Partakers Bible Thought

2 June 2021

Paul's Final Journey Completed

In our previous podcast, we saw Paul imprisoned in Caesarea and while there, appealed directly to Caesar. Today we look at the events of his journey to Rome. Come and listen to find out what happens on this journey, involving snakes, shipwrecks and proclaiming salvation through Jesus Christ.

39 When daylight came, they did not recognise the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sand-bar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.
42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.
28:1 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.’ 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.(Acts 27:39–28:6)

 

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Partakers Bible Thought

1 June 2021

Paul's Final Journey Commences

In our previous podcast, we saw the Church going forward together in unity. Today, we jump ahead 10 years and the Gospel of Jesus Christ had spread throughout the Roman Empire. Paul is imprisoned in Caesarea. The Jewish leaders wanted Paul tried and executed, and Festus was willing to go along with that idea. Paul, as ever guided by the Holy Spirit, appealed directly to Caesar. Paul was a Roman citizen and any Roman citizen had that right. So after what we call the three missionary journeys, Paul is now on a final journey – to Rome. Come and listen to find out what happens next in the story of the Church.

19 ‘So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.’
24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defence. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘Your great learning is driving you insane.’
25 ‘I am not insane, most excellent Festus,’ Paul replied. ‘What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.’
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’
29 Paul replied, ‘Short time or long – I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.’
30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, ‘This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.’
32 Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’ (Acts 26:19-32)

 

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Partakers Bible Thought

23 May 2021

Pentecost Power and Passion

 

G'day! Today is Pentecost Sunday where Christians around the world remember and celebrate the coming of the promised Holy Spirit! Happy Pentecost!

Jesus has now ascended back to the right hand of the Father. The 12 apostles are now back in Jerusalem and waiting. Waiting for the Holy Spirit to come. The coming of God the Holy Spirit is in fulfilment of the promise that Almighty and All-powerful God would indwell all those people who chose to follow Him. This event was prophesied many years before. An example is from the prophet Ezekiel:

 

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

 

Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus had talked about how after He departed that God the Holy Spirit would come (John 15:26). Starting today and over the coming few days we will look at the Holy Spirit and into the book of Acts seeing how the Holy Spirit worked within and through the early Church. Let's look together!

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10. Church Begins - Final Journey Completed

Acts 27v39 - 28v30

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Acts 27v39 - 28v6 When it was day, they didn't recognize the land, but they noticed a certain bay with a beach, and they decided to try to drive the ship onto it.  Casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time untying the rudder ropes. Hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach.  But coming to a place where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground. The bow struck and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up by the violence of the waves. The soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim out and escape. But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should throw themselves overboard first to go toward the land; and the rest should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship.

So it happened that they all escaped safely to the land. When we had escaped, then they learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us uncommon kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said one to another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped from the sea, yet Justice has not allowed to live." However he shook off the creature into the fire, and wasn't harmed.  But they expected that he would have swollen or fallen down dead suddenly, but when they watched for a long time and saw nothing bad happen to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

Along the journey, eventually the ship arrived at Malta.  Everybody was safe and secure, but tired and bedraggled (Acts 27v39-44). The Roman centurion did not want to kill the prisoners he was guarding, because he wanted to keep Paul alive (Acts 27v24, 43). This group of people stayed in Malta for three months and all we know of their stay in Malta, is two quite remarkable events.

1. Malta

The snake on the beach. The local Maltese people were hospitable to them.  Immediately, the Maltese people built a fire on the beach for the weary travellers. Paul had gathered some of the wood for the fire, and when he put the wood on the fire, a snake was driven out by the heat, and fastened itself onto his hand (Acts 28v3). At this point, because of their superstitions, the Maltese thought Paul was a murderer and trying to run from justice. Paul did not suffer however, and the Maltese changed their minds about Paul. He went from being a murderer, to 'a god' (Acts 28v6). God was glorified yet again through this event, and Paul no doubt would have been horrified at being called a 'god', just as he was at Lystra years before (Acts 14v11-18). This shows that God gives grace to the humble, and Paul was indeed a humble man.

The healing of the sick. The other event we hear about is about Publius.  Publius was the Maltese leader.  He entertained the ship's company, and Paul healed Publius' father and the rest of the island came and were cured. Salvation by the grace of God was preached, and Paul was honoured in many ways. We are not told if any Maltese became believers at this point.

2. Approaching Rome

After three months in Malta, they sailed on towards Italy. They landed at Puteoli and Paul stayed there a week with some fellow believers, who had come as far as forty miles to meet him Paul thanked God for them and was encouraged by God through them (Acts 27v24). God's had kept Paul safe, by His power to fulfil his promise to him about standing trial in Rome. Paul had experienced what he had long known to be true, that whatever happens in life, falls within the purpose of God. No storm, no shipwreck, no snake, no Sanhedrin, no riots, no threats could separate him from the love of God or stop God's purpose for him.

Paul arrived in Rome quietly, and settled into ministry, despite his chains, for the next two years. During this time, he seemed to avoid any great dramas with the authorities. The arrival of Paul in Rome, was the fulfilment of the Lord's promise to him in the prison in Jerusalem (Acts 23v11). Paul never forced anything on anyone. Yet he refused to let anyone stop him from proclaiming Jesus as Lord. Paul always told people the gospel with love, honesty, sensitivity and a focus that breathed a personal concern' Just because people accept an invitation, doesn't always mean they will listen. Paul found this out with the Roman Jews. They listened to him, and then rejected the gospel message.

This is the last specific event recorded in Acts. We are left with the picture that preaching the Gospel is hard in a world that is unsympathetic to us. It is also the last instance of a Jewish rejection of Paul's ministry, and from now on he seems to concentrate only on the Gentiles. This is shown in the universal nature of the church today, whereas back in the time of Paul, it was primarily Jewish. It also confirms Jesus' principle that when the message is constantly rejected in one place, to take the message elsewhere (Matthew 10v14). The gospel moves on, seeking the lost wherever they may be found.

3. Mission while under arrest!

For two years Paul was able to preach the gospel in Rome, and all this time he was under house arrest! There are 3 main features of his ministry during this time. a. He welcomed all who came to see him. His door was always open to all enquirers. If he could not go to them, then he would always welcome those who came to him. b. He consistently preached the kingdom of God and taught about Jesus.

Paul's passion was Jesus, and his message of salvation was the saving grace of Jesus. Christ dominated Paul's life. Paul loved the Lord and constantly lifted Him up before people. c. Paul preached boldly and without hindrance. Even though Paul's hands were chained, his mouth remained open for Jesus Christ and his gospel.

This sums up the book of Acts. Jesus cannot be contained. The gospel cannot be silenced. The salvation of sinners cannot be stopped. The work continues. Jesus told his disciples that they would be his witnesses 'in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1v8), These words continue for us today as we go into our places of work, study, or our families to tell them of the saving love of Jesus, that his name is the only name given under heaven among men, by whom we will be saved. The book of Acts does not end with a final statement, but with a story that continues. It seems that God wanted Luke to end the book of Acts with an open and unfinished story. Why?

The book of Acts, then, is all about the continuing work of God in and through His people, the church. It is about the unfinished work of faithfulness: faithfulness to reach out (Acts 28v17-22), faithfulness to persevere when people will not listen (Acts 28v23-30), and faithfulness to proclaim Jesus (Acts 28v30,31).  Our faith grabs hold of God's power, and this power strengthens our faith, and we are preserved; it places us within those walls, and sets our souls within the guard of the power of God, which is only left exposed by our own selfish pride and acting in our own strength.

Faith is a humble, self-denying grace' making the Christian nothing in himself and everything in God - He and He alone should be our security. We who are believers, are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church of the book of Acts. We are to be indebted to the work of Paul and the other Apostles. It would be their desire, for us to continue on the work they left. It would be their desire, to see us, living the gospel of truth in a world that is dying to know of the grace and love of its Saviour, Jesus Christ. We, as Christians in the 21st Century, are part of Acts Chapter 29.  Will we be written as part of the story, or simply be placed on the side? That is the challenge for all of us who believe in Jesus.

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9. Church Begins - Final Journey Commences

Acts 27v1-38

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Acts 26v19-32 "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance.   For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple, and tried to kill me.  Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would happen, how the Christ must suffer, and how, by the resurrection of the dead, he would be first to proclaim light both to these people and to the Gentiles."

As he thus made his defence, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are crazy! Your great learning is driving you insane!" But he said, "I am not crazy, most excellent Festus, but boldly declare words of truth and reasonableness. For the king knows of these things, to whom also I speak freely. For I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe." Agrippa said to Paul, "With a little persuasion are you trying to make me a Christian?"

Paul said, "I pray to God, that whether with little or with much, not only you, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these bonds."  The king rose up with the governor, and Bernice, and those who sat with them.  When they had withdrawn, they spoke one to another, saying, "This man does nothing worthy of death or of bonds." Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has spread throughout the Roman Empire, and Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea.  The Jewish leaders wanted Paul tried and executed, and Festus was willing to go along with that idea.  However, Paul, ever guided by the Holy Spirit, appealed directly to Caesar! Paul was a Roman citizen and any Roman citizen had that right!  So after what we call the three missionary journeys, Paul is now on a final journey - to Rome! We jump forward now to Acts 27 to look at this final journey.

Final Journey Begins

Luke records the course of the voyage in detail, and we can feel just how people travelled back in that time. The prisoners were probably put on the boat at Caesarea. They sailed up the coast of Sidon, to the east and north of Cyprus. At Sidon the centurion in charge of Paul, "in kindness...", allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs' (27v3). Now as far as we know, Paul had never visited Sidon although perhaps he had met Sidonese people on his travels. This was to be the last time he would have had the fellowship and family worship of a Christian home and a wider company of believers. Strengthened and encouraged by this group of Christians, Paul was ready for any trouble that lay ahead for him.

After two weeks sailing, they landed at Myra, in what is now southern Turkey. They then changed ships, for one heading towards Italy, and their next stop was Crete. The time of year was now late October, and the weather was quickly getting worse (27v10). The captain and owner of the ship thought that it was wise to seek a new place in which to stay for the winter. Paul foresaw the disaster, and said so.

Paul, it must be said, did believe that God was ruler of the winds and waves and would get him to Rome come what may. He was simply stating that it was better to be safe rather than sorry, to arrive in Italy safely in spring rather than not arriving at all. Paul's advice set the scene for the events that happen later on in the voyage in which God once again confirmed Paul's discernment and calling by miracles and mighty works, even if it had no immediate effect on those responsible for the decision to sail on regardless. The sailors were not fools however. They waited until the weather improved before starting to sail from Crete (27v13). Their optimism was soon blown away by a strong wind, which started to blow them towards Africa. Day after day after day, for two weeks they ran with the wind, hoping that the wind would stop, and at the same time seemingly waiting for the ship to sink. The sailors were probably starting to reflect on their life and commitments, or the lack of commitments. During this time, Paul intervened to encourage their disheartened spirits.

Encouragement

  • A call for faith (27v21-26) - By this time, everybody on board must have been aware that Paul was right in his warning not to sail on. He said they should keep their courage, because no-one would lose their life, even if the ship was damaged beyond repair. But why should they believe this? Because God had sent an angel to assure Paul that he would arrive in Rome, to stand trial before Caesar. Paul had faith in God that it would happen just as he had promised. They should take courage. All people, whether Christian or not, are in the same boat of life. All people share a common life of ups and downs. Godless sailors lived because of godly Paul. Yet it is up to us as Christians to share a message of hope to all those who do not believe. These sailors, even though they were blessed by God to survive this disaster, may not survive the next voyage of disaster, and then they would end up in hell. Regardless of their blessings, they stayed lost if they didn't come to Christ in faith. For Paul, however, to live was Christ and to die was gain (Philippians 1 :21). Whatever trials we face as believers, we must hold fast to the glory of Jesus. The real issue, Paul tells his shipmates, is not whether we live or die, but what will you do with Jesus? Paul spoke of God's promises and his faith in God. He invited them to believe in God, just as he did.
  • A call for unity - stay together (27v27-32) - Their crisis came fourteen days out of Crete. They were about to land at Malta, in conditions that were worse than awful. Some sailors were trying to sneak off in the life-boat. Paul, however, insisted that all hands were necessary if any were to be saved, and the centurion prevented them from escaping.
  • A call for effort - The promise of God, always includes the means to fulfil His promise. God doesn't commend or give His power to the faithful, so that they may be lazy and not plan, when there is a definite reason to be careful. When God makes a promise to us, we must be responsible to receive his promise. God promises to save us, yet it is our responsibility to accept by faith His Son Jesus Christ. Paul always reminded them of God's promise. He urged them to take food so that they would be strong when the time was needed for strength. He once again reminded them of the promise of God. He also witnessed to them, when eating, by giving thanks to God. Paul was a man of a God and a man of action, a man of the Spirit and common-sense, a man who combined spirituality with sanity, faith with works, a man who was heavenly minded and of earthly use.

Christians, should be the most practical people in the world, because the Lord has given us the real truth about the real world and its real needs. How do you respond to the world? Are you like Paul?

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