Click this link to hear an audio version of the below text narrated by SOTH member Jerry Rhinehart:
Acts 28:11-30 (NIV)
Paul’s Arrival at Rome
11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there for 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 and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters 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 people, 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.
Paul Preaches at Rome Under Guard
17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. 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 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge 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 our people 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.” 23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:26 “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” 29 After he said this, the Jews left, arguing vigorously among themselves. 30 For two whole years, Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.
What bothers your non-Christian friends about the faith? How can you help them overcome those barriers?
You created all people and love them. By Your mercy and grace, You forgive all our sins and welcome each and every person into Your family to live with You for all of eternity. You promised Your love, peace, and joy to all who believe. You provide Your Holy Spirit to be a guide, comfort, and strength in our weakness. Why is it so difficult for people to believe in You and accept Your gifts of grace? There are people who are skeptical. They can’t believe that what You did for them is true. There are people who are confident in their skills and possessions and don’t think that they need Your help. There are people who want to be free and don’t want to be weighed down by rules or submit to anyone or anything. There are those who are so power-hungry, filled with rage, and fueled by evil, that their hearts are hardened. Lord, thank you that You are patient, kind, and slow to anger. You have loved me when I was unloveable. You have forgiven me even before I realized I needed forgiveness. You have reached out to me and filled me with Your love through the power of the Holy Spirit. By submitting to Your will and Word, my life has become richer due to a greater appreciation and contentment for what You have given me. I have felt Your presence as I spend time with You, and I have gained so much from the strength and love of Your community of believers. I have lost the chains of sin that were weighing me down and now I feel free. Those who are captive to sin have to worry about repercussions for their sin, they need to manipulate the truth to hide what has been done, and keep getting drawn deeper, as they are addicted to their sin even as it hurts them or those who love them. It becomes a heavy burden. Lord You are waiting to take the burden of sin from their lives and free them from the despair. Show me how to demonstrate Your love to them. Allow them to see Your forgiveness through me. Let my behavior and my joy be something that they want more than the sin. Lord thank You for forgiving my debt. Help me to help release others from their debt. Help me to lead them to trust in You and to feel Your freedom to live, love, and enjoy life as You intended. Allow me to welcome them into Your family to encourage and support them just as You have done for me. Amen