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Acts Twenty Eight

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Acts 28:1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.

Melita. The island of Melita is now known as Malta, south of Sicily.

Acts 28:2 And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

barbarous people. The people were probably descendants of Phoenician sailors who first used this island. They were considered “barbarous” merely because they did not speak either Latin or Greek as their native language. Some at least were able to converse with Paul; evidently they had learned one or both languages.

Acts 28:3 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.

bundle of sticks. It is interesting that, out of the three hundred or so people who must have been enjoying the fire, it was Paul who took it upon himself to gather sticks to keep it burning. Among these sticks, however, was a venomous snake (the exact species is in dispute) which had been torpid from the cold, looking much like another stick. The heat energized the snake, so that it suddenly bit Paul.

Acts 28:4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang 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.

Acts 28:5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.

felt no harm. Christ had promised that His followers, in carrying out His great commission, might “take up serpents” without harm (Mark 16:18). This experience of Paul's is the only actual example of such a phenomenon recorded in the New Testament, though there may have been others. This promise was for protection, not for show, and was not intended to apply indefinitely, especially after the completion and circulation of the New Testament. One danger involved in the indiscriminate use—or attempted display—of signs and wonders is that those who observe them may be tempted to ascribe divinity to those who perform them (note Acts 28:6; also recall Acts 14:11).

Acts 28:6 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.

Acts 28:7 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.

Acts 28:8 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.

Acts 28:9 So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:

were healed. The healing of Publius' father (Acts 28:8) was miraculous; the others may have been healed by the medical means available to Luke the physician.

Acts 28:10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.

Acts 28:11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.

ship of Alexandria. This grain ship from Alexandria spent the winter months in Malta, probably the harbor of Valleta, as the owner of Paul's ship had wanted to do at Phenice. Navigation by sailing vessels on the Mediterranean virtually ceased during the winter months.

Castor and Pollux. “Castor and Pollux” was evidently the figurehead and name of the ship. It was so chosen because the astrological sign of Gemini, the Twins, was considered the favorite sign of many ancient mariners.

Acts 28:12 And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.

Syracuse. Syracuse, on Sicily's eastern coast, was the large island's most important city.

Acts 28:13 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:

Acts 28:14 Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.

with them seven days. As he had done at Sidon at the beginning of the journey (Acts 27:3), so the centurion graciously allowed Paul to spend time with the Christian brethren at Puteoli, on the bay of Naples (Acts 28:13) in southern Italy, near the end of the journey. It is possible that they wanted Paul to spend a week with them so he could address the local congregation on the Lord's Day. At Puteoli, they left the ship, and continued the rest of the way to Rome on the Appian Way, an important Roman road leading to the Appii Forum, a marketing center some forty or so miles south of Rome (Acts 28:15). There some of the Roman Christians had come to meet Paul. They had undoubtedly read his Roman epistle, which had been sent to them some three years previously, and were eagerly anticipating his coming. They did not know he would be coming as a prisoner, of course, but were nevertheless glad to be identified with him, and Paul was encouraged and thankful.

Acts 28:15 And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appiiforum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.

Acts 28:16 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.

to dwell by himself. Luke could not stay with Paul any longer, but undoubtedly was allowed to visit him, as were many others (Acts 28:30). Luke is mentioned in Paul's epistles to Philemon and to the Colossians, which were written during this period. Even though Nero was emperor at this time, he had not yet shown his true character. Paul was still treated with courtesy and allowed many privileges.

Acts 28:17 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.

Acts 28:18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.

Acts 28:19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

Acts 28:20 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.

Acts 28:21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spake any harm of thee.

Acts 28:22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

Acts 28:23 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.

into his lodging. As always, Paul went first to the Jews with the gospel (Romans 1:16), just as he had written to the Roman Christians. Since he could not go to the synagogues this time, he got the Jewish leaders to come to him.

the prophets. Again according to his regular approach, he expounded the Scriptures to the Jews, showing forth their testimony concerning Jesus. Significantly, just as Jesus had done (Luke 24:27), Paul began with Genesis and continued through all the Scriptures, proving that Jesus had fulfilled the promises to the fathers. There is, indeed, much there to expound, evidenced by Paul continuing to expound from morning until evening.

Acts 28:24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.

some believed. As always, when Christ is presented in all fullness, some will believe, but most will not.

Acts 28:25 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,

Esaias the prophet. Paul here applied the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9, 10, to the Jews' rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus had made a similar application of the same prophecy in Matthew 13:14 and John 12:40.

Acts 28:26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:

Acts 28:27 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.

Acts 28:28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

unto the Gentiles. Once again, Paul announced that, since the Jews had rejected the offer of salvation, it would go to the Gentiles. It seems somewhat symbolic that Paul has by this time preached the gospel all the way from Jerusalem to Rome, the greatest city in the world at that time, and that the account ends at this point. He had always gone first to the Jews, only to find again and again that the Gentiles were the ones who responded. It was said of Jesus that “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). The same had been proved true of His gospel.

they will hear. This has been a wonderfully fulfilled prophecy. The Gentiles, in practically every nation, have received the gospel gladly in substantial numbers. The Christians of the first century, beginning with the apostles, were largely Jews, but this soon changed. Ever since, it has been the Gentile churches and missionaries who have been spreading the gospel.

Acts 28:29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.

Acts 28:30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,

two whole years. According to Roman law, it was necessary to wait about two years for the prosecution to come forward with their case. There is no indication that the Jews ever did this, certainly not within the two-year period, since Luke would have mentioned it if they had. Accordingly, many scholars believe that Paul was released at this point and was able to continue his missionary activities for a few years, later being rearrested and executed by Nero following the burning of Rome. On the other hand, there have been others who argue that the Jews finally did bring their case and persuaded the emperor that Paul and his Christian followers were plotting against the empire, so that Paul was put to death without ever getting out of prison. This particular controversy has never been settled, though the first option seems more likely in view of Luke's optimistic ending of the book after the two-year statutory period. Even so, there is still the possibility that Luke died before he learned of the later negative developments.

Acts 28:31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.