I have not posted recent lessons from the book of Acts, but because the majority of the ICF were camping on October 8, I am posting my lesson that closed out our study of Acts (covering 28:11-31). Background: Paul was on his way as a prisoner to Rome when the ship was wrecked. The ship and cargo were lost, but all 276 passengers miraculously make it safely to shore, just as God had promised Paul. They were stranded on the island of Malta, where they stayed three months. We follow Luke’s reporting of their continued journey.
The ship that took them from Malta had “Twin brothers” as a figurehead. These were images of the “twin gods” Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus, who were considered to be gods who protected sailors at sea. Why do you think the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to describe the ship’s figurehead? Think about it: the ship was an Alexandrian grain ship, which was owned by Rome. Paul once said he became all things to all people in order to reach them. Here he is, sailing on a Roman ship with Roman idols as its figurehead so as to fulfill his calling to take the gospel to Rome! Isn’t our God amazing!
The ship docked for three days at Syracuse in Sicily, then at Rhegium on the tip of Italy (modern day city of Reggio Calabria). Luke noted that they didn’t stay long because there was a good south wind to push them north. The sea voyage ended at Puteoli (modern day city of Pozzuoli, less than 150 miles from Rome. It was five miles from Neapolis (Naples), and Paul and Luke followed the “Appian Way” to Rome. They found some “brethren” at Puteoli, who invited them to stay a week. The word used for “invited” in Greek is “parakaleo,” which means they came alongside them to help and comfort them. (Parakaleo is used to describe the Holy Spirit in John 14:26; 15:26; and 16:7). Paul’s long and difficult time in prison and the hardships of his journey must have been hard. To meet these Roman believers and to see their eagerness to meet him face-to-face had to be a great encouragement to Paul.
Word spread quickly, and as they went north on land, brothers from Rome met them at the Marketplace of Appius (43 miles from Rome), and at Three Inns (33 miles from Rome). Paul was grateful for their effort to make this journey to greet him, and he “took courage.” Once arriving in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own place, where people could meet with him. So he called together the Jewish leaders in Rome and told them of his experiences. He had not been guilty of anything, but it had been necessary to appeal to Caesar to save his life. They assured him that they had received no report on his activities, but because they had heard of the “sect” of Christianity, they wanted to hear more from him.
Paul told these leaders he was wearing chains “for the hope of Israel.” He believed everything was happening according to God’s purposes. Paul was called to be the apostle to the Gentiles, but he never stopped preaching to Israel that Christ was their only hope. So a day was set, and a large crowd came to hear Paul. Think about this: these powerful men had come at Paul’s invitation, and they spent an entire day listening to Paul testify “about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus … Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe” (28:23-24). When Paul mentioned that God’s salvation was intended also for the Gentiles, the Jews departed, but they were “having a great dispute among themselves,” because some of them believed Paul’s message.
Acts closes with this: Paul “stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered” (28:30-31). God’s missionary work is strong and clear. The Jerusalem Jews wanted to kill Paul. But God took him to Rome, where many Roman Jews were waiting to hear the Christian gospel (along with Roman Gentiles). God worked through Paul to accomplish His purpose, and the gospel was being taken “to the end of the earth” (Ac. 1:8).