This lesson for our Connect Group classes will carry us to the end of the book of Acts. The book of Acts has a peculiar ending. Actually, it does not end. The book concludes with Paul in Rome preaching the Gospel and teaching the Word of God. The idea is that the ministry has continued uninterrupted until this very moment. In a way, even though Paul went to glory long ago, the ministry that he started still continues on to this day. Some mission movements have named themselves Acts 29 because the modern church is living out Acts 29. Every generation of Christians lives out Acts 29.
In our previous lessons, we followed Paul as he continued to share his personal testimony and proclaim the message of the Gospel in every circumstance that life had to offer.
In Acts 23, Paul had been told by the Lord that he would go to Rome and proclaim the Gospel. In Acts 26, Paul learned that the Roman Empire would fund the mission trip. Acts 27 is all about the journey to Rome. It was God’s will that Paul go to Rome but, God never said that it would be easy. In fact, the difficulties encountered in route opened up opportunities for Paul to proclaim the Gospel to his shipmates. We quickly notice that all of the circumstances in Acts 27 and Acts 28 are negative. God does not remove Paul from the circumstances. He leaves Paul in the middle of the circumstances. The positive thing that God does is open up doors for Paul to proclaim the message of the Gospel.
I. The shipwreck
While on the journey, Paul knew that he could not die because he had been told by the Lord that he (Paul) would go to Rome and proclaim the Gospel there. On the trip, though, the captain and crew of the ship made some terrible decisions.
9 When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them,
10 and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
11 But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul. (Acts 27)
Paul confronted the captain and crew about their bad choices. Unfortunately, they did not listen to him. Not only were they putting their own lives in danger, they were also putting Paul’s life in danger. Paul knew what the Lord had promised and, at the same time, he could see the hand writing on the wall. He knew that if the ship continued on, it would be sunk. He trusted the Lord as he also valued the lives of the people on board. These poor choices led to opportunities for Paul to share his faith. Things unfolded just as Paul predicted. Things turned bad and then as the scene developed, they became worse. Paul took his stand and instead of rubbing in the fact that he was right and the captain and crew were wrong, he turned to encouragement.
21 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 and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss.
22 “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.
23 “For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me,
24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’
25 “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. (Acts 27)
Paul had a personal relationship with the Lord and that relationship flowed into all of his other relationships. He viewed people the way God views people. Paul shared his faith. He shared about his trust in the Lord and encouraged the men to trust the Lord as he did. Paul’s relationship with the Lord helped the men on the ship. They were going to be rescued from the shipwreck because of him. Paul shared that with the crew. They believed him. They listened to him. They did exactly as he said.
33 Until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing.
34 “Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.”
35 Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat.
36 All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. (Acts 27)
Paul prayed openly and thanked God. He used the circumstance to teach the crew. They learned to be grateful to God. Paul praised God openly. He taught the crew to do the same. God turns a crisis into an opportunity. Paul’s faith was on display and he used the circumstance to teach faith in the Lord to others. The crew on the boat experienced the Lord’s salvation (rescue). The teaching opportunities did not end with the shipwreck. Now that they are all stranded on an island, the Lord goes to work again through Paul. How do you handle difficult circumstances? How do you view them? Do you see them as negative things or, do you see them as opportunities to trust the Lord and share your faith with others? Do you seek to help others experience God’s goodness in their own lives while you live out and share your faith?
II. The snake bite
According to Acts 28, while stranded on an island, Paul and the ship crew met the locals. As they interacted with each other, Paul received a snake bite from a poisonous viper. The locals believed that this was a sign that Paul was a bad man and what we would call “karma” today had caught up with Paul. He had escaped the shipwreck alive only to die by snakebite. Paul did not die and then the locals wanted to worship Paul as a god. Paul used the circumstance to share his faith again. He began to pray for people and reach out to those around him. The ship crew also witnessed all of this. Paul and the crew lived on the island for three months.
11 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.
12 After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days.
13 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.
14 There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.
15 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.
16 When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. (Acts 28)
After the period of three months was over, the Lord fulfills His promise of taking Paul to Rome. Again, all of those traveling with Paul witnessed the fact that God was faithful to His Word. This is a great testimony to all who met Paul, traveled with Paul, heard Paul’s cases, and knew Paul. During this entire situation, with all the trials and hard times, Paul’s faith never wavered. He knew the promise of God and he trusted the promise of God until the end. Do you have this kind of faith? Do you share this faith with others by the way that you live and by the words that come out of your mouth? What’s going to happen in Rome? Remember, God told Paul that, not only would he go to Rome, but, that he would proclaim the Gospel while there. Let’s continue the story to see how it unfolds.
III. The house arrest
Upon arriving in Rome, Paul rested for three days and then went to work carrying out the Lord’s will. Paul reached out to the Jews in Rome and gathered all who would listen to him together to share his testimony and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
23 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. (Acts 28)
Paul explained the Gospel to the Jews using what they knew, the Law of Moses and the Prophets. Today, we would call this the Old Testament. This word “explain” carries the idea of exposing something that is a mystery. Paul had been like them at one time. He had a great knowledge of the Old Testament but he had never had all the pieces put together to see that Jesus was the fulfillment of all of the Messianic prophecies and teachings. It had to be revealed to him. He is now revealing it to them. In other words, Paul pulled these truths from the text. He helped the Jews discover for themselves, from the Word of God, that Jesus is the Messiah. How would they respond?
24 Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. (Acts 28)
All who were there understood what Paul taught them. Only some of them chose to believe. The majority of those present chose not to believe, even though the evidence was all there. Paul did not let this bother him. He was called to proclaim Christ. He did it. God would provide the results. Those who chose not to believe walked away. Paul let them go and looked for more opportunities. In fact, Acts 28 ends with Paul staying in Rome on house arrest. Take a look at what Paul was able to accomplish while locked up.
30 And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him,
31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28)
Paul preached the Word of God to all who visited him. He continued to teach the Word of God to all who would listen. God fulfilled His promise. Paul was taken to Rome and while there, he proclaimed Christ for two full years, unhindered. In fact, there is a church plant in Rome and we know this because one of Paul’s epistles is written to the church in Rome.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,
4 who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles;
5 also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. (Romans 16)
The church in Rome met in Priscilla and Aquila’s home. Ironically, the reason that Priscilla and Aquila came to faith was because they were kicked out of Rome and they met Paul in Corinth. They were tent-makers and so was Paul. They worked together in Corinth and Paul led them to faith in Christ. They go back to Rome to lead the church and the church members met in their home. House arrest, what would seem as something negative, is actually used by God to be something positive. Paul is able to preach and teach, as well as write letters to churches.
What about you, my dear friend, do circumstances in life keep you from serving the Lord? Or, do you see circumstances as opportunities in the hand of God to open doors to share your personal testimony and your faith in Christ? Paul trusted the Lord and he taught others to do the same. You have that same calling. I have that same calling. Let’s answer the call and follow Paul’s great example!