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Acts 27-28

July 3rd, 2010 by Vic

Acts 27-28

“Freedom in Chains”

July 3, 2010

If you have a small piece of paper you can’t write a very long letter.  Luke was writing this story of the early church on a limited length of paper.  He uses a lot of space to describe Paul’s trip to Rome.  Why did he use so much paper to tell us about Paul’s trip to Rome?  Maybe he didn’t know.  His account of this shipwreck is considered the best record we have of sailing practices in the first century before ships had compasses or sextants.  The accuracy of details in Acts 27 confirms the scholarly honesty of Luke.

I’ll mention a few interesting points, but I want to focus on the last few verses.  These tell us that Paul reached a major life goal.  They summarize the theme of the Acts story, telling us that Paul preached first to the Jews.  The Jews in Rome rejected the gospel just like the Jews in Jerusalem had done.  But this allowed the gospel to be proclaimed to the Gentiles.

Last Sunday Carol asked about the fate of Paul.  Did he get out of prison?  There are a couple clues in his letters and these final verses that give us a probable answer.

27:1-12

Paul had not received rapid justice in Caesarea.  He appealed to Caesar.  He is now being sent by ship to Rome.  The centurion, Julius, was put in charge and he treated Paul respectfully.  They left Caesarea in a ship that stopped in every port.  Finally at Myra (5) they were able to transfer to a corn ship that was going directly to Rome.  Egypt was the granary of Rome.  The ships were privately owned often 140 feet long and 36 feet wide.  Besides the corn there were 276 people on board this ship.  The owner would be making a lot of money on this trip.

Luke probably got a free ride as Paul’s doctor and Aristarchus probably signed on as Paul’s personal servant.  This would identify Paul as a unique prisoner.  He seemed to have friends in every port.  Julius treated him kindly and listened to Paul’s council during the trip.  Paul had done a lot of traveling.

27:13-44

It was less than 40 miles following the coastline of Crete to the quality harbor at Phoenix.  It would be a nice place to spend the winter.

The day started out beautiful along the southern coastline.  Then they turned north along the west coast line and hurricane force winds drove them out to sea.

For 14 days the storm raged.  They could not see the sky so they had no idea where they were.  An angel appears to Paul with a message of comfort and assures him that all will be saved.  Paul does not know when, where, or how.  Some of the sailors were going to go it alone in the lifeboat.  Then Paul says the safety of all has a condition.  We need to stay together.  God’s purposes are dependent upon man’s obedience.

On the 15th day Paul urged them to eat something.  After he told them what to do (35) he took bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all, broke the bread and began to eat it.  Paul’s positive trust in God encouraged them all.

28:1-10

When the viper bit Paul he just shook it off and kept collecting wood.  The people were amazed.  Malta is a small island about 8×18 miles.  It has no snakes today.  For 3 months Paul was a blessing to all the people.

28:11-31

For the first time in his life, some Christians heard Paul was coming and walked 30 miles to welcome Paul to Rome (15).  Paul thanked God and was encouraged.  We may be just ordinary Christians, but we are encouragers.  We may not be good at remembering names.  We may not be very well-traveled like Paul.  We may not be as scholarly as Paul, but we can keep on being encouragers.

Paul was confined to a house so he invited (17) the Jewish leaders to come hear his report.  Paul insists that he has done nothing against the Jewish people or against the customs of their fathers.  The point of contention between him and his accusers at Jerusalem had to do with the messianic hope of Israel.  He believed the hope of Israel was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, but they did not believe it.

They replied, “We don’t want to get involved in another controversy, but we would like to hear your views about Jesus Christ.  We have heard many rumors against this sect.”  They agreed to another meeting time when they could bring many others who would like to hear Paul’s explanation.  Paul put on a full day seminar.  He explained and declared the kingdom of God, and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Old Testament.  The response was mixed.

He concluded with Isaiah 6:9-10 as his justification for offering salvation to the Gentiles.  They will listen because God’s plan has always been to bless all nations through the Jewish nation.

Luke has shown the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, from Jew to Gentile.  It does not stop in Rome.  God does not quit working when Paul is in prison.  For 2 years many people came to see Paul and he preached the kingdom of God boldly and without hindrance and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.  The story of Jesus and the Kingdom of God were interwoven in the gospel presentation.

During this time Luke wrote this book of Acts and Paul wrote some letters.

Apparently Paul’s case never came to trial because the accusers failed to appear within the legal time period.  About 20 years later there was a Roman law that established an 18 month statutory limit for a prisoner to be held without trial.  There is no record of that law being effective for Paul, but it may have been common practice without being a written law.

While in prison Paul wrote Philippians 1:25 that says, “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain… for your progress and joy in the faith.”  Paul also wrote Philemon 22 which says, “Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.”  There is no reason to doubt Paul’s intuition.

Tradition tells us that Paul was released and for 5 years did more missionary work.  He was imprisoned again in 67 and at this time he wrote 2 Timothy which speaks of an approaching second trial in a tone of resignation.  2 Timothy 4:6 says, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure.  I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…”  Because he was a Roman citizen, he could not be tortured to death.  He was beheaded at Rome by order of the emperor Nero.

This book began with the disciples asking Jesus about the kingdom of God (1:6).  It ends with Paul preaching the kingdom and teaching the story of Jesus that inaugurated the new kingdom.  The disciples had asked, “Are You going to restore the kingdom to Israel like King David had?”  Jesus replied, “Dates, places and times are in the Father’s hands, just trust Him.”  It sounds like the angel talking to Paul in the fierce storm.  He said they would all be saved, but he did not say how or when.

Jesus last words were, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  In chapter 2 the Holy Spirit did come and Peter tried to explain it to the crowds.  “This is a God thing (2:17).  Jesus is seated on the throne and has sent us another Comforter as He promised (36).  This promised powerful relationship with God is for everyone (39).

In chapters 3-4 Peter and John have the boldness of this new relationship and tell a crippled man to get up and walk.  The Jewish leaders did not like Peter and John talking about the resurrection of Jesus.  They did not have eyes to see God working in their lives.

Chapter 5, Ananias and Sapphira thought being a Christian was a social thing.  They wanted to look real spiritual.  They tried lying to the Spirit of the Lord.  As the crowds grew, the Temple leaders who did not believe in resurrection, arrested Peter and John.  An angel of the Lord gave them freedom.

Chapter 6, the compassionate ministries committee was selected.  Stephen and Philip were part of this church ministry to widows.  Stephen gets stoned in chapter 7 and Philip gets out of town in chapter 8.  Philip planted a church in Samaria and Peter and John went to check things out.  They saw the Lord give the Holy Spirit to these Samaritans and on their way back to Jerusalem they preached in many other villages.  Philip was commanded by an angel to witness to an Egyptian official then he was taken away by the Spirit, preached in a few towns and settled down in Caesarea.

Chapter 9 tells of Saul’s conversion and basket escape.

Chapter 10 tells of Cornelius and the Holy Spirit coming to his household.  Peter is staying in an unclean home.  He is becoming Liberal.  Peter witnesses the Holy Spirit coming on uncircumcised Romans.  He is losing respect among the conservative Christian Jews.

Chapter 11, some rumors about the spreading of the gospel 300 miles north in Antioch came back to Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas to check out the orthodoxy of these new emerging churches.  Barnabas got Saul involved in teaching these people.

Chapter 12, Herod killed James and planned to kill Peter.  An angel escorted Peter out of prison and Herod died of worms.

Chapters 13-14, the church at Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul on their first missionary trip.  They reported back to the church “all that God had done through them” (14:27).

Chapter 15, the Jerusalem Christians met and decided that Gentile Christians did not have to be Jews to be Christians, but they should be culturally sensitive and not be offensive.  Don’t let your freedom cause a brother in Christ to sin.

Chapters 16-18:22, Paul and Silas take the gospel to Asia and beyond and report back to the church at Antioch.

Chapters 18:23-20, on Paul’s 3rd missionary journey he collects an offering for the Jerusalem Christians.

Chapter 21, Paul steadfastly goes to Jerusalem.  While worshipping in the Temple, a mob is formed against him and he is taken into Roman custody and remains there for the rest of the book.

Chapter 22, Paul speaks to the mob and when he mentions God’s love for Gentiles the crowd went berserk.  The Roman commander did not understand what was going on.  He wanted more information so called the Sanhedrin together for a meeting.

Chapter 23, When Paul says, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead” the Jews again lost their cool and tried to tear Paul to pieces.  The commander rescued him, but a plot by 40 men was planned that night.  When the commander found out about it, he rushed Paul to the governor in Caesarea.

Chapter 24, Paul defends himself before Felix.  He concludes with the statement, “It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.”

Chapter 25-26, Paul defends himself before the governor Festus and King Agrippa.  Again Paul says, “It is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today… Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (26:6-8).

Chapters 27-28 we reviewed earlier.

28:15 The word “to meet” is the same word used of the believer when the Lord meets us in the air.  It is a term regularly used of the official welcome by a delegation to meet a visiting official and accompany him into the city.  When they heard Paul was coming to town they showed him respect.  They were not ashamed of him or afraid to identify with him because he was a prisoner.

Luke finished writing before Paul’s case had been heard or before his release.  The book was not a biography of Paul.  It is part of the story of God demonstrating His power in the lives of men.  We are the rest of the story.

Do we live like we believe in the resurrection and judgment to come?

Do are lives declare a trust and obedience towards God in the storms?

Is my life an offering of praise and thanksgiving to God?

Is it me living or Christ in me?

Paul answered “Yes” to these questions.

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