I remember as a Bible School student asking a respected, well known pastor when as a Christian you stop helping people who don’t want to change. His answer was short and blunt … “Never!” I struggled with that response for many years until I realized how many times God sent people to me in my lost-ness, demonstrating the Gospel through Christian living and sharing the Gospel with me … yet my heart was hard and I might have been unfriendly and unkind to these messengers of the Lord. God never gave up on me. He kept sending people my way, some in the most obscure ways.
Paul was a Jew. They tried to kill him and rid the earth of this man who disrupted their religion. He was one of them and now he is an enemy … so they thought. He was in Rome because of them, yet he had not yet given up on them. They were his people and he wanted them to bow the knee to Jesus and be saved. Please read:
Ac 28:17 Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—not that I had any charge to bring against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” 21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”
1) Never give up. Remember Paul was a prisoner and even though he enjoyed many luxuries as a prisoner, he was literally under house arrest with a soldier guarding and protecting him.
Ac 28:16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
Preserved documents tell us that there was at least eleven synagogues in Rome, yet being confined to his rented house, he requested the Jewish leaders to grace him with a visit.
Ac 28:17Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews.
Some have reasoned him in error for not having the Christian Church Leaders visit him first. As we grapple with his reasoning, we need to remember that the Jews as a leadership in all areas where he planted Churches, as well as in Jerusalem had turned their backs on him and the Gospel he brought to them. Then we need to remember his calling to be an apostle:
Ac 9:15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then look how Paul interpreted this:
Ro 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Anyone with a heart for the Gospel will never refuse or reject a people’s group because they would want as many people saved as possible! Do you exclude people from hearing the Gospel or from your Church and social group because they are of a different culture, language or ethnicity? That would be discrimination. You would be prejudicing people by excluding them. Jesus’ commission is all nations and if your idea of Church differs with this you are wrong, sinful and in need of repentance.
2) Urgency of heart.
Ac 28:17 Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews.
Paul would have used the first three days of reaching Rome to find a house to rent, settle in and spend time in prayer as he recuperated after him being a prisoner for almost two and a half years (from Jerusalem to Caesarea to the sea journey and shipwreck to Rome). Just three days! This is the passion and the urgency Paul had for the Gospel.
O beloved, forgive me if I seem harsh … I am not. All I desire is to awaken us to the urgency of the hour. Why are we as a Church so lethargic? Why are we so casual about eternal matters? Have we lost the Gospel? Have we put other things before eternal matters? Have we forgotten there is a real heaven and a real hell? Have we confused God’s agenda with man’s agenda? Today is today. We need to stop thinking about the advances we made for the Gospel yesterday and yesteryear. Today is the hour. There are souls to be saved today. We cannot and must not wait for tomorrow because by tomorrow they might be in eternity.
If you lack urgency or if you Church lacks urgency, prayer that God will intervene quickly and give a change of heart. Do you know where urgency starts? It starts with evangelistic praying. Pray for lost souls. Pray for them by name. Pray for them daily and as you pray, plead with God to help you grasp the urgency of the hour! I have people I pray for daily whom I shall never see again in my lifetime. Do you know why I pray for their salvation? Because there is a real hell!
3) Respectful acknowledgment. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers…” Like him they are Jews. They are brothers in a physical sense from Abraham as their ancestor. In a religious sense they were also brothers in Judaism. Yet to win their ears and possibly their hearts for Jesus he was, as always, respectful and kind. As we shall see, these Jewish leaders had no knowledge of Paul and had received no documentation from the high priests or Sanhedrin in Jerusalem explaining who Paul was and what he was accused of.
To open a can of peaches you use a can opener. To open the heart for the Gospel you use gentleness, kindness and respect. If you have been arguing or fighting with a family member, a neighbor or a colleague, you need to make peace with them before you can share Christ with them. Through prayer you might need to bury your pride, stubbornness and resentfulness … even if you feel you are in the right … and go and make peace … being the least … to gain the right to share Jesus’ lifesaving Gospel with those lost souls. No one shall listen if there is anger in the heart. But once there is peace, the doorway to hearing opens. Pray about it and go and do it. Let’s remember we need to put matters into perspective. This is not about me (you). This is all about Jesus! It’s not what people think of us, it’s what Jesus thinks of us. It’s not about my rights … it’s about the need of lost souls to hear the Gospel. There is a real hell.
Almighty Father, the God of peace, who brought about real lasting peace through the Blood sacrifice of Your Son Jesus, please remove the man made, self-centered obstacles I have put into place that prevent me eagerly and urgently wanting to share the Gospel. May I willingly desire lost souls to come to faith in Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.