Preaching the kingdom of God - See the notes on Acts 20:25.
With all confidence - Openly and boldly, without anyone to hinder him. It is known also that Paul was not unsuccessful even when a prisoner at Rome. Several persons were converted by his preaching, even in the court of the emperor. The things which had happened to him, he says Philippians 1:12-14, had fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel, so that his bonds in Christ were manifested in all the palace, and in all other places; and many brethren in the Lord, says he, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear. In this situation he was remembered with deep interest by the church at Philippi, who sent Epaphroditus to him with a contribution to supply his needs. Of their kindness he speaks in terms of the tenderest gratitude in Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:18. During his confinement also, he was the means of the Conversion of Onesimus, a runaway servant of Philemon, of Colosse in Phrygia Philemon 1:10, whom he sent back to his master with a letter to himself, and with an epistle to the church at that place. See the Epistle to the Colossians, Colossians 4:8-9, Colossians 4:18. During this imprisonment, he wrote, according to Lardner, the following epistles, in the order and time mentioned, namely,:
|Ephesians, April of ||61 AD|
|2 Timothy, May of ||61 AD|
|Philippians, before the end of ||62 AD|
|Colossians ||62 AD|
|Philemon ||62 AD|
|Hebrews, the spring of ||63 AD|
Here closes the inspired account of the propagation of Christianity; of the organization of the Christian church, and of the toils and persecutions of the apostle Paul. Who can but be deeply affected when he comes to the conclusion of this inspired book recording the history of the spread of the Christian religion, and the labors and trials of that wonderful man, the apostle Paul. Who can help heaving a sigh of regret that the historian did not carry forward the history of Paul until his death, and that henceforward, in the history of the church, we want this faithful, inspired guide; and that, from the close of this book, everything becomes at once so involved in obscurity and uncertainty? Instead, however, of pouring forth unavailing regrets that the sacred historian has carried us no further onward, we should rather employ the language of praise that God inspired the writer of this book to give a history of the church for 30 years after the ascension of the Saviour; that he has recorded the accounts of the first great revivals of religion; that he has presented us the examples of the early missionary zeal; that he has informed us how the early Christians endured persecution and toil; that he has conducted us from land to land, and from city to city, showing us everywhere how the gospel was propagated, until we are led to the seat of the Roman power, and see the great apostle of Christianity there proclaiming, in that mighty capital of the world, the name of Jesus as the Saviour of people.
Perhaps there could be no more appropriate close to the book of the inspired history than thus to have conducted the apostle of the Gentiles to the capital of the Roman world, and to leave the principal agent in the establishment of the Christian religion in that seat of intelligence, influence, and power. It is the conducting of Christianity to the very height of its earthly victories; and having shown its power in the provinces of the empire, it was proper to close the account with the record of its achievements in the capital.
Why Luke closed his history here is not known. It may have been that he was not afterward the companion of Paul; or that he might have been himself removed by death. It is agreed on all hands that he did not attend Paul in his subsequent travels; and we should infer from the conclusion of this book that he did not survive the apostle, as it is almost incredible, if he did, that he did not mention his release and death. It is the uniform account of antiquity that Luke, after the transactions with which the Acts of the Apostles closes, passed over into Achaia, where he lived a year or two, and there died at the age of 84 years.
Everything in regard to the apostle Paul, after the account with which Luke closes this book, is involved in doubt and uncertainty. By what means he was set at liberty is not known; and there is a great contradiction of statements in regard to his subsequent travels, and even in regard to the time of his death. It is generally agreed, indeed, that he was set at liberty in the year of our Lord 63 a.d. After this some of the fathers assert that he traveled over Italy and passed into Spain. But this account is involved in great uncertainty. Lardner, who has examined all the statements with care, and than whom no one is better qualified to pronounce an opinion on these subjects, gives the following account of the subsequent life of Paul (Works, vol. v. pp. 331-336, London edition, 1829). He supposes that after his release he went from Rome to Jerusalem as soon as possible; that he then went to Ephesus, and from thence to Laodicea and Colosse; and that he returned to Rome by Troas, Philippi, and Corinth. The reason why he returned to Rome, Lardner supposes, was that he regarded that city as opening before him the widest and most important field of labor, and that, therefore, he proposed there to spend the remainder of his life.
In the year of our Lord 64 a.d., a dreadful fire happened at Rome which continued for six or seven days. It was generally supposed that the city had been set on fire by order of the Emperor Nero. In order to divert the attention of the people from this charge against himself, he accused the Christians of having been the authors of the conflagration, and excited against them a most furious and bloody persecution. In this persecution it is generally supposed that Paul and Peter suffered death, the former by being beheaded, and the latter by crucifixion. Paul is supposed to have been beheaded rather than crucified, because he was a Roman citizen, and because it was unlawful to put a Roman citizen to death on a cross. Lardher thinks that this occurred in the year 65. Where Paul was beheaded is not certainly known. It is generally supposed to have occurred at a place called the Salvian Waters, about 3 miles from Rome, and that he was buried in the Ostian Way, where a magnificent church was afterward built. But of this there is no absolute certainty.
It is far more important and interesting for us to be assured from the character which he evinced, and from the proofs of his zeal and toil in the cause of the Lord Jesus, that his spirit rested in the bosom of his Saviour and his God. Wherever he died, his spirit, we doubt not, is in heaven. And where that body rested at last, which he labored "to keep under," and which he sought to bring "into subjection" I Corinthians 9:27, and which was to him so much the source of conflict and of sin Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23, is a matter of little consequence. It will be guarded by the eye of that Saviour whom he served, and will be raised up to eternal life. In his own inimitable language, it was "sown in corruption, it shall be raised in incorruption; it was sown in dishonor, it shall be raised in glory; it was sown in weakness, it shall be raised in power; it was sown a natural body, it shall be raised a spiritual body," I Corinthians 15:42-44. And in regard to him, and to all other saints, "when that corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and that mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory," I Corinthians 15:54.
To Paul now, what are all his sorrows, and persecutions, and toils in the cause of his Master? What but a source of thanksgiving that he was permitted thus to labor to spread the gospel through the world? So may we live - imitating his life of zeal, and self-denial, and faithfulness, that when we rise from the dead we may participate with him in the glories of the resurrection of the just.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Acts 28:31:
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