Acts 28 Part 2
12. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days.
They land next at Syracuse, a large port city on the island of Sicily, which is just off the tip of Italy. The name “Syracuse” means “A Syrian Hearing.” This city still bears this name today. They stay at this port town for three days.
13. From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli,
From Syracuse, they circle around Sicily, and arrive at Rhegium on the very “toe” of Italy. Rhegium means “Breach,” perhaps referring to where the land is “breached” by the water to keep Italy from connecting to Sicily, turning Sicily into an island. The modern city is named “Reggio.” They wait one day here until the south wind blows, and they ride it north up the western coast of Italy. The next day, they reach Puteoli, another harbor town on the western shore of Italy. Puteoli means “Sulphurous Springs,” so some, at least, of the water of this town was not the best. The city there is now called “Pozzuoli,” according to the Companion Bible.
14. where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.
At Puteoli, Paul and his companions find brethren. These would have been fellow Jews, of course, but doubtless they were also believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, as many of the Jews by now were. These invite Paul and his companions to stay with them for a week, which they do. The word in Greek for “invited” is parakaleo, which means they came alongside them to help and comfort them. The kindness and love of these people must have been most welcome to Paul and his companions.
Though the islanders of Melita had been very kind and good to them, surely this fellowship with brother believers must have been most sweet after such a long time away from such companionship! Yet the seven days speed by, and the time comes for them to continue on their journey toward Rome.
15. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
From Puteoli, they strike out on foot for Rome, the seagoing part of their voyage completed at last. When the brothers from Rome hear that they are coming, they come to meet them. Some come as far as Appii Forum, or the marketplace of Appius, which is about 43 miles from Rome on the Appian Way. This was a long way to come indeed, and shows how eager these men were to welcome one of God’s apostles to their city. Others do not come quite so far, but meet Paul instead at the Three Taverns, which was about 10 miles further north on the road, and thus about 33 miles from Rome. We probably get the wrong idea when we hear that this town was called “The Three Taverns.” We have forgotten that the word “tavern” means an inn, as we have come to use it in a different way. Probably few towns had so many travelers passing through that they could support three inns, but this town on the road to Rome, the capital city of the Empire, had enough traffic to support three, and so that was its name.
When Paul sees these Roman believers, so eager to see God’s apostle that they were willing to travel this long and difficult journey from Rome just to meet him partway and conduct him back to their city, he is filled with gratitude. He realizes that God has gone to Rome before him, and has touched the hearts of these sincere brothers, and for that he is thankful. Moreover, he takes courage. His long and difficult imprisonment and the hardships and perils of his journey must have worn away at him. To meet these Roman believers this way and to see their eagerness to meet him face-to-face was a great encouragement to Paul. How good it is for any of us to meet brothers who are this eager to hear the truth as we have it from God!
16. Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.
Upon arriving at Rome, the centurion delivers up the prisoners under his charge to the captain of the guard. Paul, however, is treated specially. The centurion by this time has learned that Paul has no real charges against him, has experienced how every word from God that Paul speaks comes true, and has watched as Paul healed every sick person he came in contact with on the island of Melita. This centurion was not blind to the truth, and he well knows that Paul is a great man, and no common prisoner. Therefore, he sees to it that Paul is permitted to dwell by himself rather than in a prison. He only has a soldier to guard him. Some have suggested that this means this soldier was chained to Paul. We would have to question this, since the point of this passage seems to be the leniency of Paul’s treatment, not the harshness of it. With the exception of a single guard, Paul is treated as a guest of Rome more than as a prisoner.
17. And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans,
Three days pass with Paul in this condition. No doubt these days did not see Paul sitting in his house with little to do. The brothers in Rome were so eager to see Paul that some of them came 43 miles down the road to meet him and conduct him back to the city. If they were at all permitted to see him, which we have no indication that they were not, we would guess they would hardly leave him alone during this time!
Yet as pleasant as his work among the believers must have been, Paul knows he has business to take care of regarding the charges against him. Therefore, he calls the leaders of the Jews together. In Greek this is the “being first of the Jews,” and uses the same word protos as the “leading citizen” Publius in verse 7. It was the Jews of Jerusalem who had brought the charges against him initially, and if Paul is to be charged of anything in Rome, it will be their Roman counterparts, the religious leaders in this city, who will have to do it.
Do not miss the clout that Paul has with these men. Imagine arriving at a big, capital city, calling the leaders of your people who dwell in that city to come to you, and having them respond and come at your call. This shows the esteem Paul was held in and the respect his name carried with it among these men. Paul was known as a disciple of Gamaliel, a leading Pharisee, an important ruler among the Jews in Judea. As such, he had respect among the powerful and influential Jews in Rome. If Paul called, they would come. This tells us something about the reputation Paul and his family (for remember, they were from Rome!) must have had among these men, originating long before Paul came to faith in Jesus Christ.
So the leaders of the Jews respond, and they come together to Paul as he called them to. So, he begins his defense to them. He calls them men and brothers, for that is what they were, being his fellow ancestral Israelites. Then, he claims quite truly that he has done nothing against their people, nor, he insists, against the customs of their fathers. Yet in spite of his innocence, he was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Paul does not say who delivered him specifically, but by saying “from Jerusalem,” he clearly implies that it was the rulers there who had done the delivering, and none of these intelligent men could have missed this fact. Yet Paul does not say this specifically, lending truth to his claim a few verses later, that he has nothing of which to accuse his nation. He will not accuse them of his wrongful imprisonment either, even though he justly could have.
18. who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death.
The Romans, Paul explains, were ready to release him after they had examined him, because they determined he had done nothing worthy of being put to death. Notice that, by stating this, Paul is clearly implying the punishment the leaders of Jerusalem wished to see carried out against him, again without saying it outright.
19. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation.
The Romans did not release Paul, however, because the Jews spoke against it. For the first time, Paul names his primary accusers. Yet notice that he uses the word “Jews” in the way it was commonly used in the land of Israel, that is, of the leaders of that land. It was not every citizen who spoke against it, by any means! Yet because the Jews were so dead set against him, Paul reveals, he was compelled to appeal to Caesar. Paul does not mention, notice, the cowardly plot to ambush him and put him to death concocted by the zealots among the unbelieving party in Jerusalem. He could have brought this as a just accusation against his nation, but he does not. Instead, he protests that he has nothing of which he wishes to accuse his nation. It was not to bring such accusations against them that he appealed to Caesar, but only to see to it that he was not put to death unjustly. How gracious Paul is in minimizing the godless actions of his enemies! The fact that the conflict between them was not Paul’s idea nor his desire is made most clear by his attitude. Paul kind treatment of those who wanted him dead must have convinced these Roman leaders that he was indeed sincere that he did not wish to bring any accusation, even against his enemies.
20. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”
Paul now reveals to these important men of Rome that this is the reason he has called for them. As the Jewish leaders of Rome, they are the ones who will have to bring charges against Paul, if charges are to be brought, for no charges have accompanied Paul in the hands of the Romans, as we learned very well from Acts 26. Perhaps the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem have communicated with these men somehow and moved them to be Paul’s accusers in this case. Yet Paul uses the word parakaleo here when he speaks of his calling for them. It is clear that he hopes they will be on his side, and will position themselves on his side to help him.
Now, Paul ends his address to them by expressing an important truth which we would do well to take notice of. He confirms that it is for the hope of Israel that he is bound with the chain he is wearing. His point to them was that he was no traitor to his nation, and had no wish to contend with them, as he expressed most plainly in verse 19, and has demonstrated all throughout this passage. Yet we can learn another important lesson from this. Many have supposed that Paul throughout his ministry had been proclaiming and working toward a Gentile hope that was new and entirely separate from the hope God had always held out to Israel before this time. They insist that he was preaching something new, the church, and nothing that had to do with God’s work with Israel of the past. Yet what Paul says here teaches us differently. It was for the hope of Israel that he worked, and it was because of his work on behalf of the hope of Israel that he had been arrested. He had not given up on Israel’s hope and started working toward some new, Gentile hope. His work was on behalf of the same Israelite hope that all the apostles had been working toward throughout the Acts period.
Now some might ask just what the hope of Israel was that Paul was referring to? But for anyone who knows the Old Testament or who understands what we have been learning so far from the New, the answer to this question will be obvious. The hope of Israel, their expectation for the future, was the day in which God will assume sovereignty over this earth and reign on earth in His government. In that day, Israel will take her place as the head of nations, and will become the premiere nation on earth. In that day, all her great men and women of the past will be raised from the dead to enjoy the blessings that God has always promised to them. That is the day they were anticipating, and that is the hope Paul was speaking of here. He was chained for the sake of God’s kingdom.
21. Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you.
Now the leaders of the Jews respond to Paul’s words. They have had no prior knowledge of his case, they reveal. No letters had come out of Judea to them from the leaders there. None of the brothers from other places who have come to Rome have had anything bad to say against him. In other words, they simply have no charges to bring against Paul. When he appears before Caesar, it will be with no charges and no accusation. A very interesting meeting that will be, no doubt!
22. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”
Though they have no charges against him, these leaders reveal, they still would like something from him. They would like to hear his thoughts, and specifically why he has joined himself to the followers of Jesus Christ. They do not mention this name, yet it is clear that they are aware that Paul is a follower of Him, for they mention his “sect.”
This word “sect” is hairesis in Greek, from which we get our word “heresy.” It speaks of those who form a group that follows their own tenants. There is no doubt that the followers of Christ had formed a movement in Israel, but from Paul’s words in Acts 24:14, “that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers,” we would question whether or not he really accepted this designation for the followers of Christ. The Pharisees are called a sect in Acts 15:5 and 26:5, while the Sadducees are called a sect in Acts 5:17. Paul speaks negatively of sects in I Corinthians 11:19 and Galatians 5:20. Peter speaks of damnable heresies (or sects) in II Peter 2:1, from which we get the accusation “damnable heretic!” which Christians like to throw at those who disagree with them doctrinally. Yet the word is not inherently negative, and we doubt that the leaders of the Jews in Rome here meant any insult against Paul by using it. They simply viewed his beliefs as a new sect in Israel, and wished to hear what it was all about.
Notice that the Jewish leaders do not seem to have any real knowledge of the Way of following Christ. They claim ignorance, only knowing that everywhere it is spoken against. We should be cautious in applying this, however, for we have seen throughout Acts how many of the people of Israel have believed the truth regarding Jesus Christ and have submitted themselves to Him as their Master and Savior. Yet realize that these men were all of the rich, ruling class, and it was among these that the staunchest enemies of Christ existed. When they had heard from other rulers, their equals, from other lands, they had heard plenty of negative things against the Way of Jesus Christ. Yet they had formed no opinion themselves, and were ready to hear from another rich and powerful ruler who actually believes in this Way, Paul, to find out what the fuss is all about.
Notice the strangeness of this. As we have discussed before, Romans 15:20-22 reveals to us that the reason Paul had never gone to Rome with the gospel before this is that it had already been proclaimed there. Yet however it had been proclaimed and whoever had proclaimed it, it had not reached to these powerful and influential men. Probably the one or ones who had proclaimed it before had been among the common, lower classes, and so had not been able to procure a hearing from these busy and powerful men. It need not necessarily be that they were snobbish or refused to have anything to do with the gospel proclaimer. They just moved in different circles, and so were beyond the reach of a more common gospelizer than a man like Paul. Paul, however, is of their number, and a member of a family that, in the past at least, had been high-ranking and influential among them (and perhaps still was.) Paul has the clout to draw their attention, and the respect for them to be interested or even eager to hear what he has to say.
Thus God will use one of their own to finally reach these men with the gospel, the last ones of all to hear it in the Acts period. Think of the strangeness of this. The first people of all to hear the gospel were the people of Jerusalem, the center of life in the land of Israel at that time. Now, the last people of all to hear the gospel are going to be the leading citizens of the city of Rome, the center of life (both Jewish and otherwise) outside of Israel at that time. All we can say is that God has worked this very differently than how we might have. Yet He has accomplished His end, and the gospel has gone out into all places, just as He desired it to go.
23. So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.
So now these leaders appoint a day for him. Think for a moment about the significance of this. These men were the most important Jews in Rome, and perhaps the most important anywhere outside of Jerusalem. They were busy men, and had many duties and responsibilities to perform. For them to take an entire day out of their busy schedules just to listen to Paul and hear what he had to say shows their real desire to hear and consider Paul’s viewpoint. This was not just them being polite or nice, humoring Paul even though they really didn’t have any desire or interest to hear his message. They were truly interested and open to hearing what Paul had to say. Their attitude was good from the start, so we can expect that many of them, even among this class of men who were more likely to oppose the gospel than any others, would be ready to hear what Paul had to say and believe it.
So time passes. How much we are not told. But the day they set for Paul arrives, and many of them come together to him at his lodging. Notice that he is in a lodging, not in a prison. He must appear before Caesar because of his appeal, but when he does appear, there will be no trial, for there are no charges against him and he has no accusers. No doubt when he does appear before Caesar, the emperor will simply ask him what he has to say, and after hearing him out will throw out the case. Yet the great thing about this is it will give Paul the opportunity to do what he would most love to go: present the gospel of Jesus Christ to Caesar and his court. This is exactly what God intends for him to do, as we know from Acts 27:24.
So after these men have gathered to his house, he explains and solemnly testifies to them. His topic involves two things. First of all, it involves the kingdom of God. Imagine this! How many preachers today, if they similarly had a day to speak before important leaders and congressmen like these men, would make the kingdom of God their first and most important topic? How many of them even know what the kingdom of God is? Yet this is the first thing we have listed, and was Paul’s primary topic on this most important day. Indeed, the kingdom of God is a topic of the first importance, though few Christians know anything or have anything to say about it.
Secondly, we read that Paul worked to persuade these men concerning our Lord Jesus. He did not do this from the gospels or from any epistles, as we would generally do today. Instead, he persuaded them from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. In other words, his text was the Old Testament. How many of us would be capable of this? Could we proclaim the kingdom of God or Jesus Christ using only the Old Testament? This is not an easy task. It is certainly easier to use the New Testament. Yet this can be done, and Paul was certainly capable of doing it.
Paul’s talk with these men was no doubt earnest and in depth. It probably was not just Paul lecturing, but rather him presenting truths and them questioning and examining them in the light of the Scriptures. Yet however this looked, these men did not cut it short. They were there listening to Paul all day, as they had promised, from morning until evening. They did indeed want to hear what Paul had to say!
24. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.
Now we see the results of Paul’s work among these men. He neither meets with total success, nor with total failure. Rather, we read that some were persuaded by his words, while others disbelieved them. The Greek construction is that “hoi men” were persuaded and “hoi de” disbelieved. We could English this as “On the one hand, some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and on the other hand some disbelieved.” The idea expressed by this construction in Greek is that the division was about what we would call “50-50,” or that about half were persuaded and about half disbelieved. One might complain that this was a lot who did not believe, but considering that these were the leading men in Rome, and it was always the leading men in a city who seemed the least likely to listen to the gospel, this was actually very good. Half of the most powerful and influential men in Rome listened to Paul and were persuaded by the things he had to say. That is significant success indeed!
This really will be true any time we proclaim the word of God, testifying about the kingdom of God or proclaiming Jesus Christ. Some will hear what we have to say and believe it, and some will refuse to believe. It should not surprise us when this is so. That is the way it has always been. If half the people believe us, we are actually doing very well!