Paul in Rome: Page 1 of 5 (series: Lessons on Acts)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

October 30, 2016
Series: The Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson: IV.G.2: Paul in Rome (Acts 28:16-Acts 28:31)

Acts 28:16-31, KJV

16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
20 For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading a prisoner and chained to a soldier. them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.


This is the final chapter of the first book of the history of the Christian Church. According to the plan given by the risen Lord, we have been following the witnesses as they act in response to the Great Commission by taking the Gospel message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. Luke tells the story of the rapid growth of this new religion called “Christianity,” as it moves from Jerusalem to Rome; and there he ends. The book is an unfinished fragment, and incomplete, because every person ever born or yet to be born, have a place in the book. The ending has been recorded in Revelation. Jesus will write the last line and place the final period.

We have watched this movement, first through the eyes of Peter, and then through the eyes of the Apostle Paul. We have seen the Church witnessing in Jerusalem; we have seen its failures and its victory. We have followed this wonderful servant of God, this great pioneer missionary on his journeyings, through perils often; and at last we find ourselves in Rome. Now let us see how things developed. But the book is over, and there is no further record. Why not? Because there is nothing else we need to know. Enough was written to reveal the unparalleled power of God, to bring to light the perpetual perils threatening the Church, to furnish instructions, and to provide all that was necessary for the Church to fulfill its mission until Christ returns to establish His kingdom.


16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.

Paul arrived in Rome in the days when she was under an imperial dictatorship. The golden days of the Republic had passed away. Gradually the dictators had usurped the power of the people, and at that moment the city of Rome and the empire were under the tyranny of an emperor, and he was perhaps in some ways the worst of the lot. These were the days of Nero. When Paul arrived in Rome, Nero would not be more than twenty-five years of age; but already his hands were red with the blood of those he murdered. His mother Agrippina, had been murdered about a year before Paul’s arrival; and in all probability, though this cannot be stated with as much certainty, Octavia his wife was also already murdered. Nero occupied the throne of the Caesars, and he was cruel, indecent, and weak.

Rome at that time was the very center of paganism. We may safely say that within a 12 mile area, all included within Rome proper, there were resident, when Paul arrived, two million people. One million of these were slaves. Those are approximate figures, but it is accurate to say that about half the population of Rome was slaves. Of the one million citizens there were about 700 senators; at one time there had been1000, but their number gradually declined as the power of the emperor increased. There were about 10,000 knights, mostly occupying the public positions in Rome; and about 15,000 soldiers. The vast majority of the remainder of the citizens was paupers. The wealth of Rome was in the possession of a very few. This great multitude of pauper citizens was proud of their citizenship, and held the slaves beneath them in supreme contempt. One of the tourists of the time declares that they had only two cries; one was “Bread!” and the other was “The Circus!” Thousands of these pauper citizens had no home of their own. Managing somehow to obtain the bread that satisfied the hunger of that day, and at night crowding into the circuses to watch the gladiatorial combats, they were living upon bread and excitement. Thousands of them slept at night upon the parapets and in public places of the city.

Now think of the million slaves, and remember that these conditions were so different from ours today. All the professional men, manufactures, and trade people were slaves. These pauper citizens held themselves aloof from those beneath them in the pride of their citizenship, and they looked down on all forms of work, not merely a trade, but also a profession. Slaves were ground under the cruel heel of oppression; they were the property of their masters, and their masters could take their life at any time, for any reason.

At long last they entered Rome, perhaps by the Porta Caperna. It is not unlikely that Julius would at first have reported to the Castra Praetoria, the camp of the Praetorians. In that case, the commander in question may have been Afranius Burrus, who died in a.d. 62. Here the centurion handed over his prisoners as a group to the military authorities, possibly the commander of the imperial Praetorian Guard, and his duty was over.

We cannot help thinking Julius said a fond farewell to Paul. Surely Paul had witnessed to this man about Christ. One wonders if he ever became a Christian. No man ever had a better opportunity to witness Christianity in action or to sit at the feet of a more gifted and gracious teacher.

Paul, as a Roman citizen, was given preferential treatment. He was allowed to lodge in the city, where he was placed under light house arrest in the custody of a Roman soldier to whom he would be gently chained. We can be sure that Paul diligently witnessed to those men, that he told them about Jesus, that some of them became believers, and that most of them became his friends.

17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

Shortly after arriving in Rome, Paul called a meeting of his own people; for he could not, as was his custom in other cities, go to them, for he was a prisoner, chained to a soldier. However, he was treated considerately during his first imprisonment. The first meeting was by invitation only.

Paul’s abiding passion for those he calls “my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3) would not let him rest. In his letter to Rome, written some three years before, he had devoted three chapters (9-11) as well as several other portions (chapters 2, 4) to the question of the Jews and the gospel. The persistent rejection of Christ by the Jews greatly saddened Paul, even though he now fully understood its magnitude, consequences, and tragedy.

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