Boldly Proclaim Jehovah’s Kingdom!
“He would kindly receive all those who came in to him, preaching the kingdom of God to them.”—ACTS 28:30, 31.
1, 2. What evidence of divine backing did the apostle Paul have, and what example did he set?
JEHOVAH always upholds Kingdom proclaimers. How true that was of the apostle Paul! With divine backing, he appeared before rulers, endured mob action, and boldly proclaimed Jehovah’s Kingdom.
2 Even as a prisoner in Rome, Paul “would kindly receive all those who came in to him, preaching the kingdom of God to them.” (Acts 28:30, 31) What a fine example for Jehovah’s Witnesses today! We can learn much from Paul’s ministry as reported by Luke in the final chapters of the Bible book of Acts.—20:1–28:31.
Fellow Believers Upbuilt
3. What happened at Troas, and what parallel may be drawn with our day?
3 After the riot in Ephesus subsided, Paul continued his third missionary tour. (20:1-12) When about to sail for Syria, however, he learned that Jews had plotted against him. Since they may have planned to board the same ship and kill Paul, he went through Macedonia. At Troas, he spent a week upbuilding fellow believers as traveling overseers among Jehovah’s Witnesses now do. On the night before his departure, Paul prolonged his speech until midnight. Eutychus, seated at a window, was apparently weary from the day’s exertions. He collapsed in sleep and fell to his death from the third floor, but Paul restored him to life. What joy this must have caused! Think, then, of the joy that will result when many millions are resurrected in the coming new world.—John 5:28, 29.
4. As regards the ministry, what did Paul teach the Ephesian elders?
4 En route to Jerusalem, at Miletus, Paul met with the elders of Ephesus. (20:13-21) He reminded them that he had taught them “from house to house” and that he “thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” Those who ultimately became elders had repented, and they possessed faith. The apostle also had been training them to proclaim the Kingdom boldly to unbelievers in a house-to-house ministry like that performed by Jehovah’s Witnesses today.
5. (a) How was Paul exemplary in regard to direction by holy spirit? (b) Why did the elders need counsel to ‘pay attention to all the flock’?
5 Paul was exemplary in accepting direction by God’s holy spirit. (20:22-30) “Bound in the spirit,” or feeling obligated to follow its lead, the apostle would go to Jerusalem, though bonds and tribulations awaited him there. He valued life, but maintaining integrity to God was the most important thing to him, as it should be to us. Paul urged the elders to ‘pay attention to all the flock among which the holy spirit had appointed them overseers.’ After his “going away” (apparently in death), “oppressive wolves” would “not treat the flock with tenderness.” Such men would arise from among the elders themselves, and less discerning disciples would accept their twisted teachings.—2 Thessalonians 2:6.
6. (a) Why could Paul confidently commit the elders to God? (b) How did Paul follow the principle of Acts 20:35?
6 The elders needed to remain alert spiritually to guard against apostasy. (20:31-38) The apostle had taught them the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus’ teachings, which have sanctifying power that could help them to receive the heavenly Kingdom, “the inheritance among all the sanctified ones.” By working to provide for himself and his associates, Paul also encouraged the elders to be hard workers. (Acts 18:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9) If we pursue a similar course and help others to gain eternal life, we will appreciate Jesus’ words: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” The sense of this statement is found in the Gospels but is quoted only by Paul, who may have received it orally or by inspiration. We can enjoy much happiness if we are as self-sacrificing as Paul was. Why, he had given of himself so much that his departure saddened the Ephesian elders greatly!
Let Jehovah’s Will Take Place
7. How did Paul set an example in submitting to God’s will?
7 As Paul’s third missionary trip neared its end (c. 56 C.E.), he set a fine example in submitting to God’s will. (21:1-14) In Caesarea he and his companions stayed with Philip, whose four virgin daughters “prophesied,” foretelling events by holy spirit. There the Christian prophet Agabus bound his own hands and feet with Paul’s girdle and was moved by the spirit to say that Jews would bind its owner in Jerusalem and deliver him into Gentile hands. “I am ready not only to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus,” said Paul. The disciples acquiesced, saying: “Let the will of Jehovah take place.”
8. If we sometimes find it hard to take good advice, what might we remember?
8 Paul told the elders in Jerusalem what God did among the Gentiles through his ministry. (21:15-26) If we ever find it hard to take good advice, we can recall how Paul accepted it. To prove that he was not teaching Jews in Gentile lands “an apostasy from Moses,” he heeded the elders’ counsel to undergo ceremonial cleansing and cover the expenses for himself and four other men. Though Jesus’ death moved the Law out of the way, Paul did no wrong by carrying out its features regarding vows.—Romans 7:12-14.
Mobbed but Undaunted
9. As to mob violence, what parallel is there between the experiences of Paul and those of Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
9 Jehovah’s Witnesses have often maintained integrity to God in the face of mob violence. (For example, see the 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pages 180-90.) Jews from Asia Minor similarly fomented mob action against Paul. (21:27-40) Seeing Trophimus the Ephesian with him, they falsely accused the apostle of defiling the temple by taking Greeks into it. Paul was about to be killed when Roman tribune Claudius Lysias and his men quelled the riot! As foretold (but caused by the Jews), Lysias had Paul put in chains. (Acts 21:11) The apostle was about to be taken into the soldiers’ quarters adjoining the temple court when Lysias learned that Paul was not a seditionist but a Jew allowed to enter the temple area. Getting permission to speak, Paul addressed the people in Hebrew.
10. How was Paul’s speech received by the Jews in Jerusalem, and why was he not scourged?
10 Paul gave a bold witness. (22:1-30) He identified himself as a Jew instructed by highly respected Gamaliel. The apostle explained that en route to Damascus to persecute followers of The Way, he had been blinded upon seeing the glorified Jesus Christ, but Ananias had restored his sight. Later the Lord had told Paul: “Get on your way, because I shall send you out to nations far off.” Those words fell like a spark in a forest. Shouting that Paul was not fit to live, the crowd threw their outer garments about and tossed dust into the air in anger. So Lysias had Paul taken to the soldiers’ quarters for examination under scourging to learn why the Jews were against him. A scourging (with a device having leather thongs with knots or embedded pieces of metal or bone) was prevented when Paul asked: ‘Is it lawful to scourge an uncondemned Roman?’ Learning that Paul was a Roman citizen, Lysias became fearful and took him before the Sanhedrin to learn why he was being accused by the Jews.
11. In what respect was Paul a Pharisee?
11 When Paul opened his defense before the Sanhedrin by saying that he had “behaved before God with a perfectly clear conscience,” High Priest Ananias ordered that he be struck. (23:1-10) Paul said, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall.” “Are you reviling the high priest?” some asked. Because of poor eyesight, Paul may not have recognized Ananias. But noting that the council was made up of Pharisees and Sadducees, Paul said: ‘I am a Pharisee being judged over the resurrection hope.’ This split the Sanhedrin, for Pharisees believed in resurrection and Sadducees did not. So much dissension arose that Lysias had to rescue the apostle.
12. How did Paul escape a plot on his life in Jerusalem?
12 Paul next escaped a plot on his life. (23:11-35) Forty Jews had sworn not to eat or drink until they had killed him. Paul’s nephew reported this to him and to Lysias. Under military guard, the apostle was taken to Governor Antonius Felix at Caesarea, the Roman administrative capital of Judea. After promising Paul a hearing, Felix kept him under guard in the Praetorian palace of Herod the Great, the governor’s headquarters.
Boldness Before Rulers
13. About what did Paul witness to Felix, and with what effect?
13 The apostle soon defended himself against false charges and boldly witnessed to Felix. (24:1-27) Before Jewish accusers, Paul showed that he had not incited a mob. He said that he believed the things set forth in the Law and the Prophets and hoped in “a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” Paul had gone to Jerusalem with “gifts of mercy” (contributions for Jesus’ followers whose poverty may have resulted from persecution) and had been ceremonially cleansed. Though Felix postponed judgment, Paul later preached to him and his wife Drusilla (daughter of Herod Agrippa I) about Christ, righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment. Frightened by such talk, Felix dismissed Paul. Later, however, he sent for the apostle often, hoping in vain for a bribe. Felix knew that Paul was innocent but left him bound, hoping to gain favor with the Jews. Two years later, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus.
14. Of what legal provision did Paul avail himself when he appeared before Festus, and what parallel do you find in this?
14 Paul also made a bold defense before Festus. (25:1-12) If the apostle was deserving of death, he would not beg off, but no man could hand him over to the Jews as a favor. “I appeal to Caesar!” said Paul, availing himself of a Roman citizen’s right to be tried in Rome (at that time before Nero). The appeal granted, Paul would “bear witness in Rome,” as foretold. (Acts 23:11) Jehovah’s Witnesses also avail themselves of provisions to ‘defend and legally establish the good news.’—Philippians 1:7.
15. (a) What prophecy was fulfilled when Paul appeared before King Agrippa and Caesar? (b) How did Saul ‘kick against the goads’?
15 King Herod Agrippa II of northern Judea and his sister Bernice (with whom he had an incestuous relationship) heard Paul when paying Festus a visit at Caesarea. (25:13–26:23) By witnessing to Agrippa and Caesar, Paul fulfilled the prophecy that he would bear the Lord’s name to kings. (Acts 9:15) Telling Agrippa what had happened on the road to Damascus, Paul remarked that Jesus said: “To keep kicking against the goads makes it hard for you.” As a stubborn bull hurts itself in resisting the prickings of a goad, Saul had hurt himself by fighting against Jesus’ followers, who had God’s backing.
16. How did Festus and Agrippa react to Paul’s testimony?
16 How did Festus and Agrippa react? (26:24-32) Unable to understand the resurrection and amazed at Paul’s conviction, Festus said: “Great learning is driving you into madness!” Similarly, some now accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of being mad, though they really are like Paul in “uttering sayings of truth and of soundness of mind.” “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian,” said Agrippa, who ended the hearing but acknowledged that Paul could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.
Dangers at Sea
17. How would you describe the dangers encountered at sea during Paul’s trip to Rome?
17 The trip to Rome exposed Paul to “dangers at sea.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) An army officer named Julius was in charge of the prisoners sailing from Caesarea to Rome. (27:1-26) When their ship landed at Sidon, Paul was allowed to visit believers, who refreshed him spiritually. (Compare 3 John 14.) At Myra in Asia Minor, Julius made the prisoners board a grain ship bound for Italy. Despite strong headwinds, they made it to the harbor of Fair Havens, near the Cretan city of Lasea. After leaving there en route to Phoenix, a northeasterly gale seized the ship. Fearful of running aground on the Syrtis (quicksands) off north Africa, the sailors “lowered the gear,” perhaps the sails and masts. Ropes had been run around the hull so that the ship’s seams would not part. Still tempest-tossed the next day, the ship was lightened by throwing freight overboard. The third day, they threw away the tackling (sails or spare gear). As hope seemed to fade, an angel appeared to Paul and told him not to be fearful, for he would stand before Caesar. What a relief it was when the apostle said that all the travelers would be cast ashore on a certain island!
18. What finally happened to Paul and his fellow voyagers?
18 The voyagers did survive. (27:27-44) At midnight on the 14th day, the sailors perceived that land was near. Soundings confirmed this, and anchors were lowered to escape disaster upon the rocks. At Paul’s urging, all 276 men partook of food. Then the ship was lightened by throwing the wheat overboard. At daybreak, the sailors cut away the anchors, unlashed the oars, and hoisted the foresail to the wind. The vessel lighted upon a shoal, and the stern began to be broken to pieces. But everyone made it to land.
19. What happened to Paul on Malta, and what did he do for others there?
19 Soaked and weary, the shipwreck victims found themselves on Malta, where the islanders showed them “extraordinary human kindness.” (28:1-16) As Paul laid sticks on a fire, however, the heat revived a dormant viper that fastened itself on his hand. (There are now no poisonous snakes on Malta, but this was a “venomous creature.”) The Maltese thought Paul was a murderer that “vindictive justice” would not allow to live, but when he did not drop dead or swell up with inflammation, they said he was a god. Paul later cured many, including the father of Publius, Malta’s chief official. Three months thereafter, Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus departed on a ship with the figurehead “Sons of Zeus” (Castor and Pollux, twin deities supposedly favoring mariners). Landing at Puteoli, Julius moved on with his ward. Paul thanked God and took courage when Christians from the Roman capital met them at the Marketplace of Appius and Three Taverns along the Appian Way. Finally, in Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, though guarded by a soldier.
Keep on Proclaiming Jehovah’s Kingdom!
20. With what activity did Paul keep busy in his quarters in Rome?
20 In his quarters in Rome, Paul boldly proclaimed Jehovah’s Kingdom. (28:17-31) He told principal Jewish men: “Because of the hope of Israel this chain I have around me.” That hope involved accepting the Messiah, something for which we must also be willing to suffer. (Philippians 1:29) Though most of those Jews did not believe, many Gentiles and a Jewish remnant had the right heart condition. (Isaiah 6:9, 10) For two years (c. 59-61 C.E.) Paul received all who came in to him, “preaching the kingdom of God to them and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with the greatest freeness of speech, without hindrance.”
21. To the end of his earthly life, what example did Paul set?
21 Nero apparently pronounced Paul innocent and released him. The apostle then renewed his work in association with Timothy and Titus. However, he was again imprisoned in Rome (c. 65 C.E.) and likely suffered martyrdom at Nero’s hands. (2 Timothy 4:6-8) But to the end, Paul set a fine example as a courageous Kingdom proclaimer. With the same spirit in these last days, may all those dedicated to God boldly proclaim Jehovah’s Kingdom!
How Would You Answer?
□ What ministerial training did Paul give the Ephesian elders?
□ How did Paul set an example of submission to God’s will?
□ As to mob violence, what similarity is there between the experiences of Paul and those of Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
□ Of what legal provision did Paul avail himself when before Governor Festus, and this has what modern-day parallel?
□ With what activity did Paul keep busy in his quarters in Rome, setting what example?