These two chapters give a detailed explanation of the places, people, and hardships Paul experienced at sea. For example the destination is Italy (27:2) sailing on an Adramyttian ship along the Asian coast, and the prisoners were to be delivered to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius (27:2). This ship was accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica and Julius it is said let Paul get care (27:3). Luke is making sure that he leaves a clear “paper trail” of historical details so that this testimony and that of Acts can be verified by many unbiased sources.
The nautical knowledge to me is fascinating, the perils at sea horrific, and the number of passengers aboard the ship (276 persons) all point to a historic event, not a mythological invention (27:37). As the ship safely arrives in Malta and Paul ministers to the sick, he does so in the open, not behind closed doors (28:1-10). Paul finally arrives in Rome where he explains among the Jews the reason for his chains, “the hope of Israel” (28:20) and as was his custom, he began preaching Christ from the Law and the Prophets.
The result was a familiar one to Paul; some believed, but others refused to believe. He thus indicted them from a passage in Isaiah that prophesied Israel’s heart of stone (Is. 28:25-28) and that this message would now go to the Gentiles who will receive it.
POSTSCRIPT: As I conclude this book of Acts, Luke’s part two, his Gospel being part one, I’m amazed and freshly challenged at the following observations:
First, the historical tenor of this work is daunting. The names of cities, countries, and people can be mostly verified by extra-biblical sources. Thus, Luke’s first goal in his Gospel (Lk.1:1-4), and now in Acts of putting forth a historical account of the early churches comings and goings has been accomplished.
Second, the fulfillment of prophecy in the first four chapters especially is stunning and can’t be ignored. God is faithful to keep his promises and that is why both Jew and Gentile received the Gospel.
Third, the source of fulfilled prophecy comes from the Jews, from the Law and the Prophets. This Gospel is not new but was part of God’s eternal plan and its verification seen in the life of Christ, the promised Messiah.
Fourth, the fulfilled word was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. The Jewish nation was not the only people in God’s purview, but all the nations. This is something the apostle Peter and others needed to understand which often eluded them and sadly eludes us also.
Fifth, the core message of the Gospel is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and repentant sinners can be rescued from Gods just wrath freely because Christ paid for their redemption.
Sixth, the message while free and liberating to those who receive it, is costly to live and to preach evidenced in the varied trials the apostles endured (E.g., stoning, imprisonment, reasoning and argumentation, persuasion, theological disputes, etc.).
Seventh, the manner in which the message was preached was through reasoning, argumentation and persuasion. This was often, but not always, accompanied by acts of power where healings, exorcisms and raising corpses from the dead obtained accompanied by persecutions.
Eighth, the message was culturally conditioned. When Jews were present persuasion occurred by appealing to the Law of Moses and the Prophets. When Greeks were present, their writings and general revelation were used to get to the Gospel message. Lesson: the Gospel message must be adapted to the audience in order to be clear and persuade.
Ninth, Saul’s conversion was massive. Through it God’s purposes to reach the Gentiles and the issue of Jewish-ness brought about much conflict within the church (E.g., Jerusalem Council). I don’t think Westerners appreciate this aspect of God’s providence nearly enough.
Tenth, and so much more can be said, but to me is how much Jesus loves his church that through the crucible of affliction the word was, is and will always be central to rescue sinners and justly punish the wicked—all to the glory of God. Let God be true and every man a liar:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom.11:33-36)
May the Church today in our milieu shine the light of the glorious Gospel so that many more might come into the kingdom that alone is without end.