On Acts 28:16-31

Acts 28:16‑31  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Thus the apostle comes to the metropolis of the world a prisoner. Such was the will of God. There were saints in it there, as we know from the Epistle written to them from Corinth (Acts 20:33And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia. (Acts 20:3)). Many assemblies were apostolically founded, not that in Rome. So did God anticipate by condemning the pride of man which later on indulged in this tradition, as groundless as most others. The chief city of the Gentiles, which lay within Paul’s province, not Peter’s (Galatians 2), could boast truthfully of no apostle as its founder. But, more, there the greatest witness of the gospel came in bonds. So was the gospel to fare even more bitterly in the torture and at the stake when the pagan Babylon became the mystery of impiety, the papal Babylon. Yet the word of God was not bound, any more than crueller fiats consumed it later, even when a pseudo-Christian priest sat on the throne of the Caesars, and men masqueraded in the garb of the Lamb’s followers who were ravening wolves, and really heathen in heart and unbelief.
“And when he came to Rome [the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the praetorian guard, but] 1Paul was allowed to remain with the soldier who guarded him. And it came to pass that after three days he2 called together those that were chief of the Jews; and when they were come together he said unto them, [Men] Brethren, I, though having done nothing against the people or the customs of our fathers, was delivered a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans; who, after examination, wished to release me because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spoke against [it], I was constrained to appeal unto Cæsar, not having anything to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore did I call for you to see and to speak with, for on account of the hope of Israel am I bound with this chain. And they said unto him, We neither received letters from Judæma concerning thee, neither did any of the brethren on arriving report or speak anything evil concerning thee. But we beg [or, think well] of thee to hear what thou thinkest; for concerning this sect it is known to us that it is everywhere spoken against” (Acts 28:16-2216And 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. 17And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. 19But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. 20For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. 21And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spake any harm of thee. 22But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. (Acts 28:16‑22)).
Two things appear in the apostle: entire superiority to the rancor that had hitherto pursued him from the Jews, and untiring zeal to seek that they should hear the truth, and not judge themselves unworthy of eternal life. Nor was there the least underhand work. He invited their chief men, not the less informed; and he explained that, without wrong to the Jews or to their hereditary customs, he was a prisoner from Jerusalem among the Romans; who after examination were minded to acquit him but for the opposition of the Jews, which forced his appeal to the Emperor. But he points out the real offense — his stand for the hope of Israel. He might have exposed their conspiracy to murder him when in Roman hands, a fact which, if published in Rome, would have as completely served himself as blasted the Jews. But not a word escapes him, save of unselfish love, that he had no charge against those that had so persistently sought his death. It was truly for the hope of Israel he wore the chain — for the Messiah fraught with blessings of every kind, never to wane, for Israel. And if the servant’s love were thus faithful, what must be the Master’s which had reproduced it in Paul’s heart in his measure? And if Jews turned a deaf ear, those sure mercies (before which Israel one day will melt in true repentance) must find suited objects, if not in the favored land, in the barren wilderness where open outcasts now live to God’s glory, the objects of the grace of Jesus.
Of this grace to Gentiles, however, which had roused the hate of Jews elsewhere, the apostle does not yet speak, but simply of the fact that it was for the Christ, the hope of Israel, he was a prisoner.
The fact is that the Jews, having failed with successive governors, and even King Agrippa, were shrewd enough to apprehend the folly of carrying their complaints of Paul to Caesar. They had no true criminal charge. And what would a Roman Emperor care for their religious accusation? The Jews therefore replied that neither letters nor visitors had laid any formal complaint before them against Paul, but that they wished to hear what he had to say of the sect so universally spoken against as Christians. This was precisely what the apostle’s heart desired.
“And having appointed him a day, many came unto him into the lodging, to whom he expounded, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them3 concerning Jesus, from both the law of Moses and the prophets, from morning till evening. And some assented to the things that were said, and some disbelieved. And being disagreed one with another they left, Paul having said one word, Well spoke the Holy Spirit through Isaiah unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people and say, With hearing ye shall hear and in no wise understand, with seeing ye shall see and in no wise perceive. For the heart of this people became gross, and with [their] ears they became dull of hearing, and [their] eyes they closed, lest they should see with [their] eyes and hear with [their] ears and understand with the heart, and return, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you that this4 salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles: they also will hear” (Acts 28:23-2823And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. 24And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. 25And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, 26Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: 27For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 28Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. (Acts 28:23‑28)). Verse 29 in the Text. Rec. as represented in the A. V. is not found in the ancient Greek MSS. To cast out an innovation is the reverse of innovating.
Thus God gave His servant an open door to the very people whom he loved so well and whose brethren’s malice made him a prisoner, and so much the longer because there was no one to lay a definite charge. It was a moment of exceeding solemnity to the apostle’s spirit, as there in Rome he laid bare the truth of God’s kingdom and of the Person of Jesus from the law and the prophets for one long day; and with the result that some were persuaded of the things that were said, while others disbelieved, a stronger expression than their simply not believing. The word of God in the light of Jesus comes to put them to the proof, as it does and is intended to do. But if disagreeing among themselves they took their leave, Paul reiterated the long suspended sentence, already pronounced by the Judge Himself in John 12 seven centuries and more after Isaiah was inspired to utter it from the vision in the temple in the year when King Uzziah died (Isaiah 6). What a witness of divine patience as well as of sure judgment on His own people! Jehovah, the God of Israel, sent His prophet with the message originally. Then Jehovah-Jesus toward the close of His rejected testimony of love and light in their midst departed and hid Himself, after having done so many signs which manifested the Father and the Son at work in grace. Yet they believed not in Him according to Isaiah 53; yea more, they could not believe, for the judicial spell was taking effect, fruit of despising every word and proof of God Himself, the Son, on earth. “These things said Isaiah, because he saw His (Christ’s) glory, and he spake of Him.” Such is the comment of the inspired Evangelist. Now the word is again cited by Paul, only with this emphatic reference — “Well spoke the Holy Spirit.” He Who of old gave the prophet to see, hear, and write, was now sent down from heaven to make good Christ’s glory, and is declared to be the One Who then and thus spoke. He had been rejected by the Jews as the witness of the glorified Son of Man, as truly as the Son on earth had been, and Jehovah as such of old. On the ground of responsibility all was over with the chosen people, who, having failed in righteousness, abhorred sovereign grace in the gospel. But the mercy they despised will be their only ground in the latter day, when the last empire of the Gentile rises up to oppose the returning Lord at His appearing in glory, in alliance with the Antichrist in the land of Israel. These are the Beast and the False Prophet of the Revelation.
Meanwhile the Jew is finally cut off, and before the apostasy is come and the Man of Sin revealed, the gospel goes forth on its errand of heavenly mercy to the Gentiles. “They also will hear,” said the messenger from his bonds in Rome. And so it has been; so it is; though the shadows deepen as the end of the age draws near. Then an ungrateful Christendom will cast off the faith, and more and more return to naturalism, in love not only of present things but of idolatry, and in man set up as true God, that wrath may come to the uttermost on all, whether Jew or Gentile, who spurn grace and bow down to the creature lifted up to destruction by Satan in the despite and denial of the Father and the Son. But meanwhile “this salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles.” For the grace of God goes down to the lowest when the light of the knowledge of His glory shines, as now in the gospel, in the face of Jesus at His right hand. Thus Israel is cast off, the Gentiles hear, but the apostle was in bonds. So the history ends. But the apostle, a prisoner in Rome, sent thence to the Jews the deepest message they over received from God, as also to the saints at Ephesus and Colosse the fullest words, on the body and its Head, on Christian experience to the Philippians, and personally to Philemon: so fertilizing the stream that flowed through him in his captivity.
“And he remained two whole years in his own hired lodging, and received all that came unto him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, with all boldness unhinderedly” (Acts 28:30-3130And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. (Acts 28:30‑31)).
Such is the simple, solemn, and dignified close of inspired ecclesiastical history. Some speak of it as abrupt, because it does not tell us of the subsequent imprisonment of the apostle, and his death. It is the same spirit of unbelief which complains of the two Gospels that do not set before us the ascension scene; as if God did not know best how to re: veal His own truth. Paul is a prisoner, yet not so as to hinder the going forth of the truth even in Rome. To know more of the apostle we must read closely the word; yet even so there is nothing to encourage curiosity, superstition, or hero-worship, that God in all things may be glorified by Jesus Christ.