By Diane Caston
We’ve come to the end of our journey through the book of Acts!
What a journey it has been! Long and arduous! And to think we’ve only hit the highlights! Can you imagine if everything that happened was written down?
I think so much of our time in heaven will be going around and hearing peoples’ stories of how God changed their lives as they followed Him!
Our last two chapters start as Paul is finally leaving Caesarea to have his say before Caesar, a pretty daunting prospect, but Paul remembers and is comforted by the Lord by the words spoken to him in Acts 23:11 “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said,“Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me inJerusalem, so you must also bear witness atRome.”
Paul had many naysayers, well-meaning people who cautioned him about going back to Jerusalem. Agabus prophesied what would happen to him if he did.
Acts 21: 10-14 10And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ”
12Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.”
Many modern-day disciples of the Lord received the same warnings when they desired to go to foreign mission fields. Friends and family warned them not to go.
Hannah Hurnard fought for a way to go to Israel, which was called Palestine at the time. No one was willing to allow her to go until she volunteered as a nurse. She lived in Israel from 1932 past 1948 and their war for independence. She spent 50 years of her life in close association with Israel.
Gladys Alward couldn’t find a missionary organization that would send a single woman into Northern China. Most of the missionary work in China was in the south i.e. China Inland Missions. She boarded a train, the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and went by herself. There she met and ministered with another missionary woman who ran an inn and preached the gospel to her visitors. There are amazing stories of how the Lord used Gladys there teaching about Christ and working for the government to change the practice of foot binding.
When the Lord calls us to go, He encourages us, despite the words of caution and warning and discouragement. Paul was determined to go, even if it meant his death.
This morning I’m just going to do an overview of these two last chapters, Acts 27-28. Read them over yourselves for a clearer picture if you would like.
Acts 27, so we see Paul leaves by ship for Rome under the guard of Julius, a centurion of the Augustus band. He has as his companions Luke who wrote this account and Aristarcus, who was a faithful Thessalonian friend to Paul.
They made their first stop in Sidon, and Julius courteously let Paul off the ship to visit friends and receive care. Next, they sailed between the mainland of Asia and the island of Cyprus to be safe from the winds. They sailed across the open sea to Cilicia and Pamphylia and landed in Myra. They changed ships at Myra and boarded a grain ship heading to Italy. They struggled once again against the winds and made it to Fair Havens with much difficulty.
Now Paul was becoming concerned, whether this was wisdom from past experience or a warning from the Lord, but Paul warns in vs. 10, “ “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.” He wanted to prevent them from leaving the safety of port.
One commentator states, “Paul did not necessarily speak here as a prophet of God, but perhaps as an experienced traveler on the Mediterranean, having already traveled some 3,500 miles by sea. Knowing the seasons and conditions – and perhaps with supernatural wisdom – Paul advised that they not go on.”
The centurion listened to the helmsman and the owner of the ship over Paul’s warning, and they made an attempt to at least make it to Phoenix, a harbor that was safer to winter in. The port at Phoenix was on the same island of Crete and only about 40 miles away. It didn’t seem crazy to them to try make it to Phoenix and be spared a miserable winter at Fair Havens.
During a lull in the winds, they put out to sea again. Big mistake! A tempestuous head wind called a Euroclydon, a cyclonic tempestuous northeast wind which blows in the Mediterranean , mostly in autumn and winter. assaulted them! From there they did all they could to secure the ship and to avoid being run aground, they set sail and to let the winds drive them.
On the third day they threw all of the tackle overboard. This was equipment such as rigging or a crane used to load or unload cargo on ships . Anything that wasn’t necessary to life and the ability to sail the ship. Vs. 20 “ Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.” The great tempest drove them blindly westward across the Mediterranean.
The men had become hopeless. On the open sea they could only navigate with either the sun or the stars. Many days in this storm drove the crew to desperation.
Paul however, did not give up hope, and he prophesied the words the Lord told him,
Acts 27:21-26 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss . 22And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26However, we must run aground on a certain island.”
The fourteenth night of the storm they came close to land, and after having been driven up and down in the Adriatic sea, they came close to land, the island of Malta. A very dramatic scene ensues of the soundings, the anchors set, sailors trying to escape, another warning from Paul for all to stay on the ship, and an encouragement to eat (it had been 14 days since they had eaten!) He broke bread with them and prayed to the Lord he knew and trusted. They were all encouraged. 276 people on board and after they ate, they lightened the ship and threw that precious remaining grain into the sea! The ship ran aground and started to break up. The soldiers were going to kill all the prisoners, but that gracious centurion Julius stopped them, because he wanted to save Paul! So, they jumped ship and floated on broken up wood or swam to shore.
Quite the dramatic account!
The story continues…
They had come across the sea in a horrible storm. When they swam to shore, they discovered the island was Malta, which was inhabited by natives, or as the old KJV says barbarians, who were unusually kind to them, starting a fire for them. They were probably curious about these shipwrecked men. They were especially curious about Paul, who having survived being shipwrecked, was not killed by the venomous snake that bit him. One minute they thought he must be a murderer who could not escape his punishment, the next minute when he didn’t immediately die from the snake bite, they thought he was a god!
There was a leading citizen on the island named Publius, a Roman no doubt. He received them and entertained them for three days. Paul does not say who he entertained, I’m sure not the criminals, but we read that Paul healed Publius’ father who was very ill, which lead to many on the island coming to Paul to be healed. When they left the islanders provided what things they needed. They must have spent the whole winter there, as the account mentioned it was three months later that they sailed in an Alexandrian ship towards Rome, stopping in Syracuse, then Rhegium and on to Puteoli where they found believers and stayed seven days with them. Luke states when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. It must have been with great joy that he met followers of Christ this far west. The word of God was spreading, and it strengthened Paul.
Finally, they arrive in Rome! The trip was completed! Julius was successful in fulfilling his job, with much help from Paul, and delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard.
“Now, at the very end of the book, the apostle comes to Rome. Thus Jesus’ prophecy that his disciples would be his witnesses ‘to the ends of the earth’ is fulfilled.” (Boice)
When Paul came to Rome, the city had existed for almost 800 years. The famous Coliseum was not yet built; but the prominent buildings were the temple of Jupiter, the palaces of Caesar, and a temple to Mars (the god of war). At the time, Rome had a population of about two million – a million slaves, and a million free. Society was divided into roughly three classes: A small upper class, a large class of the poor, and slaves.
Paul, who hadn’t as yet been charged with any crime, was permitted to dwell by himself in a rented house with a soldier to guard him.
“To this soldier he would be lightly chained by the wrist…the soldier would be relieved every four hours or so, but for Paul there was no comparable relief.” FF Bruce
He was constantly under the supervision of a Roman guard, and often chained. The rotation of the guards gave him a constant supply of people to talk to. Maybe this is how it came to be that Paul stated in Philippians 1:13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.
It only took three days for Paul to summon the Jewish leaders who were there in Rome. He wanted to explain to them the reason he was under arrest there.
Acts 28: 17-20 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason, therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”
Paul continues his practice of speaking to the Jews first when he arrives in a city. “Men and brethren”, Paul wants to remind them that he still considers them his brothers, that he is still a Jew. He also wanted them to know that he wasn’t a criminal; there were no real charges against him, especially in relation to Jewish law. He told them that the Romans had been willing to release him, but the Jews were out for blood, so he appealed to Caesar. He did this not to accuse his nation, but to save his life. He told them that it was for the hope of Israel that he was bound with a chain.
As the year A.D. 70 approached, time was running out before an unparalleled national calamity struck a Jesus-rejecting Israel. In 10 years or so it would be clear that Jesus was the hope of Israel, yet a hope that many of them rejected. Guzak
The Jews attest to the fact that they have heard nothing about him and no letters regarding him had been sent. But they wanted to hear what he was professing from his own mouth, because concerning this ‘sect’ as they called it, it was spoken against everywhere. Although they didn’t know anything about Paul, they had heard about Christianity, and what they had heard ranged from unpopular to spoken against.
So Paul agreed and a day was set that many came to his home and he “solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the prophets, from morning to evening.” There are some events in the bible that we so much wish we could have experience, or they had been recorded! This all day seminar with Paul the apostle must have been an incredible event. a wonderful time of teaching explaining all of the Old Testament prophecies and foreshadowing of the coming Messiah Jesus and how all the law was fulfilled through his birth, death and resurrection! How in Jesus God brought knowledge of a spiritual kingdom that would take root in men’s hearts before it took over the governments of this world. Most of the Jewish people of Jesus’ day and of Paul’s day looked for a political kingdom, not a spiritual kingdom.
In response to this remarkable, day-long teaching from Paul, some believed and trusted Jesus. Others did not, and disbelieved. Even the best teaching from the best apostle in the best circumstances could not persuade them. Guzak
Paul was surely discouraged by the unbelievers, those who would not hear and explains to them the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9-10 about their hardness of hearts, the failure to understand, and refusal to believe. Paul tells them after their failure to believe that he will go to the Gentiles and they will hear, which cause a huge dispute among the Jews!
The preacher of the gospel speaks to two kinds of people. To those who respond to the gospel with faith, he is a messenger of life. But to those who reject Jesus, the preacher adds to their condemnation. To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:16)
So ends the story of the birth of the church of Christ, a rather abrupt ending in the narrative.
They had set sail for Rome in AD 58 and arrived at Rome in the spring of the same year. Paul remained in custody for 2 more years (Acts 28:30) which brings us up to AD 60 for the end of the book of Acts. After the Roman Imprisonment—Paul was apparently freed shortly after this time as he predicted in Philippians 1:25. There is support in the epistles that he was released and possibly preached in Spain, but sometime in the next few years, he must have been rearrested as he was beheading in Nero’s regime around 64 A.D.
Luke gives an account in these last two chapters of the trouble along the way. You would think that Paul already had enough trouble, wouldn’t you? On the way to Rome to be judged by Augustus Caesar and what happens, more troubles!
When Paul encountered the living Savior on the road to Damascus, he had no idea what his future would hold. He had a hint from Ananias Acts 9:16ForI will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 11: 23-27 some of the things he suffered, in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—
And 2 Cor 1:7-8 8For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.
We see here the state that Paul lived in. But we see something that was missing. Even when he comes to the breaking point. No grumbling, no complaining. He was in every circumstance full of faith and trust even when tested t the extremem. . He had followed the Lord long enough to know that if there was a breach in the plan, God had something else in mind.
We see here the state in which Paul lived. But we also see something that was missing. We hear no grumbling, no complaining. He was in every circumstance full of faith and trust even when tested to the extreme. He had followed the Lord long enough to know that if there was a breach in the plan, God had something else in mind. How are we when things don’t go the way we planned? I had to smile at this happening to me as I prepared for this study.
Paul did not consider his life his own. He went along with what the Lord had in mind.
How are we when things don’t go the way we planned?
How many times do we complain about the way things are? Or are frustrated when the plans change? We need to remember the Potter and the clay. We belong to him and have given Him the right to alter our lives as He sees fit!
Faith trusts that God knows what He is doing in our lives. So as we live out our days before Him, we should strive to have the same attitude as Paul. As Pastor Bill Barry stated on Sunday to go to the tree in our own garden, which is the cross of Jesus Christ, and submit ourselves to Him, no matter what circumstances arises in our lives.