Paul's Journey to Rome

– All right, Luke/Acts for Beginners This is lesson number 26, last lesson in this series Paul’s journey to Rome and Lord willing we’ll cover Acts 27:1 to the very end of the book, Acts 28:31 So, in our last scene, we’ve seen that Paul has been languishing under house arrest in Herod’s palace at Caesarea by the sea He’s not been charged with any crime He has appeared before three different Roman governors during that time, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, but none of them have been able to determine any Roman law that he has broken aside from the many unsubstantiated accusations hurled at him by the Jews This has caused kind of a stalemate in the proceedings causing Paul to, or rather causing Paul’s continued confinement because the Roman officials fear that the Jewish leaders will create trouble if he’s released, so no one’s doing anything and Paul is just stewing there in jail So Paul then breaks this logjam by demanding as a Roman citizen, his right to appeal his case to Caesar’s court in Rome This frees him from an undetermined amount of time spent in confinement at Caesarea, and resolution for his case as well as distancing himself from the murderous Jews in Jerusalem who want to kill him He may be safe in prison there in Caesarea, but eventually the Jews will find a way to get him out of that jail and kill him So he appeals, he appeals to the king to go to the Imperial Court in Rome and be tried there, which is his right as a Roman citizen And you see here in our outline, we’re at the final section, Paul’s journey to Rome So let’s begin reading, shall we, in Acts chapter 27 beginning verse one “It says when it was decided that we would sail for Italy “they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners “to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius “And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, “which was about to sail to the regions “along the coast of Asia, “we put out to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, “a Macedonian of Thessalonica “The next day we put in at Sidon; “and Julius treated Paul with consideration “and allowed him to go to his friends “and receive care “From there we put out to sea and sailed “under the shelter of Cyprus because “the winds were contrary “When we had sailed through the sea “along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, “we landed at Myra in Lycia “There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship “sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it “When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, “and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, “since the wind did not permit us to go further, “we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; “and with difficulty sailing past it we came to “a place called Fair Havens, “near which was the city of Lasea.” So once again we see Luke’s attention to social and historical detail as he chronicles Paul’s voyage to Rome He names the centurion, Julius, and the Augustan cohort These were soldiers who acted much like deputy marshals, if you wish, or sheriff’s department They worked across various lines of law enforcement They were responsible for communications between Rome and its armies in foreign lands, as well as the transfer of prisoners, as was the case here Like travel today where you can’t get a direct flight to your destination, but you have to have a connecting flight, like if we want to go to Montreal for example, we have to fly first to Dallas and then get a plane, you know, or go first to Chicago, whatever it is Well, it was much the same way During that time you could not sail directly to Italy from a port in Judea or in Syria So the centurion, the soldiers, Paul and other prisoners, and the other prisoners are probably being sent to Rome for execution, as well as Luke, because he says we, all right? He says we in verse two meaning he’s along for this trip And another brother, Aristarchus, from the church at Thessalonica All of these people set sail on a ship that normally birthed at Mysia, which was a Roman province in Asia Minor known as Turkey today So the first step on the journey was Sidon, where Paul was allowed to go ashore to visit with friends A gracious act here on the part of the centurion

Hugging the coast and using Cyprus as a cover from powerful winds, they made their way to Myra, which was a port in the province of Lycia And it was a very slow journey of about 15 days in those days Here they found a larger ship able to transport them all the way to Italy This ship also made slow progress, avoiding the shorter and more direct route on the northern side of the island of Crete, and sailing instead on the southern side of the island where there was less wind and there were better harbors for large, commercial vessels like the one they were traveling on They eventually arrived at Lycia, a port city in southern Crete So we pick up the story again In verse nine it says, “When considerable time had passed “and the voyage was now dangerous, “since even the fast was already over, “Paul began to admonish them “and said to them, “Men, I perceive that “the voyage will certainly be with damage “and great loss, not only of our cargo and the ship, “but also of our lives.” “But the centurion was more persuaded by “the pilot and the captain of the ship “by than what was being said by Paul “Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, “the majority reached the decision to put out to sea “from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, “a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, “and spend the winter there.” So Luke mentions the fast You know, they said the fast was over This helps us to determine the time of year that this voyage was being taken The fast referred to the fasting done by the Jews on the Day of Atonement, a time where Jews would fast and pray as the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the temple at Jerusalem in order to offer sacrifice, first for himself and then for the people, for their sins This feast also helps fix the time of year because it only happened once per year Since these events are taking place somewhere in the years 59 to 60 AD, we know that the Day of Atonement for those years would be in early October on the Jewish liturgical calendar Now maritime historians tell us that sea voyages in that region were considered dangerous if undertaken between mid-September and early November, and not possible after November 10th when all sea traffic was suspended until March So Paul warns the danger in continuing the journey We have to be careful This is not a prophecy This was not a prophecy, but an opinion based on Paul’s experience traveling by sea After all, he claims that he had been shipwrecked and left adrift three times in his life We read about that in 2 Corinthians 11:25 So there’s no suggestion of divine or angelic help here The manner in which Luke describes the scene suggests that the sailors, the captain, as well as Paul, were experienced and well aware of the risks in sailing at that time of year, and Paul gives his opinion on the matter And so Luke describes in part the winning argument of the captain, that the present location wasn’t suitable for wintering the ship And based on this they set sail for a better harbor located further up the coast of Crete at Phoenix And so now we continue reading about this journey in verse 13 When a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore But before very long the rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned So all goes well as they have a good wind to sail by, and they cautiously hug the coastline, making their way some 40 miles to Phoenix, that port But soon after their departure, they’re hit with what Paul calls a typhoon,

or what we call a hurricane The term Euraquilo, or Nor’easter, is the nickname given to this type of storm that the sailors were familiar with at that time So the wind now drove the ship and the sailors were in emergency mode trying to avoid it, capsizing Now one of the problems was that their lifeboat was normally tied to the ship and it was pulled along behind But now that boat was full of water and it was jeopardizing the main vessel because of its weight and drag and lack of control They didn’t want to cut it off because it would be the only means of escape should the ship sink So they managed to hoist it up and secure it within the main vessel Another problem they encountered was the separation of the wooden planks of which the ship was built Gale force winds, crashing waves, and the stress of the pole that held the mainsail would cause the planks, especially those of the hull at the front of the ship, to separate and cause the ship to take on water and then sink So Luke describes how the sailors used cables to hold the ship together and avoid the planks of the hull coming apart The next danger that they faced that he describes was that they needed to make a course correction because the wind was driving the ship towards the notorious sandbanks located between Carthage and Cyrene known as Syrtis Now in order to do this, they had to lighten the ship And so they allowed the ship’s anchor to drag along in the sea in an effort to slow the ship down And then they unleashed their cargo and heavy equipment overboard Now of course from hindsight, ’cause we’re reading the story now, we know that their strategy worked and the ship of course was changed enough, despite the storm, that they avoided Syrtis and the sandbars there, and they sailed 13 more days, 480 miles, landing off the shore of the island of Malta At this point, however, they had done all they could humanly do, and for the moment they were stranded at sea in the middle of a terrible storm, not able to navigate or know where they were regardless of the time of day or night And so Luke describes the consensus of the sailors, the soldiers, and the prisoners who have accepted their fate, and they are now resigned to the fact that they will probably die in this storm And so we move on to Paul’s exhortation in verse 21 He says, when they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, “Men, you ought to have followed my advice.” Notice here he didn’t say you ought to have followed my prophecy It was advice that he was giving at the beginning “You ought to have followed my advice “and not to have set sail from Crete “and incurred this damage and loss “Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, “for there will be no loss of life among you, “but only of the ship “For this very night an angel of the God “to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me “saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; “you must stand before Caesar; and behold, “God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, “for I believe God that it will turn out “exactly as I have been told “But we must first run aground on a certain island.” And so in Paul’s speech we see the difference between his earlier caution about the risks they were taking and the possible loss in sailing at that time of the year, this based on his experience Note that in verse 21 he actually says that what he had previously said was advice, not prophecy He had been proven correct, but he reminds them that his warning had been advice By reminding them of this, he is not having an I told you so mo, you know, it’s not, nah-nah-nah-nah-nah, I told you we were going to die You know, he’s not having one of those moments But rather he’s setting up the basis for what he’s going to tell them now, which will be miraculous and prophetic in nature He then assures them that their lives will be saved and he describes the vision he has had of an angel from God, and the message that the angel brought him First of all, that he, Paul, will indeed stand before Caesar, would be Nero at that time, that he would stand before Caesar himself and plead his case And then secondly, everyone with him, not only the Christians, but everyone on the ship will be saved The way this promise is worded can lead

to several conclusions Paul had already been praying for everyone to be saved, not just the Christians And God was telling him that his prayer on their behalf was now being answered Also that these men now owed their lives to him Paul was using this entire episode as a way of witnessing to these pagan men about the true God in heaven Paul’s always got his eye on the ball Always his eyes on the ball He’s been chosen to proclaim the Gospel So whether he’s in a synagogue or he’s in a pagan city, whether he’s on a ship that’s about to sink, he’s always got his eye on the ball How can I proclaim Christ? And you see him doing this right in this terrible situation Note that Paul’s encouragement is not a general, banal kind of platitude You know, like oh, don’t worry Everything will be all right I see that in movies sometimes Some terrible thing is about to happen and somebody’ll come up and say, don’t worry, everything will be all right I promise it And I’m talking back to the TV when I hear that I’m saying how can you promise it? You don’t know So Paul is not some kind of throw away compliment here This is the subject of prophecy His encouragement is specific They will all be saved No loss of life The ship, however, will be lost And they will run aground near an island That’s pretty specific Now specificity about future events is what makes this a prophecy Paul’s witness about everything else will be worthless if any of the details of this prophecy are wrong or different in the end So in Acts 27, a long passage I’m not going to read here, we read about the rescue Luke describes in detail the 14 days that the ship was driven about by the wind, eventually approaching land At this point the sailors attempt to take the lifeboat and abandon the ship, but Paul warns the centurion that if the sailors escape, everyone would be lost And thankfully, this time the soldier listened to Paul and thwarted the escape by cutting the empty lifeboat adrift At the dawn of the 15th day that they are there, Paul encouraged them to eat some food and he reminded them of God’s promise, after which he held a prayer in the presence of everyone Luke notes that there were 276 people in all Imagine the historical accuracy He counted the people on the ship He just didn’t say, oh, there were a lot of people on the ship No, very specific how they will be saved, the ship will be lost, they’ll be near an island, and 276 souls aboard the ship Sensing that they were nearing the land, they lightened the ship some more in order to help them steer it clear to the shore And it’s at this point that one of Paul’s prophecies about the ship comes true, so let’s read that It says, when day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim away and escape, but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land So upon seeing the beach, the sailors make a dash, trying to steer the ship onto the bay in an effort to save the vessel, but they run it aground, stuck on the shallow sandbar, so they’re stuck in the front like this and the waves are coming in the back of the ship, just pounding it and breaking it apart So the nose or the bow of the ship caught in a reef, the violent wind and the waves are battering it from the rear, effectively tearing it apart So the soldiers, you know, knowing that they would be held responsible if any of the prisoners escape, it’s on them It’s on them That’s the, Roman army was pretty tough about that So instead of jeopardizing themselves, they prepare to kill all of the prisoners, including Paul But they’re stopped by the centurion who wants to save Paul, who has no charges against him

And so the centurion orders everyone to abandon ship, and as Paul had said, all were saved, the ship was lost It ran aground on a sandbar near the island where they would find safety, and that island is Malta Interesting, he said they would be saved He didn’t say it would be easy You know? It’s not like they found a bay and they casually guided the ship to the bay, dropped anchor, swam a quarter mile to the shore on a lovely sunny afternoon No, the ship is falling apart, they’re still in danger of drowning Some where swimming in the storm, others are hanging onto planks and boards and whatever they can get because they don’t know how to swim They’re all safe, but boy They just make it I see sometimes a parallel in our own lives God promises us he’ll be with us and he’ll strengthen us and he’ll do this and that, and yet the ride is pretty rough sometimes The ride is pretty rough sometimes All right, so they end up in Malta Paul’s stay in Malta, Acts 28 Luke records that the ship’s passengers spent three months on this island, and while there Paul’s normal pattern of ministry was established for a brief time The pattern was the performance of miracles and healings, followed by teaching So Luke describes one such event While building a fire on the beach, Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake, but he suffers no effects This amazes the locals who witness this and his reputation leads him to be asked to heal the father of a local leader, which he does Later on Luke writes that all the inhabitants came to Paul for healing, and because of this, they were honored and treated well by the people of the island during their stay, and they were provided with supplies when they left Now Luke doesn’t mention it specifically, but it would be hard to imagine that Paul would be performing miraculous healings without preaching the Gospel, which was the purpose for the healings to begin with And so we arrive at the very last section Paul is in Rome, chapter 28 Let’s read a portion of that It says, at the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days From there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium, and a day later a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli There we found some brethren and were invited to stay with them for seven days, and thus we came to Rome And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them he thanked God and took courage When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself with the soldier who was guarding him So Luke quickly summarizes, [clearing throat] excuse me, the final leg of the journey and Paul’s meeting with brethren who lived in that particular region Now the fact that he stayed with them for a week without his Roman guards showed the trust that he had built up between himself and Julius, the centurion assigned to guard and to transport him to Rome Eventually Julius handed Paul over to the Imperial Officer, along with Festus’s letter containing the particulars of the case, along with his own report Festus’s letter contained no criminal charges, and Julius’s report surely described Paul in a positive light, so that he was not confined to the barracks or with other prisoners, but he was allowed to live in a private quarter, probably with Luke and Aristarchus for two years when his case finally came before Caesar’s Justice was grinding very slowly Two years Imagine, two years in jail in Caesarea, this long, torturous trip, two more years in a house arrest in Rome before his case A total of four plus years If ever you’re impatient for God to work in your life, try four plus years to, you know As I said last week or the week before, Jesus promised Paul that he would preach to kings and governors, and at the beginning that probably sounded pretty exciting I wouldn’t mind having an opportunity to preach to the president or some of the premier or somebody That would be great He just didn’t know the way that all of that

was going to be arranged And so certainly he had to have a measure of patience Well, it doesn’t take long for a familiar scene to take place, as Paul begins his ministry while he’s under house arrest in Rome His first action, and we know this, on the third day after his arrival, I mean, I’d need a month to recover I’d have to have some quiet time, some me time after that Third day after his arrival he calls on the Jewish leaders to try and explain why he’s been arrested Before troublemakers from Jerusalem show up and begin continue, you know, they continue their attacks against him because they’ve been following him from place to place So there’s nothing to say that they won’t show up in Rome and poison the well again Surprisingly the people in Rome say that they are not aware of any trouble he’s had with the leaders in Jerusalem, but they do know that he’s joined the sect that he used to persecute, and they’re curious about this Now at the time many Jews considered Christianity merely an extension or a sect belonging to Judaism This changed drastically after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, where Christianity after that was seen as a very separate religion from Judaism, not only from within Judaism, but from without Judaism Even Roman officials and others began to see that these two were different things And so the leaders returned with, Jewish leaders who are in Rome, they return with many other Jews, and Paul preaches the Gospel to them with the same results that he had experienced when he preached in synagogues in Judea and Syria and other places throughout the Roman Empire So let’s read a little section of that It says, when they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through “Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, “‘Go to the people and say, “you will keep on hearing, but will not understand; “and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; “for the heart of this people has become dull, “and with their ears they scarcely hear, “and they have closed their eyes; “otherwise they might see with their eyes, “and hear with their ears, “and understand with their heart and return, “and I would heal them.’ “Therefore let it be known to you that this “salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; “they will also listen.” So aside from the Gospel message, Paul tells his Jewish audience that he plans to preach the same Gospel to the Gentiles because God meant it for them as well, and according to his experience, he is assured that they’re going to believe it, even if the Jews don’t He’s saying, I’ve given it to you And it doesn’t matter if you reject it I’m going to take it to the Gentiles because I know that they will receive it That’s been his experience preaching the Gospels to Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire And so Luke, rather, adds an epilogue here at the very end He says, when he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness unhindered So Luke finishes by reporting that the Jews left divided Some believed, some did not Over a two year period Paul continued to preach to both Jews and Gentiles from his confined position in Roman detention Now it would be those Jewish and Gentile converts in Rome that the Gospel would go forth from the capital city to the empire, to all corners of the empire So the people he was teaching in Rome, both Jew and Gentile who were converted, they’re the ones that carried the Gospel throughout the empire It would be from this confined place that even Paul’s Elite Praetorian Guard would become Christians In Philippians 1:13 Paul talks about the guards even being converted And he even mentions some individuals in Caesar’s household

That’s pretty high up The Gospel reaches all the way to that place And while under arrest in Rome, Paul wrote the letters to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and to Philemon So he was busy there Again, he’s confined, he can’t travel, but the message of the Gospel is able to travel forth through letters and through individuals that he’s converted So in both Philippians 1:23 and Philemon 22, written near the end of his two year imprisonment, Paul writes that he was confidently expecting to be freed Now uncontradicted tradition tells us that after his acquittal, he planned for a trip to Spain We read about that in Romans 15:24 and 28 And also he revisited several of the congregations that he had previously established on his first and second missionary journeys In 66 AD he was arrested a second time as part of Nero’s persecution of Christians who were falsely accused of starting the fire that destroyed much of Rome in 64 AD While he’s in prison this second time, he wrote his final epistle, 2 Timothy, and then was beheaded in Rome in 67 AD, and that was the end of his life and of course his ministry Marvelous example of Christian development and Christian service that we have in Paul the apostle It’s a long book And a lot of lessons We can draw a lot of lessons about it I’d like to just draw one lesson One particular lesson for the whole book, and it would be this one God can use you God can use you There are so many characters, events, and details about church life, church work and people in the book of Acts, that as I said it’s hard to select one overarching lesson or theme But one lesson that does come to mind is that no matter who or where you are, God can use you For example, Peter, an uneducated fisherman, living far away from the seat of Jewish religious and political power, is used by God to proclaim the most important message in history to his nation and its rulers Paul, a Jewish religious fanatic, is used by God to teach and mature the believers of a religion he hated and tried to destroy I mean, of all the unlikely people Both men served from a position of weakness One was a poor fisherman with no authority whatsoever And the other a practitioner of a strange religion And yet both are used by God to establish a faith and religious practice that covers the entire world And so the lesson here, the lesson is that God can use you if you let him The promise here? God can use you to do things you never could imagine, if you let him Do you think by any stretch of the imagination that Peter, had someone asked him before he met Jesus, that if someone said to Peter, Peter, one day you’ll be preaching a religious message that will cover the world He would’ve laughed at them Completely ridiculous He would’ve said, me? Come on, I have no education, no training I don’t speak at the synagogue When I go to synagogue, to the house of prayer, they never call on me to go and lead the prayer They never call on me when the scrolls are open to read They don’t call on me to go read Why would God choose me to do such a thing? And yet he did The question here, can God use you? Can God use you? And will you let him? That’s the question Forget about what you can’t do Forget that Forget what you cannot do God knows exactly what you can’t do We can’t do The prayer should be, Lord here I am Please use me

He’ll decide how he wants to use you Usually what’s missing is an open heart that says, Lord, I’m here Use me somehow But unfortunately, many times we see say, well, I’m too old and I’m not feeling well Or I’m too young or I don’t have enough experience Or I’ve done this bad thing once and everybody will refer to that If they ever see me try to do something good or in the name of Jesus, they’ll call me a hypocrite because they know that one time I was this or I was that or whatever No, the only thing I believe that God wants to hear from us is Lord, here I am Use me Use me in ways that even I can’t even imagine I’ll tell you something When I was 20 years old, a young adult, young enough to have most of my life ahead of me, adult enough to understand life, if someone would’ve said to me [chuckles] you’re going to spend the majority of your adult life as a preacher for the Church of Christ, I would’ve said to them, at the age of 20, number one, what’s a preacher? I was a Catholic growing up in Quebec What’s a preacher? Is that some kind of priest or something? That’s number one And number two, what’s the Church of Christ? I’ve never heard of that What is that? Is that a church? Is that some kind of sect? ‘Cause being Catholic, if you’re a Catholic, there’s Catholicism, Protestantism, and then sects Everything else is a sect I would not have had a single clue, not even a beginning clue to what you were talking about Absolutely Would be like telling a fish that he was going to fly like an eagle Or telling an eagle he would swim like a fish So totally out of my reality I could not have relayed it, not for a moment So that’s my witness to you Those of you who are here, those of you who watch online, those of you who use this material for your series Lord, here I am Please use me All right, that’s the end of the series, so thank you very much for your attention and encouragement Pray that God blesses you and God uses you