Thursday, June 12, 2014

MILIARIUM AUREUM (Acts Chapter 28)

Acts 28:30-31, “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

The Miliarium Aureum was a monument erected by the Emperor Caesar Augustus in 20 BC near the temple of Saturn in the central Forum of Ancient Rome.  All roads were considered to begin from this monument and all distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to that point.  According to one historian, the phrase “all roads lead to Rome” is a reference to that specific location.

Paul had followed an arduous path in making his way to Rome.  Saved by the grace of God he was then commissioned by God to “carry (Christ’s) name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).  He was faithful to the task he was given.  It is estimated that Paul traveled over 10,000 miles in his three missionary journeys and subsequent voyage to Rome.  Along the way he preached the gospel, founded many churches, and loved and encouraged the brethren. 

His gospel preaching ministry was met with vehement and relentless opposition.  In Damascus they “plotted to kill him” soon after his conversion (Cf. Acts 9:23).  In Pisidian Antioch they ran him out of town (Cf. Acts 13:50).  They stoned him in Lystra (Cf. Acts 14:19) and beat and imprisoned him in Philippi (Cf. Acts 16:23).  Some hated him in Ephesus (Cf. Acts 19:23-41).  In Jerusalem over 40 men oath-bound themselves to slay him (Cf. Acts 23:12).  And others testified against him as he was subsequently tried before Roman governors (Cf. Acts 24:1; 25:7).  Despite the opposition and obstacles (and many more besides; Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28), Paul refused to waver from his purpose or compromise with respect to the truth.

God destined Paul to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome (Cf. Acts 20:22; 27:24), no obstacle or difficulty could have prevented it.  All roads led to Rome because Rome was the heart of the empire.  Rome was home to Caesar, the most powerful man on earth who led the great empire of that day.  God had his own purposes for bringing Paul there.  He arrived and was “allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him” (Acts 28:16).

In bringing His “ambassador” in chains to Rome, God had his gospel-preaching emissary exactly where He wanted him.  Mission headquarters was established in the very heart of the empire.  All roads led to Rome and a lot of roads fanned out from Rome in every direction to places near and far.  The mandate was to preach the gospel to the “end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  Paul’s imprisonment worked to facilitate the mandate.

From prison Paul wrote to churches he had previously ministered to—in Colossae, Philippi, and Ephesus.  He wrote to those in Philippi of his circumstances, saying, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).  To the church in Ephesus he wrote, from prison, of how God had called him to “preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).  He understood his sufferings to be according to that great cause (Cf. Ephesians 3:13).  Paul delivered his epistles through loyal messengers, indeed missionaries, who then instructed and ministered to the brethren, according to Paul’s instructions and example (Cf. Philippians 3:17).

Paul spent two years in prison, but the Word of God was not imprisoned.  It is altogether fitting that the book of Acts should conclude with the words “without hindrance.”  The gates of hell stormed against the newly found church and Paul’s gospel-preaching ministry, but they could not (and cannot) prevail against it (Cf. Matthew 16:18).  You possess, in this treasured portion of God’s Word, the record of God’s triumph in the ever-broadening ministry of the good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.  Two thousand years later Paul’s God-inspired letters from a prison cell have worked to proclaim the truth to places all around the globe.  Paul might have been confined to a prison cell, but the Word of God went forth “without hindrance.”  How wonderful did the plan of God work out in the furtherance of the gospel message!

No comments: