Today is the last Sunday of the year and today is the last chapter in Acts. Today’s title is “And so we came to Rome” (14) Acts tells us how the Gospel of Christ went from Jerusalem to Judea, Galilee and to the utmost parts of the earth. Luke tells us how Paul gets to the last place, Rome which was his goal. When they arrived in Rome, Luke wrote “And so we came to Rome”. Today let’s look at 3 aspects of how they arrived in Rome.
I. It was the work of the powerful Lord (vs. 1-10)
In the chapter before we saw that the ship that Paul got on at Caesarea got in a wind storm and drifted with the storm. By God’s miraculous care, the 276 people on the ship were all saved. The place they arrived was the island of south of Italy called Malta. Today at the highest point on the island there is a statue of Paul holding a Bible in one hand, with his coat being blown out from the wind, looking intently at Rome. Paul more than ever was moving toward his goal of Rome. Luke tells about his 3 month stay in Malta in verses 2 to 10.
The people of the island were very kind. They built a fire and welcomed the people that came ashore with Paul so they could survive the rain and cold. The fire not only warmed Paul and those who came with him, but it also probably warmed their worn out hearts. Maybe the fire started to go out, but “Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.” (3) A viper is a poisonous snake. The poisonous snake was “fastened” on Paul’s hand which means that poison is going to go all through Paul’s blood stream and he is going to die. Therefore, when the islanders saw this happen, they started talking to each other saying, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” (4) However, even though Paul was bitten by the snake, nothing happened to him. “After waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.” (5) What changing opinions! However, what is important is the reason why Luke wrote about this event here.
From this event, we remember the words that Jesus spoke in Mark 16:16-18.
This was a sign that was to accompany believers. After that in Mark 16:20 we are told, “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” This shows that the risen Lord was still with them and still confirming his word by the signs that accompanied it. The Lord was with Paul as he moved forward toward Rome to complete his calling to preach the Gospel and the Lord was confirming his word by the signs that accompanied it to show that the risen Lord was still alive and working.
This is a real encouragement for those who are preaching the Gospel. Even in this country where we don’t readily see the power of the Gospel, in reality, the risen Lord is with us and working. He shows proof that the Word of God is right. He performs great signs and miracles. The risen Lord is now alive and working.
George Duncan, an English preacher, said about this passage that not all the struggles we have are major events, but what is important is the poisonous struggles that take place in our daily events. Throwing branches into the fire is something that we can all do. However, in this daily thing a snake can bite you. That snake hangs from our hand and tries to destroy us. What is important in these daily events is how we handle the snakes. In our relationship with our spouse, with our children, in society there are many times we are bitten by snakes. At such times it is important that we don’t give Satan a chance, but walk in the Holy Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh. This is in this age a huge sign that accompanies the Word of God.
In verse 7 the chief official of the island name Publius appears. When Publius heard about Paul, he invited them for 3 days to his home and showed them generous hospitality. Publius’ father was sick “from fever and dysentery.” (8) Paul prayed for him, “placed his hands on him and healed him.” (8) As a result of this miracle, rumors spread throughout the island and “the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.” (9) As a result Paul was really respected by the islanders. When they went to sail, the islanders supplied them with all they needed. Through God’s powerful work not only did it show that the risen Lord is now alive and working, but it prepared them for the next evangelistic trip.
Paul preached the Gospel wherever he went and showed the power of God. We too like Paul we need to not matter where we go show the power of God. This is shown by praying for healing of the sick, and also by our lifestyle of love and grace.
In Thessalonica in Greece it was illegal for the first Christians to meet together. Even so they put their life to steak and met together. They endured persecution. To these Thessalonica Christians who were in very difficult circumstances, Paul said, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess. 5:16-18)
This is an unbelievable spiritual power. Christians even when they are suffering, in agony, are discouraged, even so they can have joy, continue to pray and be thankful about everything. That is the same power of God, the power of faith that makes it possible to be bitten by a snake and not to be hurt by it, to place our hand on the sick and they be healed.
II. Endure (vs.11-13)
Next let’s look at the importance of endurance. Now it is time to visit Italy. Paul left Malta First they stopped at Syracuse and then went to Rhegium. Then they went to Puteoli about half way to Italy. They had spent 3 months on Malta. Paul was anxious to get to Rome, but he had to spend the winter, 3 months, on Malta.
From this we can learn that on the road of life there are times when we have to endure. Within the control of God, sometimes there are times when we are stopped. You want to go forward, but you can’t. You wonder why God doesn’t open the door. It is times like this that we can learn from Paul the importance of endurance. This is an important time of training that the Lord gives his servants. God’s people often go through such an experience. For example, Israel also did. Before they could enter the land that God had promised, they had to wander 40 years in the desert. However, through that they were able to realize what faith is. Life in the desert was training in faith for them. In the same way, we too, want to go forward, but we aren’t able to move and become negative, complain, and don’t have peace and contentment. In those times we need to endure, keep our eyes on Christ, and trust in God.
The words that present day children hate the most is endurance and training. An elementary school teacher said that in the future those 2 words will disappear. In reality that is a really scary thing. Those who are trained and can endure are successful in life and when something happens then these things will appear in their life.
Abraham Lincoln was so. His life was so full of “failure and unhappiness” that he hated these 2 words. He lost 7 elections, failed in 2 businesses, spent 17 years paying back a loan. However, even when he lost elections or failed he flew over the obstacles and made them into a jewel. Like a Daruma when he was hit down, he popped right back up and when he fell down he could stand up immediately. He thought about where he fell down and asked God for wisdom to determine the cause of his failure. .
When he failed at something he would go to a restaurant and have a huge meal and then go to the barber and cut his hair and put a lot of oil on it. He thought then no one would see him as a failure because he was full of strength again.
Lincoln’s life was full of failures and unhappiness, but until the end he never gave up and that led him to be one of the great men of history. He used his unhappiness and failures as the raw material to make happiness.
The road of life that we walk on too has times of failure or where doors don’t seem to be opening up. We don’t seem to be moving forward the way we would like to be. We need to remember to follow God’s will, and to receive God’s promise, and we need to endure. People who can endure will in the end have victory.
III. Have fellowship with the brothers and sisters (vs. 14,15)
Paul who came to Puteoli at last was able to leave for Rome. In Puteoli Paul and his companions met with the brothers and sisters who were there and spent a week with them. It had been a long time they since they had a chance to meet with brothers and sisters in Christ. The last time was in 27:3 when they left Caesarea at Sidon. This was after difficult years and months at sea and therefore the one week of warm welcomed fellowship with the brothers and sisters in Christ must have joyful and encouraging. Especially in that one week there was a Sunday so they were able to worship together. Puteoli was 200 kilometers from Rome so for Paul who was heading to Rome he must have really been encouraged and received strength by being able to pray together and be united by prayer with the brothers and sisters there. And so they came to Rome.
Possibly the news that Paul was heading to Rome was spread by the Puteoli brothers and sisters. We don’t know, but as he continued toward Roman, the Roman Christians had heard that there were coming and “traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet” Paul. The Forum of Appius is about 80 kilometers from Rome. Three Taverns was about 53 kilometers away from Rome. They had walked that far to welcome Paul who had for a long time endured and overcome hardships so he must have been greatly moved by their warm welcome. If I was Paul, I would be crying. Luke writes about Paul, “At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” (15) Earlier Paul had written the Romans saying, “I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.” (Romans 15:29) Now we wonder where Paul’s strong strength went. With Rome directly in front of him and the Lord’s promise almost ready to be fulfilled, his heart is dancing and at the same time is fearful and anxious. However, God did not leave Paul alone. As he continued God provided brothers and sisters in Christ. This can be seen in these words, “At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” (15)
This morning, in the fellowship with the brothers and sisters, in other words, the fellowship of the church, let’s remember the great encouragement and strength that it provides. It is greater that the bite of poison or the miracle of the healing of the sick. God provides this type of fellowship. Our walk of faith is the same. It is certainly not a walk by ourselves. It is within the care of God’s grace and by the love of the brothers and sisters that God has provided for us. It is a walk that is encouraging and supported by their fellowship. It is a road full of troubles and persecution. It maybe a road that requires enduring. However along that the road, the Lord with provide encouragement and support and the end of that road will lead to heaven.
The imagery of this verse suggests an athletic contest in a great amphitheater. The witnesses are the heroes of the past who have already run the race. As we walk or run the race or road that is marked out for us they will surround us and encourage and support us so that we can finish the race or road. “And so we came to Rome.” (14) And so we will come to heaven by the leading of the Lord. Let’s hold on to this hope and each of us run the race and endure to the end running to the goal. Let’s be thankful that we have come to the end of the year and believe that the new year we will continue down the road of faith by the encouragement and support of the Lord.