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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Acts 28

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 16

3

Chapter 18

IN PERILS ON THE SEA.

Acts 27:1-3; Acts 28:16

THIS chapter terminates our survey of the Acts of the Apostles, and leads us at the same time to contemplate the Apostle of the Gentiles in a new light as a traveller and as a prisoner, in both which aspects he has much to teach us. When St. Paul was despatched to the judgment-seat of Caesar from the port of Caesarea, he had arrived at the middle of his long captivity. Broadly speaking, he was five years a prisoner from the day of his arrest at Jerusalem till his release by the decision of Nero. He was a prisoner for more than two years when Festus sent him to Rome, and then at Rome he spent two more years in captivity, while his voyage occupied fully six months. Let us now first of all look at that captivity, and strive to discover those purposes of good therein which God hides amidst all his dispensations and chastisements.

We do not always realise what a length of time was consumed in the imprisonments of St. Paul. He must have spent from the middle of 58 to the beginning of 63 as a prisoner, cut off from many of those various activities in which he had previously laboured so profitably for God’s cause. That must have seemed to himself and to many others a terrible loss to the gospel; and yet now, as we look back from our vantage-point, we can see many reasons why the guidance of his heavenly Father may have led directly to this imprisonment, which proved exceedingly useful for himself and his own soul’s health, for the past guidance and for the perpetual edification of the Church of Christ. There is a text in Ephesians 4:1 which throws some light on this incident. In that Epistle, written when St. Paul was a captive at Rome, he describes himself thus, "I therefore the prisoner in the Lord," or "the prisoner of the Lord," as the Authorised Version puts it. These words occur as the beginning of the Epistle for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. Now there is often a marvellous amount of spiritual wisdom and instruction to be gained from a comparison between the, epistles and gospels and the collects for each Sunday. All my readers may not agree in the whole theological system which underlies the Prayer Book, but every one will acknowledge that its services and their construction are the result of rich and varied spiritual experiences extending over a period of more than a thousand years. The mere contrast of an epistle and of a collect will often suggest thoughts deep and searching. So it is with this text, "I therefore the prisoner in the Lord." It is preceded by the brief pithy prayer, "Lord, we pray Thee that Thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works, through Jesus Christ our Lord." The words of St. Paul to the Ephesians speaking of himself as the prisoner of God and in God suggested immediately the idea of God’s grace surrounding, shaping, constraining to His service every external circumstance; and thus led to the formation of the collect which in fact prays that we may realise ourselves as so completely God’s as, like the Apostle, continually to be given to all good works. St. Paul realised himself as so prevented, using that word in its ancient sense, preceded and followed by God’s grace, guarded before and behind by it, that he looked beyond the things seen, and discarding all secondary agents and all lower instruments, he viewed his imprisonment as God’s own immediate work.

I. Let us then see in what way we may regard St. Paul’s imprisonment as an arrangement and outcome of Divine love. Take, for instance, St. Paul in his own personal life. This period of imprisonment, of enforced rest and retirement, may have been absolutely necessary for him. St. Paul had spent many a long and busy year building up the spiritual life of others, founding churches, teaching converts, preaching, debating, struggling, suffering. His life had been one of intense spiritual, intellectual, bodily activity on behalf of others. But no one can be engaged in intense activity without wasting some of the spiritual life and force necessary for himself. Religious work, the most direct spiritual activity, visiting the sick, or preaching the gospel, or celebrating the sacraments, make a tremendous call upon our devotional powers and directly tend to lower our spiritual vitality, unless we seek abundant and frequent renewal thereof at the source of all spiritual vitality and life. Now God by this long imprisonment took St. Paul aside once again, as He had taken him aside twenty years before, amid the rocks of Sinai. God laid hold of him in his career of external business, as He laid hold of Moses in the court of Pharaoh, leading him into the wilderness of Midian for forty long years. God made St. Paul His prisoner that, having laboured for others, and having tended diligently their spiritual vineyard, he might now watch over and tend his own for a time. And the wondrous manner in which he profited by his imprisonment is manifest from this very Epistle to the Ephesians, in which he describes himself as God’s prisoner - not, be it observed, the prisoner of the Jews, or of the Romans, or of Caesar, but as the prisoner of God-dealing in the profoundest manner, as that Epistle does, with the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith. St.

Paul had an opportunity during those four or five years, such as he never had before, of realising, digesting, and assimilating in all their fulness the doctrines he had so long proclaimed to others, and was thus enabled out of the depth of his own personal experience to preach what he felt and knew to be true, the only kind of teaching which will ever be worth anything.

Again, St. Paul designates himself the prisoner of the Lord because of the benefits his imprisonment conferred upon the Church of Christ in various ways. Take his imprisonment at Caesarea alone. We are not expressly told anything about his labours during that time. But knowing St. Paul’s intense energy we may be sure that the whole local Christian community established in that important centre whence the gospel could diffuse itself as far as the extremest west on the one side and the extremest east on the other, was permeated by his teaching and vitalised by his example. He was allowed great freedom, as the Acts declares. Felix "gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in charge, and should have indulgence; and not to forbid any of his friends to minister unto him." If we take the various centurions to whom he was intrusted, we may be sure that St. Paul must have omitted no opportunity of leading them to Christ. St. Paul seems to have known how to make his way to the hearts of the Roman soldiers, as his subsequent treatment by Julius the centurion shows, and that permission of the governor would be liberally interpreted when deputies from distant churches sought his presence. Messengers from the various missions he had founded must have had recourse to Caesarea during those two years spent there, and thence too was doubtless despatched many a missive of advice and exhortation. At Caesarea, too, may then have been written the Gospel of St. Luke. Lewin (vol. 1. p. 221), indeed, places its composition at Philippi, where St. Luke laboured for several years prior to St. Paul’s visit in 57 A.D. after leaving Ephesus; and he gives as his reason for this conclusion that St. Paul called St. Luke in 2 Corinthians 8:18, written about that time, "the brother whose praise is in the Gospel," referring to his Gospel then lately published. I think the suggestion much more likely that St. Luke took advantage of this pause in St. Paul’s activity to write his Gospel at Caesarea when he had not merely the assistance of the Apostle himself, but of Philip the deacon, and was within easy reach of St. James and the Jerusalem Church. St. Luke’s Gospel bears evident traces of St. Paul’s ideas and doctrine, was declared by Irenaeus ("Haer.," 3:1) to have been composed under his direction, and may with much probability be regarded as one of the blessed results flowing forth from St. Paul’s detention as Christ’s prisoner given by Him in charge to the Roman governor.

The Apostle’s Roman imprisonment again was most profitable to the Church of the imperial capital. The Church of Rome had been founded by the efforts of individuals. Private Christians did the work, not apostles or eminent evangelists. St. Paul came to it first of all as a prisoner, and found it a flourishing church. And yet he benefited and blessed it greatly. He could not, indeed, preach to crowded audiences in synagogues or porticos as he had done elsewhere. But he blessed the Church of Rome most chiefly by his individual efforts. This man came to him into his own hired house, and that man followed him attracted by the magnetic influence he seemed to bear about. The soldiers appointed as his keepers were told the story of the Cross and the glad tidings of the resurrection life, and these individual efforts were fruitful in vast results, so that even into the household and palace of the Caesars did this patient, quiet, evangelistic work extend its influence. Nowhere else, in fact, not even in Corinth, where St. Paul spent two whole years openly teaching without any serious interruption; not even in Ephesus, where he laboured so long that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word; nowhere else was the Apostle’s ministry so effective as here in Rome, where the prisoner of the Lord was confined to individual effort and completely laid aside from more public and enlarged activity. It was with St. Paul as it is with God’s messengers still. It is not eloquent or excited public efforts, or platform addresses, or public debates, or clever books that are most fruitful in spiritual results. Nay, it is often the quiet individual efforts of private Christians, the testimony of a patient Sufferer perhaps, the witness all-powerful with men, of a life transformed through and through by Christian principle, and lived in the perpetual sunshine of God’s reconciled countenance. These are the testimonies that speak most effectually for God, most directly to souls.

Lastly, St. Paul’s imprisonment blessed the Church of every age, and through it blessed mankind at large far more than his liberty and his external activity could have done in one other direction. Is it not a contradiction in terms to say that the imprisonment of this courageous leader, this eloquent preacher, this keen, subtle debater, should have been more profitable to the Church than the exercise of his external freedom and liberty, when all these dormant powers would have found ample scope for their complete manifestation? And yet if Christ had not laid His arresting hand upon the active, external labour in which St. Paul had been absorbed, if Christ had not cast the busy Apostle into the Roman prison-house, the Church of all future time would have been deprived of those masterly expositions of Christian truth which she now enjoys in the various Epistles of the Captivity, and specially in those addresses to the churches of Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae. We have now noted some of the blessings resulting from St. Paul’s five years’ captivity, and indicated a line of thought which may be applied to the whole narrative contained in the two chapters with which we are dealing. St. Paul was a captive, and that captivity gave him access at Caesarea to various classes of society, to the soldiers, and to all that immense crowd of officials connected with the seat of government, quaestors, tribunes, assessors, apparitors, scribes, advocates. His captivity then led him on board ship, and brought him into contact with the sailors and with a number of passengers drawn from diverse lands. A storm came on, and then the Apostle’s self-possession, his calm Christian courage, when every one else was panic-stricken, gave him influence over the motley crowd. The waves flung the ship of Alexandria in which he was travelling upon Malta, and his stay there during the tempestuous winter months became the basis of the conversion of its inhabitants. Everywhere in St. Paul’s life and course at this season we can trace the outcome of Divine love, the power of Divine providence shaping God’s servant for His own purposes, restraining man’s wrath when it waxed too fierce, and causing the remainder of that wrath to praise Him by its blessed results.

II. Let us now gather up into a brief narrative the story contained in these two chapters, so that we may gain a bird’s-eye view over the whole. Festus entered upon his provincial rule about June, A.D. 60. According to Roman law the outgoing governor, of whatever kind he was, had to await his successor’s arrival and hand over the reins of government-a very natural and proper rule which all civilised governments observe. We have no idea how vast the apparatus of provincial, or, as we should say. colonial government among the Romans was, and how minute their regulations were, till we take up one of those helps which German scholars have furnished towards the knowledge of antiquity, as, for instance, Mommsen’s "Roman Provinces," which can be read in English, or Marquardt’s "Romische Staatsverwaltung," vol. 1, which can be studied either in German or French. The very city where first the new governor was to appear and the method of fulfilling his duties as the Judge of Assize were minutely laid down and duly followed a well-established routine. We find these things indicated in the case of Festus. He arrived at Caesarea. He waited three days till his predecessor had left for Rome, and then he ascended to Jerusalem to make the acquaintance of that very troublesome and very influential city. Festus then returned to Caesarea after ten days spent in gaining an intimate knowledge of the various points of a city which often before had been the centre of rebellion, and where he might at any moment he called upon to act with sternness and decision. He at once heard St. Paul’s cause as the Jews had demanded, brought him a second time before Agrippa, and then in virtue of his appeal to Caesar despatched him to Rome in care of a centurion and a small band of soldiers, a large guard not being necessary, as the prisoners were not ordinary criminals, but for the most part men of some position, Roman citizens, doubtless, who had, like the Apostle, appealed unto the judgment of Caesar. St. Paul embarked, accompanied by Luke and Aristarchus, as the ship, being an ordinary trading vessel, contained not only prisoners, but also passengers as well. We do not intend to enter upon the details of St. Paul’s voyage, because that lies beyond our range, and also because it has been thoroughly done in the various "Lives" of the Apostle, and above all in the exhaustive work of Mr. James Smith of Jordanhills. He has devoted a volume to this one topic, has explored every source of knowledge, has entered to discussions touching the build and rigging of ancient ships and the direction of Mediterranean winds, has minutely investigated the scenery and history of such places as Malta where the Apostle was wrecked, and has illustrated the whole with beautiful plates and carefully drawn maps. That work has gone through four editions at least, and deserves a place in every man’s library who wishes to understand the life and labours of St. Paul or study the Acts of the Apostles. We may, however, without trenching on Mr. Smith’s field, indicate the outline of the route followed by the holy travellers. They embarked at Caesarea under the care of a centurion of the Augustan cohort, or regiment, as we should say, whose name was Julius. They took their passage at first in a ship of Adramyttium, which was probably sailing from Caesarea to lie up for the winter. Adramyttium was a seaport situated up in the northwest of Asia Minor near Tress, and the Sea of Marmora, or, to put it in modern language, near Constantinople. The ship was in fact, about to travel over exactly the same ground as St. Paul himself had traversed more than two years before when he proceeded from Troas to Jerusalem. Surely, some one may say, this was not the direct route to Rome. But then we must throw our, selves back into the circumstances of the period. There was then no regular transport service. People, even the most exalted, had to avail themselves of whatever means of communication chance offered. Cicero, when chief governor of Asia, had, as we have already noted, to travel part of the way from Rome in undecked vessels, while ten years later than St. Paul’s voyage the Emperor Vespasian himself, the greatest potentate in the world; had no trireme or warship waiting upon him, but when he wished to proceed from Palestine to Rome, at the time of the great siege of Jerusalem, was obliged to take a passage in an ordinary merchant vessel or cornship. It is no wonder, then that the prisoners were put on board a coasting vessel of Asia, the centurion knowing right well that in sailing along by the various ports which studded the shore of that province they would find some other vessel into which they could be transferred. And this expectation was realised. The centurion and his prisoners sailed first of all to Sidon, where St. Paul found a Christian Church. This circumstance illustrates again the quiet and steady growth of the gospel kingdom, and also gave Julius an opportunity of exhibiting his kindly feelings towards the Apostle by permitting him to go and visit the brethren. In fact. we would conclude from this circumstance that St. Paul had already begun to establish an influence over the mind of Julius which must have culminated in his conversion. Here, at Sidon, he permits him to visit his Christian friends; a short time after his regard for Paul leads him to restrain his troops from executing the merciless purposes their Roman discipline had taught them and slaying all the prisoners lest they should escape; and yet once again, when the prisoners land on Italian soil and stand beside the charming scenery of the Bay of Naples, he permits the Apostle to spend a week with the Christians of Puteoli. After this brief visit to the Sidonian Church, the vessel bearing the Apostle pursues its way by Cyprus to the port of Myra at the southwestern corner of Asia Minor, a neighbourhood which St. Paul knew right well and had often visited. It was there at Patara, close at hand, that he had embarked on board the vessel which carried him two years before to Palestine, and it was there too at Perga of Pamphylia that he had first landed on the shores of the Asiatic province, seeking to gather its teeming millions into the fold of Jesus Christ. Here at Myra the centurion realised his expectations, and finding an Alexandrian transport sailing to Italy he put the prisoners on board. From Myra they seem to have sailed at once, and from the day they left it their misfortunes began. The wind was contrary, blowing from the west, and to make any way they had to sail to the island Cnidus, which lay northwest of Myra. After a time, when the wind became favourable, they sailed southwest till they reached the island of Crete, which lay half-way between Greece and Asia Minor. They then proceeded along the southern coast of this island till they were struck by a sudden wind coming from the northeast, which drove them first to the neighbouring island of Clauda, and then, after a fortnight’s drifting through a tempestuous sea, hurled the ship upon the shores of Malta. The wreck took place towards the close of October or early in November, and the whole party were obliged to remain in Malta till the spring season permitted the opening of navigation. During his stay in Malta St. Paul performed several miracles. With his intensely practical and helpful nature the Apostle flung himself into the work of common life, as soon as the shipwrecked party had got safe to land. He always did so. He never despised, like some religious fanatics, the duties of this world. On board the ship he had been the most useful adviser to the whole party. He had exhorted the captain of the ship not to leave a good haven; he had stirred up the soldiers to prevent the sailors’ escape; he had urged them all alike, crew and passengers and soldiers, to take food, foreseeing the terrible struggle they would have to make when the ship broke up. He was the most practical adviser his companions could possibly have had, and he was their wisest and most religious adviser too. His Words on board ship teem with lessons for ourselves, as well as for his fellow-passengers. He trusted in God, and received special revelations from heaven, but he did not therefore neglect every necessary human precaution. The will of God was revealed to him that he had been given all the souls that sailed with him, and the angel of God cheered and comforted him in that storm-driven vessel in Adria, as often before when howling mobs thirsted like evening wolves for his blood. But the knowledge of God’s purposes did not cause his exertions to relax. He knew that God’s promises are conditional upon man’s exertions, and therefore he urged his companions to be fellow-workers with God in the matter of their own salvation from impending death. And as it was on board the ship, so was it on the shore. The rain was descending in torrents, and the drenched passengers were shivering in the cold. St. Paul shows the example, so contagious in a crowd, of a man who had his wits about him, knew what to do and would do it. He gathered therefore a bundle of sticks, and helped to raise a larger fire in the house which had received him. A man is marvellously helpful among a cowering and panic-stricken crowd which has just escaped death who will rouse them to some practical efforts for themselves, and will lead the way as the Apostle did on this occasion. And his action brought its own reward. He had gained influence over the passengers, soldiers, and crew by his practical helpfulness. He was now to gain influence over the barbarian islanders in exactly the same way. A viper issued from the fire and fastened on his hand. The natives expected to see him fall down dead; but after looking awhile and perceiving no change, they concluded him to be a god who had come to visit them. This report soon spread. The chief man therefore of the island sought out St. Paul and entertained him. His father was sick of dysentery and the Apostle healed him, using prayer and the imposition of hands as the outward symbols and means of the cure, which spread his fame still farther and led to other miraculous cures. Three months thus passed away. No distinct missionary work is indeed recorded by St. Luke, but this is his usual custom in writing his narrative. He supposes that Theophilus, his friend and correspondent, will understand that the Apostle ever kept the great end of his life in view, never omitting to teach Christ and Him crucified to the perishing multitudes where his lot was cast. But St. Luke was not one of those who are always attempting to chronicle spiritual successes or to tabulate the number of souls led to Christ. He left that to another day and to a better and more infallible judge. In three months’ time, when February’s days grew longer and milder winds began to blow, the rescued travellers joined a corn-ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the island, and all set forward towards Rome. They touched at Syracuse in Sicily, sailed thence to Rhegium, passing through the Straits of Messina, whence, a favourable south wind springing up, and the vessel running before it at the rate of seven knots an hour, the usual speed for ancient vessels under the circumstances, they arrived at Puteoli, one hundred and eighty-two miles distant from Rhegium, in the course of some thirty hours. At Puteoli the sea voyage ended. It may at first seem strange to us with our modern notions that St. Paul was allowed to tarry at Puteoli with the local Christian Church for seven days. But then we must remember that St. Paul and the centurion did not live in the days of telegraphs and railway trains. There was. doubtless a guard-room, barrack, or prison in which the prisoners could be accommodated. The centurion and guard were weary after a. long and dangerous journey, and they would be glad of a brief period of repose before they set out again towards the capital. This hypothesis alone would be quite sufficient to account for the indulgence granted to St. Paul, even supposing that his Christian teaching had made no impression on the centurion. The Church existing then at Puteoli is another instance of that quiet diffusion of the gospel which was going on all over the world without any noise or boasting. We have frequently called attention to this, as at Tyre, Ptolemais, Sidon, and here again we find a little company of saintly men and women gathered out of the world and living the ideal life of purity and faith beside the waters. of the Bay of Naples. And yet it is quite natural that we should find them at Puteoli, because it was one of the great ports which received the corn-ships of Alexandria and the merchantmen of Caesarea and Antioch into her harbour, and in these ships many a Christian came bringing the seed of eternal life, which he diligently sowed as he travelled along the journey of life. In fact, seeing that the Church of Rome had sprung up and flourished so abundantly, taking its origin not from any Apostle’s teaching, but simply from such sporadic effects, we cannot wonder that Puteoli, which lay right on the road from the East to Rome, should also have gained a blessing. A circumstance, however, has come to light within the last thirty years which does surprise us concerning this same neighbourhood, showing how extensively the gospel had permeated and honeycombed the country parts of Italy within the lifetime of the first apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ. Puteoli was a trading town, and Jews congregated in such places, and trade lends an element of seriousness to life which prepares a ground fitted for the good seed of the kingdom. But pleasure pure and unmitigated and a life devoted to its pursuit do not prepare such a soil. Puteoli was a trading city, but Pompeii was a pleasure-loving city thinking of nothing else, and where sin and iniquity consequently abounded. Yet Christianity had made its way into Pompeii in the lifetime of the apostles. How then do we know this? This is one of the results of modern archaeological investigations and of epigraphical research, two great sources of new light upon early Christian history which have been only of late years duly appreciated. Pompeii, as every person of moderate education knows, was totally overthrown by the first great eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 A.D. It is a curious circumstance that contemporaneous authors make but the very slightest and most dubious references to that destruction, though one would have thought that the literature of the time would have rung with it; proving conclusively, if proof be needed, how little the argument from silence is worth, when the great writers who tell minutely about the intrigues and vices of emperors and statesmen of Rome do not bestow a single chapter upon the catastrophe which overtook two whole cities of Italy. These cities remained for seventeen hundred years concealed from human sight or knowledge till revealed in the year 1755 by excavations systematically pursued. All the inscriptions found therein were undoubtedly and necessarily the work of persons who lived before A.D. 79 and then perished. Now at the time that Pompeii was destroyed there was a municipal election going on, and there were found on the walls numerous inscriptions formed with charcoal which were the substitutes then used for the literature and placards with which every election decorates our walls. Among these inscriptions of mere passing and transitory interest, there was one found which illustrates the point at which we have been labouring, for there, amid the election notices of 79 A.D., there appeared, scribbled by some idle hand, the brief words, "Igni gaude, Christiane" ("O Christian, rejoice in the fire"), proving clearly that Christians existed in Pompeii at that time, that they were known as Christians and not Under any other appellation, that persecution and death had reached them, and that they possessed and displayed the same undaunted spirit as their great leader and teacher St. Paul, being enabled like him to rejoice even amid the seven-fold-heated fires, and in view of the resurrection life to lift the victorious paean, "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

After the week’s rest at Puteoli the centurion marched towards Rome. The Roman congregation had received notice of St. Paul’s arrival by this time, and so the brethren despatched a deputation to meet an apostle with whom they were already well acquainted through the epistle he had sent them, as well as through the reports of various private Christians like Phoebe, the deaconess of Cenchreae. Two deputations from the Roman Church met him, one at Appii Forum, about thirty miles, another at the Three Taverns, about twenty miles from the city. How wonderfully the heart of the Apostle must have been cheered by these kindly Christian attentions! We have before noticed in the cases of his Athenian sojourn and elsewhere how keenly alive he was to the offices of Christian friendship, how cheered and strengthened he was by Christian companionship. It was now the same once again as it was then. Support and sympathy were now more needed than ever before, for St. Paul was going up to Rome not knowing what should happen to him there or what should be his sentence at the hands of that emperor whose cruel character was now famous. And as it was at Athens and at Corinth and elsewhere, so was it here on the Appian Way and amid the depressing surroundings and unhealthy atmosphere of those Pomptine Marshes through which he was passing; "when Paul saw the brethren, he thanked God, and took courage." And now the whole company of primitive Christians proceeded together to Rome, allowed doubtless by the courtesy and thoughtfulness of Julius ample opportunities of private conversation. Having arrived at the imperial city, the centurion hastened to present himself and his charge to the captain of the praetorian guard, whose duty it was to receive prisoners consigned to the judgment of the Emperor. Upon the favourable report of Julius, St. Paul was not detained in custody, but suffered to dwell in his own hired lodgings, where he established a mission station whence he laboured most effectively both amongst Jews and Gentiles during two whole years. St. Paul began his work at Rome exactly as he did everywhere else. He called together the chief of the Jews, and through them strove to gain a lodgment in the synagogue. He began work at once. After three days, as soon as he had recovered from the fatigue of the rapid march along the Appian Way, he sent for the chiefs of the Roman synagogues, which were very numerous. How, it may be thought, could an unknown Jew entering Rome venture to summon the heads of the Jewish community, many of them men of wealth and position? But, then, we must remember that St. Paul was no ordinary Jew from the point of view taken by Roman society. He had arrived in Rome a state prisoner, and he was a Roman citizen of Jewish birth, and this at once gave him position entitling him to a certain amount of consideration. St. Paul told his story to these chief men of the Jews, the local Sanhedrin perhaps, recounted the bad treatment he had received at the hands of the Jews of Jerusalem, and indicated the character of his teaching which he wished to expound to them. "For this cause therefore did I entreat you to see and speak with me: for because of the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain," emphasising the Hope of Israel, or their Messianic expectation, as the cause of his imprisonment, exactly as he had done some months before when pleading before King Agrippa. [Acts 26:6-7; Acts 26:22-23] Having thus briefly indicated his desires, the Jewish council intimated that no communication had been made to them from Jerusalem about St. Paul. It may have been that his lengthened imprisonment at Caesarea had caused the Sanhedrin to relax their vigilance, though we see that their hostility still continued as bitter as ever when Festus arrived in Jerusalem and afterwards led to St. Paul’s appeal; or perhaps they had not had time to forward a communication from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin to the Jewish authorities at Rome; or perhaps, which is the most likely of all, they thought it useless to prosecute their suit before Nero, who would scoff at the real charges which dealt merely with questions of Jewish customs, and which imperial lawyers therefore would regard as utterly unworthy the imprisonment or death of a Roman citizen. At any rate the Jewish council gave him a hearing, when St. Paul followed exactly the same lines as in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia and in his speech before Agrippa. He pointed out the gradual development of God’s purposes in the law and the prophets, showing how they had been all fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It was with the Jews at Rome as with the Jews elsewhere. Some believed and some believed not, as Paul preached unto them. The meeting was much more one for discussion than for addresses. From morning till evening the disputation continued, till at last the Apostle dismissed them with the stern words of the prophet Isaiah, taken from the sixth chapter of his prophecy, where he depicts the hopeless state of those who obstinately close their ears to the voice of conviction. But the Jews of Rome do not seem to have been like those of Thessalonica, Ephesus, Corinth, and Jerusalem in one respect. They did not actively oppose St. Paul or attempt to silence him by violent means, for the last glimpse we get of the Apostle in St. Luke’s narrative is this: "He abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling, and received all that went in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none forbidding him."

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Acts 28:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/acts-28.html.

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