With today’s portion from The Acts Challenge 2019, Chapter 28, we close out the book of Acts. Paul finally gets his day in Rome after another near-death experience, which ends much better than it would have ended for him in Jerusalem. Let’s take a closer look…
The Island of Melita
(Vs. 1) And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
(Vs. 2) And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
They had finally made their way onto the island and found out that it was called Melita. The “barbarous people” there were very hospitable towards the group, offering fire as a respite from the cold rain. It must surely have been a welcomed event, after having been through weeks and weeks of driving rain at sea, not even knowing where they were.
(Vs. 3) And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
(Vs. 4) And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hand on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
After gathering firewood and laying it on the fire, Paul is bitten by a snake. The people decided he must really be horrible, to have escaped the ocean only to die of a snakebite. Of course, this particular snake must have been a bad one. They seemed to know right away he was surely going to die.
(Vs. 5) And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
(Vs. 6) Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
When Paul did NOT fall down dead right away, they went on watching him. There wasn’t even any swelling and the same people that had just called him a murderer now decided he must be a God instead! Imagine it!
The Healing of Publius’ Father
(Vs. 7) In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
(Vs. 8) And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
I love reading the stories throughout the New Testament of the miraculous healings that took place! It’s a great testament to the fact that we ought NEVER stop praying for people. But even more so, to actually GO, pray in their very presence, and actually lay our hands on them. Aside from the napkins that at one point were brought to people from the bodies of the apostles, they actually put their hands on people to heal them.
Since God is the same today as He was then, why do we even ACCEPT anything less??
Others Needed Healing Too
(Vs. 9) So when this was done, others also, which had diseases on the island, came, and were healed:
(Vs. 10) Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
When word got out that Paul had healed Publius’ father, everyone that had a need CAME to Paul, and were healed of their diseases. Again… we serve THIS SAME GOD TODAY! If you need a healing, I encourage you to GO and be prayed for, and have hands laid on you for that healing!
Castor and Pollux on the Way to Rome
(Vs. 11) And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
They wound up staying three months to winter there before getting on an Alexandrian ship and setting forth towards Rome. The sign of that ship was Castor and Pollux. Castor and Pollux were famous twin brothers in Roman mythology, which, in Latin, is known as “Gemini.” Literally translated, that means “twins.”
So the sign on the ship was actually Gemini, the brightest constellation, that was a kind of patron to sailors of that day.
A Brief Stay in Syracuse, Before Rome
(Vs. 12) And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.
(Vs. 13) And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:
(Vs. 14) Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.
(Vs. 15) And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
On the way to Rome, the party came across other brethren who traveled a good distance to see Paul. When he saw this, he was thankful, and his spirit was lifted. It just goes to show the power of fellowship when we’re going through trials!
A Different Kind of Prison in Rome
(Vs. 16) And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
Paul wasn’t put into the “general population” as it were when they arrived in Rome, but was kept in separate living quarters. Commentaries agree that he was kept under constant supervision by Roman soldiers and likely chained at the wrist to them.
His “captive audience” led to his preaching the gospel to everyone in the palace, according to Philippians 1:13, as well as in other places.
Calling All the Jews
(Vs. 17) And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
(Vs. 18) Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
(Vs. 19) But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
(Vs. 20) For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
Paul wanted to let the Jews know his side of the story, explaining that the Romans found no reason to kill or imprison him. He tells them that when the Jews decided not to go along with that, he had no other option but to appeal to Caesar and make his way to Rome.
The Jews In Rome are Unaware
(Vs. 21) And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
It’s likely the Jews back in Jerusalem knew their accusations weren’t going to get them anywhere. That’s why they didn’t write ahead of Paul, or visit and try to get the Roman Jews on their side. In fact, they didn’t know anything at all about him. But they wanted to.
(Vs. 22) But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
Paul had made his statements, fishing for a response from the Jews as to what they might have heard from Jerusalem, and found out they knew nothing. Now their turn, they wanted to hear more from him, because they knew that Christianity was unpopular everywhere. They wanted to hear, now, what he had to say.
Paul Preaches to the Roman Jews
(Vs. 23) And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
Not a lot of people today preach Jesus from the Old Testament. Paul made it habit, though, especially in that particular time frame. It was the book that they had, and it spoke directly of Jesus Himself. What a Bible Study that must have been! He preached and taught from the morning until the evening.
(Vs. 24) And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
As it still is, very much so, in our own day, even the best preaching can be rejected. Some of the Jews trusted in Jesus, but still, others did not.
Paul Preaches Isaiah’s Text
(Vs. 25) And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
This disagreement amongst themselves must have been an argument, after which the meeting broke up. It must have been a hard time for Paul, as a preacher at that time. The joy for the ones that believed, and the sadness for those that didn’t. So he spoke to them a last word, taken from the book of Isaiah:
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.Isaiah 6:9-10
(Vs. 26) Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
(Vs. 27) For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Salvation Is Still Salvation
(Vs. 28) Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
Just because the Jews rejected Jesus, it did not mean that salvation was no longer effective. God would find SOMEONE to hear it, and to act on it. In this case, it was the Gentiles.
Paul speaks again of the difference between those that listen and those that don’t in 2 Corinthians:
To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?2 Corinthians 2:16
(Vs. 29) And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
The Jews were still arguing with one another when they left!
Two Years Later
(Vs. 30) And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
It is believed that the mention of Paul’s own hired house here meant that he must have continued working as a tentmaker to pay for the house he lived in. He could still receive guests, like a runaway slave named Onesimus (Philemon 10).
(Vs. 31) Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
No matter where we are, or what we are doing, or what happens to us, there is never a time that speaking about Jesus is a bad idea. In fact, in times when it seems like we SHOULDN’T… that is exactly the time to be the loudest witness!
What is YOUR witness today?