In The City Of Rome

From Puteoli the party went by land toward Rome (317). More local followers of Jesus met them along the way, at Appii Forum & at Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and was very encouraged.

When at last they came to Rome, Julius (the Roman officer) delivered his prisoners to the captain of the guard, who gave Paul separate living quarters & ordered Julius to continue to guard him.

After three days, Paul called the local Jewish leaders together & said to them: “Men & brothers, I have been delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers.  When the Roman authorities & even King Agrippa examined me, they wanted to let me go, because they found no cause for putting me to death. But the Jewish leaders there spoke against my release, so I was compelled to appeal to Caesar. I have called you here to let you know my situation.  It is actually for proclaiming the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain!”

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Then the local Jewish leaders said to Paul, “We have received no letters or personal reports from anyone in Judea about you. However, we do know that many Jews are opposed to the Christian way, so we would like to learn more about this from you.”

So on an appointed day, many local Jews came to Paul at his confinement lodging.  Paul taught & testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them from both the law of Moses & the prophets that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

This went on all day; some were persuaded by the things Paul said, and others were not. Paul rebuked the latter group: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “You will hear but not understand; you will see but not perceive.  For your hearts have grown dull, your ears have grown hard of hearing, and your eyes have closed.  Otherwise you would see with your eyes & hear with your ears & understand with your hearts, and you would turn to God, who would heal you.’

“So know this: the salvation of God has been offered to Gentiles, because they are willing to receive it.”  After Paul had finished, the Jews left — having a great dispute among themselves about all that Paul had taught.

Paul remained in minimum custody in Rome for two more years.  He was able to receive any & all visitors.  To them all, he freely & faithfully & confidently preached the kingdom of God & taught about Jesus the Christ.

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God, please help me to love telling Your story, even when some refuse to listen.

(317) Acts 28:14b-31

On The Island Of Malta

Some of the soldiers proposed to kill all the prisoners, to make sure they couldn’t swim away & escape during the shipwreck! But Julius was determined to save Paul, so he vetoed that proposal (316).

Instead, he commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first & get to shore.  The rest made their way to shore by paddling on boards or other parts of the ship. Ultimately, everyone on board, including all the prisoners, escaped safely to land.

Malta, they learned, was the name of the island where they were shipwrecked. Because of the rain & cold, the natives kindly kindled a fire & made them all welcome. Paul gathered some kindling & was laying it on the fire, when the heat drove a snake out from the sticks, which then fastened on Paul’s hand!  The natives were sure Paul would soon be dead — assuming he was some sort of criminal, perhaps even a murderer.

But Paul simply shook off the snake into the fire, having suffered no real harm.

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When, after a long time, Paul’s hand didn’t swell up & he didn’t fall down dead, the natives changed their tune & decided Paul was some sort of god!

The leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, had an estate nearby.  He welcomed the shipwreck survivors & entertained them courteously for three days. During this time, his father lay sick with a fever & dysentery. The Holy Spirit led Paul to go in to him & pray & lay hands on him.

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Immediately, the old man was healed by the power of God!  When word of this got around, other sick people came from different parts of the island & they were also healed.

The natives honored their guests in many ways for the next three months.  When the weather broke & they were finally able to leave Malta, they were given all necessary provisions.

The Twin Brothers was the figurehead of the ship on which Paul’s party finally left Malta.  That ship had come from Alexandria in Egypt, had wintered on Malta, and was now headed to Italy.

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  • After sailing northward, they landed at Syracuse on the island of Sicily, where they stayed three days.
  • From there they continued northward until they reached Rhegium, at the southern tip of the Italian mainland.
  • After waiting there one day, the south wind again became favorable & the ship sailed further north to Puteoli, on Italy’s western coast. There Paul & his companions enjoyed the hospitality of local Christians for seven days.

God, please help me to love following You to strange lands.

(316) Acts 27:42-28:14a

Shipwreck!

After several more days & nights of being driven up & down on the Adriatic Sea, the sailors sensed one night  that their ship was drawing near some land (315).

They took soundings & found the depth to be 20 fathoms.  Having gone a little farther, they took soundings again & found the depth to be 15 fathoms. The captain feared the ship might run aground on the rocks, so they dropped four anchors from the stern & prayed for day to come.

Under pretense of putting out additional anchors from the prow, some of the sailors began letting down the life boat into the sea, hoping to escape the floundering ship.  But Paul, trusting the message from God’s angel, said to Julius & his soldiers, “Unless these crewmen stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”  Julius immediately had the soldiers cut the ropes of the life boat & let it fall into the water — assuring that all would remain on board the ship.

As day was about to dawn, Paul was prompted by the Holy Spirit to implore all the crew & passengers to eat some food: “Today is the fourteenth day you have been without food. But now you must take nourishment — so that you can survive the shipwreck & so that not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.”

Then Paul took bread & gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it, he began to eat.

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So everyone on board was encouraged to eat – all 276 people.  When they had all eaten enough, they lightened the ship again by throwing overboard the remaining food.

At daybreak, they didn’t recognize the nearby land, but they did discover a bay with a beach!  So it was decided to run the ship onto the beach.

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The crew let go the anchors & left them in the sea; they loosed the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind to make for shore.

But the ship ran aground sooner than expected.  The prow stuck fast & remained immovable, while the stern was being broken apart by the violence of the waves!

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God, please help me to love trusting You in the middle of disaster.

(315) Acts 27:27-41

Danger At Sea!

When the south wind began blowing softly, the captain of the ship — taking Paul to Rome to be judged by Caesar — supposed they had obtained favorable sailing conditions; the ship put out to sea, but stayed close to the southern coast of Crete (314).

However, it wasn’t long before they were contending with a tempestuous head wind, called Euroclydon.  The ship was unable to head into the fierce wind, and the captain had no choice but to let the winds determine their course.

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They were blown to the south side of a small island called Clauda, where they were able to secure the ship’s life boat, tying it down with cables.  Then, as the wind continued to drive the ship in a southerly direction, the captain began to fear they might run aground on the Syrtis Banks!  To avoid that, the sails were taken down and the ship was driven in a more westerly direction.

But the sea remained extremely rough, so on the next day they lightened the ship by throwing cargo overboard.

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On the following day they threw all the ship’s rigging gear overboard!

Neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, while the tempest continued to batter the ship.  Many on board gave up all hope of being saved.

After they had all been without food for several days, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to address the entire crew:

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“Men, I know you realize by now that you should have listened to me; we shouldn’t have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster & loss. But, I urge you to take heart, for I assure you that there will be no loss of life among you; only the ship will be lost.

“Last night an angel of God said to me, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul.  You must be brought before Caesar.  Indeed, God will preserve the lives of all those who sail with you!’

“Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God; I believe that it will be just as his angel told me. However, we can only be saved by running aground on a convenient island.”

God, please help me to love trusting You when disaster is near.

(314) Acts 27:13-26

The Voyage To Rome Begins

Thus it was finally decided that Paul should be transported to Italy, where he would serve God in unique circumstances (313).

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 & 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.

God, please help me to love hearing from You when others won’t listen.

(313) Acts 27:1-12

The Mission To Rome Confirmed

Still strengthened by the Holy Spirit, Paul concluded his testimony (312).   “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!”

God, please help me to love Your love for those who do not love You.

(312) Acts 26:19-32

Paul’s Testimony Before King Agrippa

King Agrippa gave Paul permission to speak (311).  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 express 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 is 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 me.'”

God, please help me to love seeing & hearing You.

(311) Acts 26:1-18