Thursday, September 29, 2016

Finally in Rome!

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

Paul finally arrived in Rome in the concluding chapter of Acts. As you have seen over the last several days of reading, the journey had been difficult. Paul first had to navigate his way through the Jewish and Roman legal systems. He then repeatedly had to avoid being murdered by his enemies. He had to survive the dangerous and brutal sea voyage that included a shipwreck. But he finally arrived in Rome just as I promised. Although under house arrest, Paul had the freedom to teach others about Me and the kingdom of God.

Notice several things from the verses that follow as Luke finishes his account of Paul’s journey to Rome.

First, when Paul met other believers upon arriving in Italy, they welcomed him and even accompanied him on his journey to Rome. Rather than being afraid to be identified with Paul as a prisoner of Rome, they shared hospitality and encouragement with Paul as he traveled. My first-century followers and their love for each other were described well in the book of Hebrews:

[T]hink back to the days after you were first enlightened and understood who Jesus was: when you endured all sorts of suffering in the name of the Lord, when people held you up for public scorn and ridicule, or when they abused your partners and companions in the faith. Remember how you had compassion for those in prison and how you cheerfully accepted the seizure of your possessions, knowing that you have a far greater and more enduring possession.

(Hebrews 10:32-34)

This hospitality and encouragement that came from the power of the Holy Spirit and an understanding of grace were unstoppable!

Second, Paul invited the Jewish leaders in Rome to come and visit him. He explained to them both the reason for his being imprisoned and also the good news of My coming. While these Jewish leaders had heard bad things about Paul, none of his accusers from Jerusalem or Asia Minor had come to Rome. Paul’s presence in Rome after his long sea voyage opened the door for him to share My salvation message with leaders and rulers. The absence of his accusers allowed for the hostile plans and murderous intentions of Paul’s Judean and Asian enemies to be thwarted. Behind all that happened, the Holy Spirit was working things out (Romans 8:28-29) for Paul to accomplish My purpose for him as an apostle.

Finally, while some Jewish people believed Paul’s message, others rejected it. Paul reminded his Jewish critics that I had called him to share this message of liberation and healing with his Jewish brothers and sisters first. Their rejection of that message meant it was time for him to extend the message and invitation of grace to non-Jewish peoples (Romans 1:16-17). Paul’s experience had shown him that many non-Jews would listen to this message and respond by becoming My disciples.

Luke was Paul’s physician and supportive friend. He accompanied Paul on many of his mission trips. When Luke chose an ending for the book of Acts, he closed his story of the early church and the ministries of Peter and Paul with a liberating truth.

With great confidence and with no hindrance, he [Paul] proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the ultimate authority — the Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.

Even though Paul was a prisoner, he had arrived in the capital city of the great Roman Empire. Despite his house arrest, Paul openly, powerfully, and effectively shared My good news of the kingdom of God and even some in Caesar’s household became My disciples (Philippians 4:21-22). By going to Rome, Paul had reached one of his primary goals. The gospel was advancing. Even when the Roman authorities turned against Christianity, the most powerful government in the world could not stop the spread of grace.

Verses to Live

Doctor Luke wrote Acts to trumpet one of the greatest of all surprises: the triumph of the message about Me. My early disciples proclaimed a crucified and resurrected Messiah from the out-of-the-way country of Israel and the insignificant region of Galilee. However, this message had spread like a wildfire across the Roman Empire in a mere three decades. Paul, initially an extremely zealous individual enemy of My movement, converted and became a passionate disciple. He traveled the northern part of the Mediterranean world sharing My story. Hearts and lives were changed. People from all sorts of countries, religious backgrounds, races, and social classes believed and became My disciples. The laws, roads, and stability of the Roman Empire helped pave the way for this rapid expansion of My movement. Even though Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner, he was able to share My story “with no hindrance.”

Paul’s story, dear disciple, is your heritage. Read the last part of the account in Acts about Paul’s journey to Rome and his imprisonment there. As you finish Paul’s journey to Rome, I leave you with one question: What are you doing to encourage, support, and participate in the spread of the good news of the Father’s grace to your world?

We [Paul and his companions] set sail from Malta and stopped first at Syracuse. After three days, we weighed anchor and came to Rhegium. We waited there a day, and then a south wind sprang up and sped us to Puteoli. We found some believers there, and they invited us to stay with them for seven days. Then we reached Rome. The believers from Rome heard we were coming, so they traveled out to meet us at the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns. Paul thanked God and felt encouraged to see them. Once inside the city, Paul lived under house arrest by himself, with only one soldier to guard him. Three days after his arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders.

Paul:

Brothers, although I committed no wrong against our Jewish people or our ancestral customs, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. The Romans examined me and wanted to set me free because I had committed no capital offense. But my Jewish opponents objected, so I had to appeal to the emperor — even though I had no charges against me and had filed no charges against my nation. I wanted to gather you together and explain all this to you. I want you to understand that it is because of Israel’s hope that I am bound with this chain.

Jewish Leaders:

We haven’t received letters from Judea about you, and no visiting brother has reported anything or said anything negative about you. So we are interested in hearing your viewpoint on the sect you represent. The only thing we know about it is that people everywhere speak against it.

They scheduled a day to meet again, and a large number came to his lodging. From morning until evening, he explained his message to them — giving his account of the kingdom of God, trying to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and the Prophets’ writings. Some were convinced, but others refused to believe.

Paul (adding as they left in disagreement):

The Holy Spirit rightly spoke to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah: Go to this people and say, “You certainly do hear, but you will never understand; you certainly do see, but you will never have insight. Make their hearts hard, their ears deaf, and their eyes blind. Otherwise, they would look and see, listen and hear, understand and repent, and be healed.” So let it be known to you that God’s liberation, God’s healing, has been sent to the outsiders, and they will listen.

Then the local Jewish leaders left Paul to discuss all he had told them. For two full years, he lived there in Rome, paying all his own expenses, receiving all who came to him. With great confidence and with no hindrance, he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the ultimate authority — the Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.

(Acts 28:12-31)

Response in Prayer

Father, I confess that I sometimes find myself discouraged about the health and vitality of Christianity in my time and in my culture. With the persecution and martyrdom of believers in some parts of the world and the secularization of my own culture, I am concerned about the future of Jesus’ church. Forgive me for both my discouragement and my lack of faith. Having journeyed through the book of Acts, I am reminded that You are at work in our world, the Spirit is empowering the spread of the good news, and Jesus is still leading His church. Today, dear Father, I commit to encouraging, supporting, and participating in efforts to share the message of Jesus and to grow Your kingdom. So I continue my prayer today with the words of Jesus, My Savior and Lord. This is the prayer of my heart. “Our Father in heaven, let Your name remain holy. Bring about Your kingdom. Manifest Your will here on earth, as it is manifest in heaven.” Do this, dear Father, in me and through me I pray. Amen.


The excerpt from the Lord’s Prayer is from Matthew 6:9-10 in The Voice.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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