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Paul’s Apology before Roman Jews – Acts 28:16-29

25/03/2022

Paul’s Apologia

Text:Acts 28:16-29.

The entourage, including the centurion, Julius, Luke, Aristarchus and Paul have come to Rome, – the capital city of the Empire.  We learn a little more now…

1 Paul Meets His Potential Accusers. V17  

Rome

Paul was allowed to rent his own home, where he could live, chained to a Roman guardsman by the wrist. You can be sure that every one of those guards heard the gospel message! Philippians 1:13 Of course God could have delivered Paul from this prison, as he had with Peter in Acts 12, – but that was not his plan, but he did allow him comfort in times of difficulty, as he had dome before, and as he often does for us too.Paul has settled in to his new home, and his detention is so lenient that he is permitted to have visitors.  He first invites THE JEWS!  They were Paul’s first guests at his new home, and they accepted the invitation.  In inviting the Jews, 

  • It was a consistent act. When Paul went to a new location to begin the work of preaching the gospel, he would always go first of all to the local Jews, to the synagogue.  There were good reasons for this,
    • Firstly because Paul was a recognised Jewish rabbi, and this gave him the privilege and the right to address the gatherings at the synagogue or local Jewish meeting.  
    • Secondly, the Jewish synagogue meeting often included a number of Gentiles, god-fearers.  People who were not Jews, but who were tired of the secular Roman world.  They wanted to know the One who had created the world, and to live for Him, and they sought that God among the Jews.  Paul would have found these people a receptive audience for the good news that Christ had died for sinners.
    • Thirdly, as well as these very practical reasons for meeting with the Jews, there was a theological reason and we find it expressed in Romans 1:16.  When Paul spoke to these Jewish leaders he addressed them as ‘Men and brethren.’ The apostle never turned his back on his fellow countrymen. He saw each new gathering of Jews as perhaps containing some of the elect remnant who would hear and respond to the gospel (Romans 10:9-12-13  Romans 11:5).  

But there’s a problem, and in that we learn…

  • It was a forgiving act.  Why would Paul want to share the gospel with Jews, the very people who had tried to kill him in the Temple Court at Jerusalem? The people who had fabricated false charges against him, who had brought charges against him before Lycius, before Felix, and Festus and Agrippa,  the very people who, humanly speaking had landed him in the situation he is now in.  What would you do?  

So, Paul calls the local Jews to come to meet him, at his rented house.  Let’s see briefly what he said to them.  Here we learn,

2. Paul Defends Himself. “So when they had come together, he said to them:

Let’s see the message that Paul brought to the Roman Jews:-

  • He defended his integrity. Paul was innocent of any charges. These Jews were the very people who would could be persuaded by their fellows in Jerusalem to act as his prosecutors in Rome.  Paul wanted to set the record straight 
  • The Romans knew he was innocent.  yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans,  who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death.  I wonder is this why Paul’s imprisonment was so lenient?  Remember that report that Festus needed to write, back in Acts 25:26-27  Remember that he had sought help from King Agrippa, and remember the conclusion that Agrippa reached in Acts 26:30-33  
  • Paul had no complaint against Israel! V19   Paul tells them why they are here.  He his no complaint against his own nation. not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. His desire and prayer for Israel was that they should be saved.   
  • The Roman Jews claimed no knowledge of Paul’s circumstances. V21  

It seems that Paul is speaking just as much to the law-abiding Roman citizen, like Theophilus, for whom Luke is writing this history – who would appreciate the fact that Christianity, and its chief representative and people are not violent insurrectionists or lawbreakers, but a peaceful, law-abiding group of people, who, to whatever extent possible live at peace with all men.  Paul is stressing his innocence under Roman Law.  With that all cleared up, there was at least some mutual agreement.  The Jews wanted to learn more, and Paul wanted to tell them more!

3. Paul Defends the Gospel. These Roman Jews didn’t know Paul’s circumstances, but they definitely had heard of the Christian Way, and they had heard that Jews  everywhere were opposed to it. V22 

, from morning till evening.  So they wanted to hear what Paul would say…

  • Paul preached the Kingdom of God! 23 He would have told them that while they were located in the heart of Caesar’s kingdom, – there was another kingdom, – a kingdom that was not of those world, a kingdom where God reigned, a kingdom ruled over by the King of Kings, by Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  
  • Paul preached the continuity of God’s Covenant!  persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  The Christian gospel is the message of the whole Bible.  God’s grace extends through both testaments.
  • Paul preached extensively!  from morning till evening.  We have seen over and again that Paul’s preaching ministry was not a 15 minute mini-sermon.  We saw this at Ephesus, where he worked, and preached and went back to work and preached more.  His ministry was nor easy listening either. It was in-depth exegetical teaching. 

As always some were persuaded! 24  That means that new Christians were the result of that Gospel effort!  Paul finished his Gospel preaching with a warning, directly from the Scriptures, 25 -27 

Those Roman Jews may have been the very last of their race to hear the good news from Paul, as a group, as a Jewish meeting. Those who had rejected the Gospel went back to their hopeless works based religion, and the message of salvation by grace went to those who would heed it, to the Gentiles.  28-29 

So Paul begins his ministry at Rome as a Christian apologist – just like many others would do in the following decades, Justin Martyr, Tertullian etc. He defends The Christian faith from calumny and false accusation, and asks nothing for nothing more than freedom to tell others about Christ, and his saving work.

© Bob McEvoy March 2022

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