ON TO ROME AT LAST: X
The Jews endeavored to stop Paul from preaching Christ. They also wanted to stop Paul from reaching Rome. The Jews had taken on God by refusing to be God’s messengers. So, God enlisted the Romans to transport Paul to Rome. And while Paul was on the way, he was allowed to visit, to strengthen, and to encourage the churches. Paul consulted the Scriptures. And the Scriptures pointed to the Gentiles as God’s upcoming believers and as God’s missionaries. To Hosea, the Lord said:
As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘my beloved.’”
“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
And Isaiah cried out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence upon the earth with rigor and dispatch” (Romans 9:25-28).
Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry” (Romans 10:19).
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Romans 10:20).
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hand to a disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21).
King Agrippa, along with governor Festus, agreed that Paul should have been set free; that is, if Paul had not appealed to Caesar (Acts 26:32). What these men did not know was that forty Jews had vowed to kill Paul and thwart him to witness for Christ in Rome (Acts 23:21). The Lord stood by Paul and promised Paul, “Take courage, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11). Paul had not expected to be arrested on this visit in Jerusalem; for he had planned another missionary trip to Macedonia and Achaia, which also would have included Rome and even Spain (Acts 19:21; Romans 15:28). Having been detained for two years in Caesarea, Paul was anxious to reach Rome, more so than his centurion, Julius. While in route to Rome and changing ships we read that, “Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for.” After the first disaster at sea, even the captain and the owners of the ship became more attentive to Paul’s suggestions that saved all their lives. Paul firmly believed that the Lord Christ was with him and that the Lord kept him alert, even in times of danger:
As they had been without food, Paul came forward among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have set sail from Crete and incurred their injury and loss. I now bid you take heart; for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and lo, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told But we shall have to run on some island” (Acts 27:21-26).
And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it go.
As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food; it will give you strength, since not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” And when he had said this, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. (We were in all two hundred and seventy-six persons in the ship.) And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.
Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to bring the ship ashore. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders; then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. But striking a shoal they ran the vessel aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was broken up by the surf. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape; but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their purpose. He ordered those who could swim to throw themselves overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all escaped to land (Acts 27:30-44).
After we had escaped we then learned that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They waited, expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery; and Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. They presented many gifts to us; and when we sailed, they put on board whatever we needed.
After three months we set sail in a ship which had wintered in island, a ship of Alexandria, with the Twin Brothers as figurehead. Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there three days. And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium; and after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brethren there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier that guarded him (Acts 28:1-16).
News of Paul’s coming had reached Rome before he arrived. His opposing Jews had not expected that the Roman authorities would comply with Paul’s request that he be taken to Caesar. They underestimated Paul’s impact on the Gentiles, as a peaceful preacher who encouraged people to obey the government, and who believed that a man by the name of Jesus had actually had come back from the dead. Paul had become a curiosity and one that was no threat to the Romans, except to the Jews who had lost their popularity with Rome. Whatever governor Festus and king Agrippa had written to Caesar must have given no cause for concern because Paul was given a private residence with one soldier to keep him safe from his own people who wanted him dead. The Roman authorities left it up to Paul whom he could admit to visit with him. After the Jews began to accuse him of being an enemy of Rome, he ended up defending himself, all alone. Paul’s last words to Timothy suggest that he lived alone and was not being judged in a Roman court, but was being put in a lion’s mouth, similar to Jerusalem and Caesarea. Unlike the Roman leaders in Caesarea who could not turn Paul over to the Jews, because he placed himself in the care of Caesar. Caesar, who had a brewing conflict with the Jews, Paul provided a temporary peace offering to the Jews. The reference “of being sacrificed” hints at such a deal and so does the sudden ending of Paul’s life and that of his companion Luke, “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come” (II Timothy 4:6).
After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews; and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against the people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brethren coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in great numbers. And he expounded the matter to them from morning till evening, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophet. And some were convinced by what he said, while others disbelieved. So, as they disagreed among themselves, they departed, after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: ‘Go to this people, and say, You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
And he lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered (Act 28:17-31).
The meeting with the Jewish elders in Rome did not end as Paul had expected. He lost his gentleness and lashed out against his own people as lacking understanding, as being blind, and deaf to the message of God. He put the nail in his own coffin when he told them that God was turning to the Gentiles — for they were ready to hear. Paul rubbed his own people the wrong way. And Paul had become very impatient with them. In his Letter to the Romans, very likely written in Caesarea, he accused them of being the cause that the Gentiles were not turning to God.
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely upon the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Romans 2:17-24).
Paul was led to believe that Israel’s rejection of the gospel and of Christ was an act of God to bring in the Gentiles. Paul further argued that the Gentiles would make the Jews jealous; and that the Gentiles would reach their limit numbers; and therefore, all Israel would be saved.
So I ask, have they (Jews) stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them (Romans 11:11-13).
Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’’; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.
O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:25-36)
Paul’s view on God deliberately consigning all men to being disobedient in order to receive mercy is a hard pill to swallow. It is a Jewish view! And that is also contrary to what James believed that God was the giver of good gifts. And that God does not tempt anyone to sin.
Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (James 1:12-18).
Paul believed that the deliverer would come to Zion or Jerusalem. Jesus, however, predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed. Jesus told his disciples, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Paul was executed shortly before the Romans terminated Judah’s existence. Paul’s belief did not come through. Man cannot live on faith without deeds (James 2:14-26).