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Finally ... Rome!

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
July 30, 2021 12:00 am

Finally ... Rome!

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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July 30, 2021 12:00 am

Paul's main desire in life was to reach Gentiles for Christ. He endured hardships, stonings, shipwrecks, and other setbacks just to preach the gospel on Rome. What's holding you back from reaching your neighbors and friends?

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He said in another passage, I would to God that I were accursed for the sake of my brethren.

Do you know, ladies and gentlemen, anybody that would be willing to go to hell so that their friends could go to heaven? He desired nothing more than for his people to accept Christ. But at that moment, as those Jewish leaders left debating, maybe at that moment, he wished he wasn't in chains, that he could follow after them. He could go to their synagogues and preach and teach the truth.

But he had to stay in that little room. Hello and welcome to Wisdom for the Hearts. Over the last several broadcasts, we've been looking at the closing chapters of the Book of Acts and the Apostle Paul's legal battle with the Roman Empire. Paul's main desire in life was to reach Gentiles for Christ. In order to do that, he was willing to joyfully endure whatever God had for him. He endured hardships, stonings, shipwrecks, and other setbacks just to preach the gospel in Rome. In today's message from Acts 28, Paul finally gets there. But even though he arrived as a prisoner, that won't stop him from proclaiming Christ. Here's Stephen Davey with a message called Finally, Rome. If there was a character that we have studied in sessions together, who was a man who rushed and undoubtedly had to learn to wait, a man who I am convinced drove his chariot at top speed, it was Paul. A man who lived life with the throttle wide open.

And if you wanted to make anyone's life miserable, make his miserable by confining him, especially confining him to one room, if you can imagine that. For the last two and a half years, Paul has struggled with life turning out far differently than he dreamed. And God has taught and is teaching him to wait.

And we have walked through it with him as we have studied his biography. And now Paul's ship, after all of this time, after all of these delays, including this recent shipwreck that made a month journey turn into almost a year, he sails into an Italian port. He will arrive at Rome at last. Let's return to our story in Acts chapter 28 and pick up where we left off with verse 11. And at the end of three months, we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island. The island, if you remember where he was shipwrecked, a ship has come by and wintered there and now they're on their way. Luke records for us, maybe to let us know that Paul again is in pagan company. It had the twin brothers for its figurehead.

This is Pollux and Castor. Supposedly these twin sons of Zeus have been carved into the woodwork of the ship, which would supposedly give him safe passage and all the others. Verse 12. And after we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium. And a day later, a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Putea. There we found some brethren and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And thus we came to Rome. There's a volume, by the way, there, and we can't take time to explore it. We've explored it already, but it's as if Luke says, phew, thus we arrived.

Finally, Rome. Verse 15. And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the market of Apius and three inns to meet us. And when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. Now that implies that there were some things that he was running short on.

We'll explore that in a moment. But now just a few miles outside the capital city of the Roman Empire, Rome itself, which is the headquarters of pagan unbelief, you discover as well in this verse that there is also a small but growing church or maybe even a group of churches. Some believers from that church met Paul on the road.

They had heard that he was coming, and they went out and met him on the way and joined him on that highway just an hour or so now outside of the main capital city. And as I studied this, the key phrase that jumped off the page at me was this phrase in verse 15, the latter part. Paul thanked God and took courage. If you've ever been tempted to think that Paul was above the stress and the pressure of his trials and afflictions, think again. We have already studied him through these storms, and he has been transparently exposed to us.

But we have to be careful not to put him on so high a pedestal that we think he never felt discouraged and nor was, I should say, completely wiped out. Here came a few believers to meet him outside this capital city just to walk beside him, maybe to offer some food to him and maybe some drink. And they were smiling, and they were happy already some 24 months earlier. They had received the letter from him we know as the Book of Romans, and that had established the church. And now the author was on their way to meet him. And they were so excited that they came out and gave him sort of a hero's welcome to Rome, which I'm sure surprised him. And they just showed up at the right time. And Paul thanked God, and he found or took courage. That meant that courage was sort of on running low in his tank, and maybe praise was not so close to his lips. And at that moment, here he's trudging along in chains with soldiers, and here came some believers. And at that moment, they brought him great encouragement.

Have you ever had anybody do that to you? You're trudging along, and then here comes a card or a call, or maybe it's a handshake or somebody pulls you aside at church and says, you know, how you doing? And you can tell they want to hear, and they'll give you the time to hear it. And you have to just sort of stop and thank God, and you take courage. And they show up at the right time.

Now there are other people who show up who you wish would not show up at that time, but they do, right? You know, I had the privilege of being in a Bible conference a couple of weeks ago in Pennsylvania, speaking three days. And on one night, the president of the college invited me to his home, and one of the guests with him was a veteran pastor in his late 70s, a white-haired gentleman who had pastored, who had taught, who was now and was a president of a Christian college and now was the chancellor.

And we sat in the living room until late into the evening, close to 11 o'clock. I just encouraged them, and they were glad to do it. They just shared stories back and forth of their years of ministry.

The president of this college, the other college, was also having been in the pastorate. And I just sat there and just kind of drank it in, and they inspired me to go further. Do you have anybody in your life that does that?

Are you that way in anyone's life? Paul is on his way to inevitable suffering and perhaps death. He's met by these Roman believers who both share his courage and inspire his courage. They had already paid the price, by the way.

They could inspire this man. They were already the laughing stock of the Roman Empire. They had already established a church that was less than perhaps two years old, and they knew what it was like to be different, to stand alone, to be mocked. In fact, from the first century, archaeologists discovered a drawing on the wall of the barracks attached to Caesar's household, known as the Palace of the Caesars. Someone was mocking a Roman soldier who evidently had trusted Christ as Savior because it is a picture of a man nailed to a cross, an obvious reference to Christ.

But it was the body of a man, the head of a donkey. And a Roman soldier is kneeling before this cross, worshiping. And underneath the caption reads, Anexominas worships his God.

It is an obvious insult to Christ. And some of these believers in Rome, maybe even a soldier or two, who've placed their faith in Christ, come alongside Paul, who is shackled, and they encourage this apostle in chains. And their presence and their enthusiasm, they didn't have any money to give him or maybe just a little food or drink. But just their presence and encouragement brought about this thing in Paul so that he stopped and had a little prayer meeting.

And it says he thanked God and he took courage. Let's go to verse 16. When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself and the soldier who was guarding him.

Stop here. Paul had expected to arrive in Rome, and you know his dream had been to establish churches and to preach and teach freely as he moved about, going from synagogue to synagogue as he always did and establishing and discipling and developing. But God had a different plan. He sequestered Paul away, Acts 28 will tell us at the end of that chapter, for two years, where he will spend a large portion of his time writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, these great doctrinal truths that will establish the church. In other words, while Paul would have rather been out preaching, God wanted him inside writing. And by the way, the key phrase that informs us how Paul could ever endure this affliction is in verse 20. Look down at the latter part of that verse. He says to these Jewish leaders, as we'll look at in a moment, but he says to them, I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel. That phrase, the hope of Israel is a messianic phrase. And Paul is referring to the Messiah that has come. And he is saying, in effect, I am representing that hope of Israel that has resurrected from the dead.

The Old Testament, Job and Isaiah and others, and even David, talked about that Messiah that would indeed not undergo decay, that would rise. And he says, I am representing the hope of Israel, and I'm willing because of that to bear these chains. And so here he is chained to a guard. Historians tell us the guards will be changed every six hours. Paul will have a fresh soldier chained to him every six hours. You tell me who the captive audience was here. I can imagine the soldiers in the barracks looking over the schedule, thinking, okay, who's got Paul duty today?

Oh, my. I had him three days ago, and I had to listen to two sermons, and he kept wanting me to read what he was writing. And we do know, by the way, from another passage of scripture that several soldiers came to faith in Christ who were attached to the household of Caesar. Some of these men who heard Paul preach and teach, he turned them into his recruits came to faith in Christ. And he wrote, oh, he wrote, during his house arrest recorded in Acts chapter 28. We're not told what he wrote, but you can go to other passages by studying and getting the chronology of the books in line, and you can uncover the fact that it is during this time that Paul wrote the book of Ephesians. And maybe Paul was inspired by God and provoked in his thinking as he looked at the soldier chained to him and he looked at the armor. And then he wrote that classic passage about the armor of the believer as he just worked his way from the helmet to the shoes.

While in the solitude of this little apartment, he wrote that famous challenge to the Philippians. As he said, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence in anything, whatever is worthy of praise, think on these things. In other words, Paul says, now that we know the context of where he's writing it from, don't think on the chains.

Don't meditate on the afflictions. Whatever is worthy of praise, think on these things. And Paul gives us the discovery that the battle in the Christian's life is primarily the battle in the mind and heart. Was it easy for Paul to be in prison?

No. While he was under house arrest, he wrote to the Colossians in which he ended that letter by saying, remember my imprisonment. Don't forget. While he had hoped to disciple hundreds of people and impact the lives of thousands more, he could only wait for someone to knock on his door or someone to come that he'd invited. And God brought along an uninvited guest on one occasion, a runaway slave named Onesimus. And Paul led that young man to faith in Christ and then returned him back to his master with a letter saying to his master, and that letter we have, it's called Philemon. He said to Philemon, treat him as a brother, no longer as a slave.

This is what Paul did. Verse 17, and it happened that after three days, he called together those who were the leading men of the Jews. And when they had come together, he began saying to them, brethren, Paul had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. When they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation.

For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel. And they said to him, we have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. That must have been refreshing. That was new. Somehow they hadn't made it to Rome.

That grapevine had withered before it ever reached Italy. That was a blessing, I'm sure, to him. But we desire to hear from you what your views are for concerning this sect. It is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere. Now, they didn't know anything bad about Paul, but they had heard about this sect, this tangent belief. And they said, we want you to know we'd like to hear a little bit about this.

But before you start, we want you to know it's being spoken against everywhere. How's that for an introduction? Now, Paul, what would you like to say? Well, he has some things to say. Verse 23, when they had set a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers.

They crammed into that little apartment. And when he was, here's his threefold homiletical approach. He was explaining, you could underline that word, to them. That's carefully laying out the data, the facts, fact by fact. By solemnly, here's the second word, testifying. That is, to emphatically declare about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them.

That's the verdict-oriented approach. He isn't simply interested in giving content. He wants them to make a decision for Christ concerning Jesus from both the law of Moses and from the prophets from morning until evening. Notice the result, verse 24. And some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. So here Paul has a divided audience. Some will believe, and some refuse to believe. Ladies and gentlemen, remember that as you testify and declare and speak and lay out the facts and try to persuade that the Gospel always divides. Wherever it is talked about or preached or spoken, John Phillips said, the Holy Spirit drives his plowshares through the audience and divides. Some believe, and some choose not to believe. And the difference between those two opinions lies an eternal heaven or an eternal hell. So it was here.

But Paul sought to persuade them. That word, by the way, in the original text is the word pathos. That means with great emotion, great feeling, great intensity.

The text tells us from morning until evening. You can almost see him pacing back and forth, dragging that Roman soldier with him. He's just doing his best to somehow persuade them to see that this was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the risen one. But the results? Well, remember as well, the results are not the business of Paul nor the business of any Christian. The results of evangelism are the work of Christ. But the responsibility of evangelizing is the work of the Christian.

What we need are more people willing to embrace the responsibility rather than pining about the lack of results. And so with Paul, so with you. Some will believe, and some will not.

But from a human standpoint, think about this. Why would anybody believe Paul? He's just arrived. They don't know him. They don't know much about him. They've heard about this little sect, and here he comes in chains claiming to be the ambassador of God. Who would listen to him? He's trying to convince them to throw off Judaism and all of their heritage and follow this new thing called the church, follow this new one called Christ, and leave all of that behind. He doesn't look at all like an ambassador from God. He is unimpressive, and some sort of stuck their noses in the air and said, if God were to move in our world, we are sure he would use something a lot more impressive than this. A gentleman in our church sent me a story, true story, about the president of Harvard who in 1884 made the mistake of being deceived by appearances.

Let me just quickly read this to you. A lady in a faded gingham dress in her husband in 1884, her husband dressed in a homemade suit, stepped off the train in Boston and walked quietly without an appointment into the president's outer office. The secretary could tell in a moment that they didn't belong in Boston, much less Cambridge. We want to see the president, the man said softly. They were told to have a seat, and then they were ignored for several hours in hopes they would become discouraged and go away.

They didn't. Finally, the president decided to see them for just a moment. Obviously, someone of his importance didn't have the time to spend with them, but he walked toward the couple and then waited for them to speak first.

The lady spoke up. We had a son that attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard and was happy here.

But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him somewhere on campus. The president wasn't touched and replied, Madam, we can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery. Oh, no, the lady explained quickly.

We don't want to erect a statue. We thought we would give a new building to Harvard. The president was shocked. He glanced at the gingham dress and the homemade suit and then exclaimed, a building? Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs?

We have over $7.5 million in the buildings alone at Harvard. For a moment, the couple was silent. The president was pleased. They would leave now. Then the lady turned to her husband and said quietly, if that's all it costs to build a university, why don't we just start our own? He nodded in agreement. As the president of Harvard wilted in confusion and bewilderment, Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked out. They jointly founded Stanford University and endowed it as a memorial to their son, Leland Stanford Jr.

It was chartered the following year, 1885. Oops. In a sense, Paul walked this day out of the office. Of the Jerusalem, or Jewish, I should say, leaders who had their orders from Jerusalem. They weren't impressed by this apostle in chains and so Paul will, in a sense, go across town and begin the church and continue its development among those who will listen, the Gentile. Now the difference between the Stanfords and Paul is that the Stanfords, according to history, left the office quietly. Paul has a few things to say. Number one, instead of retreating, he delivers a rebuke, verse 25, and when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving, key word here, after Paul had spoken one parting word.

He knows they're leaving, but he says, men, before you leave, I have one more thing to say. They stop, turn and he says, verse 26, or verse 25, the latter part, the Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your father, saying, go to this people, that's the Jewish nation, and say, you will keep on hearing but will not understand. You will keep on seeing but will not perceive, for the heart of this people has become dull and with their ears they scarcely hear and they have closed their eyes lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and return and I should heal them.

Instead of softening his message, secondly, he delivers a verdict. Here it is in verse 28. Let it be known to you, therefore, he's going to apply in some degree Isaiah's comments, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles.

They will listen. And when he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves. Now, I don't want you to think that it was easy for Paul to deliver this rebuke. He said in another passage, I would to God that I were accursed for the sake of my brethren.

Do you know, ladies and gentlemen, anybody that would be willing to go to hell so that their friends could go to heaven? That was Paul's heart. He desired nothing more than for his people to accept Christ. But at that moment, as those Jewish leaders left debating, heatedly arguing, saying in effect, Paul, you're out of your mind.

We're gone. Maybe at that moment he wished he wasn't in chains, that he could follow after them. He could go to their synagogues and preach and teach the truth.

But he had to stay in that little room and wait and wait. I think for Paul, he realized that God had brought into his life limitations, and he was willing instead to grasp every opportunity. And the way that he wrote one modern day example of this kind of commitment is Johnny Erickson taught a woman that you probably know was injured in a diving accident, paralyzed from the neck down. And for a number of years now, she's been used to the Lord.

My wife and I have had an opportunity to meet with her and talk with her, and she's so winsome. But she wrote these words. Can God use me paralyzed? Can I paralyzed? He has taught me that I can. Maybe God's gift to me is my dependence on him. I will never reach the place where I am self-sufficient, where God is crowded out of my life. I'm fully aware of his grace to me every moment of my life. If you followed this woman's ministry, you know that she teaches and speaks and writes, and she even paints by holding a paintbrush with her teeth. Has God sequestered you away? Has he put you in some apartment or some obscure place far from where you dreamed he'd take you? You've learned to rush, and God is going to be teaching you how to wait. And just what are your limitations?

Better yet, what are you making of them? Paul was unable to fulfill the deepest longings of his heart, as it were. God replaced his pulpit, so to speak, with a pen. And yet we know from church history that the pen of Paul would reach the world, and he would ultimately fulfill the desires of the heart of God.

And you know something? In the final chapter of anyone's life, that's really the most important thing, isn't it? Fulfilling the desires of God's heart. I hope that in the final chapters of your life, you'll be found, like Paul, fulfilling the desires of God's heart. I'm glad you've tuned in today.

This is Wisdom for the Heart. If you'd like to know more about our ministry, please visit our website, which is wisdomonline.org. We've taken the complete archive of Stephen's 35 years of Bible teaching, and we've posted it all there for you to access free of charge. We also post each day's broadcast.

If there's a day that you miss a broadcast, but you want to keep caught up, you can go to our website and do that. The archive of Stephen's teaching is available as audio that you can listen to or manuscripts that you can read. By the way, one of the best ways you can support our ministry is by sharing it with others. There are links on each of Stephen's messages that allow you to quickly and easily share a message with someone who might be blessed by it. You can also share it to your social media. Be sure and like our Facebook page so that you'll get updates. You can follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We post our daily Bible message to our YouTube channel so you can subscribe to that. We'd enjoy interacting with you. Be sure and tune in next time for more wisdom for the heart. You
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-19 01:20:41 / 2023-09-19 01:30:54 / 10

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