Vol. 17 New Series October, 1955 No. 5

PAUL'S CHAIN-Acts 28:20

"For on account of the expectation of Israel I have this chain lying about me."

This one sentence has been made a pillar for a whole system of teaching, namely, that all throughout the Acts period of about thirty years, Paul was labouring with a view to Israel's ancient expectation being attained. The corollary is, that all the Epistles written by Paul during the Acts period must be "Kingdom" writings, in line with Israel's expectation.

If only Luke's very accurate language had been scrutinized closely, this false view would never have arisen. Moffatt fell into the same error in his translation, "I am wearing this chain because I share Israel's hope." But that is not what Luke tells us. Paul had long known that there was no immediate chance of Israel's expectation being realised.

What Paul told the Roman Jews was that owing to, or due to, the expectation of Israel, he had the chain lying about him. That expectation, whatever it consisted of, whether it was Israel's true spiritual hope or merely their then worldly temporal aspiration, was the cause of Paul's chain. Paul was not labouring for the sake of that hope. His chain was no sign of his enthusiasm for the national cause. It was due to the malignity of his Hebrew enemies. That was the cause of his chain. The bulk of the nation no doubt hoped for the return of Israel's ancient glories. But they did not want the kind of Messiah Paul told them of. So because they went about things in the wrong way, Paul had to suffer.

Had Paul meant that he bore that chain for the sake of Israel's hope, he would have used the Greek word huper. But he used a very much more uncommon term, heneken, found in the New Testament about two dozen times only. This word is rendered "for (My) sake" nine times in the Gospels, but this ought to be, "owing to Me." For example, at Matt. 10:39 the true sense is, "he who loses his soul owing to Me will be finding it." Does not this give a sense rather more personal and intimate than the usual rendering? Articles in The Differentiator are written for the sake of readers, but sometimes they are also owing to, or due to, the questions put by readers. In 2. Cor. 3:10 the 1611 version renders beautifully by "by reason of the glory that excelleth."

This will help us to clear up the sense of 2. Cor. 7:12, as follows: "Consequently, even if I write to you, it is not owing to (or, by reason of) the one who wrongs (or injures), neither otherwise owing to the one being wronged, but it is owing to your diligence—that (shewn) for our sakes—being manifested to you in God's sight."

How gently and delicately and sensitively does Paul ever write. How it hurt him to have to denounce and expose the sin recorded in 1. Cor. 5:1. Yet he never forgets that but for God's kindly goodwill towards him, he might have been that sinner. This is the true mark of saintship. Paul would much rather extol the earnestness of the Corinthians, and make them realize it, than denounce the wretched wrongdoer.

What, then, was the cause of Paul's chain? Had the Roman rulers been left to their own judgment, Paul would assuredly have been set free. But they united in declaring him innocent. Claudius Lysias, captain, could find nothing deserving of death or bonds (Acts 23:29). Felix, though he left Paul bound, did not treat him as a criminal (Acts 24:23, 27). Festus gathered that Paul had done nothing deserving of death (Acts 25:25). King Agrippa said, "This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar" (Acts 26:32). Paul tells the chiefs of the Roman Jews that the Romans intended to set him free, because, all along not one single cause of death existed in him (Acts 28:18).

Paul saw, however, that the Jews were determined to destroy him. So, as he could not trust himself to the protection of Festus, he was obliged, in order to save himself from the Jews, to exercise his rights as a Roman citizen, of making an appeal to Caesar. It would seem as though the Jews had insinuated that he had made this appeal in order to possess an opportunity of accusing them of having maltreated him, but even of this wicked charge he was innocent (Acts 28:19).

How relieved must Paul have been when he heard these Roman Jews declare that they had not received information concerning Paul from Judea, that no wicked report of him had been heard in Rome. There was a chance, at least, that Paul's Jewish accusers might not appear at Rome to denounce him. For it was requisite that the accusers must appear in person, with witnesses from Jerusalem. Howson suggests, also, that the report by Festus may have been lost in the shipwreck.

It is evident that God took special steps to protect His servant from his dangerous enemies, because the final two verses in Acts prove that they had been discomfited. I suggest two necessary improvements in the usual translation. Paul remained not "two whole years" in his own hired apartments, but "a whole two-year period" (Greek, dietian holEn, a two-year whole). After this length of time his enemies could no longer bring charges against him. It was too late. We have the same expression in Acts 24:27, "Now, a two-year-period being fulfilled, Felix got a successor."

Not only was Paul now free from immediate danger, but with the Roman Jews not unfriendly, and some of them in his favour, God saw to it that no one could forbid Paul's message. The final word in Acts is not "unforbidden" or "no man forbidding him," but rather "unforbidably"(akOlutOs). His Jewish enemies had failed, miserably.

A.T. Last updated 24.9.2005