Acts 28:17-31

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 29, 1998

Introduction

The book of Acts seems to just about be over. Weíve seen how the church started out with 120 people praying in an upper room. We saw the Holy Spirit being poured out and the gospel being preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and now to the uttermost parts of the world.

Weíve gotten a glimpse into the life of a man named Paul, who once was a persecutor of the church, but when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, his life was forever changed. Weíve followed Paul as heís taken the gospel through Asia Minor and Greece. We saw Paul arrested in Jerusalem, appeal to Rome, and on his voyage to Italy suffered shipwreck on the island of Malta.

Now, after having spent the winter on Malta, the prisoner Paul and his fellow travelers are put on a boat to Italy, where they finally make their way to Rome. Paul is still a prisoner, but is now awaiting his trial before Caesar. He is allowed to live in his own rented quarters, but heís still a prisoner, chained to a Roman soldier.

:17 Paul called the chief of the Jews together

These were not the Jewish leaders that Paul had been before in Jerusalem. These were the leaders of the Jewish community in Rome.

Why push your luck, Paul?

Paul hasnít called these people together to help his case against Caesar. In fact, if I were Paul, these would probably be the last people in Rome that Iíd want to look up. Everywhere Paul has gone, the Jewish leaders have caused him nothing but trouble.

But what heís doing is simply following his own standard operating procedures for preaching the gospel in a city. He always goes to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles. Since heís a prisoner, he canít exactly go into the local synagogue, so he calls the Jewish leaders to himself.

Heís doing this because he wants to tell them about Jesus.

Lesson

Stay on course.

Paulís desire has always been to preach the gospel in Rome. While others would say that heís in Rome to defend himself, Paul knows one thing for sure, heís there to preach.

Even though we may not all have the gift of evangelism, we are all called to be witnesses of Jesus. Yet sometimes we get so busy with our day to day lives that we lose sight of why weíre still here on planet earth. Did you ever stop to ask yourself why God doesnít just take us immediately to heaven as soon as we ask Jesus to be our Savior? Why does God leave us here on earth? He leaves us here to be a voice for Him, calling others to come to heaven with us.

Illustration Ė Barnyard Ducks

Thereís a story about a duck flying in formation, looking down below at a farm and wishing he had such a luxurious life like those ducks down there. All they had to do was waddle around the barnyard all day long. So he flew down to enjoy a winter at the barnyard. As the winter passed, he had grown fat, and was unable join his flock as they were flying overhead, heading north. Eventually he just grew used to the old barnyard. He had lost his sense of purpose and was no longer able to fly in formation with the others.

We too need to be careful that we donít grow too used to this old world around us that we forget what weíre to be about.

Illustration Ė Real Titanic Hero

Hereís an example of a man who never lost his purpose.

John Harper was born to a pair of solid Christian parents on May 29th, 1872. It was on the last Sunday of March 1886, when he was thirteen years old that he received Jesus as the Lord of his life. He never knew what it was to "sow his wild oats." He began to preach about four years later at the ripe old age of 17 years old by going down to the streets of his village and pouring out his soul in earnest entreaty for men to be reconciled to God. As John Harper's life unfolded, one thing was apparent...he was consumed by the word of God. When asked by various ministers what his doctrine consisted of, he was known to reply "The Word of God!" After five or six years of toiling on street corners preaching the gospel and working in the mill during the day, Harper was taken in by Rev. E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, England. This set Harper free to devote his whole time of energy to the work so dear to his heart. Soon, John Harper started his own church in September of 1896. (Now known as the Harper Memorial Church.) This church which John Harper had started with just 25 members, had grown to over 500 members when he left 13 years later. During this time he had gotten married, but was shortly thereafter widowed. However brief the marriage, God did bless John Harper with a beautiful little girl named Nana.

It was the night of April 14, 1912. The RMS Titanic sailed swiftly on the bitterly cold ocean waters heading unknowingly into the pages of history. On board this luxurious ocean liner were many rich and famous people. At the time of the ship's launch, it was the world's largest man-made moveable object. At 11:40 p.m. on that fateful night, an iceberg scraped the ship's starboard side, showering the decks with ice and ripping open six watertight compartments. The sea poured in. On board the ship that night was John Harper and his much-beloved six-year-old daughter Nana. According to documented reports, as soon as it was apparent that the ship was going to sink, John Harper immediately took his daughter to a lifeboat. It is reasonable to assume that this widowed preacher could have easily gotten on board this boat to safety; however, it never seems to have crossed his mind. He bent down and kissed his precious little girl; looking into her eyes he told her that she would see him again someday. The flares going off in the dark sky above reflected the tears on his face as he turned and headed towards the crowd of desperate humanity on the sinking ocean liner. As the rear of the huge ship began to lurch upwards, it was reported that Harper was seen making his way up the deck yelling "Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!" It was only minutes later that the Titanic began to rumble deep within. Most people thought it was an explosion; actually the gargantuan ship was literally breaking in half. At this point, many people jumped off the decks and into the icy, dark waters below. John Harper was one of these people. That night 1528 people went into the frigid waters. John Harper was seen swimming frantically to people in the water leading them to Jesus before the hypothermia became fatal. Mr. Harper swam up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris. Rev. Harper asked him between breaths, "Are you saved?" The young man replied that he was not. Harper then tried to lead him to Christ only to have the young man who was near shock, reply no. John Harper then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said "Here then, you need this more than I do..." and swam away to other people. A few minutes later Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1528 people that went into the water that night, six were rescued by the lifeboats. One of them was this young man on the debris. Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this young man stood up and in tears recounted how that after John Harper had led him to Christ. Mr. Harper had tried to swim back to help other people, yet because of the intense cold, had grown too weak to swim. His last words before going under in the frigid waters were "Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." While other people were trying to buy their way onto the lifeboats and selfishly trying to save their own lives, John Harper gave up his life so that others could be saved. (Sources for this article: "The Titanic's Last Hero" by Moody Press 1997)

Are you still clear on your purpose in life? Do you still have a concern for those who are perishing? Stay on course.

:20 I am bound with this chain.

Though Paul had his own place to stay, he was still kept chained to a Roman soldier. The guard was changed every six hours. Each one had to listen as Paul preached to whoever came to his house. Some of the guards got saved. Paul wrote at this time:

(Phil 1:12-13 NLT) And I want you to know, dear friends, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. {13} For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.

:21 We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee

If there had been any letters from Judaea, either they wouldnít have arrived yet, or they were at the bottom of the ocean with the grain that was on Paulís ship!

:22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest

Christianity wasnít a totally unknown thing among the Jews in Rome. But they didnít feel like they fully understood what all the fuss was about. They seem to think that it would be a good idea to have one of the Christian leaders explain their beliefs.

:23 he expounded Ö testified Ö persuading

You can get a little insight into three aspects of witnessing:

1) Expounding Ė the idea is that of explaining the Scriptures. Opening up your Bible and explaining it to another person.

2) Testifying Ė giving a thorough witness, telling others clearly what Jesus has done for you.

3) Persuading Ė there is room to give persuasive arguments. Paul did. I think that one of the most persuasive arguments is how Jesus has fulfilled prophecy. If you take all the prophecies that Jesus has fulfilled and calculate the odds of any one person fulfilling them, the argument is quite persuasive.

:24 some believed Ö some believed not.

or, "some were persuaded ... others did not believe". Those that were persuaded, believed. Those that were not persuaded, did not believe.

Lesson #1

What you believe is important.

We sometimes get the idea that as long as you have "faith", youíre okay. As long as you believe (no matter what it is), youíre okay. I heard a famous opera singer the other day singing some silly some about "I believe", like "I believe in rainbowsÖ"

The subject of your faith is VERY important. Look what Paul had written to Rome a few years earlier (I have no doubt that he covered these issues with these Jews):

Rom 3:23-25 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; {24} Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: {25} Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

vs.23: (an "expounding") Because all of us are sinners, not one of us is worthy to be in Godís presence, to be in His glory.

vs.24: We are made right before God because of an unmerited gift (grace) from Him. The gift was redemption, having been bought from our slavery to sin and having been set free by Jesus Christ.

vs.25: A propitiation is a gift to appease the wrath of another person. Godís wrath would be very correctly coming upon us because of our sins, God had His own Son be a propitiation for us by using Jesusí blood to pay the penalty for our sins. Itís when we put our faith in the blood of Jesus to appease Godís just wrath, that we receive forgiveness from God. Itís when we trust that Jesusí blood will pay the price for our sins, that we are released from the debt of our sins.

Itís not just faith in any old thing that makes us right before God. Itís having faith in the blood of Jesus. Itís believing that Jesusí blood will pay my complete penalty before God that allows God to release me from the debt of my sins.

Lesson #2

Some believe, some donít.

We can have the idea that if we just shared that one special Scripture, gave that one important fact, used that one incredible argument, that somehow everyone we talk to is going to believe and receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. Not so.

Jesus taught a parable in which He gave four different ways in which people might respond to the gospel. He used the story of a farmer sowing seed on four different types of soil (Mat.13). There are some like the hard soil of the road where the seed never takes root. As soon as the person hears the gospel, Satan steals it away. There are some like the shallow soil who hear the gospel and respond quickly, but because they donít allow Godís work to go very deep in their life, because they are shallow, then when hard times come, they fall away. There are some who are like the thorny soil who believe, but because they are so wrapped up in the things of the world, their worldly ways choke out the work that God wants to do in their life. Only one of the four soils was characterized by Jesus as good. Only one of the soils allowed the seed to grow and produce much fruit.

In a way, our focus should not be on how people respond. Our focus should simply be on sharing the good news of Jesus with others.

:25 they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word Ö

It could be translated, "And when they were being not in agreement with one another, they were leaving when Paul spoke one word Ö" As the Jews were leaving, Paul was reminded of the appropriateness of Isaiahís words, and so he spoke this as they left.

:27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross Ö

Paul is quoting from Isaiah 6:9-10

waxed gross Ė pachuno Ė to make thick; metaph. to make stupid (to render the soul dull or callous)

You kind of get the image of a child that doesnít want to hear something so they close their eyes and cover their ears, maybe humming a little so they canít hear what youíre saying.

:27 lest they Ö should be converted, and I should heal them.

be converted Ė epistrepho Ė to turn to the worship of the true God

heal Ė iaomai Ė to cure; to make whole, to free from errors and sins, to be saved

I donít think the real issue is that people donít want to be healed by the Lord, itís that they donít want to be "converted". We donít want to turn around from our sins.

Lesson

They donít hear because they donít want to give up their sin.

Please donít misunderstand me. Itís not that we have to clean up our lives before we can come to the Lord. God accepts us and receives us just the way we are. We arenít saved because we work real hard to deserve our salvation. But when we come to Him, we must be willing to turn from our sins. Whatís the purpose in calling Him "Lord" if we arenít willing to do whatever He asks us to?

Sometimes people will give you a very hard time as you share Jesus with them. Theyíll come up with all the standard "stumpers" like, "How can a God of love send people to hell?" (note: Weíre the ones who send ourselves to hell when we reject Godís loving offer to pay for our sins. If you donít let the lifeguard rescue you, how are you going to be saved?)

Itís not uncommon for stuff like this to only be a "smokescreen". Itís a way of covering up the fact that thereís an area of their life that theyíre just unwilling to turn over to the Lord.

Yet the irony is that their stubbornness is keeping them from receiving the very thing that they are crying out for deep inside their heart, acceptance from God. Itís when we turn around that we receive the healing.

Illustration Ė Monkey Treats

Monkey trappers in North Africa have a clever method of catching their prey. A number of gourds are filled with nuts (monkey treats) and firmly fastened to a branch of a tree. Each has a hole just large enough for the unwary monkey to stick his forepaw into it. When the hungry animal discovers this, he quickly grasps a handful of nuts, but the hole is too small for him to withdraw his clenched fist. And he doesn't have enough sense to open up his hand and let go in order to escape, so he is easily taken captive.

Too often we get these certain things in our lives that we just donít want to let go of. Yet itís these very things that keep us captive. If weíd just let go, we could be free.

:28 the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles

Following Paulís usual pattern, after heís given the Jews a chance to hear the gospel, and they reject it, then he will go to the Gentiles of the city and begin to preach to them.

:29 the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.

reasoning Ė suzetesis Ė mutual questioning, disputation, discussion

:30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house,

Itís during these two years that Luke probably wrote out the book of Acts. The book ends here because this is as far as things had gone when Luke wrote it out.

It is felt that it was during this time that Paul also wrote Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians.

:30 and received all that came in unto him,

This kind of reminds me of what Jesus said,

(John 6:37b KJV) Ö and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Lesson

Having open arms.

Paul is simply being like His Savior, receiving all who come.

(Mat 9:10-13 KJV) And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. {11} And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? {12} But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. {13} But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Sinners felt loved and accepted by Jesus. But donít mistake the fact that He still asked them to repent. When we neglect to tell people that they need to turn from their sins, we are keeping them from receiving the healing that God has for them (vs.27).

We need to learn to accept others Ö kind of like when a loan officer accepts and approves an application for a loan Ö even a loan for a frog Ö

Illustration Ė A Loan for Kermit

A frog went into the Bank of America one day, carrying a cardboard box. "May I help you?" asked a loan officer. "Yes," replied the frog, "I'd like to apply for a loan." "And what is your name?" "Kermit Jagger," the frog replied. "And what's yours?" "My name is Mr. Paddywhack. I don't suppose you're any relation to Mick Jagger?" "Yeah, he's my dad." "Sure, he is," Mr. Paddywhack said. "Incidentally, do you have any collateral?" "Just what I've got in this box here." And Kermit Jagger pulled out a glass ball with an elephant inside. It snowed when you shook it. The loan officer grabber the glass ball and sputtered, "I'll have to take this to the vice president of the bank and see what he says." "What's his name?" the frog asked. "Mr. John Dudley," came Mr. Paddywhack's huffy reply. "Oh, I know him, tell him hi!" said Kermit, as the loan officer turned and left. He walked into the vice president's office, glass ball in hand, and said, "Mr. Dudley, there's a frog outside in the lobby named Kermit Jagger, who claims he knows you. He wants a loan using only this thing as collateral. What on earth is this thing, anyway?" "It's a knick-knack, Paddywhack. Give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."

:31 Preaching the kingdom of God Ö

What happened to Paul after this?

It is thought that during the first two years in Rome, that Paul wrote his letters to Ephesus, Colossae, Philemon, and Philippi. Apparently it took at least two years for Paul to be brought through the Roman court system in Rome. Though we donít have a record in Scripture, church history tells us that Paul was eventually acquitted of all charges at his first trial before Caesar. After this, he apparently had a few years of ministry where he went to Ephesus and left Timothy to supervise the churches there, then on to Macedonia where he wrote his first letter to Timothy (1Tim.1:3). He visited Crete, where he left Titus to supervise the churches, then went to Nicopolis in southern Greece where he wrote his letter to Titus. It was around this time that Nero burnt Rome and blamed it on the Christians. When Paul visited Troas (2Tim.4:13), he was arrested, taken to Rome again, and imprisoned. From prison in Rome he wrote his final letter, 2Timothy. History tells us that after another series of trials, Paul was condemned to death and beheaded at the command of Nero.

Though Acts ends with Paul in Rome, thereís a sense in which it isnít finished.

Lesson

You are writing chapter 29.

Though many of your Bibles has the book entitled "The Acts of the Apostles", it would better be titled, "The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Church".

The book of Acts hasnít really ended. The Holy Spirit is still working. The work goes on. It is being written with your life and my life.