After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.
After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:
“‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Winter had passed and the seas were now safe again. So Paul and the others boarded a ship that had wintered on Malta. Luke tells us the ship had the twin gods as its figurehead. The twin brothers were Castor and Pollux. They were known as the “Dioscuri” or “Heavenly Twins.” According to Greek mythology, they were the twin sons of Zeus and Leda. They were the patron deities of the vessel. Castor and Pollux were the “gods of navigation.” It was a good omen to see their stars,
Today we do not take serious Greek mythology. So, we may think this was nothing more than a decorative ornament on the ship. The carving was to protect the ship. This was superstitious idolatry. We may think we are more sophisticated today. Don’t kid yourself. We are as superstitious today. There hordes of people who read their horoscope everyday. It is even prevalent in organizations that call themselves Christian. As an example, it is an integral part of the Roman church.
Rome refers to some of their modern-day idols as saints. The Greek pagans had gods for every part of life. So too Rome has saints for every part of life. St. Christopher protects the traveler, St Nicholas protects children. St. Joseph protects homes. The list goes on. Pagan worshipers had images of their pagan gods. Today people have statues and altars to these saints. They ask these saints to protect them.
In fairness Rome says we are not to worship saints. But we are to venerate them. But what is the difference? Men pray to a god. They pray to the saints. Men have images and shrines to pagan gods. Rome has alters or shrines to saints. Men give offerings and make sacrifices to pagan gods. Rome teaching we are to give offerings to honor the saints. Rome distinguishes between worship and veneration. But it is a distinction without a difference. In scripture we see angels refusing men’s worship when they do no more than kneel down before them. Rome’s veneration is worship by another name.
But Rome is not alone. Idolatry is common in us all. We make idols out of anything. As John Calvin said, we are idol factories. Do not think we have evolved from the superstition of these pagans in the first century. We have not.
Luke gives no hint Paul objected to getting on the ship. The ship’s owner and crew’s superstition did not pollute Paul. Other’s superstition should not prevent us from making good use of what God has provided. We see the same idea when Paul talked about eating meat sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 8:7-8. Food is food. The fact someone offered it to an idol does not change that. An idol is nothing. Superstition is nothing. Paul was not looking to Gemini for protection. These idols were nothing. They did not infect Paul.
Luke gives a detailed account of the ports and direction the ship sailed. They were in Syracuse for three days. Then they sailed to Rhegium for a day. Then they were in Puteoli. At Puteoli they found fellow believers and stayed with them for seven days. Then they finally arrived in Rome. Fellow believers came to see Paul. This gave Paul encouragement.
The mention of Christian brothers in Rome shows the Gospel has already spread to Italy. We know there were Christians in Rome by Paul’s letter to the Romans. And he addresses it to “all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7) In it, he mentions he had not yet come to Rome but planned to come soon.
Believers came from the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns. The Forum of Appius was a small stop for travelers. It was about 43 miles south of Rome. Horace said it was “crammed with boatmen and stingy tavern keepers” (Satires 1.5.3).
Three Tavern was another stop on the Appian Way. It was about 33 miles south of Rome.
The Romans allowed Paul to stay in a house with only one guard. This was very unusual. Rather than a prison, Paul was allowed to stay in a home. It was at his own expense. But this is the same as if he were a free man. No doubt Fetus’ letter indicated Paul was innocent. And the centurion had a good report. Even so, we must not lose sight of the fact God was in control.
After Paul had been in Rome for three days. He called the Jewish leaders together. He was unsure what they had heard about his situation. But he wanted to let them know he was innocent. They told Paul they had heard nothing about him.
Paul said he had done nothing against the Jewish people. He had done nothing in opposition to their customs. Yet he was a prisoner because of false accusations. The hope of Israel was the reason for his imprisonment. The hope of Israel is a reference to Israel’s messianic hope. Paul’s preaching was in accordance with this Jewish hope. To save his life Paul needed to appeal to Caesar. That is why he is in Rome.
The Jewish leaders told Paul they had heard nothing about him. They had not received any letters. Nor had anyone arriving from Judea had said anything negative about him. Why? As strong as the emotions were in Judea why had they not followed through to Rome? Luke does not tell us. But my guess is the Jews had some leverage in Judea. The Romans held their leaders accountable for maintaining the peace. This gave the Jewish leaders some leverage. But the game changed in Rome. String up trouble in Rome could only result in their oppression. Even a threat of trouble would result in hardship for them and the other Jews in Rome.
Even though the Jewish leaders had not heard about Paul, they had heard about Christians. They called it a sect. They had heard everyone spoke against it. So they asked Paul to tell them about it. They wanted to hear firsthand. They set a date for Paul to tell them about Christianity.
When that date came. They arrived in the morning. Paul preached the Gospel all day. Paul spoke about his two themes. The kingdom of God and Jesus. The Messianic kingdom was a spiritual, not temporal kingdom. Jesus of Nazareth was the very person foretold by the prophets. He was the Lord of the kingdom.
Some were convinced. And some were not. Once again the gospel divided the Jews. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
The Jews were arguing among themselves and were about to leave. But Paul said one more thing. He reminded them of something Isaiah said. They would hear but not understand. The would see but not understand what they saw. Their hearts were dull. And so God was taking the gospel, to the Gentiles. This was dangerous. Mentioning God bestowing His blessing on the Gentiles was no a popular idea. It stated riots in Jerusalem. Luke does not record their reaction. But we can be sure it was not good.
Paul remained in Rome for two years. During that time he taught all who would come.
Luke’s account ends abruptly. Did Paul go before Nero? What happened? With no real charges was there even a trail? What was the outcome? Did any of the Jews ever show up? Luke does not tell us. The book ends without warning.
Here is what we can piece together from other sources. Paul was under house arrest from 60–62 A.D. During that time Paul preached and taught anyone who would listen. The Lord had told Paul he would go before Nero and the outcome. (27:24) Paul expected an acquittal and release (Philippians 1:25 2:24 Philemon 22). All this occurred before a.d. 64. That is when Nero set fire to Rome and accused the Christians. After Paul’s release, he appears to have continued where he left off. His went to Greece and Asia Minor (Titus 3:12; 2 Timothy 1:18; 4:10-13,20; Titus 1:5). Clement in 1 Clement indicated he went as far west as Spain. Paul was re-imprisoned about 67 a.d. by Nero. This time Nero had him executed. This time Paul anticipated his death. (2 Timothy 4:6–8)