PAUL ARRIVES AND PREACHES IN ROME
Introduction:In our last lesson, we studied of Paul's shipwreck and of the safe landing of all of the 276 people aboard. As our lesson begins, we can visualize the scene. Here were 276 men, wet, tired, frightened, and cold huddled together on the beach of the island of Malta. We will learn today of their treatment at the hands of the natives and their travel on to Rome.
The Treatment -- Vs. 1-2
Malta is an island in the Mediterranean Sea about 17 2 miles long and nine miles wide. It is about 60 miles from Sicily, 140 miles from Italy and 180 miles from Africa. The island was originally peopled from Phenicia and they are called here Athe barbarous people" because they had not been included in the Grecian or Roman civilizations and languages.
They couldn't speak Greek (these barbarians) but they could speak the language of kindness and mercy. Their hearts went out to these shivering men. They built a fire and did all that they could to comfort them. These people were heathens but they were human. Christians should show more benevolence toward others (especially the underprivileged and down and outers) than do unsaved people.
The Testing -- Vs. 3-9
Paul was a great man but he wasn't above working and doing common labor. The pictures of Paul gathering sticks to light a fire is worthy of comment. This was the story of Paul's life after conversion. He gathered souls to the Saviour (the Light of the World) and they in turn lit a fire that spread throughout the world. "The greatest thing a man can do in life is to win souls."
In doing this work of lighting a fire, a viper bit Paul. Everyone thought he would soon die and perish but God had other ideas. God was not through with His servant. Paul shook off the viper. As we do God's work there will be vipers that attack us which we need to shake off. It may be the viper of dishonesty that will sorely tempt us. It may be the viper of selfishness, jealousy, laziness, or pride. We must shake off these vipers constantly so that we might do the Lord's work honorably. John 15:16; II Timothy 2:5.
These people had a knowledge of right and wrong. The Bible says that "Christ lighteth every man that cometh into the world." I John 1:9. So people that live in faraway places, though, never hearing of Jesus, receive some light and must answer for it. Romans 1:20; 2:11-16. It is our job to see that every person on the earth hears of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, and comes to know how to be saved through Him.
God used Paul on this island of barbarians. Tradition tells us that Paul left many Christians on this island. God used Paul to heal as He had in other places and it is Doctor Luke who records it. Mark 16:18 is again fulfilled.
God took good care of Paul while on the island. God takes care of us all in good fashion if we put Him first. What does this mean to put Him first? Illustrate from Paul's life. When Paul arrived in Rome, he wrote to the Philippians and told them that God would supply all their needs. Philippians 4:19. But they had put God's work first in their lives.
The Traveling -- Vs. 10-15
Vs. 10-11 -- Paul in serving His Lord blessed the lives of the people of Malta. They "honoured him with many honours." Any person who serves Christ automatically serves and benefits his fellow man in the greatest way possible.
Vs. 12-13 -- Puteoli, now Pozzouli, is on the northern part of the bay of Naples. It was near Pompeii, which was destroyed in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius some 12 years later as a result of their sin and wickedness. They no doubt had heard the Gospel but they rejected it and continued in their sin and God destroyed them. Proverbs 29:1. Twenty thousand people perished suddenly and the town was covered under with over ten feet of volcanic ash above the tops of the buildings.
Vs. 14-15 --At Puteoli there were Christians, and these were a great blessing to Paul. As he journeyed on to Rome, either walking or riding beasts of burdens, other brethren from Rome came some 40 miles to Appii forum (the market of Appius). When they traveled another ten miles they met another group of Christians who had come to the Three Taverns to greet Paul. When Paul saw these, he thanked God and took courage.
It helps God's servants to fellowship with Christians and to know they care. Some years before, Paul had written to the saints at Rome in his Roman letter. Possibly some of his old friends such as Priscilla and Aquila were among these greeting Paul. How wonderful it is when in a strange land, to meet others who have the same Saviour as we do. In heaven there will be those from every nation and tribe and kindred and tongue. Let us do all we can to increase that number.
The Testimony -- Vs. 16-24
Vs. 16 -- From Rome, Paul wrote the Philippians letter in which he stated that as a result of his imprisonment the gospel message was furthered into many places.
Philippians 1:12,13. Paul, though a prisoner and kept (guarded) by soldiers, was permitted freedom to the extent that he was kept by himself and permitted to have numerous visitors. He won many of the soldiers who guarded him to Christ and as they were transferred to other places they in turn witnessed for Christ.
Vs. 17-20 -- Paul explains to these Jewish leaders that he had done nothing to justify his imprisonment. He believed as they did. He believed in "the hope of Israel." However, he believed that the "hope of Israel" (their Messiah) had come just as Simeon declared (Luke 2:24-34), and because he dared to say so he was imprisoned.
Vs. 21-24 -- Paul was facing trial and he wanted to find out how the Jews felt about it, but down in his heart he hoped to win them to Christ. Wherever Paul went, he went to the Jew first. As was the case wherever Paul preached, some believed and some didn't. It is the same with us in our witnessing. Some believe and some don't. We must keep on witnessing and winning those who will believe until God calls us home.
The Turning -- Vs. 25-29
Paul was not surprised that the Jews as a whole rejected his message. They had everywhere else that he had preached and he had written to the Christians in Rome some 3 years before that "blindness in part had happened to Israel." Romans 11:25,28, 13; 1:13.
But Paul quoted to them a passage from Isaiah 6:9,10. When God had called Isaiah to preach to Israel, He had warned their heart would be fat, their ears heavy and their eyes shut to the Gospel he would preach. Jesus had quoted the same passage to the Jews of His day in Matthew 13:14-15. So, here Paul says the same thing to these Jews.
Therefore, Paul now turned his attention again to preaching to Gentiles just as he had done on other similar occasions. cf. Acts. 13:45,46; 17:17-22; 18:4-6; Galatians 2:7,8.
The Triumph -- Vs. 30-31
Paul was permitted unusual freedom for two years while awaiting his appearance before Nero. Nero had not stated his persecution of Christians yet. No doubt thousands came to hear Paul during this time when he dwelt in his own rented house. Many were saved. A little band of faithful souls came visiting him whose names are recorded in the New Testament. Luke and Aristarchus had accompanied him and remained with him. Tychicus was there for awhile but was presently sent away with a letter to Ephesus.
Paul wrote during this period the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Timothy was in Rome awhile. Epaphroditus came to see him from Phillippi, bringing with him the gifts of the church there. Onesimus, the runaway slave, found his way to Paul's house and was saved. Mark, too, was there for a time. Then Epaphas, whose portrait Paul had drawn in his letter, and who stands upon the page 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.
Note: Your record too is being written down in heaven. Will your record be like that of Epaphas or like that of Demas. cf. II Timothy 4:10; Job 16:19.
Paul preached about the kingdom of God. How to enter it and the whole span of time that it would encompass. He taught those things that concern the Lord Jesus. He taught of His Deity, His Sinless Life His Sacrificial Death, His Faithful Words, His Resurrection, His Ascension and about His coming again. Paul did this, though a prisoner, with all confidence and was unhindered as he did.
Conclusion: Paul was later released, went to Spain and then was arrested and beheaded. I'm sure that when Paul saw Jesus, Jesus said, "You did a good job Paul." One day we will all have to see Jesus. What will He say to you?