“The Word of God is Not Chained” – Acts 28:17-31
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How blessed we are to have the "Acts of the Apostles," to learn how God's men and women took the Gospel from "Jerusalem...to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
The theme of Dr. Luke's first book (Gospel of Luke) was how Jesus, Himself, brought the "Gospel of the kingdom of heaven" from Galilee to Jerusalem.
The main messenger in Acts could rightly be thought of as the Apostle Paul, AKA Saul of Tarsus, he brought the Gospel from the center of Judaism to the center of the world, Rome.
After Rabbi Saul was converted to Christ and began his call (Acts 9:15-16) the entire Jewish religious establishment, as well as the known world, was shaken to its foundation.
And through it all, it was his desire to come to Rome as he wrote to them:
Romans 15:19-24, 29
So, let's look into what happened when Christ's messenger finally got to Rome.
"...after three days..."
* Paul went to work almost immediately.
"...men and brethren...our people..."
* "My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people..." (NIV)
* Paul reiterates the fact that he is a Jew, to establish common ground. (Acts 22:3-5, 23:6, 24:14-16)
* This was always his practice:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
"...into the hands of the Romans..."
* While the Jews wanted to kill Paul, Tribune Claudius Lysias saved him. (Acts 21:31-33)
"...there was no cause for putting me to death."
* After trial and examination by Governor Felix, Festus and King Agrippa II, under Roman law there was no truth to the Jews accusations. (Acts 23:22, 24:12-13, 26:31)
"...I was compelled to appeal to Caesar."
* As a Roman citizen it was his right to be heard by Caesar. (Acts 25:11, 21, 25)
"...not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation."
* Paul assures the Jewish leaders that it is not his desire to cause them harm.
"...for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."
* When Paul wrote the Ephesians from Rome, he said:
...for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Paul never believed he was truly bound or chained by men, but by the will of God.
* What is "the hope of Israel?"
- Messiah Yeshua, the Jews had hoped in the coming of Messiah for 3,500 years to deliver them into the kingdom of God.
"I believe in the coming of Messiah, and though He tarry, I will wait for Him every coming day."
Common Jewish prayer, then and today.
Paul is further telling them that he is a Jew and hopes the same as they.
"Yeshua Ha Maschiak, many have known His name, but have not believed it was Him."
Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, Jerusalem, Israel (1898 - 2006)
And the "Hope of Israel" is clearly tied to the resurrection:
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.
The Messiah and the resurrection He provides for us go hand in hand.
The Apostle understood that the Old Testament Scripture predicted the Messiah's coming, death, burial and resurrection.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,... (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
"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.
* No written accusations or witnesses concerning Paul's alleged crimes have been received in Rome.
* Without further accusations and witnesses, Paul's case could have been thrown out.
"But we desire to hear from you..."
* The Apostle Paul was well known in Judaism as Rabbi Saul who studied under Gamaliel.
"...what you think concerning this sect..."
* "This sect" - "The Way” (Acts 24:14), the Church of Christ.
* Paul was an expert in “The Way.”
"...we know that it is spoken against everywhere."
* Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome, because the controversy among the Jews about "Christians." (Acts 18:1-2)
Being that Paul was of their own "class," they valued his opinion of "The Way" and the dissension it had caused in the Roman world.
"...many came to him..."
* Not only Jews, but Christian leaders also. (Col. 4:7-14)
"...he explained...the kingdom of God..."
* The Jews certainly asked the right man. All the Apostle needed was the opportunity to preach the Gospel.
"...persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the prophets..."
* Paul used their own Scripture to prove Jesus of Nazareth was the long-expected Messiah.
* Same as Peter had. (Acts 2:14-36)
"...from morning till evening."
* A typical day of Bible instruction was 10-12 hours for the Jews.
And during this whole time, Roman soldiers were chained to him. (Acts 28:16)
"Paul's prison became the fulcrum from which the Gospel moved the world."
"...some were persuaded...and some disbelieved."
* If the Apostle Paul couldn't persuade them after a 10-12 hour teaching/preaching session, why should we think our efforts will always be successful?
Don't expect more than that to come to Christ.
- Some will reject.
- Some will respond.
- Rejoice with those who respond.
"The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers,..."
* Paul expected the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews. It was the status quo everywhere he preached to them.
* Paul reminds them that God's people often rejected God, as Isaiah spoke.
* The Lord Jesus told them the same. (Matt. 13:13-15)
"Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!"
* This fulfilled prophecy.
"I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles,..."
Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth."'
* And angered the Jews, nor for the first time. (Acts 22:21-23)
"...and had a great dispute among themselves."
* The self-righteous Jews were known for this.
“Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him,..."
* Imagine all who came to him to hear the Gospel in those two years.
* Imagine all the Roman soldiers, who in 6 hour shifts, were chained to Paul and heard the Gospel.
How many received salvation and then shared it with others?
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;...
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar's household.
Paul had written to the Philippians during this time in Rome.
The "palace guard" were the Praetorians. The elite troops of Caesar's personal guard, "those who are of Caesar's household!"
That's why Paul could write from Rome that the
Word of God is not chained, it is not bound.
"...preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him."
* His prison was the pulpit from which he preached of the "Prince of Peace."
Doesn't this last verse seem an incomplete ending?
Some scholars believe the last paragraph, or another chapter, is missing.
I don't, I think the story is not yet finished, and won't be until the Lord Jesus returns and all the acts of His people are complete; the acts of the Holy Spirit through the acts of His people.
Do we ever feel chained down, unable because of circumstance to share the Gospel?
May it never be!
The last two years of Paul's imprisonment may have brought in the greatest harvest.
Remember all roads lead to Rome and from Rome!
The Gospel cannot be chained even if the people of God are.
The last letter Paul wrote before his death was to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy.
2 Timothy 2:8-10
He wrote this from the Mamertine Prison in Rome while waiting execution.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
And so, as his head was severed from his body on the Apian Way, he left Caesar's empire for the heavenly kingdom and immediately received his crown!