The great Roman Empire
Paul’s voyage to Rome, a trip made at his own request and pushed by the Holy Spirit, is a terrible journey that includes shipwreck, snake bites, and dangers of all kinds. When Paul arrives in Italy he makes landfall in Puteoli, where he discovers a group of believers. This is noteworthy for two reasons. First, the faith has spread rapidly as far as Italy, a sign of its vitality. Second, the book of Acts does not tell just how or through whom the faith gets to Italy before Paul arrives. This reminds us that Acts is not a complete history of the early church and does not pretend to be.
In Actes 28:23-24, Paul spends all his time teaching, explaining, testifying, and trying to persuade through the study of Scripture the connection between Jesus and the kingdom of God. The realism lies in v. 24, which says, “Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe.” They even “disagreed with each other” (v. 25). In spite of the gifts of the Spirit and Paul’s unremitting and bold work, not all are persuaded that God’s kingdom is at hand or that Jesus has anything to do with it. As human beings, our power to convince others is limited.
The passage again calls upon the Holy Spirit as the prophetic force behind Scripture, including the prophets, thus connecting the word of God firmly with the work of Jesus who had become the conduit of that Spirit after his ascension. At last, this passage brings us to the end of the story and is a kind of gospel proclamation in its own right. Paul’s ongoing proclamation concerning the kingdom of God and Jesus as Messiah and Lord comes in spite of all that Paul endures. The proclamation happens at his own expense. It happens as he is held under guard. It happens with all boldness, that is, in freedom and confidence. And it happens “without hindrance” (v. 31). God’s determination to bring news of God’s kingdom and hope for a “universal restoration” (Acts 3:21) will not be denied.
Paul on the Island of Malta
28After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us round it. 3Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire, when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, ‘This man must be a murderer; though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’ 5He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6They were expecting him to swell up or drop dead, but after they had waited a long time and saw that nothing unusual had happened to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.
7 Now in the neighbourhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8It so happened that the father of Publius lay sick in bed with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and cured him by praying and putting his hands on him. 9After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10They bestowed many honours on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed.
Paul Arrives at Rome
11 Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. 12We put in at Syracuse and stayed there for three days; 13then we weighed anchor and came to Rhegium. After one day there a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14There we found believers* and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15The believers* from 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.
16 When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
Paul and Jewish Leaders in Rome
17 Three days later he called together the local leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, ‘Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18When they had examined me, the Romans* wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to the emperor—even though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you,* since it is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.’ 21They replied, ‘We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken anything evil about you. 22But we would like to hear from you what you think, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.’
Paul Preaches in Rome
23 After they had fixed a day to meet him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. 24Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. 25So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: ‘The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,
26 “Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.”
28 Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.’*
30 He lived there for two whole years at his own expense* and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.