Paul’s Letters: Courage for the Times…
Review of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey: Acts 18.23-21.17
- Overview of Paul’s route and cities of ministry: Acts 18.23; 20.1-16; 21.1-17
- The difficulties Paul faced in Ephesus:
- Acts 19.9: The rejection by Jewish leaders in the synagogue
- Acts 19.23-30: The revolt by Demetrius the cult of Diana
- The message Paul brought: Acts 17.2-3; 18.5,28; 20.21,25
- Where Paul began his teaching in Ephesus: Acts 19.1-8
- Where God moved Paul to teach in Ephesus: Acts 19.9-10
- The work the Holy Spirit did in Ephesus: Acts 19.11-12,17-20
- The treasure Paul carried in his ordinary body was the message of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Word of God—fulfilling what is written in the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets: Acts 20.20-21. He carried this treasure in a body that was often weak and tired and hungry and sick: 1 Corinthians 2.3; he may have had a troubling problem with his eyesight: Galatians 4.15.
- Paul lived in a world like ours where he was surrounded by Jews and Gentiles who were disobedient to God and who worshipped false gods. He faced dangers and difficulties everyday: 2 Corinthians 11.23-27. But none of these things kept him from preaching the message of the Lord Jesus Christ: Acts 20.24
- The Holy Spirit worked through his earthen vessel to work the greatest miracle of them all: changing the hearts of rebellious people to bow before the only true and living God. The act of the Holy Spirit was to awaken these darkened hearts to the message Paul was bringing…”and fear fell on them all, and the Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified…so the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19.17,20).
Stepping Stones to Rome – Acts 21.17-26.32
Courage In Jerusalem (10 days):
- the attack on Paul by the Jewish leaders, and his confinement in jail; his escape from murder; escorted to Caesarea by armed Roman guards (Acts 21.17-23.33);
- Paul’s witness of how God revealed the Lord Jesus to Him (Acts 22.3-21);
- God’s encouragement to Paul (Acts 23.11)
Paul’s Witness In Caesarea:
Paul speaks to the Roman governor Felix, to the Jewish leaders who follow him to Caesarea, held for two years in Herod’s Praetorium; speaks to Felix, Festus and to King Herod Agrippa and appeals to be heard by Caesar in Rome (Acts 23.34-26.32):
- To Felix: “…This I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men…But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he…commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him. And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control and judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24.1-25)
- To Herod Agrippa and to Festus: Acts 26.2-23: “I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. …And…I persecuted them even to foreign cities. In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And…I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ …And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen Me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance…To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26.6-9,11b-23)
In Roman Confinement – Acts 28.16-31
“And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, ‘Brothers…I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.’ And they said to him, ‘We…desire to hear from you what your views are…’ When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved…He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28.16-17,20,21,22,23-24,30-31)
Reflection and Prayer
As I meditate on the Apostle Paul’s exciting journey to Rome, I pray courage for the Body of Christ in the shipwreck of this land, and for those who experience the grace of God in their unbelief only because they are in this shipwreck with us who know the matchless grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ…
Father, Your servant Paul and our brother endured many dangers, difficulties and sorrows to bring Your Word to all the lands where You drew him to witness the Lord Jesus Christ. His faithfulness has multiplied Your Name and Your Kingdom to reach the peoples who came to this land. I praise You and thank You, Lord, for Your great grace in blessing my life to see the Truth You shared with Your servant Paul.
Father, I ask now, in this place where I reflect on Your goodness, grace and purpose, that Your Spirit would strengthen the Body of Christ in this land, as we face the shipwreck that looms in our journey toward Jesus’ return. As Paul spoke courageously to the captain and crew of the vessel he occupied to Rome, let us speak courageously to those who occupy this American Ship in the same way: if they all will trust in the God in whom Paul trusts and teaches to this day in Your Word, not one will perish–only the ship will be broken.
Lord, protect the Body of Christ in this land from fear and anxiety and discouragement in this storm we face; give us the voice and bold kindness You gave our brother Paul who spoke the Truth to those who enjoyed Your grace because he was in the ship with them, although they had not yet embraced Your Truth. As Paul did, so help us redeem the time on this journey, that Your Name and Your Kingdom would be magnified and exalted.