Paul Challenged in Rome

In Your Bible: Acts 28: 12-30

Paul possibly understood more of what Jesus said and did through his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. He knew well the Law and the Prophets as a “Pharisee of Pharisees” (see Acts 23:6). God gave Paul added time in Rome to instruct Gentiles and Jews about the Messiah—Jesus Christ.

Before the Jewish Leadership

In Rome, Paul called the Jewish leaders together and said, “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death” (Acts 28: 17b, 18 NASB).

The Roman Jews declared they’d not heard any of this . . .  “But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect” [followers of Jesus] (Acts 28:22 NASB). What a door God opened here. Paul explained about the Kingdom of God and about Jesus from the Law and the prophets.

Isaiah’s Prophecy Fulfilled

Some believed but most of the Jews did not. * Again rejection by the Jewish leadership deeply disappointed Paul. Then he quoted the same Messianic Prophecy that Jesus did (see Matthew 13:14 and John 12:40):

“The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say,
“You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
For the heart of this people has become dull,
And with their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes;
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them”’ (Acts 28:25b-27 NASB).

Paul spent two full years, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Jesus the Christ openly. God gave Paul added time in Rome—to instruct Gentiles and Jews about the Messiah—Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Father, please help me respond when opportunities to share the gospel arise. I want to be your spokesman.

Questions: In what manner do you react to rejection? How can you better allow the Holy Spirit speak through you in times of confrontation.

* Bible Commentary, McGarvey and Pendleton, Acts: 28:24, online at christianity.com

Shipwrecked

In Your Bible: Acts 28:1-11

The large grain ship from Alexandria ran aground on the island of Malta. Miraculously all 276 onboard survived. Paul, Luke and others were guests of the island chief. In God’s hands and safekeeping Paul ministered in Malta for more than three months.

Hospitality with a Surprise

The natives on Malta showed extraordinary kindness. They built a fire for the visitors due the rain and cold weather. But, when Paul added wood to the fire, a venomous snake bit him, Paul shook it off unconcerned. The natives watched to see if he would instantly die, he didn’t! They were amazed—Paul must be a god.

Hospitality and Healing

Publius, the Island’s Chie Official, was likely a Roman representative. * He revealed to Paul that his father was seriously ill. So . . . Paul went to him, and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. After this occurred, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and being healed (Acts 28:8b,9 AMP).

Luke says more about the generosity they received in Malta: They also gave us many honors [gifts and courtesies expressing respect]; and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all the things we needed (Acts 28:10 AMP). In God’s hands and safekeeping Paul ministered in Malta for more than three months.

Prayer: Father, thank you for turning shipwrecks in my life into times of ministry. Help me see opportunity when I face difficulties.

Questions: Have you faced situations that looked extremely dangerous? What results came from your response from the way God carried you through it?

* The Daily Bible Study Series, The Acts of the Apostles, William Barclay, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1955, p. 207.

The Tempest

In Your Bible: Acts 27: 1-40

With his appeal for a verdict from Caesar granted, Governor Festus readied a ship to send Paul to Rome with guards and several other prisoners. Amidst a disastrous storm, a messenger from God encouraged Paul. God can strengthen hearts of those who call on His Name in any circumstance.

Sail for Rome

On their sail they stopped in Sidon where Paul was allowed to go ashore to receive kindness and provision for his needs from friends. The entire journey took many months. In Myra they changed to a grain ship * from Egypt and had 276 people onboard.

This was a larger ship, possibly as long as 140 feet, 36 feet wide, and a draft of 33 feet. With no rudder at the stern as we now have, it was steered by two great paddles from each side – very difficult to manage.

Luke thoroughly documents time frames i.e. noting rulers, feasts, and festivals. In Acts 27:9 NIV he states the challenging storm was just after the Day of Atonement, most likely in early October on our calendar. ** Truly a challenging time to travel by sea!

Paul admonished the crew . . . “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship (Acts 27:10,11 NIV). They sailed into the storm

The Tempest

For days, the storm caused chaos and fear for all onboard. The crew had serious safety tasks:

  • Gird the hull with ropes – to gain strength
  • Place sea anchors – for stability
  • Jettison excess ship tackle and grain – to lighten the load

They were so busy that they failed to eat! This enraged Paul, so he strongly urged all onboard to eat for their own safety and well-being.

Stay in God’s hands

To assure the crew and all onboard, Paul revealed what a messenger of God (an angel) told him . . . “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So, keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God” (Acts 27:24, 25a NIV).

It was determined by God that Paul should go to Rome. God chose the route and difficulties to be encountered. He encourages all who trust him to know they will also suffer for him. God can strengthen hearts of those who call on His Name in any circumstance.

Prayer: Father, it’s comforting in times of trial to know that you have me in the palm of your hand. You know my upcoming successes and troubles long before I encounter them. I trust You.

Questions: When have you encountered seemingly impossible challenges? Did this build or diminish your trust? Why/how?

* The Daily Study Bible Series, Acts of the Apostles, William Barclay, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1955, p 201.

** Note from John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, Acts 27:9, website christinity.com.

Man’s Time Is In God’s Hands

In Your Bible: Acts Chapters 23, 24 and 25

After the encounter with the high priest at the council, Paul was imprisoned overnight for his own safety. Then he traveled to Caesarea under heavy guard. The apostles in Jerusalem didn’t visit Paul in his cell but the Lord did. I believe, you probably do too, the Lord comforted Paul in prison all this time.

Conspiracy Against Paul

However, the next day the Jews worked up a plot against Paul. They took a solemn oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed him. Over forty of them ritually bound themselves to this murder pact and presented themselves to the high priests and religious leaders (Acts 23:12 Message).

Hearty Protection for Travel to Caesarea

That evening soldiers (200), spearmen (200), mounted troops (70) plus horses for Paul to ride were readied for the trip to bring Paul before Governor Felix in Caesarea. Quite a statement about protecting a Roman citizen from raucous Jerusalem rebels.

Before the Governors

However, in Caesarea Paul was jailed again until his accusers arrived five days later. Ananias and the other accusers arrived and presented their case after which Paul defended himself in a calm and logical manner.

Governor Felix. . . knew far more about the Way than he let on, and could have settled the case then and there. But uncertain of his best move politically, he played for time (Acts 24:21a Message).

Then . . . a few days later Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and his people, about a life of moral discipline and the coming Judgment . . . (Acts 24:24,25a Message).

Paul was grateful to be placed under house arrest, yet it was two more years before the next governor arrived! Then Paul was imprisoned, merely for appearances, at the arrival of Governor Porcius Festus. The new governor held court and Paul declared his innocence with an appeal to Caesar for his ruling. This was granted.

I believe, you probably do too, the Lord comforted Paul in prison all this time.

Prayer: Father, I know you are with me and know all my weakness and strengths – for that I am grateful every day. Your timing blesses me in ways I’ll not even know until eternity – WOW.

Questions: How much time in these three chapters (23, 24, 25) did Paul spend in prison or house arrest? If adversity is a builder of Christ like character, then how much more is holding on through unjust accusations? Are there additional adversities believers encounter daily? Name a few.

Paul’s Lame Excuse

In Your Bible: Acts 22 and 23

In Jerusalem Paul tells the crowd greeting him what God has done through him in Asia Minor. Then he was arrested, lashed and taken before the Jewish high council. No guilt is found against Paul, yet he confronts the high priest. Paul would witness to the glory of God in Rome, whatever the cost.

Paul Arrested

Paul is encouraged by his welcome in Jerusalem. However, again trouble visited him by a boisterous crowd. After he is arrested and lashed by Roman soldiers, he reveals he’s a Roman citizen. This changes everything for the commander of Roman soldiers who demands Paul be taken to the priest and high Council.

Before the High Council

Paul stood before the high council and defended himself. He said. . . “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth (Acts 23: 1,2 NASB). This brutality was for the disrespect Paul displayed.

Paul, retorted . . . “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law, order me to be struck?” (Acts 23: 3 NASB). Paul defended his outrageous accusation and said . . . “I didn’t realize he was the high priest” (Acts 23:5 NASB).

Paul, how could you not know? He did know that he should respect the high priest. After the lashing by the Roman soldiers, he seemed to focus only on himself. Maybe we too would be in a dazed state under such stress.

You may have heard this accusation is against the priests, pharisees and sadducees often in sermons. Really the point here really is Paul cannot stand these religious leaders missing what God is doing among the Gentiles. What a shame.

Now two sets of people, the crowd and the high council were in an uproar. This initiated the need to call the Roman officers to calm the raucous crowd. They imprisoned Paul that night for his own safety.

God Ministers to Paul

When Paul was in prison that night, the Lord said to him . . . “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also” (Acts 23:11 NASB). Paul would witness to the glory of God in Rome, whatever the cost.

Prayer: Father, help me be a witness to your glory and grace daily.

Questions: When was the last time you blurted out something you knew was wrong the instant you said it? When has someone has come to your rescue in a trying situation?

A Nazirite Vow

In Your Bible Acts 21: 15-26

After more than three years in Asia Minor Paul, impelled by the Holy Spirit, returned to Jerusalem and was received with JOY. But resistance arose among the Jews. Paul took the Nazirite vow – it was more convincing than words he could say.

Joyous Welcome

The believers received Paul gladly. When he met with James and the elders of the church Jerusalem, he gave a detailed account of the things God accomplished among the Gentiles. Upon hearing this, everyone praised God. Even with this joyous testimony, some old accusations arose against Paul.

Nazirite Vow

Paul previously agreed to the guidance and a letter given by the Council (see Acts 15:24-28 NLT). New Gentile believers must adhere to only a few Jewish customs:

  • Abstain from eating food offered to idols
  • Abstain from consuming blood or meat of strangled animals
  • Abstain from sexual immorality

But again, some Jewish believers in Jerusalem complained that Paul still taught Gentile converts to ignore the laws of Moses. How could Paul show them differently?

The Council said . . .

Do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law (Acts 21:23,24 NASB).

He eagerly agreed to the purification ceremony also known as the Nazirite vow (see it in Numbers 6:13-21).

He knew these repeated accusations against him were false. Paul took the Nazirite vow – it was more convincing than words he could say.

Prayer: Father, thank for your guidance in the Bible and the Holy Spirit as I seek to do your will – not mine.

Questions: When you read about the Nazirite vow or purification ceremony, who is most memorable to you remember as a devout Nazarite? What displays of devotion or ritual do believers use today to show their commitment to God?

Emotional Send-Off

In Your Bible: Acts 20:16-38

After completing three years of ministry in Ephesus and three months in Macedonia, Paul asked the elders of the Church of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. Here he would bestow guidance, encouragement, and a warning. During this heartfelt time, God’s grace reigned as Paul blessed the elders of the church.

Protect the Flock

Paul insisted the elders heed this warning . . . “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.” (Acts 20:28 NLT). He then commended the elders into God’s care.

Departing in Love

Then Paul . . . Knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again (Acts 20:36-38a). During this heartfelt time, God’s grace reigned as Paul blessed the elders of the church.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the diligence Paul showed with these elders. Help me learn to encourage others to discover your will and your purpose in their lives.

Question: In Acts 20:28-32 Paul encourages and warns the elders of the church in Ephesus. How do both statements apply today?