Student Bible - Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Rome at Last: Paul finally makes it to the capital—in chains
Acts 28:23 He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus.
The future of the Gentile church depends in large measure on what happens to Paul, God’s chosen Apostle to the Gentiles. The last few chapters of Acts portray a spiritual tug-of-war in which God turns apparent tragedy into good. Paul gets arrested; he’s sent at last to Rome. The ship wrecks; they all survive. A poisonous snake bites Paul; he shakes it off and starts a healing ministry. The voyage ends at last in Rome.
Paul knows that if Christianity is to gain a foothold anywhere, it has to be in Rome. “All roads lead to Rome” is more than a figure of speech. Like a center of gravity, the city attracts all the roads of commerce, all the leaders and thinkers and fortune seekers of the empire. Political and military power fan out from Rome. It is the indisputable capital of the world.
Ironically, the greatest spokesman for the Christian faith arrives at his ultimate destination as a prisoner. Paul is exhausted, having just survived a harrowing shipwreck. No doubt the reputation he has gained on the voyage helps convince authorities to treat him leniently. He lives by himself under a kind of house arrest. A soldier is always present, possibly chained to the apostle.
Despite the circumstances, Paul keeps busy. During his very first week in Rome, he calls in Jewish leaders and explains to them the Christian “sect” everyone is talking about. Over the next months and years Paul gets hours of quiet solitude to work on fond letters to the churches he has left behind.
Paul can no longer choose his audience; they have to seek him. But boldly, in the heart of mighty Rome, he proclaims a new kingdom and a new king. Before long, some of Caesar’s own household staff convert to the new faith. Christianity has made the journey and the transition from Jerusalem to Rome.
Luke breaks off the story with Paul’s fate still undecided. Most scholars believe that Paul was released from this imprisonment and went on to take his message to new frontiers. Luke records nothing of these journeys and nothing about Paul’s trial or sentencing. He ends with a single memory, frozen in time: Paul, confined to his house, preaching to all his visitors.
Do you, like Paul, strive to make the best of bad situations?
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