And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard…
I. WE SEE PAUL PREPARING THE GROUND FOR HIS WORK.
1. He began, in his last efforts as in his first, with the Jews. He was one of them and understood them. They were at least part way to Christianity because they believed in the true God. But in their case, as in every man's, opportunity does not settle destiny, but rather the action of man's will upon opportunity.
2. Conciliation characterised Paul's approach to his own nation. He did not know what rumours concerning him might have come across the sea, so he felt it necessary to begin with a personal explanation and defence. Paul was not a scheming sophist who used a shrewd tact wherever he went simply to gain a hearing, concealing his antecedents and real character. Candour was the very soul of his being.
3. Prejudice at once confronted him. They probably told the truth when they said they had had no communication concerning Paul with the men of Judaea (ver. 21). But they knew more probably than they said concerning Christianity. There was a Christian Church in Rome of some years' standing. That they had no relations with it shows they were hostile to it. The sneering generality concerning Christianity's ill-repute was more definite in their minds than they cared to have Paul guess.
4. Hardness of heart is thus brought to view again as the condition of the Jews before the preaching of Paul.
II. The first meeting, which Paul had thus tried to use to prepare the way pleasantly for a plain Christian talk, was followed by a second, WHICH PAUL USED FOR THE PRESENTATION OF THE GOSPEL.
1. His doctrine is set before them in unmistakable form. He wishes to conciliate them, but he must tell them the plain truth.
(1) The kingdom of God is the subject of his testimony.
(2) Jesus was set forth as the centre of this kingdom in Paul's address (ver. 23). To understand it is to understand Him, and vice versa. Christ is interpreted to us by our study of the meaning of the kingdom of God.
(3) The Scriptures formed the foundation of Paul's argument with these Jews (ver. 23).
2. The reception of Paul's address is chronicled (vers. 23, 24).
(1) There was interest evidently, for they stayed to listen "from morning to evening."(2) The gospel now as always acted in two ways — it was a savour of life or a savour of death. "Some believed the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved" (ver. 24). The magnet draws or it does not draw. There is no third possibility.
3. Paul's warning (vers. 26, 27). They all departed. The gospel had not conquered them as a company, though some believed. Paul makes one more attempt to reach them as they go, using the words of their well-known Scriptures.
(1) These were words for them to remember.
(2) These were harsh words. Paul had reasoned quietly and in a conciliatory way, without success, humanly speaking. Severity remained to him and he employed it. Harsh as they were, they were really beneficent. So Paul wished they might be to his Jewish auditors. It is no kindness to withhold from men the knowledge of the penalty of unbelief.
(3) Paul warns the Jews that God will pass them by and give His salvation to the Gentiles if they do not accept it (ver. 29).
III. PAUL'S LIFE AT ROME IS DESCRIBED.
1. He had —
(1) A considerable amount of freedom (ver. 30).
2. Misfortune was thus turned into good fortune (see Philippians 1:12-18).
IV. We have here THE CONCLUSION OF THE BOOK OF ACTS. It has sometimes been called abrupt. But —
1. The gospel is shown to have been preached apostolically from Jerusalem to Rome. Representatively the whole world had been evangelised. The type was complete of the actual proclamation of the Cross to all the nations. This is the object of the Acts. The book is not a life of Paul.
2. The cause is everything, the instrument is nothing. Rome hears about Jesus Christ. No matter about Paul.
V. CLOSING THOUGHTS.
1. The kingdom is infinitely greater than any who serve it. The message is more than the messenger. Let us lift up the Cross and hide ourselves.
2. The gospel is world-conquering. Rome hears and heeds not. But she shall heed yet.
3. Blessed are those who, with Paul, have a share, however humble, in spreading the kingdom of God. Is life worth living? A thousand times yes, when spent in this glorious service.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.