Destination: Rome

Discovery for Students

Destination: Rome

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Acts 21:18 through 28:31

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” (Acts 23:11)

BACKGROUND

This final portion of the Book of Acts centers on Paul’s long-desired visit to Rome. At the conclusion of his third missionary journey, Paul went to Jerusalem to deliver relief money gathered by the Gentile churches. Once his mission there was complete, he intended to visit Rome, capital of the Roman Empire and the natural base for his next missionary endeavor because of its strategic location and political importance. This would take his missionary effort further west.

The Holy Spirit was the source of Paul’s desire to evangelize, and the Holy Spirit divinely orchestrated the means by which the Apostle reached Rome. Within days of his report to the church elders at Jerusalem regarding what God was doing among the Gentiles, opposition arose. Paul was falsely accused and arrested at the Temple, setting the stage for a series of trials before various religious and government officials. These trials gave Paul the opportunity to give his testimony and proclaim the Gospel of salvation for both Jew and Gentile in a variety of locations, including Rome.

First, Paul was given an opportunity to speak to the mob of angry Jews in Jerusalem who were determined to kill him. The next day, he was brought before the Sanhedrin, where he gave his second defense. After a plot to kill him was foiled, the Apostle was taken to Caesarea, where he witnessed initially before Felix (the procurator of Judea), then before Festus (the governor who succeeded Felix), and finally before Agrippa (King of Judea). In each case, Paul skillfully wove together a tapestry of his own experiences, doctrinal elements, and in some cases, even a call to decision.

After his hearing before Agrippa, the king and those with him concluded that Paul was not guilty and could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar. However, Paul’s steps had been ordained by God, and He had promised Paul that he would testify in Rome (see Acts 23:11). Paul being sent to Rome for trial was simply the next step in God’s plan.

Luke concluded his account of the Acts of the Apostles by detailing Paul’s journey to and arrival in Rome. Chapter 27 through 28:15 relate Paul’s experiences aboard ship on the voyage to Rome as a prisoner, including a stay on the island of Malta after a storm caused their ship to be wrecked. After a description of the last leg of their journey to Rome, the final verses of chapter 28 tell of Paul living under house arrest in Rome, where he remained for two years preaching, teaching, encouraging, and visiting with those who came to him while he awaited trial.

The Book of Acts ends with Paul’s first Roman imprisonment; Luke states that Paul lived two years under house arrest. According to tradition, Paul was set free for a time after this. Historians indicate that charges had to be brought within two years, so he possibly was released when that time ran out. His letter to the church at Philippi, which was written during this first imprisonment, records Paul’s expectation of being released shortly (see Philippians 2:24). Later, Paul was imprisoned again, most likely in Rome, and under much more strict conditions. It was then that he wrote his final epistle, 2 Timothy. The New Testament does not say when or how Paul died, but historians believe he was martyred sometime after the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64 and before the last year of Nero’s reign in A.D. 68.

QUESTIONS

  1. At the conclusion of his third missionary journey, Paul returned to Jerusalem, where he met with the leaders of the church. Soon after, opposition arose when a group of Judaizers accused him of encouraging the Jews to “forsake Moses” — to put aside the traditions of the Law. In response, what did the elders of the church ask Paul to do, and why? Acts 21:23-24
  2. In spite of Paul’s action in taking the vow, a riot was started by some “Jews which were of Asia” — the area where Paul had been so violently opposed. Paul was arrested, but the chief captain allowed him to speak to the people, and Paul used this opportunity to share his testimony. Based on the Apostle’s words in Acts 22:13-21, give a brief description of this former persecutor after his conversion.
  3. Acts 23 describes Paul’s appearance before the Sanhedrin. His defense resulted in a furious dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees — a conflict so uproarious that the chief captain ordered Paul to be removed from the scene, “fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them” (verse 10). With his future in jeopardy and his life hanging in the balance, Paul no doubt needed some extra support. How did the Lord comfort and encourage the Apostle? Acts 23:11
  4. After his appearance before the Sanhedrin, the Apostle was transferred in the darkness of night to Caesarea where he was to appear before Felix, the procurator (or governor) of Judea. Chapter 24 records the accusations made against Paul before Felix, and the Apostle’s response. What are some words you would use to describe how he made his defense, given in verses 10-15?
  5. Felix had been governor of Judea for six years, so he undoubtedly already knew about the Christian faith. Building upon that, Paul presented to him the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and when Paul finished his defense, Felix had a “more perfect knowledge of that way” (Acts 24:22). Subsequently, Felix met with Paul again, and listened to the Apostle concerning faith in Christ. When Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” how did Felix respond? What parallel can you see between his response and the way many respond to the Gospel invitation in our day? Acts 24:24-25
  6. Paul was imprisoned for two years in Caesarea. When Festus replaced Felix, Paul’s accusers again brought charges against the Apostle and pressed for a trial to be held in Jerusalem. At that point, Paul requested a hearing before Caesar, which was the right of every Roman citizen. In Acts 25:14-21, Festus explained Paul’s case to the visiting King Agrippa. What great doctrinal truth did Festus point to in his summary of the accusations against Paul? (Acts 25:18-19). Why did the Jewish religious leaders so vehemently resist this truth?
  7. Paul’s defense before Agrippa is recorded in chapter 26. For the third time in the Book of Acts, the Apostle recounted how his life was turned around through his experience on the road to Damascus. Based on verses 19-20, what was the outcome of that experience?
  8. In chapter 27, Paul was taken by ship toward Rome. As winter approached, the weather became more and more dangerous for traveling by sea. The ship made a good start from Crete, but in time, they encountered great difficulty in a storm. When the weather became so tempestuous that a shipwreck was certain, Paul stepped forward and offered words of encouragement and comfort to the terrified sailors. What was his message, and on what basis was he able to offer it so assuredly? Acts 27:20-26
  9. Paul carried on his ministry even while imprisoned in Rome. According to Acts 28:23, “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.” The final verse of the Book of Acts relates that Paul continued “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” As we come to the close of this book, what are some of the key lessons that we can learn from the life of Paul?

CONCLUSION

The Spirit of God inspired Paul’s longing to carry the Gospel to Rome and provided the means for the Apostle to get there, orchestrating a sequence of events that put him in contact with government officials who wanted him to tell them about Jesus, and enabling him to preach Jesus Christ in many locations. Though opposition was fierce, Paul was reassured by the knowledge that God would bring him safely to his goal. His example of commitment, and his willingness to suffer and die for the Gospel if need be, were widely imitated in early Christianity, and helped the Early Church grow despite periods of intense persecution.