Happy New Year! The first worship service of this New Year God has given us this passage beginning with Acts 28:16.
“When Paul got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.”
The Christians who lived in Rome met Paul along the way to Rome, welcomed him warmly and encouraged him. Paul who had received courage from them at last was able to come to Rome. “When Paul got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.” (16) This was a very special case to be allowed to live “in his own rented housed” (30). This was probably because he had committed no flagrant crime which was probably affirmed in the report that Festus was required to send to Caesar on the case when an appeal was made. Festus didn’t “have anything definite to write” about. (25:25) Also there was probably a report from the centurion who was saved along with everyone on the ship when the ship wrecked.
In Rome too Paul “explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus.” (23) This was the base of the Roman mission and he boldly continued to preach the Gospel. Today let’s look at 3 things we can learn from Paul who continued to preach the Gospel.
- I. In season and out of season (vs. 17-23)
First let’s look at what Paul did when he arrived in Rome. 3 days after arriving in Rome, “he called together the leaders of the Jews.” (17) He gave his to defense to the charges made by the Jews in Jerusalem. He also gives a summary of the trials. This was only 3 days after arriving so he must have still been tired from the trip. We don’t know how old he was at this time, but he couldn’t have been so young that he would already be over the tiredness of the trip. Also he must have needed to put away his things and get the necessities for his life there. We don’t know if he was able to accomplish all of this in 3 days or not, but very quickly after arriving in Rome, he attempted to meet the Roman Jews and called together and explained to the leaders from the 11 synagogues that were in the city of Rome at that time.
Here Paul’s explanation makes you feel that compared to the way he has spoken up until now that he is trying to solve the Jewish misunderstanding. Paul is saying that the reason he was captured and brought as a prisoner to Rome, was not because he went against the Jewish people or the customs of their father, but “because of the hope of Israel that” (20) he is bound with chains. This was the central part of the Gospel that he wanted to share. In other words, he wanted to share who “the hope of Israel”, the Messiah that is recorded in the Old Testament is. This Savior, the Messiah, was put on the cross by the Jews, died and 3 days later rose from the dead is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is in chains for preaching that.
The Jewish reaction to Paul’s defense was very calm. First of all they said that they had not received any notice about Paul, and thus there was no one who said anything bad about Paul or who was talking about him. Therefore, they thought that the best thing was for them to hear directly from Paul. Of course among them there must have been some Jews who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost and of course they would have heard gossip about Paul from such people. However, rather than listening to the private gossip of these people, they want to hear directly from Paul and make a decision. This is a really discreet attitude. The proper thing to do is to not pay attention to gossip, but to listen directly to the person involved and make a decision. However, in the midst of their calm response, we can see a little of their real intent which is added on to their remarks. That is “we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” (22) They knew that people were talking negatively about this sect. Even so, even though they didn’t know Paul, they responded to Paul’s invitation and came together because they had interest in the new sect that Paul preaches about which makes Jesus Christ of Nazareth their leader. They wanted to hear directly from Paul about this new sect. Therefore, “They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus.” (23)
Here Paul’s appearance summarizes his missionary appearance throughout Acts. He preached “from morning until evening.” (23) He spoke “from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.” (23) In other words, his preaching was based on the Bible. The contents were “the kingdom of God “and “about Jesus”. (23)
This is what we should learn from Paul. Even though he lived in his own home, he was under the constant watch of a soldier and bound in chains so he was in a handicapped condition. Even so, he continued to preach the Word of God. In II Timothy 4:2 Paul sent the following words in a letter to the young evangelist, Timothy.
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction.”
This was Paul’s lifestyle. We are the same. The season we are in may not necessarily be the best one. In this age maybe people not only don’t want to listen to the truth, but in order to get the other person to say what they want them to say, carefree requests and conversations are divorced from reality. However, no matter what the condition is, we have to overcome the difficulties and continue to preach the Word of God.
When we try to fulfill the great commandment, we will run into many difficulties. However, no matter what the season, we need to preach the Word of God. We must not stop. That is the commission that is given the Church.
- II. Some were convinced (vs. 24)
The result of the mission is given in verse 24. Here the response of the people who heard Paul’s talk is clearly written. Some believed and others didn’t. Those who hear the Gospel always respond in one of these 2 ways. First a lot of people came, and there was unity and fellowship amongst them. However, while listening to Paul their opinions began to lack agreement. This reaction can be seen consistently throughout the book of Acts. In Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Thessalonica, in Berea, in Corinth, in Ephesus, everywhere, there were always some who believed in the Gospel and there were always some who didn’t.
This shows that the Gospel of Christ sifts the listeners. The Gospel takes an active part in choosing some people and throwing away others. Even among the Roman Jews who put aside their educated biases, and listen to Paul fairly, the Gospel had such power that without anyone realizing it, they were divided into two. At the beginning of the Gospel of Luke it is written.
“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’” (Luke 2:34, 35)
Luke continued to write in the second book “Acts” the fulfillment of this prophecy. At the end of the book, at Rome, the center of the world at that time, the Jews were divided. This is carefully recorded so that we’ll see that as much as the Gospel is preached, there are two responses. This is the reality of the preaching of the Gospel. Today is the same. Some people believe, but some don’t. Not all people believe. Even if we share and share, and sometimes we are discouraged because no one believes, we shouldn’t fluctuate between hope and despair, but we need to even in this real situation continue to preach the Gospel. This kind of small step will eventually be a huge strength to change the world.
Think about it. The center of the world, Rome, there were few Christians at this time. Later Rome knelled before Jesus. In 313 the Roman emperor Constantinople recognized Christianity and in 390 Christianity was recognized as the national religion. At first it was a small flock. Some believed and some didn’t believe but even among those who didn’t believe the Gospel penetrated and eventually grew to change the country. It was like what Jesus said in Matt. 13:31-33 that the kingdom of God is like mustard seed. When it is planted it is a very small seed but when it grows the tree is big enough for the birds to make nests in.
Therefore we need to continue planting the seeds of the Gospel among our neighbors. Even if those people do not believe, we need to faithfully give our all to it. From among them eventually there will be people who believe and it will cause a huge wave.
- III. This people’s heart has become calloused (vs. 25-28)
Without coming to agreement, they started to leave. Paul then recited to them the prophecy of Isaiah in verses 26 and 27. This is from Isaiah 6:9-10. God spoke these words to Isaiah when God commissioned Isaiah to be a prophet. These are shocking words to say to a person that is being commissioned to speak the Word of God. The people he will be speaking to will hear but never understand. See but never perceive. “This people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their ears.” (27) Paul is using such a passage because the Jews that are standing in front of him, who are not even trying to believe, their hearts are calloused. When a heart is calloused it doesn’t even realize what it needs. It doesn’t have an interest in salvation. The Jews who gathered at Paul’s place seemed like they had given up their biases, listened directly to what Paul was saying and seemed very calm. However, in reality their calmness was not real. If they didn’t jump in and listen, then their needs would never be met. This was their problem. Paul used Isaiah’s words to point out that the reason that they didn’t believe was that their hearts were callouse.
This wasn’t just them. We are the same. The reason that a person doesn’t believe in God’s salvation is their heart is calloused. They think salvation isn’t necessary for me. I’m not to the point where I have to depend on God. They don’t feel the need for salvation.
If we are not poor in the spirit, humble, and realize our needs, then we can’t be saved. We will be like the many Jews who were listening, but their hearts were calloused and so the words had no meaning to them. We need to hungrily listen to the invitation of the Gospel, search earnestly for God and return to Him.
What is the training we should receive in faith? It is to always keep our hearts poor before God. This is the problem with legalism. The problem with legalism is that even though you can’t follow God’s law completely, you think that you are and are proud and put other people down. If we stand before God’s word, we would confess like Paul did in Romans 7:24.
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Let’s this year humble our hearts and become poor before the Lord, hungrily listening to the words of salvation and earnestly seek the Lord. This year let’s not worry about others, but focus on how your relationship is with the Lord, and humbly seek the Lord. Then the Lord will heal our hearts.