Paul’s Argument in Rome

24 Jun

The Jewish leaders in Rome decided to give Paul a hearing (Acts 28:22), and when they decided upon a particular day, they, and it seems many others with them, assembled at Paul’s rented residence for what would be an all day affair (Acts 28:23, cp. 28:30). Luke doesn’t state it clearly, but his choice of words implies that this was not simply Paul preaching, but what occurred was more like a heated debate.

Luke shows that Paul presented two themes, namely the Kingdom of God and Jesus (Acts 28:23) and used scripture out of both the Law and the Prophets to present his case. This theme is a major one in both his Gospel narrative and his current thesis, Acts, (cp. Acts 1:1-3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:24-25; 28:23, 31). Paul’s argument concerning Jesus is an argument that the ministry of Jesus expresses the hope of Israel, i.e. in him the Jews will find the fulfillment of the promises (cp. Acts 13:16-41; 17:2-3).

It has been noted by many scholars that Paul’s approach to the Jews in Rome parallels that of his visit to Pisidian Antioch. For example, in both accounts the Jews seem at least neutral, if not friendly to Paul’s message (Acts 13:42; 28:22). It wasn’t until the second encounter that opposition arose (Acts 13:44-45; 28:22-24). In both accounts Paul quotes specifically from Isaiah (Acts 13:47; 28:26-27). Emphasis in the first account is upon God’s commissioning the Jews to take the Gospel to the gentiles (Isaiah 49:3, 6; cp. Acts 13:47), while in the second emphasis is placed upon the Jews rejection of both the mandate and the messenger’s call to obey (Isaiah 6:9-10; cp. Acts 28:26-27). Clearly, there does seem to be similarity between Paul’s first recorded missionary journey to the Jews at Pisidian Antioch and his final recorded meeting with them at Rome.

In Paul’s first recorded encounter, Paul pointed to Jesus by citing the Law (Acts 13:17; cp. Exodus 14:8; Numbers 33:3) and then using David in the Prophets: “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22). Nevertheless, nowhere in scripture is this verse to be found. But this is how Paul used the scriptures. He used them like a rabbi, taking a little here and there from different places in the scripture narratives that point to the contextual meaning, and this is probably what was done in Rome at his meeting with the Jews there. In Acts 13:22 Paul used three different references in the body of the scriptures and showed how they were fulfilled in Jesus:

 “I have found David…” (Psalm 89:20).

“…a man after his own heart.” (1Samuel 13:14).

“…he shall fulfill all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 44:28).

The first scripture’s context exalts God for his mercies in breaking the power of Israel’s enemies in order to keep his promises to his people, and he found David and anointed him King. The second scripture’s context concerns God’s rejection of Saul for not keeping the Lord’s commandments. Therefore, the Lord had looked for and found “a man after his own heart”. The third and final scripture pertains to Israel’s returning to the Promised Land from Babylon where they were held captive. Originally the scripture was used to say Cyrus, the Persian, would “…do all my pleasure”, but Paul uses it to point to God’s David—the Messiah (Jesus).

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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Gospel, Kingdom of God, Paul in bonds


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