THE PRISONER AND PREACHER IN ROME (ACTS 28:17-31). Paul’s greatest concern was his witness to the Jews in Rome. Three days after his arrival, he called together the leaders of the Jews. The “Christian sect” was being spoken against in many places. Paul’s letter to the Romans reveals that the Jews misunderstood some of his teachings.
The apostle made it clear to the Jews that his appeal to Caesar must not be interpreted as an indictment against his nation. Actually, he was a prisoner on behalf of his nation and because of “the hope of Israel” he was bound with a chain. He recounted his innocence and the fact he was a prisoner because of the Jews. It must have encouraged Paul to hear that the many letters from Judea contained no bad reports about him. Wisely, they wanted to hear his views since everywhere people were talking against the sect.
A second meeting was arranged with a large number from the Jewish community in Rome present. An entire day was spent as Paul preached to them. The message had not changed since John the Baptist and Christ; he declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the OT Scriptures. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They began to disagree. Yes, Paul was a troublemaker!
When they began to leave, he quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 to them. These words described the tragic spiritual condition of Israel. Jesus had used this passage in connection with His parables of the kingdom (Matthew 13:13-15; Mark 4:12: Luke 8:10). The apostle John in his Gospel applied them to Israel (12:39-40), and Paul quoted them in his letter to the Romans (11:7-8).
It is one thing to listen and quite something else to hear, and there is a great difference between seeing and perceiving. If anybody should have possessed spiritual understanding, it was these Jewish leaders, but many of their hearts were dull and hard. So Paul announced to these Jewish leaders that they had no reason to complain for he had given them ample opportunity to repent and believe. “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
Their unbelief did not put an end to Paul’s ministry. For two whole years, Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He was chained with a light chain or handcuff and guarded by a soldier, who was relieved every six hours, but who was forced to listen as Paul, boldly and without hindrance, preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. No wonder some of the palace guard were saved as well as those who belonged to Caesar’s household (Philippians 1:12-14; 4:22).
During these two years, a number of his friends and partners joined him in Rome. Timothy was with him (Philippians 1:1; 2:19; Colossians 1:1) as well as John Mark, Luke Aristarchus, Epaphras, Justus, and Demas (Colossians 4:10-14; Philemon 24).
Paul also met Philemon’s runaway slave Onesimus and led him to faith in Christ (Philemon 10-21). Epaphroditus brought a gift to him from the Philippian church and almost died ministering to him (Philippians 2:25-30). Tychius was Paul’s “mailman” who delivered three of the four letters (Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon) Paul wrote from Rome. The fourth letter, Philippians, was delivered by Epaphroditus.