Friday, November 16, 2012

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday November 18, 2012

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(GOD provides opportunities to use our faith)
(Acts 28)

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “For whatever is or is not true, this one thing is certain, “We are not what we were meant to be”. Man is the highest form of GOD’s creation here on earth, and thereby, is the greatest benefactor of HIS brilliance and largess. Men and women were made by GOD to have dominion over the works of HIS hand, here on earth. But instead, we’ve become creatures who are frustrated by our own, self-imposed circumstances, who are defeated by our temptations, and, who are surrounded by our own weaknesses. And so, it is into this seemingly hopeless situation that GOD sent us HIS only begotten SON, so that whosoever believes in HIM, will not perish, but rather, will have everlasting life. JESUS made it possible for us to overcome, an otherwise, saddened and doomed state of existence, and, at one and the same time, helped us to understand, and become, what we ought to be.
In Acts chapter 28, verses 1-10, Paul and the 276-man crew find themselves shipwrecked and stranded on the Island of Malta. It would be three months before they could board another ship to Rome. Malta was a small island in the Mediterranean Sea located between Sicily and Africa. While Paul was stranded there, he seized the opportunity to preach the Gospel to its inhabitants, and was actually able to expand the Kingdom of GOD to a group of people, the Maltese, who were called “barbarous”, because they were said, by the Greeks, to speak an unintelligible foreign language. In fact, not only did Paul teach the Gospel of CHRIST there, he was also actually able to plant a new church there before he left.
The people on Malta were very kind to the crew, and it was very cold and wet when they arrived. As they were gathering wood for a fire, a poisonous snake attached itself to Paul’s hand. The people of the Island saw what was happening and thought for sure that Paul would be killed. However, Paul shook the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people, however, waited for a long while to see if Paul would swell up and die, but when nothing happened, they started believing that he must be a god (Vs. 1-6).
While on Malta, they met the chief Roman official, Publius, who invited them to his estate where he generously fed them for three days. Publius had a father who was suffering with an ailment called dysentery (dis-en-ter-e), which is a painful infection of the lower intestinal tract that also causes fever and severe diarrhea. While there, Paul laid hands on him and healed him. He also healed many other sick people on the Island who came to him seeking relief, and they were honored greatly by the people, and were given many things that they would need when they re-embarked upon their journey to Rome (Vs. 7-10).
Three months later they set sail for Rome on another ship that had docked on Malta for the winter. It was a ship from Alexandria in northern Africa, which featured the “twin gods” as its figurehead. In the first century, many ships had images of various idol gods, carved prominently at the front of the boat, kind of like a hood ornament on modern day automobiles, only, of course, sized in proportion to the ship. In those days two of the most popular idol gods were the twins, Castor and Pollux. This ship had carved images of those “Greeks gods of the constellation” called “Gemini” (Greek mythology & astrology) as its figurehead.
Their first stop was at Syracuse, a Greek city on the southeast coast of the island of Sicily, where they stayed for three days. Then they sailed across the Strait of Messina to Rhegium (Ree-jee-uhm), on the coast of southern Italy. From there they sailed up the coast to Puteoli (Poo-TEE-uh-lih) on the western shore of southern Italy where they found some believers, who invited them to stay with them for seven days.
Puteoli was the port of the great capital city of Rome, situated at the foot of the “Appian Way”. It was here at the original “Famous Forum”, some 43 miles from Rome, that, faithful believers came to meet their fearless, hardworking leader, Paul, to greet and encourage him.
Still others met him ten miles farther inland at “The Three Taverns”, giving the man who thought that he was nearly without human support in Rome, a hero’s welcome. And when they arrived in the city of Rome, Paul was placed under “house arrest”, under guard by only one soldier (Vs. 11-16).
Three days after arriving in Rome, Paul called the local Jewish leaders together and informed them, firsthand, of his situation. He told them that he had been arrested in Jerusalem, and tried, both there, and, in Caesarea, but hadn’t been formerly charged with any crime. They agreed that they had heard nothing against Paul, and had no letters from Judea, or reports from anyone else, accusing him of anything against anyone. However, they were still curious to know about the, much-denounced, “Christian sect” that they had heard so many negative things about (Vs. 17-22).
And so a time was set for Paul to speak to the Jews in Rome, while under arrest in his rented house. He took that glorious opportunity to preach and teach the doctrine of CHRIST JESUS from Scripture. He taught them from the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, and, from the books of the prophets. These teachings continued throughout the day, and into the night, and some believed, while others did not. However, after debating back and forward among themselves, Paul left them with a quote from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9-10), and after that, they all walked away, greatly disagreeing with each other (Vs. 23-29).
For the next two years, Paul continued to preach and teach from his rented house in Rome, and he proclaimed boldly, the Kingdom of GOD, and the doctrine of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. It is also during this period that he wrote his, now famous, “jail house letters”, which includes letters to the Philippians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, and, to Philemon.  
Jewish history tells us that Paul was acquitted of the false charges against him, and he continued to minister for a while, away from Rome. However, he returned to Rome after a couple of years and was re-arrested. This time he was executed by the Romans, reportedly beheaded during the wave of persecutions against Christians, that was spearheaded by the “miming emperor, Nero, in close proximity to Peter’s death, in and around A.D. 68.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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