In today's final study of the book of Acts, we find Paul making his defense before the Jews in Rome and being asked to clarify what he thought of this sect that is spoken against everywhere. Paul proceeds to explain that Jesus was the hope of Israel and they listened until he quoted from Isaiah 6 about how the Jewish nation would not see, hear, or understand and that God sent salvation to the Gentiles without them.
VERSE 1: And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. Today this island is known as Malta which was inhabited by Phoenicians. Interestingly, the name in Phoenician means refuge.
VERSE 2: And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. The word barbarous was a word that was used by the Greeks of anyone that did not speak their language. It didn't mean, like it does today, savage, uncultivated, or cruel. It just spoke of unintelligible language.
VERSES 3-4: And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. (4) And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. You can only imagine that the people on the island knew after a brief minute that the passengers of this ship consisted of guards and prisoners. They basically believed that Paul had it coming for whatever he had done to become a prisoner and they assumed that it was murder. It was basically the belief in karma which is from Hinduism and teaches basically what goes around comes around.
VERSES 5-6: And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. (6) Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. Now they are sitting back waiting and watching for Paul to fall over dead. Didn't happen, and now he was a god. Reminds me of when he and Barnabus were in Iconium in chapter 14 and they went from trying to stone them to thinking Barnabas was Jupiter and Paul was Mercurius (Acts 14:1-15).
VERSES 7-9: In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. (8) And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. (9) So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: Now we need the head honcho, Publius who had offered then lodging whose father lay ill. Again, we see Paul healing which was part of the Kingdom ministry that I believe ceased once the offer was off the table because obviously, Paul was not able to do it later (2Tim 4:20).
VERSE 10: Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary. Obviously, Publius was very grateful and showed it.
VERSE 11: And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. This verse makes it obvious that they stayed there for three months, which means this would have been around January or February when they departed. In Greek mythology, they were known as the twin half-brothers or the Gemini Twins. They were regarded as the patrons of sailors to whom they appeared as St. Elmo's fire is a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a corona discharge from a sharp or pointed object in a strong electric field in the atmosphere. It appeared on ships at sea during thunderstorms and was regarded by sailors with religious awe for its glowing ball of light, accounting for the name. Sailors considered it as a good omen as that it was thought to be a sign of the presence of their patron saints.
VERSE 12: And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. When it speaks of Syracuse, it is speaking of an island and Sicily and not New York.
VERSE 13: And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli: Interesting that the word compass is not referring to an actual compass, but a direction. It actually means to go around. Rhegium is Reggion, Italy which is down at the bottom of the country (the toe).
VERSE 14: Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome. Again, pretty apparent that Paul's arrest was pretty relaxed. Randy White makes a point of mentioning that we do not know who these brethren were: Kingdom or Grace, but it would seem to be Grace considering their location.
VERSE 15: And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. The Appii forum according to Barnes was a city about 56 miles from Rome, so he is close. The three taverns were located about 8 to 10 miles from Rome.
Notice that he thanked God, and took courage. After all, he had been waiting for this day a long time (Rom 1:9-11; Rom 15:23, Rom 15:32).
VERSE 16: And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. Upon arrival, the centurion transfers custody of the prisoners (276 of them), except for Paul who gets to stay by himself with one soldier to keep watch over him.
VERSE 17: And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. The chief of the Jews would be the leader of the local synagogue. At this point makes a point of bringing him up to date as to why he is there and denies the Jewish accusation that was made against him in regards to the law of Moses, circumcision, and the customs. Of course, Paul had taught the opposite to the Gentiles with the Grace Gospel, but never to the Jews.
We have to assume this to be the case or he is lying. Think about that. Teachers must come to the conclusion that Paul had not received the mystery yet, or that he was indeed preaching two gospels in my humble opinion.
VERSE 18: Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. You remember that Agrippa said, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar" (Acts 26:32).
VERSE 19: But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. Of course, the Jews did not accept Paul's innocence on either count, Jew or Roman, and he was left with little option but to appeal his case to Caesar.
The latter part of the verse is conflicting to me in that Paul had plenty to accuse his nation of by this point. Yet, the only way that I can explain it is that Paul, in a spirit of forgiveness, even though wrongly accused, wished no ill will upon his people, the nation of Israel.
VERSE 20: For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. Notice Paul says because of the hope of Israel. What is the hope of Israel? Their Messiah! Simeon referred to it as their consolation in Luke 2:25. Ultimately, this word is connected to the Kingdom (Jer 16:7).
Paul referred to it in Acts 23:6. Paul says that the reason he is in these chains is that he preached that to the nation and they rejected it. Now many today, will read this passage and say that Paul was under arrest for preaching the gospel, and he was, but not the Gospel of Grace.
VERSE 21: And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. The word brethren in this verse should not be understood as believers. Instead, it is speaking of just other Jews. So, context is the key, as with everything that we study in the Bible. From everything we can see here, these were unbelieving Jews that Paul was speaking of here. The good thing here for Paul is that this made them an unbiased jury that had not already formed an opinion one way of the other at this point.
VERSE 22: But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. Well, here we go! Notice that they refer to the believing Jews as a sect again. Remember, it is translated as heresy. The word heresy by definition means any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs. The word in and of itself is not necessarily bad.
Randy White points out something interesting when he says, " Even by this late date (63 A.D.) there had not been a removal from the Jews by the members of the Way, though the sect was spoken against by Jewish brethren. If this is true, there is the almost astonishing fact that believers in Jesus Christ (such as the Apostles) are living within Judaism, and thus clearly obedient to the laws of Judaism."
Historically, Kingdom Believers still saw themselves as a part of Judaism, and not something else, let alone another religion. They were simply believing in the promises given to their fathers in the Old Testament in regard to the coming Messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom. Remember that even the derogatory word Christian was used against them initially.
VERSE 23: And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. In the last verse, after Paul had given them an update about why he was there, and that he was innocent of the charges made against him, asked him what he thought of this sect, we know that everywhere is spoken against. The fact that Paul expounds and persuades them out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets should make it pretty clear that he is not speaking of the Grace Gospel because it can not be found there (Rom 16:25). Again, we have got to stop looking at the book as the birth of the church, and more so about the diminishing of Israel (Rom 11:12).
It is obvious to me that Paul's greatest desire still at this point was for the nation to repent and accept Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah which was first required for the Kingdom to be given. So, no, he is not talking to these guys about the Grace Gospel. Another point to be made here is that the Grace Gospel was the Gospel of the uncircumcision (Gal 2:7) and not the nation of Israel.
VERSE 24: And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. Some did, some didn't. Paul's only obligation was to be faithful in sharing it, as is ours. We are not responsible for the outcome.
VERSE 25-27: And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, (26) Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: (27) For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Paul's conclusion was by quoting Isa 6:9-10. According to the next verses in Isa 6:11-13, judgment should have fallen upon the nation for their refusal to listen. However, that is where grace comes in that only Paul knew about.
As we already established, the Hebrew Scriptures did not know the mystery of the temporary postponement and the age of grace. Only Paul was told about that!
VERSE 28: Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. Paul know reveals this mystery to them that God is not going to bring that judgment on them, and will instead, take the message of salvation to the Gentiles without them via the Grace Gospel. And, as we have already established, God was going to tod this through the message he gave Paul.
VERSE 29: And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. And, they walked away about confused.
VERSE 30: And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, The time that Paul spent in his own hired house would have been in the mid-60s. Notice that there is nothing said about a soldier being assigned to him as mentioned in Acts 28:16. It was during this time that he wrote his prison epistles; Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
VERSE 31: Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. And during those two years, he preached the kingdom of God, and those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, as I see it, and I can only speak for myself, I believe this verse is saying that Paul preached both gospels during those two years. In other words, Paul believed that the Kingdom offer was still on the table at this point.
Randy White puts it this way, "To deny that Paul was preaching the kingdom of God is to deny scripture. To deny that the kingdom that he was preaching is the future, physical, fraternal kingdom of God is to venture into make-believe."
There are four reasons he would have taught the kingdom at this point:
1. He had no other message at this point.
2. He was simply giving information about the now-withdrawn offer of the kingdom.
3. The kingdom is still offered, and thus still needs to be proclaimed, while at the same time the Gospel of the dispensation of the grace of God is also being offered. This is the “overlap” position that I have taken in this study. (Now I know that some will disagree with that assessment, and I reserve the right to disagree with it later myself, but for now, that is the way I see it.) Of course, all Scripture has to be compared with Scripture. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. As we study through the Pauline Epistles, I may very well have to change my view on this, and I certainly willing to do so.
4. His definition of the Kingdom was spiritual which is the standard evangelical answer today.
Whatever he was teaching, he did it with all confidence, no man forbidding him. Sadly though, by the time he writes 2Tim 1:15, all they which are in Asia had turned away from him.