October 30, 2016

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV: The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts Chapters 12-28)            

                    

Subtopic G: Paul in Rome (Acts 27:1-Acts 28:31)                                     

                          

                                                                           

         Lesson: IV.G.2: Paul in Rome (Acts 28:16-Acts 28:31)                                     

 

 

 

Acts 28:16-31, KJV

 

16 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.

17 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.

18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.

19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

20 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.

21 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.

22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

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 a prisoner and chained to a soldier.  them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.

25 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,

26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:

27 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.

28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.

30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,

31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

 

 

Introduction

This is the final chapter of the first book of the history of the Christian Church.  According to the plan given by the risen Lord, we have been following the witnesses as they act in response to the Great Commission by taking the Gospel message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Luke tells the story of the rapid growth of this new religion called “Christianity,” as it moves from Jerusalem to Rome; and there he ends.  The book is an unfinished fragment, and incomplete, because every person ever born or yet to be born, have a place in the book. The ending has been recorded in Revelation. Jesus will write the last line and place the final period.

We have watched this movement, first through the eyes of Peter, and then through the eyes of the Apostle Paul.  We have seen the Church witnessing in Jerusalem; we have seen its failures and its victory.  We have followed this wonderful servant of God, this great pioneer missionary on his journeyings, through perils often; and at last we find ourselves in Rome.  Now let us see how things developed.  But the book is over, and there is no further record.  Why not?  Because there is nothing else we need to know.  Enough was written to reveal the unparalleled power of God, to bring to light the perpetual perils threatening the Church, to furnish instructions, and to provide all that was necessary for the Church to fulfill its mission until Christ returns to establish His kingdom.


Commentary

16 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.

Paul arrived in Rome in the days when she was under an imperial dictatorship.  The golden days of the Republic had passed away.  Gradually the dictators had usurped the power of the people, and at that moment the city of Rome and the empire were under the tyranny of an emperor, and he was perhaps in some ways the worst of the lot. These were the days of Nero.  When Paul arrived in Rome, Nero would not be more than twenty-five years of age; but already his hands were red with the blood of those he murdered.  His mother Agrippina, had been murdered about a year before Paul’s arrival; and in all probability, though this cannot be stated with as much certainty, Octavia his wife was also already murdered.  Nero occupied the throne of the Caesars, and he was cruel, indecent, and weak.

Rome at that time was the very center of paganism.  We may safely say that within a 12 mile area, all included within Rome proper, there were resident, when Paul arrived, two million people.  One million of these were slaves.  Those are approximate figures, but it is accurate to say that about half the population of Rome was slaves.  Of the one million citizens there were about 700 senators; at one time there had been1000, but their number gradually declined as the power of the emperor increased.  There were about 10,000 knights, mostly occupying the public positions in Rome; and about 15,000 soldiers.  The vast majority of the remainder of the citizens was paupers.  The wealth of Rome was in the possession of a very few. This great multitude of pauper citizens was proud of their citizenship, and held the slaves beneath them in supreme contempt.  One of the tourists of the time declares that they had only two cries; one was “Bread!” and the other was “The Circus!” Thousands of these pauper citizens had no home of their own.  Managing somehow to obtain the bread that satisfied the hunger of that day, and at night crowding into the circuses to watch the gladiatorial combats, they were living upon bread and excitement.  Thousands of them slept at night upon the parapets and in public places of the city.

Now think of the million slaves, and remember that these conditions were so different from ours today.  All the professional men, manufactures, and trade people were slaves.  These pauper citizens held themselves aloof from those beneath them in the pride of their citizenship, and they looked down on all forms of work, not merely a trade, but also a profession.  Slaves were ground under the cruel heel of oppression; they were the property of their masters, and their masters could take their life at any time, for any reason.

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At long last they entered Rome, perhaps by the Porta Caperna.  It is not unlikely that Julius would at first have reported to the Castra Praetoria, the camp of the Praetorians.  In that case, the commander in question may have been Afranius Burrus, who died in a.d.  62.  Here the centurion handed over his prisoners as a group to the military authorities, possibly the commander of the imperial Praetorian Guard, and his duty was over.

We cannot help thinking Julius said a fond farewell to Paul.  Surely Paul had witnessed to this man about Christ.  One wonders if he ever became a Christian.  No man ever had a better opportunity to witness Christianity in action or to sit at the feet of a more gifted and gracious teacher.

Paul, as a Roman citizen, was given preferential treatment.  He was allowed to lodge in the city, where he was placed under light house arrest in the custody of a Roman soldier to whom he would be gently chained.  We can be sure that Paul diligently witnessed to those men, that he told them about Jesus, that some of them became believers, and that most of them became his friends. 

17 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.

Shortly after arriving in Rome, Paul called a meeting of his own people; for he could not, as was his custom in other cities, go to them, for he was a prisoner, chained to a soldier.  However, he was treated considerately during his first imprisonment.  The first meeting was by invitation only. 

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Paul’s abiding passion for those he calls “my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3) would not let him rest.  In his letter to Rome, written some three years before, he had devoted three chapters (9-11) as well as several other portions (chapters 2, 4) to the question of the Jews and the gospel.  The persistent rejection of Christ by the Jews greatly saddened Paul, even though he now fully understood its magnitude, consequences, and tragedy.

He was housed at his own expense.  This may have been possible either through the generosity of friends (Philippians 4:10, 14, 18) or because he had resources of his own.  He may even have plied his trade of tent making.  According to Ulpian, an eminent Roman juror of the third century a.d., prisoners awaiting trial were allowed to work and to live in rented lodging’s.  Paul’s condition can be best described as “house arrest” he was still bound to a soldier by a light chain (28:20), so that he could not go in and out as he pleased, but other than that he enjoyed considerable freedom, including the freedom to receive into his small house whomever he pleased.

In city after city it had been his customary policy to evangelize the Jewish community first, before turning to the Gentiles.  Rome was to be no exception.  The fact that he was in bonds, made no difference.  If he could not go to the Jews, then the Jews must be invited to come to him.  His first task, then, once he was established in his own home, was to call together “the leaders of the Jews” (“the chief of the Jews”) in order to explain his position to them—his final defense to the Jews.  At least 13 synagogues are known to have existed in ancient Rome, though not all may have existed at this time, and not all may have sent representatives to meet with Paul.  But those who came would have been drawn from among the Elders and rulers.

The leaders came.  Paul began with an explanation of his present status as a prisoner, but he had to be careful.  He did not know how much his listeners knew about his case.  It could well be that the Sanhedrin had already sent their highly prejudiced version to the Jewish authorities at Rome. Paul did not want to antagonize his listeners by accusing his accusers.  Moreover, he was chained to a Roman soldier who might easily be a spy or, at least, who might gossip and say things that would cause him to lose his privileges or affect the outcome of his hearing with Caesar, if he said anything detrimental about Roman justice.  Surprisingly, his feelings ran just the opposite, for he was grateful to the Romans.  They had saved him from certain death.  In any case, it would have been the height of foolishness to speak disparagingly of Rome while wearing a Roman chain.

There was an extensive Jewish community in Rome, but it does not seem to have been well-integrated but rather to have consisted of a number of separate synagogues operating independently.  It is unclear exactly who these “leaders” of the Jewish community were—perhaps the ruling Elders of the various Roman synagogues.  Paul first pointed out to them the circumstances that had brought him to Rome.  He pointed out that he had done nothing against the Jewish people or their ancestral customs.  The Asian Jews in Jerusalem might quibble with this statement because they had charged him with exactly the opposite (21:28).

He passed lightly over the circumstances of his arrest.  The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem had engineered his arrest and plotted his murder, but Paul said nothing about that.  On the contrary, he affirmed that he had no accusation to bring against the Jewish people.  His language in Romans 9-11 shows his Christlike love even for his enemies among the Jews. 

No, Paul was not in Rome to press charges of any kind against his people.  He was there simply to get his name cleared of charges that had been brought against him and of which he was completely innocent.  Was not he himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews?  He had done nothing against “the customs of our fathers.” He might have gone on, indeed, to tell of his own rabbinical training at the feet of Gamaliel, the respected disciple of the famous Hillel.  He might also have spoken of his zeal as a Pharisees and his schooling in the law. But instead, he contented himself with an assertion of his innocence.  He had committed no crime against the Jews or against their customs.

18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.

His case, having been taken over by Rome, had been tried in Roman courts.  He had appeared before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, and in open court he had been declared innocent of all charges, certainly of any capital offence.  We are not told whether or not he mentioned the name of Agrippa, but the Jews would appreciate Agrippa’s grasp of Jewish affairs.  The fact that he had recommended that all charges be dropped would certainly carry weight.  But if he had been acquitted, why was he still in bonds?

19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

Treading lightly still, Paul simply said that the continuing unrest over his case had led him finally to appeal to Caesar, for he believed that he would sooner or later fall victim to their plots, therefore Paul had no option but to appeal to Caesar.  But he wanted to assure the Roman Jews that he bore his people no ill will.  He still counted himself as one of them. That would make its own mark with his listeners.  They as Jews living in Rome would appreciate Paul’s special social status as a Roman citizen.  They could not help but respect that.

By now Paul had their sympathetic attention.  It was cleverly done.  He had won them to a hearing more by what he had left unsaid than by what he had said.

20 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.

He claimed, in the presence of those of the Jewish synagogue in Rome, that he was wearing the chain “because of the hope of Israel.” That, too, would earn their sympathy.  He had their attention now.  He immediately moved on to his prime objective which was to talk to them about Jesus.  He called Him “the hope of Israel.” The messianic hope burned ever so brightly in the Hebrew heart.  Paul’s great message to the Jews was that the Messiah had come, and that all over the world Jews and Gentiles were passing into the kingdom.  “For the hope of Israel” (Jesus Christ), for that which had been the central expectation of their religion in bygone days (the coming of the Messiah), for that imperishable home (Heaven) that had been at the heart of all their history, for that he wore the chain. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ did not undermine the Messiah’s ambassadors.

21 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.

The response of the Roman Jews is somewhat surprising. They said they had had no official letters or even an oral report blaming the apostle (see note 1).  Some interpreters find this inconceivable.  Yet it may well be that because of winter travel conditions, no one from Palestine had arrived in Rome prior to Paul.  It is also possible that the connections between Jerusalem and the synagogues of Rome were not very strong anyway.  Or it may possibly be that the Roman Jews were deliberately disassociating themselves from the trial of Paul, not wishing to be involved in a case that could eventually prove to be an embarrassment to the Jewish accusers.  The Roman authorities sometimes dealt harshly with accusers who failed to substantiate their case.  Nor could the Sanhedrin have reasonably expected the Jews of Rome to take up their cause, since their own position was a precarious one and they would hardly have wished to draw attention to themselves by prosecuting all.  In all likelihood, then, no message had been sent from Judea and none was likely to be.

The Sanhedrin seems to have been content to see Paul called away to Rome in chains to take his chance before Caesar, evidently concluding they had little chance of convincing the Supreme Court in their favor when they had been unable to convince a local court.  Moreover, the members of the Sanhedrin might have been intimidated, too, by Paul’s Roman citizenship—something they had probably not bargained for.  It was no light thing to ill-treat and falsely accuse a Roman citizen.  The attitude of the Philippian magistrates demonstrates the fact that Roman citizens had to be handled with kid gloves.  Certainly the Jewish authorities did not really relish the idea of tangling with Paul before Nero in Rome itself.  So for one reason or another, the Sanhedrin had been content with getting rid of Paul, and they saw no point and possible harm in pursuing him further.

Thus the Roman Jews denied all knowledge of Paul.  Even if rumors of the trouble in Jerusalem had reached their ears, they were too cautious to involve themselves with his case one way or another.  They were just as leery as was the Sanhedrin of making derogatory remarks to a Roman citizen whose case had already been favorably adjudicated by several Roman courts. 

But they knew about this sect that it was everywhere spoken against (28:22), and that the Apostle Paul was its main advocate and that everywhere he went Jews and Gentiles were joining this new religion.  The opinion that they held of the sect was that it was a break with Judaism. There is nothing more interesting in all the addresses and the writings of Paul than his constant effort to show that Christianity was not a break with Judaism, but its fulfillment. 

Note: that must have been gratifying to Paul.  The Jewish leaders had no knowledge of his case at all.

22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

The second response of the Roman Jews is somewhat more puzzling.  Their knowledge of the Christians did not seem to be very intimate, only a sort of hearsay acquaintance that “people everywhere are talking against this sect.” Christians were well established in Rome.  In any event, their refusal to speak anything against Paul was in itself something of an indirect testimony to his innocence.

Although they professed ignorance of Paul (28:21), they could not very well profess ignorance of Christianity, but they were not favorably impressed.  They must have had considerable experience with the new movement.  It is likely that the Christian community in Rome was the first to be founded outside of Palestine, carried there by Roman Jews in Jerusalem on that first momentous day of Pentecost.

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.

The first meeting was followed by this more formal assembly.  We have no detailed account of Paul’s discussion or any exchange of ideas that took place on this occasion, but Luke has given us the theme of it. He talked from morning till evening to these men of two things. First, he “testified the Kingdom of God.” That was the rock foundation of the Hebrew nation.  Notice the fine and wonderful skill with which this man in Rome, among the Hebrews, pleaded the cause of his Master.  He began by testifying the Kingdom of God; the Theocracy.  That is what the Hebrew people were, in the purpose of God.  In that they made their boast.  He testified to that, showing first how he had not departed from the foundation position of the Hebrew people. Then secondly, he persuaded them arguing with them “concerning Jesus,” from their own writings, from Moses, and all the prophets.  The picture ends sadly; it is one of division. 

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A date was set for Paul to address them.  News of the proposed meeting spread swiftly throughout the Jewish community.  Whatever reservations the leaders might have felt, the rank and file believed it was an opportunity too good to miss.  A few inquiries soon convinced the Jews that Paul was a celebrity, an authority, and a man worth hearing.  As a result, Paul’s place of residence was jam-packed.  But in Rome, however, there was no Gentile faction; the audience was solely Jews.  Since Paul was under guard they came to him in his private rented quarters.

The conference lasted all day.  Paul made the most of his opportunity.  Probably his appeal was based on what we have in the epistles to the Romans and to the Hebrews.  His theme was the kingdom of God.  He gave them a survey of the Scriptures.  He expounded the Christology of the Old Testament, referring to the types of Christ found in the law and to the direct statements of the prophets.  He brought before them truth concerning the kingdom of God.  He doubtless directed their attention to those searching words of Jesus to Nicodemus—“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  His whole message was laced with the story of Jesus: His virgin birth, His place of birth, His life, teaching, and miracles, His rejection, betrayal, crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension, as well as His promised return.  He confronted them with the need for personally accepting Jesus as Messiah and personal Savior and thus to enter the kingdom of God.

The Jews looked forward to the coming of the Messiah and the restoration of God’s kingdom in a renewed Israel (1:6). The message of Acts has been that this has already occurred—in Jesus.  This was what Paul set before them that day.  He sought to convince them through an exposition of the Scriptures (“from the Law of Moses and from the prophets”).  Luke did not specify which texts Paul used to expound Jesus, but they were surely those which point to the necessity of the Messiah’s suffering and to His resurrection—the texts Jesus set before the disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:27, 44-47), which Peter used to show Christ’s messianic status to the Jews at Pentecost and in the temple square (Acts 2:17-36; 3:12-26) and which Paul himself expounded in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch (13:32-39).

24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.

Some believed, and some disbelieved; they were not able to come to any decision.  They departed after Paul had spoken his final word.  This whole book of the Acts is the story of God’s final striving with the Hebrew people.  In the life of our Lord He came first to the Hebrew, the Jew.  They rejected him, and Jerusalem finally rejected Christ when they rejected Paul.

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The result was a sharp division among the Jews who heard Paul’s witness—some were convinced, others refused to believe him. Every time the gospel is preached, heaven and hell are in the balance, eternal issues are at stake. The reference to some being “convinced” could mean no more than that some of the Roman Jews found Paul’s arguments persuasive without implying their coming to a point of commitment to Christ.  On the other hand, the picture of a divided synagogue is a constant of Acts—some believing, others resisting and violently opposing Paul.  It is likely that the same pattern is to be seen here.  Some individual Jews believed, but “the Jews” as a whole, “the synagogue” in an official sense, did not accept Paul’s witness to Christ.  This had been the tragic story of the Jews in every community in which Paul had preached.

25 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,

The divided Jews argued among themselves and began to disburse, but not before Paul had gotten in the last word—one final Old Testament testimony.  This time it was not prophesy regarding the Christ but rather one that applied to them and their refusal to hear the word of God.  He spoke more in sorrow than in anger, as he cited the words of Isaiah 6:9-10 (see note 1), attributing them to the Holy Spirit himself, and giving particular emphasis to the phrase—Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.” The inspiration of the prophet’s word is stressed through the reference to the Spirit’s mediation. The spirit is described as speaking the word of the prophecy.  In every instance in Acts where a scriptural quote is introduced by a reference to the Spirit, the Spirit is described as having spoken (1:16; 4:25).  In this manner the written Word is shown to be a dynamic, “living” Word.  Note that at this point Paul began to distance himself from the unbelieving Jews.  Earlier he had addressed them as “my brother’s” (28:17).  Now he spoke of “your” forefathers.  Paul had not ceased being a Jew, but his faith in Christ sharply separated him now from his Roman brothers who refused the gospel message.  Paul was not one with those hardhearted forefathers who had rejected God’s word through Isaiah, who had resisted the Spirit in the past, and whose descendents were now doing the same (7:51).

At this rejection of the gospel by so many, after such a thorough exposition of the truth, the Holy Spirit led Paul to call down God’s judicial wrath upon the Hebrew people.  It was not enough that the Jerusalem Jews had rejected the Savior, the Spirit, and the Scriptures, but now the Roman Jews had endorsed the same rejection the Jews had in city after city.  It was the final straw.  The Holy Spirit pronounced God’s doom upon the nation, the final withdrawal of Jewish religious privilege, and the transfer of spiritual blessing to the Gentiles.

Note 1: (Isaiah 6:9-10) “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”

26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:

Verses 26-27 reproduced verbatim the Septuagint text of Isaiah 6:9—“And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”  This Greek version the prophet’s words constitute a prophesy of the people’s stubbornness.  The three organs of perception are highlighted—the eyes, the ears, and the heart (v. 27), the latter in Hebrew thought is considered the organ of understanding and will.  The picture is that of a people who merely take in sensory perceptions but in no sense make them their own.  Their ears heard the sounds, but the hearing was without understanding.  Their eyes took in the sights but without any insight because their hearts had become calloused; the message received by their eyes and their ears had become callous; the message received by their eyes and ears was neither understood nor acted upon.  Otherwise, they would have done something in response to God’s message.  If they had heard and understood the divine word they would have turned from their ways in repentance and received God’s healing.

27 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.

The Jews of Rome had demonstrated precisely this response.  They had heard from Paul the message of God’s salvation in Christ, but their hardness had made them unresponsive and resistant.  The key concept in the narrative of Paul’s encounter with the Jews of Rome is that of hearing.  The verb “to hear” occurs five times and at key points.  The first occurrence is when the Roman Jews expressed their desire to “hear” Paul’s views (28:22).  But when they had heard his testimony, and it became clear that they had not really “heard him” because they responded in disbelief and rejection.  The quote from Isaiah refers to “hearing” three times, and its whole point is that hearing is not really hearing at all if the message is not acted upon.  Finally, Paul referred to hearing one last time; and it is the last, emphatic word of the entire passage.  The Gentiles would “hear”—they would “listen,” would hear with receptive, and responsive hearts. The Jews had expressed their desire to hear Paul, but they were hardened to his message and really did not hear his word of salvation.  It would be different with the Gentiles.  They would hear and receive the gospel.

28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

Now for the third, climactic time in Acts, Paul turned to the Gentiles (28:28; 13:46; 18:6).  Paul saw his ministry as primarily to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8), and his vision in the temple had confirmed this (Acts 22:21). Throughout Acts he has been depicted as having great success among the Gentiles.  So Paul’s directing his efforts to the Gentile mission was nothing new.  The main question is whether at this time Paul’s turning from the Jews to the Gentiles was final and irrevocable.  Had Paul “given up” on the Jews?  Many scholars feel that he had.  But there are significant claims in the text to indicate that such is not the case.  All along, Luke has shown that there were some Jews who believed, even in those synagogues that rejected and persecuted Paul.  The same pattern of acceptance and rejection appears in the present scene. In verse 30 Paul is said to have welcomed “all” who came to him.  Elsewhere it is specified that Paul witnessed to both Jews and Gentiles (14:1; 18:4; 19:10).  And there is no reason to believe that individual Jews have been excluded in this instance.  Yet there is a sense in which the Jewish rejection is seen to be decisive.  It had become clear that “official Judaism,” the Jewish people as a whole, would not embrace Christ.

This rejection first became clear at the martyrdom of Stephen.  It repeated itself in every synagogue Paul entered.  He was never able to remain in a single synagogue but always was forced to leave.  The same was true in the present instance.  The Jewish delegation in Rome was representative of official Judaism.  It was the “leaders” of the Jews who came to Paul (28:17).  In Rome as in Jerusalem and the Diaspora synagogues, this official Judaism refused the gospel message.  But everywhere individual Jews had come into the Christian fold, into “the way” within true Judaism, into the true people of God.  There is no reason to believe that the same pattern of a continued witness to Jews would not go on after this scene. Perhaps the wording of Paul’s statement in 28:28 underscores this fact.  Paul did not say that because the Jews had rejected his message he would turn to the Gentiles.  Rather he stated that God’s salvation had already been sent to the Gentiles.  The passage is therefore not so much about Jewish exclusion as it is about Gentile inclusion in God’s people.  Acts is primarily the story of the inclusive gospel: God’s salvation has been sent to all.

This was Paul’s parting shot, and a telling one it was.  Echoes of this judicial turning to the Gentiles can be heard at Pisidian Antioch (13:40) and at Corinth (18:6).  But now the full volume of the divine thunder is heard.  From now on the Gentiles would have priority in receiving the gospel, and unlike the majority of the Jews the Gentiles would flock by the millions into the Christian fold.

29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.

Some Bible scholars dispute the validity of this verse.  However, we can be sure it accurately reflects what happened.  We can well believe that the Jews argued for a long time about what Paul had said and his impressively solemn dismissal of them.  However the gospel has not been given to men to discuss and debate, but to accept and obey, so far as the Holy Spirit was concerned, the time for discussion was past.  He had said His last word.

30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,

There were two years, of which we only know what these two verses reveal, and what is found in the letters to the Philippians, the Colossians, the Ephesians, and Philemon; for those four letters were written undoubtedly during this first imprisonment and not during the second.  We shall find in his letters references to nobles in Rome who had passed under the influence of the Gospel.  But there came to him, visiting him, abiding with him, a little band of faithful souls, referred to in his letters as coming to him in Rome.  Luke and Aristarchus had accompanied him, and remained with him.  Tychicus was there for a while, but was soon sent away with a letter to Ephesus.  Timothy also was there for part of the time.  Epaphroditus came to see him from Philippi, bringing with him the gifts of the church there.  Onesimus, a runaway slave, found his way into the dwelling of the apostle, and was brought under the spell of the Gospel and of Christ, until he served with love this man in his imprisonment.  Mark, too, from whom he had parted once in anger, also was there for part of the time, and one called Jesus, or Justice, a disciple of Epaphras.  Then Epaphras, whose portrait Paul had drawn in his letters, and who stands upon the pages of the New Testament as one of the most wonderful saints of the whole period, “one of you,” who agonized in prayer that the Colossians might “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God,” he too came to Rome.  During those days, also, Demas was with him.  Paul kept an open house in the home in which he was confined, receiving all that came to him. That group of faithful souls went to that open house, were taught by the great apostle, inspired to do new work, and set out upon the new missions.

That is all that Luke has recorded.  But during that period Paul wrote some letters: the Philippian letter, the Ephesian letter, the Colossian letter and the half-page letter to Philemon.  Measure the teaching given to the disciples by these letters, and then we shall know some of the things he taught concerning Christ during those two years. 

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With verses 30-31 Acts comes to a rather abrupt ending.  In verse 30 Luke told us that Paul stayed in Rome for a period of two years, evidently living under free custody in his rented dwelling. Paul’s rented house in Rome became the headquarters of world evangelism.  He could not go, but others could.  People flocked to him.  He led people to Christ, inspired others to get on with the gospel, won members of the Roman guard (Philippians 1:13-18), and through all the weight of his undiminished apostolic authority behind the spread of the gospel and the building of the church. Paul’s contacts within “Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22) and with Onesimus, a runaway slave from Colosse (Philemon), show how far-reaching and effective was his ministry at this time.  You can lock up a man like Paul, but you cannot shut him up!  Wherever he is, he will find a Mission Field, and every person he meets will be a potential convert to Christ.

Paul remained a prisoner, confined to his house; he was not at liberty to go where he wished, but he was at liberty to receive all who cared to come to him. He graciously received “all” who came to visit him there, probably including Jews as well as Gentiles. We do not know all the reasons for his imprisonment, though we are indeed indebted to Paul’s imprisonment for his epistles to the Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon.  Paul’s prolonged captivity is part of his sometimes puzzling ways.  We can be sure, however, that the Lord of the harvest, who is in charge of the entire mission program of the church, makes no mistakes.

31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

Verse 31 gives the content of his conversation with those who came to him.  He “preached boldly” to them in the power of the Holy Spirit—without “hindrance.” This is perhaps a quasi legal term, meaning that the Romans put no obstacle in the way of his testimony to the gospel.  This in itself would be significant, an implicit evidence to the fact that the Romans found nothing dangerous or subversive in his message.  This final word of the text of Acts points to even more—to the unbound gospel, triumphant over every barrier of superstition and of human prejudice.  The content of Paul’s message forms the conclusion to the message of Acts.  He preached “the kingdom of God” and talked about “the Lord Jesus Christ.” The two belong together; the good news of God’s kingdom is the good news about Christ.  This was the same message Paul shared with the Roman Jews (28:23).  It is ultimately the central message of Acts.  The book begins with Jesus sharing the message of God’s kingdom with his disciples (1:3).  It quickly raises the burning question, “Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (1:6).  That question has now been answered.  God has indeed restored his kingdom—in the Messiah, in Christ.  And it is open to all who will receive him, Jew and Greek.

 

 

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