Our son Edwin, his wife Kristi and daughter Karrissa have been generous to us, Jenny and myself as well as Roy, Angela, Nathan and Luke by inviting us to spend a week with them at a timeshare in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We are half way through the week and although it is raining, we have been able to drive through the Smokey Mountains National Park, seeing another one of the many beautiful parts of God’s wonderful creation. You have heard the saying … “Time passes quickly when you are having fun.” It is so true. As a large family we have been enjoying each other, the Tennessee hospitality and the awesome views.
But as you know, all things good come to an end. On Saturday we drive back home to Greer in South Carolina. In chatting to Angela this morning I said … “I can’t believe I am almost at the end of the Book of Acts for my Daily Notes.” It seems as though we have been in the Book forever and in a few days it shall be all over. Angela asked me … “What’s next dad?” My response was … “I really don’t know.” I have been so caught up in the Book and enjoying it so much that I had neglected to consider what to write about next.
Please read on:
Ac 28:12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
1) Leaving the hospitality of Malta. We left off yesterday with Paul and the others leaving for Rome onboard an Alexandrian ship reaching Syracuse. This city is located in the southeast corner of the Island of Sicily, next to the Gulf of Syracuse, next to the Ionian Sea. A few hundred years before Paul’s ship docked there, the city was a major power in the Mediterranean World. After three days they sailed to and arrived at Phegium. A town in south Italy on the Strait of Messina … the tip of Italy’s toe. A good south wind came along the next day enabling them to sail onto Puteoli. This city is located west of Naples. In Roman times it was an important harbor because it occupied a central position on the northern side of a recess in the Gulf of Naples and protected on the west by the peninsula of Baiae and Cape Musenum. The region was volcanically formed with the name Puteoli coming from the odor of the sulphurous springs in the vicinity.
2) Unexpected fellowship. At this important harbor they met up with some believers who invited, to spend time with them. This lasted one week. It is quite fascinating how often we run into other believers … and to identify who we are we need to do something that appeals to them. On Monday night we have something to eat at a small restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee called “Hungry Bear BBQ.” Once our meal arrived we joined hands to pray. The nine of us were spread over two tables. After praying I said “Amen” followed by the others in our party. As they responded I hear an “Amen” behind me. It seems as through the husband works the back of the house (kitchen) and the wife works the front of the house (orders, serving and cash register.) She was very friendly and even brought us some brisket in a brown paper bag … insufficient to make another meal … to take with us. The group left as I found three Scriptures written on the wall above the order counter. They were … 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 8:37 and John 3v16. Rather thoughtful, insightful and evangelistic. I told the lady I appreciated those verses to which she responded saying they were intentionally Christian. We then chatted. She was the one who said “Amen” behind me. She had seen us holding hands and heard our prayers. She had placed the Scriptures on her restaurant wall. What an opening to talk about Jesus! We need to be praying about such encounters. Christians need each other, both for encouragement and assistance. Paul and his colleague would have needed both. 3) Arriving at Rome. Luke says they arrived in Rome at the end of verse 14 … and then explains how this happened in verses 15 into 16. Christians from Rome somehow heard Paul and his team were on their way and went to meet them.
Ac 28:15 The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us.
Both places were real places.
(i) Forum of Appius (Forum of Appii) was a post station on the Via Appia about 63.5 kilometers from southeast of Rome.
(ii) Three Taverns was also on the Appian Way just outside of Rome. Legend says these towns were places of thanksgiving and communal hospitality. This must be true because these brothers walked over 60 kilometers to reach Paul and those with him.
This encounter as well as the one at Phegium shows us that Gospel Hospitality ought to mean more than a coffee or a meal. Think of housing God’s people in transit. Think of walking so far to be with believers. Christian Hospitality at times requires far more than the normal smile and refreshments. There are occasions when we need to dig deep and be sacrificial in what we give and what we do.
4) Even the greatest Christians can be exhausted. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged. One gets the impression that Paul, after holding things together on the ship, through the wreckage and business on Malta, was drained of physical, emotional and even spiritual energy. It is not unusual! The best Christians that seem so organized and tireless in their serving the Lord do start running on empty. Here Luke seems to imply that Paul was like this. Just seeing these fellow believers from Rome lifted up his spirit.
(a) It would have been great to hear his prayer to God. Their sight made him feel the harrowing journey had ended and in a few kilometers … he would be at his destination. Thank You Lord for bringing us safely here according to Your promise!
(b) He was encouraged. The word “encouraged” means both “courage” and “confidence”. He was confident the traveling was passed. He was relieved! Now there was time to start recovering physically, emotionally and spiritually … for more Gospel ministry. All believers get tired and discouraged by the many duties and responsibilities required of us. There is nothing wrong with longing for rest … the ultimate one will be in heaven … but right now we have work to do for Jesus and this work requires adequate rest, prayer and thanksgiving.
5) In Rome. In a rented house. With a Roman soldier.
Ac 28:16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
They arrived safely and as said, this was according to promise … God’s promise to Paul. The centurion’s worked had ended and a new soldier became Paul’s guard. Yet Paul was considered no security threat and permitted to hire his own house and live in relative comfort. As we review where we have come from … and see how God protected Paul and those with him so that he could serve Jesus in Rome … we ought to be encouraged that God never goes back on His Word.
Dear Father, the Book of Acts, even though a synopsis, is rather comprehensive in Your working to get the Gospel out into all the world and how You used people, like Paul. Lord, here we are. Take and use us for Your Cause. Amen.