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The Book of Acts Series

Acts, Chapter 28

John Baugh

March, 2010

Acts 28 (New American Standard Bible)

Acts 28

Safe at Malta

 

 1When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta.  2The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all.

 

In Paul’s time (60AD), the island of Malta was known in Greek as Melita, which means Honey. The island is about ten miles wide and twenty miles long. It lies directly south of Sicilia.

 

Luke reports that the natives showed the shipwreck survivors extraordinary kindness – far above what he would have expected under the conditions. Malta is not an island of wood, but enough was gathered up to start a fire to provide warmth from the cold wet rain of this winter storm. 

 

3But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand.  4When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, "Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live."

 

Paul was doing whatever he could to help in this situation. He gathers a bundle of sticks to add to the fire, and I’m certain much to his amazement, a viper comes out of the fire and bites him on the hand. In fact the snake remains fastened to the apostle’s hand.

 

Evidently the local belief was that evil things happen to evil people. They probably know that Paul is a prisoner because of the soldier-guard who would have been with him. They probably understand that some of the prisoners are guilty of serious crimes, since essentially this grain ship was transporting prisoners to Rome. With these pieces of knowledge, they assume that Paul is guilty of something truly bad, because with justice not being done during the shipwreck; the gods have now caused a poisonous snake to bite him. In their minds, only a very evil person would suffer so many attempts at punishment from the gods.

 

5However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.

 

The snake bite certainly would have startled Paul. All of those who fear snakes would be interested in knowing what he thought when the snake bit him. Luke only says that he shook the serpent off his hand into the fire. There is no way that Luke (even as a doctor) would have immediately known that Paul had suffered no harm. IT is reasonable to assume that Luke was also very concerned at this point. Perhaps everyone there believed that Paul would soon die. However, that was not God’s will and no serious harm occurred. Herpetologists will tell us that snakes don’t always inject venom when they strike. Others will see this as a miracle, either that no venom was injected, or that the potency of the venom was negated in Paul.

 

The natives certainly knew what should normally happen after such a serpent bite. They expected Paul to either swell up or fall down dead. After some time passed with no effects from the bite, the Natives saw what happened as evidence that Paul was a god.

 

 7Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days.  8And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured.

 

The courteousness of the Islanders continued. Close by, there was property belonging to the leading man of the Island, a fellow named Publius. He welcomed the group (276 total) and took care of them for three days. During that time Paul learns that Publius’s father is in bed with a sickness and so he visits him (perhaps with Dr. Luke). However Luke takes no credit in any healing. He says that Paul prayed for the man, laid hands on him and healed him. When word of this spread, the rest of the people on the island were coming to Paul for prayer and healing.

 

 10They also honored us with many marks of respect; and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed. 11At the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead.

 

The stay on the island lasted three months, through the winter stormy season (probably until February or March). When conditions had improved, the Soldiers continued their journey with the prisoners and other passengers in a second Alexandrian ship that had wintered on the island.

 

Luke reports that this second Alexandrian ship had, as its figurehead the twin Gods Castor and Pollux. These were two favorite sea gods of both Greek and Roman mariners.

 

12After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13From there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium, and a day later a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli.  14There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.

 

Syracuse is the capital city of the island of Sicily and lies about 80 miles north of Malta.  Sicilians regard Paul as the founder of the church on their island. Perhaps he went ashore during the three days he was there and preached.

 

Rhegium is on the Italian side of the straits of Messina. Messina is on the Sicilian side.  The enxt day, favorable winds came up and the ship sailed 180 miles northward over the next two days to the city of Puteoli, which is on the bay of Naples.

Puteoli and Ostia were the two seaports in Italy where the Egyptian grain ships delivered corn and that is probably why the ship was bound for that destination.

 

We know from Paul’s letter to the Romans, that there was a large church in Rome. Evidently there was also a church in Puteoli and Paul must have secured permission from the Centurion Julius to linger in that town long enough to worship with the Brethren there.

 

 15And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. 16When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.

 

The believers in Rome had already received Paul’s epistle to the church in that city. Priscilla and Aquila had already returned to Rome by this time. Believers in that area would have known who Paul was and would have been anxious to meet the Apostle who had brought the word to so many people and had built so many churches during his missionary journeys and they came out to meet him as he journeyed toward Rome. Seeing so many brethren encouraged Paul, who surely had some apprehension, coming at last so close to the city he had dreamed of visiting and witnessing to for so many years. When he encountered these fellow believers Paul knew that he would not be isolated and gave thanks to God for that blessing.

 

The Appius forum (market) is about 45 miles from Rome. Three Inns is about thirty miles from Rome. Both locations are mentioned in secular literature of the time.

 

After arriving in Rome, The other prisoners were likely delivered to (captain of the guard) the Praetorian Prefect. From secular literature, we know that the Prefect was a man named Burrhus Aframus, who was a General in the Roman military. He was the highest military authority in Rome.  Because of the reason he had been brought to Rome and perhaps because of the reports from Festus and perhaps the Centurion Julius, Paul was allowed to secure lodging and establish a home base, if having a soldier guard attached to your person by chain could be considered establishing a home. The guard attached to Paul would have been changed with regularity, giving the old evangelist time to witness to many men from the Praetorian Guard.

 

As funny as it sounds, entering Rome as a prisoner and being allowed to have a house instead of a prison cell gave Paul an outstanding military evangelistic outreach opportunity and a mission to the Emperor’s Praetorian Guard.

 

17After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, "Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. 19But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation.  20For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel."

 

Right away, Paul begins his work in Rome by calling to the leading men of the Jews and inviting them to come to visit him. When they had gathered together, he explains to them the reason he is in Rome. These leading men would include the rulers of the synagogues, the scribes, and the heads of the leading families.

 

These Jews would have seen Paul in chains, attached to a Roman soldier when they arrived at his house. This condition is likely what leads to his statement in verse 20

 

20For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.

 

As he explains his situation to these Jews, he tells then that no Roman authority (Felix, Festus or Agrippa)has found any fault in his actions and that he is in Rome (with no charges against the Jewish nation) to stand before Caesar, since the Jews in Jerusalem refused to accept the Roman verdict that there was no case against him and at that point, the Romans sent him to Rome to appear before Caesar, in keeping with his request as a Roman citizen to have his case heard before Caesar.

 

Paul certainly speaks in a diplomatic manner to the Jews. He never mentions the riots or the multiple plots to have him murdered. In his words, he only wants to defend himself and not to accuse anyone else.

 

 21They said to him, "We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. 22But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere."

 

It is interesting that no word of any charges against or problems with Paul have been sent to Rome by the Jews in Jerusalem. These leading Jewish men of Rome have heard nothing about problems with Paul. They certainly have heard about problems with followers of The Way (Christians). In fact it is their understanding that the “sect” is spoken (of) against everywhere. Knowing this, they want for Paul to tell them more and explain his views concerning the sect to them.

 

 23When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.

 

24Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.

 

The Greek word Luke uses here for “lodging” indicates “one’s place of stay as a guest”. In Acts 28:30 Luke uses a different Greek word that indicates a “Hired house”, so this may have been a different location from his hired house.

 

Luke reports that “when a day had been set” the Jews came in great numbers to hear Paul explain the Kingdom of God and to try to persuade them about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Luke says Paul spoke from morning until evening. What a privilege it would have been to hear this presentation. Some believed what Paul said and were convinced. Others did not.

 

25And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, 26saying,


         'GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY,
         "YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
         AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;
    27FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
         AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
         AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES;
         OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
         AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
         AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
         AND I WOULD HEAL THEM."'

 

 28"Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen."

 

 29[When he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.]

 

The passage quoted here by Luke is found in Isaiah 6: 9-10. It is quoted six times:

 

- In the Gospels (Matthew 13: 14-15,  Mark 4: 12, Luke 8:10 and John 12: 40)

- (Here) In Acts 28: 26-27

- In Romans 11:1

 

No other Old Testament passage is so often quoted in the New Testament, and it is always applied to Jewish unbelief. The sad thing is that Isaiah tells the listeners in his words that this is the Holy Ghost speaking to the listener (Israel).

 

Paul ends with a warning. These are the final words he offers to the Jews of Rome before turning to the Gentiles, who he says will listen.

 

When Paul finished his presentation the Jews left him in what Luke calls a “great dispute among themselves”

 

 30And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

 

Paul spent the next two years in his own hired house, chained to a roman soldier.

 

His expenses during that time were met by the church in Rome and elsewhere. In Philippians 4:18, we see where the Philippians’ contributions are acknowledged by Paul. During that time, he was permitted by the Praetorian Guard to see and to preach freely to everyone who came to his hired house. From this place, he wrote four of his epistles:

 

The letter to the Ephesians

The letter to the Colossians

The letter to the Philippians

The letter to Philemon

 

From the lists he provided in these letters, we know that Luke (Colossians 4:14), Timothy (Philemon 1:1), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25 4:18,23), Mark (Philemon 1:24), Aristarchus (Colossians 4:10 Philemon 1:24), Demas (Colossians 4:14 Philemon 1:24), and Tychius (Colossians 4:7,18) were with him at least part of the time.

 

There is no doubt that these two years produced great results in Rome. Only at a later period, when Nero fell under the influence of the cruel Tigellinus, did he become a persecutor. At this time, Paul had full liberty to work within his house. By a few years later, when the Roman persecution under Nero began, the church in Rome had accumulated large numbers of followers in Rome. At that time, the Roman historian, Tacitus wrote “An immense multitude were converted and put to death.”

 

Paul’s Second Imprisonment in Rome:

 

There is considerable dispute as to whether Paul was imprisoned one or two times in Rome during the period A.D. 62 to 68. One reasonable explanation is that there were  two imprisonments with at least a year of freedom between. One commentary points out that Paul’s leaving Trophimus sick at Miletus, which is mentioned in 2Timothy 4:20 could not have been an occurrence of Paul's last journey to Jerusalem, because Trophimus would have not been present in Acts 20:4 21:29. He could not have left him there during the journey to Rome to appear before Caesar which is detailed in Acts 27, because there is no record of that transfer stopping in Miletus. To make it possible for him to have left Trophimus in Miletus, he must have left Rome after the initial house confinement that Luke writes about in Acts 28 and traveled at least to Miletus on a trip of evangelism and missionary work. Evidently this is the case with subsequent arrest and return to Rome, this time to Mamertine prison and eventually to his execution by the command of a much different Roman Emperor (Caesar) Nero.

 

The Great Commission Repeated:

 

At some point before ending the study of Acts, the statement from Jesus quoted by Luke at the beginning of Acts must be repeated:

 

 8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."   (Acts 1: 8, NASV)

 

Many scholars say that Luke’s intention for writing Acts was to show the actions of those he knew and followed and worked with to fulfill the great commission of Jesus Christ. As we consider the words “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the remotest part of the earth”. There is more than enough justification for Luke to stop Acts with Paul in Rome, at the point he does.

 

30And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

 

Why is there no book called Acts II?

 

The simple fact is that Acts never ended. In fact, the Holy Spirit never intended for Acts to end and it is still being written. It (the spread of the good news) never stopped with Verse 30 of Acts: 28 and continues on through today. For almost 2,000 years, faithful men (and women) have been working to continue the will of our Lord that we witness Jesus Christ to the world. In this way, Acts continues and will never end until the trumpet sounds and the heavens open up with a shout as we look up to see Him returning.

 

Pastor Ray Stedman wrote an interesting statement:

 

“The book of Acts is the book of the record of the things which Jesus began both to do and to teach. Is he through yet? No. He is still working, isn't he? Volume 20 is now being written. When this great book is fully completed and, in glory, you get to read it -- what will be your part in it?”

 

The fact is, each of us are still living in the book of Acts and are responsible for the content of the subsequent chapters of Dr. Luke’s book. What each of us writes in Acts is dependent on what we accomplish in his kingdom. In that respect we find that each of us who believe in and follow Christ Jesus are responsible for our part of the ongoing record that Dr. Luke began.

 

This ends Acts Chapter 28 and the study of Acts.

 

Copyright © 2010, by ToBeLikeHim Ministries

 

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