Have you ever been on the wrong side of the law, and found that these guys who are about to close the door on you are nice guys, have people every welcome you with open arms and been really hospitable, and really nice, even though you hardly even know them, well I have to both, the first when I was in my early twenty’s, for fighting on Christmas eve and the second by people from two different churches, this one being one of them.
1. A warm welcome
So here we are Paul has finally got to Rome, after so long and so many mishaps on the way, he has arrived. And despite the fact that Paul is under guard v14 tells us 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.
What a different world, the guard or guards just let Paul and his friends chill out for a week before moving on, but also notice what great hospitality by the believers that they were willing to open there houses to strangers.
My son Michael and daughter in law have received a similar hospitality, they were both before they married in a Christin touring company called Rough Should and they would tour the country for 8 or 9 months and stay in other people’s houses for one or two weeks, and they made some great friends, but what generosity, that great generosity that flows from the Christian heart.
Then in v15 we read that when Paul left he was meet on the way to Rome by more believers who had come out of the city to meet him that part of the journey was 150 miles thankfully it would have been on good Roman roads, and believers came out of the city to meet Paul they did not just come out they travelled 40-50 miles and don’t forget these were mostly very poor people, no mules or horses for them and in case you have forgotten cars were not yet invented.
How excited they must have been to meet Paul, that they could not wait.
And Paul was overwhelmed and thanked God for their love and their willingness to witness for God. And this lifted Paul, as I am sure it would anyone how would you feel after a long, long journey people come to meet you and journey with you over the final leg of the journey.
And then Paul was given a great gift from God he was allowed to live in a rented house with just one guard, no cell for Paul.
2. Facing opposition
Then we read in v17 that after a short rest Paul is back at work, normally he would go to the local synagogue and preach the Gospel and try to convert the local Jews first, but due to the house arrest Paul, calls the local leaders to him, and first starts by telling them why he is under arrest in Roman and that he has done nothing wrong to his own people, and was found not guilty but that the Jewish leaders complain and so he is in Rome for Creaser to decide his fate, He goes on to tell them of the hope he has and wants for Israel and that hope is that they would all recognise that Jesus in Lord and that Jesus in the long awaited messiah.
And in v 21 they replied that they had heard nothing bad about Paul or received any letters from the Authorities in Judea, but they want to know what it is that Paul has got himself in and what this new Christian faith is.
Many years ago when I was at school went away to the devils punch bowl and stayed for a week and someone thought it would be a great idea to open the water fire hose on the wall in the dormitory I was in, they then run off, I was only 11 or 12 anyway I went over to turn it off you can imagine the water all over the place, and in walks the teacher as I have my hands on the hose, my dad was going to be summoned to the site I was going to be sent home, but I had done nothing wrong and not unlike Paul I had to go and see they very scary teacher in charge, and I think much like Paul although you know you’re not guilty your worried because it’s in someone else hands, but Paul does not let that affect him and carries on telling people about Jesus.
In v 23, they agree to meet again with Paul so he can tell them all about Jesus and even more of them come along to the next meeting still at the house Paul was staying at. And I suspect that Paul was in his element he was talking about Gods kingdom, the law of Moses and the prophets and pointing out how these things all pointed to
Jesus there are over 450 prophesies that point to Jesus in the old testament which is the part of the bile the Jewish people followed and still follow and Paul was at it all Day. And thanks be to God some were convinced but not all and some argued amongst there selves, and the meeting broke up when Paul quoted a passage from Isaiah.
Saying ‘The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet’: In V 26 we read ‘Go to this people (the Jews) and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
This was not what the Jews wanted to hear it is a commendation, and many people today are like this, I myself was like this before I give my life to Jesus just over nine years ago I ticked all these box’s I heard but did not understand, I saw but did not recognise what I was seeing, but when I went in search of God, the holy spirit opened my ears and opened my eyes, and I understood better and saw where God was in the world.
And in V 28 Paul is saying to the Jew’s God’s first love, that as they are not willing to take up the offer it will be open to everyone, and the Jews thought that non-Jews Gentiles you and me were beneath them and that they the Gentiles could only come to God through their way of belief.
And Paul says and they the Gentiles will listen, and they did not all but many, many, and still today they are listing, the Church of God is growing, were is the fasted growing church in the world, the answer is Iran
I read this recently: Christians in Iran face relentless persecution. Ranked ninth on Open Doors’ list of countries where it’s most dangerous to be a Christian, open churches are forbidden and converting from Islam – the state religion – is punishable by death for men, and life imprisonment for women. Last year more than 100 Christians were arrested or imprisoned and allegations of torture have emerged.
And yet, the church in Iran is thriving. In 2015, mission organisation Operation World named Iran as having the fastest growing evangelical population in the world, with an estimated annual growth of 19.6 per cent. According to Mark Howard of Elam Ministries, an organisation founded by Iranian church leaders with the purpose of expanding the church in Iran, more Iranians have become Christians in the last two decades than in the previous 13 centuries combined.
“In 1979, there were an estimated 500 Christians from a Muslim background in Iran,” he says. “Today, there are hundreds of thousands – some say more than one million. Whatever the exact number, many Iranians are turning to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.”
And the second fastest is China. China’s Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China. In 2016 there were estimated to be 100 million Christians in China.
God the Holy Spirit is still at work and God can use you to spread that word and that word is that God loves you that Jesus came to save us all if we accept his gift of grace.
3. Preaching the Gospel
Our reading ended with v30 as told us that Paul stayed in his rented house for two years preaching the Gospel of Jesus to all —with all boldness and without hindrance!
So is the end of Acts where we start to proclaim the kingdom of God, start to tell others of the love that Jesus brings of the healing that Jesus bring of the fact that God want to be with us all through his Holy Spirit.
So are we going to do what Jesus commanded us to do to go and spread the Gospel to our family our neighbours are we going to invite them to church to the ladies breakfast to the next men’s breakfast, to be part of the work party, to a quiz night to come on the Christianity Explored course? Or are we going to deny Jesus and think that because we are good and come to church it will be ok? My relationship with Jesus exploded when I started to tell others about his love for them.
I would like to finish in prayer: Lord God, we thank you for Paul for the example he has set us, Lord we pray that you will give us opportunities to tell our family and friends of your love and of your peace and that it is open to all people every were. Amen