Online Text Sermon - A Last Glimpse of Paul, Acts ch.28 vv.30-31
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||A Last Glimpse of Paul|
|Text||Acts ch.28 vv.30-31 |
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"And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him" (Acts 28, 30-31).
This is the last picture that we have of the apostle Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. Let me introduce the Acts of the Apostles very briefly to you - it is the one book in the New Testament Scriptures that tells us about the early church; it shows us what the early church was like; it gives us, if you like, a pattern of churches in all time to come. It is therefore, the history of the church of Jesus Christ in its apostolic purity. It was not absolutely pure - human nature being what it is, there were problems then as in all ages. However, it was a time when Christians were full of love for one another - a time when Christians were ready to die, and indeed had to die, for Christ and the principles of Christ's Kingdom.
The Acts of the Apostles, which was written by Luke, in a sense, could be called The Tale Of Two Cities - let me explain. It begins with Jerusalem, which, of course, was the capital city of the Jewish people, the people of God in Old Testament times. The Acts of the Apostles concludes by bringing us to Rome. Here we are at Rome in Acts 28. Rome was the capital of the non-Jewish world, the capital of the empire and so we see here the centre of gravity move from Jerusalem - which all through the Old Testament had been the centre of the people of God - to Rome, the centre now of the Roman Empire. That shift in gravity indicates a most important change in the purposes of God. What was that change? It is that now, in the New Testament age, not only the Jews but also the Gentiles like ourselves, are brought in to the Kingdom of God. This was unthinkable in the time before Christ came. When Christ had come and finished His work the candlestick was removed from Jerusalem to the Gentile world. The writer, Luke, indicates this in the manner in which we travel from Jerusalem in the first chapters, all the way across to Rome in the last chapter of this great Book.
The picture we have in our text is of Paul waiting to be tried by the Roman Emperor of the time. You recall he had appealed unto Caesar; he had said that to the Jews. They wanted to try him themselves and Paul utterly refused to be tried by the Jewish Council at Jerusalem. That was the case because he knew that he could get no justice in Jerusalem - he knew the people were prejudiced and wanted his death. Therefore, he appealed to Caesar, which was his right as a Roman citizen. That involved him in that immense sea-journey recorded in chapter 27 with a shipwreck attached to it; and eventually after that long, harassing, dangerous journey, they reached Rome - and here he is in his own hired house. He is here we are told, for two years. He receives all who come to him, preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
That then is the picture. There is a lesson here for ourselves, our nation and our times which must surely be that where nations and people grow tired of the truth of God they will very quickly lose it. When society anywhere grows tired of the things of Jesus Christ and grows weary of the Word of God and worship, then God will remove these things. The way we put it in biblical language is to say that Christ will remove the candlestick, that is to say, he will take it from one place to another and this is what the Acts of the Apostles shows us. From Jerusalem, the candlestick was moved to Rome and then to Europe, America, Africa and many other nations. It is a great lesson to us in our country today because there are many good reasons to believe that Christ may remove the candlestick from our country; where people do not want the truth, Christ will not waste His time with them. If our nation gets tired of the Gospel, has no love for God, has no concern for salvation, then Christ will move the candlestick to a people who receive it and bring forth the fruits of it. It is what we refer to as 'apostasy'.
The Jews of this time, who were the Old Testament people of God, were teetering on the brink of apostasy, just as Britain today probably, if we could see it as the angels see it, is teetering on the brink of apostasy and the loss of everything just as other nations have done before us. North Africa used to be a great Christian civilisation - they lost it. Turkey used to be a great Christian country - they lost it. Other countries have lost it too and today if you want to find the Gospel appreciated and loved you have to go to countries of the east, such as Korea and probably if we knew more about it, China and other places of that kind. The lesson therefore is, value the truth of God in case we lose it. Pray God daily not to grow weary of us but live an outstanding life for Him; live the best you can for Him and value the things that He has given us otherwise He will move on and take these things away.
I want to show you three things in this part of the Word of God which the apostle Paul was doing when he was coming to the end of his life, living in his own hired house, waiting to be put on trial by Nero - the Pagan Roman Emperor. He was doing three things- let me tell you what they are and then come back to them.
1. WHY PAUL APPEALED TO CAESAR
2. PAUL CHALLENGES THEIR CONSCIENCES
3. TEACHING AND PREACHING WITH ALL CONFIDENCE
The first thing he does is he explains to his Jewish fellow countrymen the reason why he has appealed unto Caesar. Sometimes in life, as Christians, we have to do things which are very difficult and very painful: things that by order of flesh and blood we would never wish to do, but we have to do them for the cause of God and truth. The apostle Paul therefore, calls these Jewish leaders together. "The Jews spake against it" (verse 19) - you see they were gathered there together. "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" (verse 23). So that is the first thing he does, he gathers the Jewish leaders together and he speaks to them concerning the things of Christ and also explains why it is that he had to appeal unto Caesar.
The second thing he does is he challenges their consciences with the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ to be the true Saviour and the true Messiah preached and taught in the Old Testament. He challenges their consciences as to the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ as the true Messiah and Saviour of the world.
The third thing he does is he receives visitors into his own hired home and he spends every spare minute he has preaching the Kingdom of God we are told and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
1.WHY PAUL APPEALED TO CAESAR
The first thing Paul does is to explain to the Jews why he has had to appeal to Caesar. This was necessary because Paul belonged, as a young man, to the Jewish faith and he was under the authority of the Jewish synagogue. The Jewish synagogue had church power and he, when he became a Christian, was excommunicated - thrown out - from the church as a consequence of the fact that he preached Jesus Christ in the nation of the Jews.
The Jews summoned him and in doing so, they showed their bitterness against him in that they intended to put this man to death. It was, if you like, a concerted plot on their part to put him to death. Paul however, heard the rumour of what they intended to do; it was disclosed to him, privately and consequently he was able to save himself. The Jews insisted that they should try this man because he was Jewish. When the apostle Paul discovered that there was no justice left in the nation and that their Jewish church had lost all righteousness and the true fear of God, he appealed unto Caesar.
That is a very remarkable thing to do. There are two sources of power given by God. One source of power is the state, the nation in which we live - that is what we call civil power. There is another kind of power given by God and that is church power. These two are distinct. Usually, when we are brought under church power, we have to observe it and do as the supreme court of a church tells us. There are, however, occasions when it is right to appeal over the heads of the church authorities to a civil authority and this is what the apostle Paul does. He says, "I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar" (verse 19). He did so because he knew there was no justice left within the Jewish church; they were prejudiced against the truth; there was no hope of righteousness. That is a situation that he faced, and for that reason when he came to Rome he summoned the Jewish leaders together and explained to them, "I did not appeal to Caesar because I had any complaint against my nation. I didn't do this because I wish to run down the Jewish people. I did this because I had no alternative. I appealed unto Caesar because there was no way I could get justice by any other means." Therefore, he goes over the head of the authority of his church and appeals to the ruler of the civil state.
That is a rare thing to do but there are exceptional cases when that has to be done for the sake of righteousness and the maintenance of righteousness.
That is the first thing he did - he explained to the Jewish leaders the reason why he had appealed to Caesar and why he had taken this long journey from Jerusalem to Rome. It wasn't to accuse the Jewish nation, it wasn't that he had any complaint against them, except that he wanted fairness and justice and righteousness. He was virtually saying to them that in some situations in life, you get more justice from the state than you do from a church. Consequently, he had to use his right as a citizen to counteract the authority of the corrupt Jewish courts of his day.
2.PAUL CHALLENGES THEIR CONSCIENCES
The second thing that the apostle Paul does here is to brings matters to an issue with these Jewish leaders. Let me point you to verse twenty-three, "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" (verse 23).
This task that he had was to gather the Jewish elders and leaders together and to prove to them from the Word of God that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the World. These Roman Jews were devout people but, like the Jews in the rest of the world, they were prejudiced against the Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, the apostle Paul spent the whole day, from morning to evening, going through their Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi. He proved from these texts of Scripture that Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, is their Messiah - the only Saviour of the world, the One Whom God has sent in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament to save us from our sins.
We can be perfectly sure that he would spend a lot of time in passages like Isaiah 53 where it is very clear that Christ is the Saviour - "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53, 5). It is very clear that the apostle would have spent a long time there and in Psalm 22 where we read, "They pierced my hands and feet. I may tell all my bones" (Psalm 22, 16-17). This is a picture of Christ describing the effects of crucifixion upon His body and upon His spirit. Psalm 69, that great Psalm in which it is said, "And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalm 69, 21). In this way - going from Scripture to Scripture, passage to passage and text to text - the apostle showed that no other human being, no other figure of history, fulfilled these Scriptures but only Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
You might say, "Surely these Jews would all have been convinced - after all they claimed that they believed the Scriptures. They claimed that the Old Testament was the Book of God." In verse twenty-four we discover - "Some believed the things that were spoken, and some believed not" (verse 24). Some believed and some believed not - that is always the case. Whenever the Gospel of Christ is presented to men and women, you always have the same effect, whether it is amongst Jews or non-Jews. Some believe and some do not, some receive the truth and some do not. Some go away rejoicing that they have found Christ for themselves and others go away hating the truth and angry inside, resenting being cornered in their consciences by the Word of God: they go away furious against the truth. This is always the reaction in the Acts of the Apostles when the apostle Paul preached to different communities. Whether in Cyprus, Asia, Greece or Rome - the reaction was always the same. It is a proof that we are preaching the true Gospel when we get that reaction. If we don't have any reaction from people when we are preaching the truth, it is a sign that we are not preaching it. When people have no reaction either way; when they neither care, nor are worried or challenged by what we say, it is a sign that we are not really preaching the Word of God at all. The apostle, therefore, gathered these Jews together and from "morning till evening," hour upon hour, he showed them that Christ Jesus is the Son of God - the Saviour of the world.
Why was it then that some of them didn't believe? Surely, they claimed to follow the teaching of the Scriptures. Surely, they claimed that the Bible was their guide. Why then did they not all believe? The answer is because of our fallen human nature. All sorts of other considerations influence men, whether they realise it or not. One of them is self-love, another is their friends, families and contacts; another is that some people are so lazy that they don't want to study the Word of God for themselves. Another reason is that some people are so unprincipled that they will believe anything providing you don't disturb their peace.
When the apostle Paul, therefore, gathered these leaders together he challenged them with this great truth. Listen! "He expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus" (verse 23), that He is the Son of God. That task is the task of the pulpit - always. That is why we have preaching - it is to present to men and women the truth that only one person can save your soul and that is this great Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world and there is no salvation in any other but only in Him. His name alone is able to save our souls. If we do not accept Him then we must accept the consequences of not receiving Him. The consequences are disaster, eternal death, punishment, loss and hell itself. In his love for these Jews he pleaded with them, he expounded to them the truth and gave them these solemn warnings.
The apostle didn't even leave it there. When he saw that some Jews turned their backs on the truth and wouldn't agree with each other and that some were angry and had a hostile reaction - when they began to oppose him and contradict what he said and what the Word of God said - Paul then grew very bold and gave them a solemn warning in the name of God. You see it in verse twenty-five and following, "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, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross (fat), and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest at any time 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" (verses 25-27). That was a terrible thing to say. What was he doing? He was warning his hearers that if they chose to disbelieve the words of God, they must do so to their eternal loss.
Religion is not a matter of take it or leave it. Religion is not a kind of spiritual lottery where you suit yourself. True religion is receiving what God has said; otherwise, in consequence, we lose our own soul. This is the warning he gave to them, right here. He said Isaiah was quite right when in chapter six he prophesied that the day would come when the Jewish people would no longer receive the Word of God but would cast it from them. It is being fulfilled right now. Those of you who know your New Testament Gospels well will remember that this is what the Lord Jesus Christ had said to the Jews, quoting the very same words in places like Matthew 13, 14-15. He warned them that if they rejected Christ and the teaching concerning Him, then the consequence would be that God would leave them to their blindness. That has happened now for two thousand years. The poor Jewish people have their hearts hardened, their eyes blinded, their minds incapable of receiving the light of the glory of God.
Not only does that happen in nations, it can happen in individuals. There is such a thing as Gospel hardening. If we know the truth and we fight against it, our hearts will become hard and gross. They will become harder as time goes on. The more we hear the Gospel and say no, no, no, to the claims of Christ to be our Saviour, the harder our hearts will become. Though the Jews didn't realise this they were coming right to the very brink of God's patience; they were trying His patience to the uttermost. The effect was that God took the light from them. Those who walked away from the apostle's lodging, having shaken their fist in disbelief at what he said, were doing so to their eternal loss and to their eternal judgement.
My friends, it is clear that there is a lesson for us all right here in this very passage. When the apostle Paul challenged the conscience of these Jews, he did it so that they might listen and believe and be saved. Is it possible there could even be someone reading this who knows the Word of God and the claims of Christ upon his life and yet, they keep on closing the door against Him. They say to Him, "Not yet. I will become a Christian some other time: when I have a convenient season. My life is too precious just now. I have a thousand and one pleasures to enjoy. I've got this and that to do. I'll turn to religion when I'm retired. Then, I'll turn to Christ and become converted."
My friends, if we treat God like that, the terrible possibility is that He will leave us forever as He left these poor Jews in a state in which their prejudice blinded their eyes. Their hearts were hardened beyond all recovery because they were angry against the truth of the Gospel.
3.TEACHING AND PREACHING WITH ALL CONFIDENCE
The third thing we have here is in verse thirty-one. We are told that the apostle Paul "dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him" (text). What was he doing here? He had done his duty to the Jews; those who believed gathered with the Christians and those who didn't believe moved off and were lost forever. Now the apostle is at a different stage. What he is doing here is promoting the Gospel of Christ by all possible means. He was clearly a hospitable man and in that, of course, he is an example to us all. Look at this - "He dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in into him" (text). There must have been many Christians in Rome even in those far away days and they heard of this great apostle, this wonderful man of God, who was now in prison. Don't imagine that the apostle was free to come and go - he was a prisoner. He was bound by a chain to the wall and he couldn't leave the house - a soldier always guarded him at the door. In other respects, he was quite free. Within his own home, he could entertain all who came to speak to him, as many did. What lessons he taught them. Never were there such wonderfully rich house Bible studies, as those that were taking place in this mans own hired house. What glories of truth he opened up to them. What riches and treasures of spirituality he showed those who came to him.
Surely, there is a lesson here for us all. Let us all have the same hospitable spirit that the apostle had. Let us do what we can with our own homes, to encourage the study of the truth of God. Let us use our homes as centres whereby the truth will spread out to others - "Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things that concern the Lord Jesus Christ" (text).
It must have been a painful time for the apostle when he saw the Jews getting harder and worse. He loved his fellow countrymen and we too should love our fellow countrymen. If we are really spiritual people our hearts will bleed to see the way people live all around us without God. Let us be a feeling, Christian people. Let us be passionate for the salvation of others and do what we can to spread the Word of God to them. We have tracts, we have books, we have Bibles, we have a tongue; let us use every opportunity we have at our disposal to make known the salvation of Christ to those, who all around us, are without that knowledge. You say that that is for a church to do. This man had no church. He had no church building. He was not in the vestry of some great cathedral. He was not even in the vestry of some modest chapel. He was in a house, just in a hired house - it wasn't even his own - but he made it a sanctuary and there he caused the light of Gospel truth to emanate out to multitudes in that vast city. How many there must have been who, through his influence, were brought to the knowledge of the truth.
It is a picture that we should all take home to ourselves, a picture of using the homes God has given us as a means for letting forth the truth to those round about us. He taught and preached to all who came in unto him the glorious news of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is the supreme task of life itself - to make known the glories of Christ in this world. That is the last picture we have of the apostle Paul. It is a well-chosen picture: the apostle Paul spreading the Gospel of Christ in this life.
My friends, are you spreading the Gospel of Christ wherever you can? Are you making known the riches of the knowledge of Jesus Christ? It is possible to do so. It is possible to stand where Paul stood and to let others know and hear the glorious news of Jesus who died for our sins - the true Messiah and Son of God.
As I close, let me explain to you what actually happened to the apostle Paul. What was the sequel to these events in Acts 28? We don't know from the Bible directly, but we understand that what happened was this. He does tell us to some extent in his second letter to Timothy, he says that he was put on trial twice. The first time he was acquitted and he had a certain length of time in which he travelled again and preached the Word of God in different parts of the world. Then he was tried a second time, under Nero. The second time he lost his life. He was martyred for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was put to death for the cause of Christ - a cause that was more precious to him than life itself. So died this great man, under the proud and cruel emperor Nero.
You and I may never have to suffer such things but we should be ready, as the apostle was, to stand for Christ in every situation in which we are called to do so. We should be ready to stand for the truth, to stand for righteousness, to stand for the Word of God and to argue and plead for truth and the holiness of His cause here in this world. It is indeed a touching picture - the apostle Paul at Rome giving his last warning to his own precious nation - and they would not hear.
When he comes to the very end, he has a word to say which we should take to our own hearts and lives. In spite of all the difficulties and discouragements he can say, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Timothy 4, 7). Do you believe in this great Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ? Is your life given to Him? Are you following His Word? Are you resting in His finished work upon the cross? Are you seeking to make His Word known to others that they also may be saved? God grant that every one of us may become followers of the apostle Paul as we see him here in the end of the Acts of the Apostles.
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