The Voyage To Rome Begins

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Thus, it was finally decided that Paul should be transported to Italy, where he would serve the LORD in unique circumstances (334).

Along with some other prisoners, Paul was delivered into the custody of a Roman officer, named Julius.

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They put to sea on a ship bound for Adramyttium in northwestern Turkey, sailing along the southern coast of Turkey.  Two other followers of Jesus — Luke the physician & Aristarchus from Thessalonika — traveled with Paul.

After the first day, their ship came to Sidon.  Julius kindly gave Paul liberty to visit friends there.

From Sidon they sailed between Cyprus & the southern coast of Turkey, because the winds on the open sea were severe. They sailed on to Myra, a port city in the Lycian region of Turkey. There Julius found a ship (from Alexandria in Egypt) that was sailing directly to Italy.  He transferred Paul & his companions, along with his other prisoners, onto that vessel — since their original ship was still sailing north to the Turkish city of Adramyttium.

Because of the severe winds, their new ship sailed along slowly, hugging the southern coast of Turkey.  Eventually, they made it safely to the port of Cnidus, at the southwestern corner of Turkey.  Rather than sail across the open sea toward Greece, the vessel now turned in a more southerly direction, passing down to the island of Crete & coming thus to Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea on the island’s southern coast.

The weather conditions promised to make further sailing that winter very dangerous.  The Holy Spirit prompted Paul to warn the captain of the ship & Julius, the Roman officer: “Men, I perceive that this voyage may end in disaster and cost us not only the cargo & the ship, but also our lives!”

But Julius & the ship’s captain were not persuaded by Paul.  Instead, because the harbor at Fair Havens was not ideal for staying the winter, they decided to set sail immediately.

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They hoped to reach Phoenix, another harbor on the southern coast of Crete, and stay the winter there.

LORD, please help us to love hearing from You, even when others won’t.

(334) Acts 27:1-12

The Mission To Rome Confirmed

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Still strengthened by the Holy Spirit, Paul concluded his testimony (333).   “King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.  Instead, I declared — first to the Jews in Damascus, Jerusalem & all of Judea, and then to the Gentiles in many different places — that they should repent from their sins & turn to God, and that they should then practice what they professed to believe.

“Some Jews reacted by seizing me in the temple & trying to kill me. However, with God’s help, I continue to witness, to small & great alike.  I teach just what the prophets & Moses taught — that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and that he would proclaim light to the Jews & to the Gentiles.”

Festus, the Roman governor, interjected loudly, “Paul, your religious ideas are too complicated!  You sound like you’re crazy!”

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Paul replied, “But I’m not crazy, most noble Festus.  I only speak words of truth & reason. King Agrippa knows of these things, I’m sure; none of them has been done secretly.

Turning to the king, Paul asked: “King Agrippa, do you believe what the prophets have said about the Christ? I’m sure you do believe.”  Agrippa replied, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian!”

Then Paul declared, “I pray to God that not only you, but also everyone who hears me today, might become just as I am — except for these chains.”

The king went aside to meet privately with the governor & Bernice & their counselors; they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.”

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Finally, Agrippa said to Festus, “Paul might have been set free today, if he had not appealed to Caesar!”

LORD, please help us to share Your truth with everyone.

(333) Acts 26:19-32

Paul’s Testimony Before King Agrippa

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King Agrippa gave Paul permission to speak (332).  Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, Paul began: “I am glad, King Agrippa, to present my case to you, especially since you are expert in all customs & questions regarding the Jews. I beg you to hear me patiently.

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“All the Jewish leaders know my devout manner of life – even from the time I was learning Jewish law as a youth in Jerusalem.  They know that I grew up to live as a Pharisee, the strictest sect of our religion.  So it is odd that I am now being judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our first Jewish forefathers.  All twelve tribes of Israel serve God earnestly night & day, hoping to attain this very promise.  I am accused by the Jews simply because I teach that this hope has been realized, and this promise has been fulfilled, in Jesus!  Why do my accusers find it incredible that God has raised Jesus from death?

“I admit that, like them, I also once opposed the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I did this vigorously in Jerusalem, where I had many Christians imprisoned, on the authority of the chief priests.  When some of them were executed, I also cast my vote against them. I sought them out in every synagogue; I punished them & even compelled some to blaspheme the name of Jesus.  Eventually, my rage against the Christians was so great, that I obtained permission to extend my campaign of persecution to foreign cities.

“As I journeyed to Damascus for that specific purpose, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me & my travelling companions. We all had fallen to the ground, when I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me? It’s too hard for you to resist me!’

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So I said, ‘Who are you?’  He said, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth.  I have appeared to you for this purpose: to make you my servant & a witness – both of what you have already seen, and of what I will yet reveal to you!

“I will deliver you from unbelieving Jewish people.  I will also deliver you from unbelieving Gentiles.  I am sending you now to the Gentiles — to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light & from the power of Satan to God — that they may receive forgiveness of sins & an inheritance among all who are set apart from the world by trusting in me.'”

LORD, please help us to love seeing & hearing You.

(332) Acts 26:1-18

Paul Called To Testify Before King Agrippa

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Yet a short time later, the Holy Spirit continued guiding events toward the confirmation of Paul’s mission to Rome.   Agrippa (the last of the Herodian kings of Israel) & Bernice (his wife) came to Caesarea for meetings with Festus (still the Roman governor of Israel).  During this visit, Festus presented Paul’s case to Agrippa (331).

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“There is a certain man named Paul who was left a prisoner by Felix, my predecessor as governor.  The Jewish religious leaders asked for a judgment against him.  And I replied: ‘Roman law requires in capital cases for the accused meet the accusers face to face, and have opportunity to answer them concerning the charges against him.’ So I convened such a hearing here in Caesarea.

“But Paul’s accusers argued only against two points of Paul’s teaching: that Jesus had been wrongfully executed, and that God had raised him from death three days later.  Because I was uncertain of such religious questions, I asked Paul whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem, to be tried there concerning these matters. However, when Paul appealed to exercise his right as a Roman citizen to be tried before Caesar, I commanded him to be kept in custody until I can send him to Rome.”

To all this, Agrippa replied, “I also would like to hear this man.”  “Then tomorrow,” said Festus, “you shall hear him.”

The next day, Agrippa & Bernice came with great pomp, and entered the auditorium where the commanders & the prominent men of the city were gathered.

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At Festus’ command Paul was brought in, and Festus opened the proceedings: “King Agrippa & honored noblemen, here is the man whom the Jews claim is no longer fit to live. But when I investigated his case, I found that he had done nothing deserving of the death penalty.  When he appealed to be judged by Caesar, I decided to send him to Rome.

“But I have nothing specific to write to Caesar concerning Paul. Therefore I have brought him here to be examined, especially by you, King Agrippa.  I am sure that after your examination, I will know what to write to Caesar. It definitely seems unreasonable to send a prisoner for judgment in Rome, without specifying the charges against him.”

LORD, please help us to love being ready to serve You in any trial.

(331) Acts 25:13-27

The Mission To Rome Continues

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Once, while Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, Felix (the Roman governor of Israel) & his wife Drusilla (who was Jewish), sent for Paul & listened to his message concerning the necessity of faith in Jesus (330).

As Paul taught about righteousness, self-control & God’s coming judgment, Felix became convicted & fearful.  So he abruptly dismissed Paul, promising to hear him again at a later date.

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Felix really hoped that Paul’s friends would eventually pay him ransom money for Paul’s release.  This never happened, but Felix did continue to listen to Paul’s teaching from time to time.  In the end, however, Felix never released Paul, mainly because he wanted to keep the Jewish religious leaders happy.

Then, after two years, Festus succeeded Felix as governor.  When he had taken office, he made a brief trip from Caesarea to Jerusalem.  While he was there, the high priest & the Jewish elders brought more accusations against Paul.  As they had with Felix before, they asked Festus to summon Paul to Jerusalem; they still intended to ambush & kill Paul along the way.

But Festus decided that he should conduct his own hearing of Paul’s case at Caesarea.  He told the Jewish religious leaders to make their case against Paul at that hearing.  A short time later, the hearing was convened before Festus in Caesarea.  The Jewish religious leaders from Jerusalem made many accusations against Paul, but offered no proof.  Paul consistently maintained his innocence, saying he hadn’t done anything against Jewish law or Roman law.

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However, Festus wanted to curry favor with the Jews, so he asked Paul, “Are you willing to be tried in Jerusalem concerning these things?”

To which Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to reply, “I want to exercise my right as a Roman citizen — to be judged at Caesar’s judgment seat in Rome.  If it can be proved that I have broken any law, I am willing to accept the punishment, even including death.  But the Jewish leaders have not proven any accusation against me.  Their bias against me disqualifies them from rendering impartial justice in my case.  So I appeal to Caesar.”

Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, declared: “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go!”

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Festus was unaware that this result was what God had intended all along!

LORD, please help us to love Your intentions as our own.

(330) Acts 24:24-25:12

Paul’s Defense Before The Roman Governor

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Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, Paul made his defense before Felix, the Roman governor of the territory including Israel, at his headquarters in Caesarea (329).

“In fact, I went to Jerusalem to worship 12 days ago, and to bring offerings to my impoverished Jewish brothers & sisters there.

“In fact, some Jews from Turkey did find me in the temple at Jerusalem; regrettably, they are not here to accuse me face-to-face.

“In fact, those Jews found me complying with our religious law; they never found me disputing with anyone or inciting any mob — either in the temple or in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city.  Unless they refer to this one question I asked before them: ‘Am I being judged concerning the resurrection of the dead?’

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“The bottom line is that those who are here to accuse me simply have no proof of their accusations. But this I do confess to you:  I do believe all things written in our inspired scriptures, and I do worship God according to the way marked out by his son Jesus.  Because I believe that God will judge the living & the dead, I seek always to live with a clear conscience toward God & men.”

Felix, the Roman governor, had prior knowledge of the Christian way of life, and of the resistance to it by unbelieving Jews.  After hearing the testimony of the two sides, Felix adjourned the proceedings, saying, “When Commander Lysias comes from Jerusalem, I will make a decision in your case.”

Felix also commanded that Paul be kept in minimum custody, and that his friends be permitted to visit him & provide for him.

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Paul would remain in custody in Caesarea for the next two years!

LORD, please help us to love even prison for You.

(329) Acts 24:10-23

Paul Accused Before The Roman Governor

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That night, God continued working out His plan to send Paul to Rome.  Roman foot-soldiers & horsemen took Paul to Antipatris, about half-way between Jerusalem & Caesarea (328).  The next day, the horsemen took Paul the rest of the way, while the foot-soldiers returned to Jerusalem.

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Arriving in Caesarea, they presented Paul to the governor, along with the letter from their commander.  When the governor read the letter, he said, “I will hear you when your accusers get here.” And he commanded Paul to be confined until the hearing.

Five days later, Ananias, the Jewish high priest, arrived in Caesarea from Jerusalem.  In order to present a strong case against Paul, Ananias brought with him several other Jewish elders & a spokesman named Tertullus.

When the governor convened the hearing, Tertullus began his accusation by acknowledging Felix’s authority, and then he got right down to it:  “This man, Paul, is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, who creates dissension among Jews throughout the world.  He even tried to profane our temple, so we seized him in order to judge him according to the law of our religion.

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“But the Roman commander in Jerusalem intervened, sent Paul to you & commanded us to submit the matter for your judgment.  When you examine Paul, you will see that all our accusations against him are well-founded.”

The ensuing testimony of the Jewish elders laid out in detail their accusations against Paul.

LORD, please help us to love offering all our trials to You.

(328) Acts 23:31-24:9