1. AN AIM LONG DESIRED
a. For how long had Paul hoped to meet the believers in Rome? Acts 19:21. Who had confirmed this goal in the apostle’s heart? Acts 23:11.
b. Describe the impact of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Romans 1:1–7.
“While addressing the Roman Christians, Paul designed to instruct other churches also; but how little could he foresee the far-reaching influence of his words! The great truth of justification by faith, as set forth in this epistle, has stood through all the ages as a mighty beacon to guide the repentant sinner into the way of life.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 187.
c. Why did Paul want to come to Rome? Romans 1:8–17. What encouraging commendation had the apostle given in his epistle to the Romans? Romans 16:19, 20.
2. A HEART-WARMING WELCOME
a. Describe Paul’s arrival in the city of Rome. Romans 28:15.
“It was with a heavy heart that Paul went forward to his long-expected visit to the world's metropolis. How different the circumstances from those he had anticipated! How was he, fettered and stigmatized, to proclaim the gospel? His hopes of winning many souls to the truth in Rome, seemed destined to disappointment.
“At last the travelers reach Appii Forum, forty miles from Rome. As they make their way through the crowds that throng the great thoroughfare, the gray-haired old man, chained with a group of hardened-looking criminals, receives many a glance of scorn and is made the subject of many a rude, mocking jest.
“Suddenly a cry of joy is heard, and a man springs from the passing throng and falls upon the prisoner's neck, embracing him with tears and rejoicing, as a son would welcome a long-absent father. Again and again is the scene repeated as, with eyes made keen by loving expectation, many discern in the chained captive the one who at Corinth, at Philippi, at Ephesus, had spoken to them the words of life.
“As the warmhearted disciples eagerly flock around their father in the gospel, the whole company is brought to a standstill. The soldiers are impatient of delay, yet they have not the heart to interrupt this happy meeting; for they, too, have learned to respect and esteem their prisoner. In that worn, pain-stricken face, the disciples see reflected the image of Christ. They assure Paul that they have not forgotten him nor ceased to love him; that they are indebted to him for the joyful hope which animates their lives and gives them peace toward God. In the ardor of their love they would bear him upon their shoulders the whole way to the city, could they but have the privilege.
“Few realize the significance of those words of Luke, that when Paul saw his brethren, ‘he thanked God, and took courage’ (Acts 28:15). In the midst of the weeping, sympathizing company of believers, who were not ashamed of his bonds, the apostle praised God aloud. The cloud of sadness that had rested upon his spirit was swept away. His Christian life had been a succession of trials, sufferings, and disappointments, but in that hour he felt abundantly repaid. With firmer step and joyful heart he continued on his way. He would not complain of the past, nor fear for the future. Bonds and afflictions awaited him, he knew; but he knew also that it had been his to deliver souls from a bondage infinitely more terrible, and he rejoiced in his sufferings for Christ's sake.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 448, 449.
3. APPEALING TO HIS COUNTRYMEN
a. How were some of Paul’s sufferings relieved in Rome? Acts 28:16.
“At Rome the centurion Julius delivered up his prisoners to the captain of the emperor's guard. The good account which he gave of Paul, together with the letter from Festus, caused the apostle to be favorably regarded by the chief captain, and, instead of being thrown into prison, he was permitted to live in his own hired house. Although still constantly chained to a soldier, he was at liberty to receive his friends and to labor for the advancement of the cause of Christ.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 449, 450.
b. After three days in Rome, Paul made a special request to meet the Jewish elders. What can we learn from Paul’s attitude? Acts 28:17–20.
“[Paul] said nothing of the abuse which he had suffered at the hands of the Jews, or of their repeated plots to assassinate him. His words were marked with caution and kindness. He was not seeking to win personal attention or sympathy, but to defend the truth and to maintain the honor of the gospel.”—Ibid., p.450.
c. Describe the results achieved. Acts 28:21–24. What did the apostle finally conclude? Acts 28:25–27.
“[Paul] related his own experience, and presented arguments from the Old Testament Scriptures with simplicity, sincerity, and power.
“The apostle showed that religion does not consist in rites and ceremonies, creeds and theories. . . . Paul taught that religion is a practical, saving energy, a principle wholly from God, a personal experience of God's renewing power upon the soul. . . .
“To apprehend Christ by faith, to have a spiritual knowledge of Him, was more to be desired than a personal acquaintance with Him as He appeared on the earth. The communion with Christ which Paul now enjoyed was more intimate, more enduring, than a mere earthly and human companionship.
“As Paul spoke of what he knew, and testified of what he had seen, concerning Jesus of Nazareth as the hope of Israel, those who were honestly seeking for truth were convinced. Upon some minds, at least, his words made an impression that was never effaced. But others stubbornly refused to accept the plain testimony of the Scriptures.”—Ibid., pp.451, 452.
4. SALVATION TO THE GENTILES
a. What declaration of Paul still remains evident today? Acts 28:28. What was the result of Paul’s words? Acts 28:29.
b. Describe the new living situation granted to Paul, even though chained still to a Roman guard. Acts 28:30, 31. How did God use this difficulty for a good purpose? Philippians 1:12–14.
“While apparently cut off from active labor, Paul exerted a wider and more lasting influence than if he had been free to travel among the churches as in former years. As a prisoner of the Lord, he had a firmer hold upon the affections of his brethren; and his words, written by one under bonds for the sake of Christ, commanded greater attention and respect than they did when he was personally with them. Not until Paul was removed from them, did the believers realize how heavy were the burdens he had borne in their behalf. Heretofore they had largely excused themselves from responsibility and burden bearing because they lacked his wisdom, tact, and indomitable energy; but now, left in their inexperience to learn the lessons they had shunned, they prized his warnings, counsels, and instructions as they had not prized his personal work. And as they learned of his courage and faith during his long imprisonment they were stimulated to greater fidelity and zeal in the cause of Christ.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 454.
c. Though Paul did not try to overthrow the established order of Rome with its policies allowing slave-holding, what principles did he nonetheless teach? Galatians 3:8; Ephesians 6:9; 2 Corinthians 3:17. Give an example of how he saw hope in the hopeless. Philemon 10–18.
“In the kindness of his heart, Paul sought to relieve the poverty and distress of the wretched fugitive [Onesimus] and then endeavored to shed the light of truth into his darkened mind. Onesimus listened to the words of life, confessed his sins, and was converted to the faith of Christ.”—Ibid., p.456.
5. IN THE VERY STRONGHOLD OF PAGANISM
a. Who were among the most remarkable converts during Paul’s stay in the vile, corrupt city ruled by its wicked emperor, Nero? Philippians 4:22. What does this tell us whenever we may be tempted to make excuses for ourselves while we are in unfavorable surroundings? Philippians 4:11–13.
“Are any tempted to make their circumstances an excuse for failing to witness for Christ? Let them consider the situation of the disciples in Caesar's household—the depravity of the emperor, the profligacy of the court. We can hardly imagine circumstances more unfavorable to a religious life, and entailing greater sacrifice or opposition, than those in which these converts found themselves. Yet amidst difficulties and dangers they maintained their fidelity….
“By His own example the Saviour has shown that His followers can be in the world and yet not of the world. He came not to partake of its delusive pleasures, to be swayed by its customs, and to follow its practices, but to do His Father's will, to seek and save the lost. With this object before him the Christian may stand uncontaminated in any surroundings. Whatever his station or circumstances, exalted or humble, he will manifest the power of true religion in the faithful performance of duty.
“Not in freedom from trial, but in the midst of it, is Christian character developed. Exposure to rebuffs and opposition leads the follower of Christ to greater watchfulness and more earnest prayer to the mighty Helper. Severe trial endured by the grace of God develops patience, vigilance, fortitude, and a deep and abiding trust in God. It is the triumph of the Christian faith that it enables its followers to suffer and be strong; to submit, and thus to conquer; to be killed all the day long, and yet to live; to bear the cross, and thus to win the crown of glory.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 466-468.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How can we be inspired by Paul’s yearning desire to come to Rome?
2. What does the scene of Paul’s arrival teach us about priorities in life?
3. How may we be in danger of missing the point of Christ, as did the Jews?
4. Explain God’s purpose in providing Paul’s living situation in Rome.
5. Why should we feel humbled by the converts in Caesar’s household?