Acts 28 Final–The Wrap-Up

Paul fought riots, shipwrecks, torment, and torture but finally, he made it to Rome.  In Rome, Paul continued to meet with Jewish and non-Jewish believers.  He lived in a rented House under guard; but was not hindered from speaking the truth in love up to the time when Nero wanted to make his point.  Then Paul was martyred.

in the end, Paul’s efforts to stop the church led him to make the church an international family.  As he said in Colossians 3–“Here there is no Jew or Greek, Barbarian or Scythian, slave or free.” Believers were advancing across the known world and the church was on the rise.  Ironically, as all roads led to Rome, So did Paul’s mission. God’s plan remained flawless.

As we walk daily on this journey, Like Paul, we must listen for God’s direction, and press on toward that mark.  We cannot plan for God.  Instead, we must simply follow his lead–even in trial, shipwrecks, torture, and torment.  He will, as with Paul, protect, prepare, and provide for us as we continue the mission He has for set before us!

God Bless You

15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

Paul Preaches at Rome Under Guard

17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”

23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe…30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

Acts 28 Part 1–God’s Man All the Time

Paul and the passengers of the ship were spared and landed on the Island of Malta.  Once they arrived, God began to do a work.  Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake (Ironic) but to no avail.  Paul simply shook the snake off into the fire. (Ironic again).

Paul then healed the Island’s leader’s very sick father. Afterward, Paul healed anyone that was sick on the island that came to see him.  Once they left Malta, no one there doubted that Paul was God’s man.

Paul lived to complete his mission.  He was always the same.  God consistently used Paul to change those that crossed his path.  Paul never sought fanfare or reward, He simply sought God in everything that he did–God honored and used Paul’s obedience to do so much that was amazing.

God calls us to be the same.  We are to live to honor God and share His truth anywhere and anytime.  When we do that, God will use us in the lives of others to meet their needs, change their hearts, and fill them with the knowledge and grace of God.  There is no limit to the places and ways God can use us if we will simply trust and follow Him.  He will use trials, temptations, tragedies, and triumphs to bring about revival within those whom we meet.  We simply need to walk humbly with the Lord in the lead.

God Bless You

Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.

As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.

Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. 10 As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.

Acts 27 Part 2–Faith in the Shipwreck

For Paul, the events of the storm and shipwreck were no surprise. The Lord revealed to him all the pain and loss that were about to occur.  Still, for the other 276 folks on board, this strange little man was a puzzlement.  He continued to tell them to stay on board, to eat and not to worry, they would survive–still the storm raged and the boat was being beat to death.

Paul’s faith inspired the Roman Centurian, it kept the prisoners from escaping and the rest of the crew from mutiny.  Against their better judgement all the men ate and stayed on the boat.   So, what was the outcome? Everybody survived.  Just as God promised, He saved all lives for the sake of Paul.

It was a horrific event; none would have ever chosen the ship journey knowing how it would end.  Still, each man on the ship was able to see God do amazing things to save their lives.  They saw God spare them, even though they were not disciples.
How many times has God forced us to trust Him when all seemed lost?

When our lives, like the ship, are being beat to a pulp and we have lost all we knew to be ours; only to later see that God has supplied exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever hope or dream. 

Faith is trusting in things hoped for and not seen.  Even in matters of life and death, we follow God’s lead and do not trust our own abilities to somehow carry us through. Like this story, trusting God often defies human logic–that is why it is so amazing.

That is How Paul brought the men to safety and that is how we finish our journey well. 

God Bless You

On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic[c] Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet[d] deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet[e] deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.

42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

Acts 27 Part 2–God Directs What Lies Ahead

Paul could see what was ahead.  He advised the Ship’s Captain not to make the voyage, but to no avail.  So as the ship got to sea, a huge storm hit.  Not only did the storm hit, but it lasted for days.  All aboard had given up and expected to die–well all but Paul.  God had already prepared Paul for this journey.  The trials and beatings he had already received convinced Paul to trust the Lord to deliver him to complete the mission to Rome.  So just as everyone was taking final tally of their lives, Paul was assured by an angel that they would not lose even one man to this storm.

One can be sure that the others aboard ship would have liked to have received the message personally, but, Paul had been dead on so far.  Paul did not promise that the journey would be without loss–simply without loss of life.  It was  going to be a difficult cruise, but God promised to deliver all that were with Paul for Paul’s sake.

In our lives, we need to trust the Lord that has taken us through so many trials to continue to prepare, protect and provide for us.  We are never promised an easy journey, in fact, the opposite is true.  The Lord does promise to walk with us and, if we will allow, assist us in completing the mission for which we have been called.

We must keep moving forward and never long for what might have been.  Paul was so clear in Philippians 4: 11-13,”We must learn to be content–WHATEVER the circumstance.  Whether well fed or hungry living in plenty or in want–WE can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.”  The men on the ship would soon learn that principle in no uncertain terms.  My prayer is that I live it in my own life.

God Bless You

When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so, they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid, they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor[b] and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

Acts 27 Part 1–Following God on the Average Days

The trip to Rome had begun.  Paul could see what would happen and saw the doomed outcome.  He was kind to share the vision with the Roman Centurian and the ship’s owners, Sadly, they refused to listen,  So, as they moved forward toward Italy, it was a difficult and arduous journey.  Paul was able to see some friends along the way, but it was mostly just the grind.  Interestingly, there seemed to be no major events–just living day to day.

In our walk, life is very similar.  Most days are just the grind.  There are huge events that mark the journey, but a great deal of the time it is simply slowly moving forward and trusting God along the way.  When we trust God, He reveals himself to us.  As that happens, we can see what is coming and are given the opportunity to prepare. 

In the interim, however, it is our responsibility to push through the daily steps of our lives by faith.  We must live lives that honor the Lord even when it seems mundane. We cannot simply seek God in the turbulent and trial filled times of life.  We must also seek him on each average day.  Paul did that.  In fact, it was Paul’s obedience on the average days that would carry him through the disastrous ones.  Let us also live for our Lord on the average days.

God Bless You

 When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.

The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.[a] So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

Acts 26–Pressing on toward the Mark

Paul continued upon his journey toward Rome. This day Paul stood before regional leadership of Festus and Agrippa.  He was to defend his behavior transforming from being the former Jewish enforcer to becoming the proponent of changing the world for Christ.  Agrippa had listened to Paul before but, now the Roman leader Festus heard Paul speak of his transformation.  At the end of the day, not much was different.  

Remembering that Paul had a single purpose is critical.  He was not out to win his freedom.  He was out to reach Rome and change the World for Christ.  Festus called Him crazy.  Why would such a gifted scholar waste his time giving a simple testimony of how Christ changed his Life? Paul was clear–I am not crazy, I am simply telling How God changed me.  Festus responded by asking if He thought he could so quickly convert him.  Paul smiled and replied he was not concerned about when he was converted–JUST THAT he was converted. 

Then Festus made the golden statement–If he had not asked to see Caesar, He would be free to go! Point was that he did ask, and as such, to Caesar Paul would go.  God’s plan executed with precision.  Paul said in Philippians that the Philippians did not need to be worried about his imprisonment in Rome.  Because Paul was in chains it had become clear throughout the entire Praetorian guard and everyone else that he was in chains for Christ.  One can only imagine the number of instances that Paul gave the testimony he spoke to Festus.

In the charge of the light brigade, Tennyson writes, “Ours is not to reason why, ours is just to do or die!” As warriors for Christ, We, like Paul, must charge forward and face the enemy no matter the cost.  If we will, he will lose, and we will make a difference in the lives of our family and our community.  We made be called crazy, fanatical, or even criminal; but truth is we cannot help but to share the difference Christ has made in our lives.

God Bless You

“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests, I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”

32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Acts 25–If it is Caesar you want…

Paul knew the entire effort was a political game.  Neither Festus, Agrippa, nor any other judge really cared about Paul’s behavior.  They were simply trying to appease the Jewish leadership.  Israel was a stubborn group and were a headache to all the roman leadership.  So, Paul kept leveling his arguments both carefully and clearly.  The bottom line–Paul was headed to Rome.

Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, not to be anxious but pray.  He said learn to be content in all circumstance because we can do and overcome all things through Christ that protects and provides.  Paul knew what lie ahead.  He knew it was predetermined.  He, like the Lord, simply had to trust and follow God to the end.

We are called to do the same.  We are to pray rather than worry.  We are to be content rather than long for what we do not have.  We are to trust even when it is scary, and we are to love even when it does not get returned.  That is the calling, and if we will honor God, then that will lead us to a great end just like Paul.

God Bless You

Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul[a] that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”

After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

Acts 24 Part 1–Paul and Governor Felix

In short, Paul, the Roman citizen, was imprisoned in Cesarea by the Jewish Governor, Felix, for being a troublemaker.  He worshipped the Lord. He told others across the globe about Jesus and followed Him.  There was nothing more.  Paul was sidelined and as a result given opportunity to preach the Gospel to the “Head of State.”  He was able to share the message frequently for the 2 years to guards, soldiers, the Governor, and his wife. 

Still, it seems as though the enemy had won the battle.  Paul was imprisoned and could not continue to share the Gospel across the world. Truth is, Paul continued to impact the world then and now.  The letters from Paul to the various churches have blessed the lives of believers for nearly 2000 years. Those letters were penned while Paul was imprisoned.  Further, as Paul was in captivity, others within the body of Christ stepped up and carried on in the work of spreading the Gospel. It was never the “Paul Show” it was and is always about our Lord.

The critical point of trusting God to complete the mission for which we are called, is realizing that the long-term victories are the result of short-term battles.  Paul was probably very frustrated as he languished in prison, but he remained faithful in sharing the Gospel with all whom would listen.

Like Paul, we must also remain faithful even when there seems to be overwhelming opposition to moving forward.  In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “As you are going, make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to do all I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always.” Matthew 28:19-20.  

Paul was completing that commission; both in his missionary journeys and in prison.  Like Paul, we are to complete that same mission no matter what we are doing. We simply do not have time to worry or fret.  We need only to speak of Christ while we are going. Never giving up, never giving in, and never trying to outguess God in the path set before us.

God Bless You

Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.

“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so, we seized him. [7] [a] By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.