To be honest, I probably didn’t approach Acts 28 with “high expectations” this morning. I should have. After all it is God-breathed . . . “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” And it does put Paul in Rome, further establishing that “this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles” (Acts 28:28).
And, to be sure, there’s some pretty amazing stuff that happens in the first part of the chapter. Paul, and all who were on board, survive a horrendous time at sea and then a hairy shipwreck. They end up on the island of Malta and are shown “unusual kindness” by the native people. As they warm themselves by a fire, Paul is bitten by a poisonous viper (talk about your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!), but is unaffected and, as such, is exalted by the native people as a god. And the gospel spreads. Not you’re everyday happenings.
But as I read through the chapter, Dr. Luke’s meticulous account of events, it seemed a bit anti-climatic. However, as is often the case, I was surprised by a simple phrase which stood out unexpectedly this morning. One that caught my eye and warmed my heart.
And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. (Acts 28:14b-15 ESV)
To say it had been a trip and a half would be an understatement. Since being put on the boat for Italy, Paul and those permitted to travel with him, Luke and Aristarchus, hadn’t had a lot of likeminded people around them. Seamen, Roman centurions, and prisoners don’t necessarily make for the warmest fellowship. And it wasn’t like they were going on some vacation cruise. Then throw in a crazy helmsman who felt like he needed to make up for lost time. And you have the makings a very, very rough trip. Throw in a shipwreck and a snake bite and I’m thinking Paul & Co. were ready for some recharging. Enter “the brothers.”
No matter how “profitable” a grueling ministry trip may have been . . . even when God has shown Himself faithful during the storm . . . there is nothing like connecting with other believers to evoke praise and build up a saint.
Paul saw the brothers, some who had traveled a fair distance to be with him, and he took courage. Though the outer man had been through the ringer, just the presence of other believers was enough to restore confidence and boldness within the faithful apostle. An opportunity to share the things of Christ together . . . to trade stories of how God was at work . . . all serving to renew the inner man of Paul and his traveling companions.
And I can’t help but think that’s how Sundays should be. For many, they have spent a week amidst people who need Christ but have little interest in the things of the kingdom. And, for some, they’ve been riding the waves of their own storms, uncertain if the ship is going to hold together for another week. But walk in those doors . . . start mingling with the family of God . . . and there’s something there that should work revival within the soul. That something is the brothers . . . and the sisters too. And on seeing them, we should thank God. As we come together, it should serve as a respite from the turbulence of life and the storms of adversity. A calm bay where our anchor is again sunk deep . . . a rock solid place where the certainty of things hoped for is renewed. Where confidence is rebuilt. Where joy is restored.
May it be so among the people of God.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
All because of grace. All for His glory.