy Spirit.

B. The Jews have been fully exposed to the message, both in its prophetic form and its fulfillment (26). During the time of Isaiah, they heard his words, and though they were clear and sound from a literary standpoint, they did not understand. Even so, as Paul gave them words, equally from the Holy Spirit, the response of many of those who heard him was the same.

C. Their spiritual faculties, because so averse to holiness, are unfit to grasp the message of redemption, the holiest of all messages, that is in Christ, that is Jesus of Nazareth. Their hearts were dull. Their ability to perceive the beauty and purity of spiritual truth had been clouded by their sin. Having ears to hear, they heard not; eyes they had to see, but they saw not. The words were plain, insistent, persuasive, but conflicted with their unbelieving assumptions and so served merely to stupefy them the more. This shows the reality of the condition of sinners, that we have the natural faculties to understand, hear the word, and see its truth, but our moral disposition drives us away and hardens us even more until brought to life and light by the effectual work of God’s Spirit.

D. Were they not blinded, and deaf, and spiritually dead they would believe. Sinners are not merely under condemnation because of their sins, but are so entrenched in the corruption of their hearts that their condition is described as “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Salvation involves, therefore, not only the removal of condemnation, but the rescue from blindness, deafness, and corruption. The tendency of the message is naturally to bring forth belief, but the tendency of our hearts is to defy and shun that which is holy, righteous, and good.

E. If they believed, they would be brought back to spiritual life. If they believed, God would give them eternal life. The promise is, “He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed on the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). The promise of salvation in its general statement is for all who believe. That special grace is needed for producing the actual expression of faith does not diminish the truthfulness of the stated promise to all who believe.

F. His main attention now would be given to the Gentiles. It was in fact this statement that caused the Jews to riot after his first speech to them (Acts 22:21). This was Paul’s initial call, but he felt a deep love for and covenantal compassion for his people, his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” He would go to the Gentiles, not be avoiding or bypassing the Jews, but when the Jews rejected his message to them. He still looked for the time when, according to God’s promises, large numbers of the fleshly descendants of Abraham would be saved (Romans 9:1-5; 11:28-32).

G. For at least two full years longer, Paul stayed presenting the same message to all who would come to him in his own rented living quarters. Thus, as he had expressed in his letter to the Roman Christians, he was permitted to “impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” He was “eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome,” and in God’s mysterious providence, that is exactly what he was doing.