Event(s): Paul’s Ministry at Rome
Today’s Text:Acts 29:17-31
Finally, Jesus’ promise is fulfilled and Paul arrives at Rome. Paul had gained the respect of his centurion escort, and was therefore able to live in a private rented residence until the time came for him to appear before Caesar. The emperor at the time was the well-known tyrannical Nero, though he was actually somewhat sane at this stage of his reign.
Acts 28:17 “Paul called the leaders of the Jews together…” Paul wanted to make sure, lest they had arrived at false conclusions, that he had come to Rome to clear his name, not to condemn Israel. He wanted the leaders to know that he had not forsaken them and that he still considered them brethren; he was with them, not against them.
Acts 28:21 “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you…” Once again, God had protected Paul. Either the religious leaders who had previously accused him knew their case was hopeless after trying numerous times and failing and so they made no effort to send ahead documents confirming their case against Paul. Or, as other commentators suspect, the letter may have been lost in the shipwreck. Either way, it’s clear to see that not only was God’s presence with Paul, but He also went before him.
Acts 28:22 “But we desire to hear from you what you think…” They’d not heard of Paul, but what they had heard about Christianity was nothing but negative reports. They should be commended though, on waiting to hear from Paul directly instead of jumping to conclusions.
Acts 28:24 “And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.” So is the case even today. We can’t force people to believe. “Getting people to believe” is not our responsibility. We share the message of the Gospel – through our words and through the example we live out – and it is up to each individual person to receive or reject it. While we never become callous about this or we cannot take it personally or think ourselves failures if someone rejects the message. Just look at Paul in this situation (and others). Even the best teaching from the best apostle ever known, taking his time to share with them from morning to night, could not persuade them.
Acts 28:25 “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through the prophet Isaiah…” Paul was undoubtedly distressed if even one of them rejected Jesus, but he also knew that as far back as Isaiah, people’s hardness of hearts had been prophesied about.
Acts 28:28 “…the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” “This verse is probably the ultimate climax of Acts. It summarizes the main theme of the book.” –Expository on the Book of Acts
The Book of Acts ends about A.D. 62 – 29 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus and the day of Pentecost. The book starts with action and ends almost suddenly, with somewhat of a cliffhanger, an active pose, and we get the very clear sense that the story is to be continued. The camera, if you will, turns to us. The story continues with our lives now – what we choose to do with what we now know is possible. Will we, The Church, the active, empowered, living body of Christ, take the torch and continue running with it? Will we believe what our forerunners believed was possible and will we see what they saw happen in their everyday lives? Will we live with a passion to see God glorified in a way that transcends all other natural forms of communication?
The book of Acts gives us a very clear sense of what our walk with God can look like because of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Jesus laid the groundwork, Paul built on it, and now it’s our turn. We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, cheering us on, reminding us of what our heritage is, and what is possible if we will just…..believe.
It has been a true joy traveling on this journey through the book of Acts with you. Thank you for leaning in as you so graciously have. I hope this study has ignited something in your heart to believe God for the impossible, and that it has changed the way you pray and what you pray for. I hope it has awakened a hunger and a desire to see the active work of the Holy Spirit in your life and that you have an increased passion to watch it permeate all you are, and then watch it spill out and begin to transform the world around you.
May you have more passion for the things of God than others think is necessary. May you expect more than others think is possible. May you dream more than others think is practical. And in the end, may the story of your life record that you knew Jesus personally, intimately, and that you walked in His power and authority. Grace and peace to you, and may God bless you, and keep you in His loving grip.
Linda G. Riddle