Acts 28:1-16

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 22, 1998


Rather than facing a certain death sentence by being tried in Jerusalem, Paul had used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Rome. Being sent with a Roman centurion named Julius, along with his soldiers and many other prisoners, they had made it as far as Crete by October AD 59. It was past time to be sailing the Mediterranean for the winter, but they took a risk and ended up being caught in a storm. After roughly six weeks at sea, without a clue as to where they were, they finally spotted land and as the ship broke up on a sand bar, the entire ship’s company of 276 people were brought safely to shore.

:1 escaped … the island was called Melita

escapeddiasozo – "rescued". Paul had been given the notion by the Lord that they would end up on "a certain island" (Acts 27:26), and here they were!

Melita – the island of Malta. 560 miles west of Crete. Only 65 miles southwest of Sicily. Cicero wrote that Malta was known for a wintering island for pirates!


He’ll get you where you need to be.

Here they’ve gone through a terrible storm. They don’t have a clue where they are or where they were headed. They were at the storm’s mercy. The last thing they knew, they were somewhere off of Crete. For all they know, they could be in Egypt. And yet they end up only 65 miles off the coast of Sicily, right on target, right on coarse.

As I mentioned in my "Pastor to Person" article, we can sometimes hold the notion of God’s "sovereignty" in an unhealthy way. We can get the idea that if we just continue to sit on the sofa, that if God wants us to go to Africa, He’ll find a way to get our sofa to Africa. I think there are times where we simply need to get up and get moving. But on the other hand, we can also see that God has His way of getting us to where we need to be.

You may be a little concerned that perhaps God has lost track of you and that you could possibly be way off course.

I believe that if your heart is committed to the Lord, and you are continually presenting yourself to Him as a living sacrifice, that He’ll get you where you need to be. As Paul says in Romans 12:1-2, if you give yourself to the Lord, you’ll prove that God’s will in your life is good, acceptable, and perfect.

At the Men’s Retreat, one of the pastors taught on the will of God, and made an interesting application. He pointed out that when Thomas asked Jesus, "Lord, show us where the way is … (John 14:5), Jesus’ response was, "Thomas, I AM the way!" The whole thing is about being close to Jesus. You want to know where you are to go? Stay close to Him.


God even uses storms and shipwrecks.

We get the idea sometimes that the storms of life were somehow out of God’s control. As if His plans for us were interrupted. It’s more likely that it was our plans that were interrupted.

(Mat 7:24-27 KJV) Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: {25} And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. {26} And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: {27} And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

The storms are going to come. They are a part of every person’s life. The question isn’t whether or not there’s going to be a storm. The question is whether or not you are going to survive it.


I received a letter this week from a precious sister who has been through a tremendously hard time over the last few years. Four years ago she lost her husband to cancer and had to move far from us in order to be closer to her daughter. Then this year she had a fire in her apartment and lost just about all of her earthly possessions. She’s had to live in a board and care home, where all her income goes toward her rent. She went through a time of discouragement, but lately has begun to see how God has been at work. She wrote this week, "You may not believe I can say this, but the fire was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My relationship with the Lord would never have been what it is today without that ‘tragedy’".

She’s come to the point where she’s lost just about all of her earthly possessions, but it’s gotten her to the point where she has left what nobody can take from her, her relationship with the Lord.

:2 the barbarous people showed us no little kindness …

barbarous peoplebarbaros – "foreigners"; one whose speech is rude, rough and harsh; the Greeks called all people "barbarians" who did not speak Greek.

kindnessphilanthropia – love of mankind, benevolence. They showed "extraordinary" kindness to the entire shipload of people.

present rain – "standing rain", it was pouring!

:3 there came a viper out of the heat

viperechidna – a viper (a poisonous snake). Apparently the snake had been somewhat dormant in the cold weather, but woke up when it got close to the fire.

:4 No doubt this man is a murderer …

These people on Malta were of the opinion that this snake biting Paul was some kind of indication that he was a bad man getting his just reward.


Bad things don’t always come as a result of sin.

There are times when bad things happen as a result of sin, but we need to be careful not to jump to the conclusion that everything that’s bad is because of sin.

Job’s friends made the same assumption, that his problems were due to some kind of secret sin. In the end, God rebuked them and told them to ask Job to pray for them (Job 42:8).

The Bible tells us,

(Psa 103:10 KJV) He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

If God gave us every kind of punishment we deserved, we’d all be dead and in hell right now. But instead He chooses to show mercy to us.

When Jesus came across a blind man –

(John 9:1-3 KJV) And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. {2} And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? {3} Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Instead of looking at the man and criticizing him behind his back, Jesus reached out and healed him. While the rest of the world ran from the lepers, Jesus reached out and touched them.

Which do I tend to be more like? Job’s friends, or Jesus?

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

feltpascho – to be affected, to feel, have a sensible experience, to undergo


God’s supernatural protection

Jesus had promised the disciples:

(Mark 16:15-18 KJV) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. {16} He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. {17} And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; {18} They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

This was right in line with another famous promise of God:

Psa 91:10-14 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. {11} For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. {12} They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. {13} Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. {14} Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

There are some who would be tempted to take a promise like this and stretch if for all it’s worth. Like jumping off of buildings on bungee cords, or going down mountains on "zip lines". There are churches that make people drink poison or pass around live snakes. But there’s a limit to this. Jesus gave us the limit:

Mat 4:5-7 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, {6} And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. {7} Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

While we shouldn’t be "testing" God to see if He’s really there, on the other hand there is a comfort knowing that as long as God has work for you to do on the earth, in a way you’re invincible.

:6 they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.


The problem of human approval.

Paul has seen this before, but the other way around. When he was in Lystra, and had healed a man, the people thought he was a god (Acts 14:11), but when some unbelieving Jews began to stir up the crowd, they turned on him and stoned him (Acts 14:19).

We need to be careful that we aren’t trying to live our lives for the sake of approval from the people around us. If we live for others’ approval, we’re going to have a pretty topsy-turvy life, happy one moment, depressed the next, and often for no good reason at all!


Jacques Plante, a goalie for a professional ice hockey team, had just come off the ice after a particularly poor performance and responded to a badgering reporter with the following remark: "How would you like a job where, if you made a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?"

As a pastor, the temptation is there to say things that will get the "great message, pastor" after the service, or to design a service that is aimed at entertaining you. But God’s desire is for me to be thinking, "What does God want me to say?" Otherwise, I just become someone who wants to tickle your ears.

We often face this in our relationships as well, when we are more concerned about losing our friends than telling the truth.

:7 Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.

PubliusPoplios – "popular". He held a position as the "governor" of the island.

lodgedxenizo – to receive as a guest, to entertain, hospitably

courteouslyphilophronos ("loving" + "mind") – kindly, in a friendly manner. These people on Malta were sure nice!


Even unbelievers can be nice.

I think that sometimes we can get caught off guard by the kindness of some unbelievers. We somehow get this mindset that only Christians are nice. Not so.

I’ve heard people say that they were going to leave the church because their unbelieving friends were nicer to them than Christians were. It’s almost as if the reason for being with people is solely because they’re "nice" to you.

There needs to be a little deeper set of bonds that tie us together than just "niceness".

(1 John 1:3 KJV) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

It’s the fact that each of us has a relationship with Jesus that ought to hold us together.


It’s like a family. You don’t choose who your family is, you’re born with them. Some people act silly and stop spending time with their family because there’s something they don’t like in them. I believe the mature thing is to learn to get along with them, even if you don’t agree with them.

As a church, if we would realize that we’re family, that we’re stuck with each other, and learn to make the best of it, then we wouldn’t get caught off guard when we run into a bunch of unbelievers who are "nice" to us.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not letting us as a church off the hook to be nice to others. We still believe that the chief evidence of God’s presence in our church is the fact that we love one another.

:8 sick of a fever and of a bloody flux

feverpuretos – fiery heat; fever. It’s plural here, the idea is that the man had frequent, intermittent attacks of fever.

bloody fluxdusenteria – dysentery, bowel ailment. Dr. Luke is lending his medical diagnosis.

:10 Who also honoured us with many honours …

I kind of get the idea that it was because of Paul and his ministry to the people of the island that the whole ship was provided for.

I think there’s a sense in which those in the world around you are blessed because they’re near you.

We see this in how all of Egypt was blessed because of Joseph. We see this in how all of Babylon was blessed because of Daniel.

I think that if you are working for a secular company, there’s a sense in which God is going to bless that company for your sake.

:11 after three months … a ship of Alexandria … Castor …

after three months. I.e., in late Feb. or March.

ship of Alexandria – they had been on an Alexandrian grain ship before it had been wrecked. Apparently they find another one to board.

Castor and PolluxDioskouroi ("Zeus" + "maiden") – Castor and Pollux, were the twin sons of Jupiter and Leda, also known as the "Gemini". They were thought to have the power of saving men at sea, and so were revered by sailors. A picture of each son would be painted on the prow of the ship, kind of like the figures that are sometimes attached to the front of old sailing ships.

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

Syracuse – the chief city of Sicily (not New York!), about 85 miles northeast from Malta.

:13 we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium … Puteoli

fetched a compassperierchomai – to go about

Rhegium – another 75 miles north of Syracuse, on the southern part of Italy.

Puteoli – the port of Naples, this was the main port for passengers to disembark on their way to Rome. Cargo was unloaded at another port closer to Rome (Ostia). The city of Pompeii, only 20 miles to the south was still in existence. Mount Vesuvius wouldn’t cover the city with ash for another 20 years. From Rhegium to Puteoli is a trip of about 200 miles to the north, so the wind must have been blowing pretty favorable for them to make such good time.

:14 were desired to tarry with them seven days

It’s interesting that here is Paul, in the custody of the Roman centurion and his soldiers, and when the church asks if Paul can stay for a week, they are allowed.


Growing relationships with unbelievers.

Paul had given some advice that was rejected early on in the voyage, but his ideas gained respect during the voyage until we began to see Paul actually making the decisions rather than the ship’s captain or the soldiers. I’m not so sure it was just that Paul’s original advice proved to be correct. I think others things play into it as well, such as the fact that he and Luke worked side by side with the sailors and soldiers during the storm (Acts 27:19), the way that Paul encouraged the guys when it had been weeks since they had eaten (Acts 27:22), or when they saw Paul helping to gather firewood for a fire (Acts 28:3). Some people give you the impression that they’re too good to do "menial" tasks. They don’t like to rub elbows with those unclean pagans.

How do unbelievers see you? Do they see you as cold and intolerant of them, or loving and merciful? There’s always tension at first, but as they see you living for Jesus day by day, they’ll be impacted by it.


One rainy day, a man accompanied by two women arrived at Northfield, hoping to enroll his daughter in D.L. Moody’s school for young women. The three needed help in getting their luggage from the railway depot to the hotel, so the visitor "drafted" a rather common-looking man with a horse and wagon, assuming he was a local cabby. The "cabby" said he was waiting for students, but the visitor ordered him to take them to the hotel. The visitor was shocked when the "cabby" did not charge him, and was even more shocked to discover that the "cabby" was D.L. Moody himself! Moody was a leader because he knew how to be a servant.

Jesus said,

(Mat 5:14-16 KJV) Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. {15} Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. {16} Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Are there any unbelievers close enough to your life to see your good works?

Actually, we aren’t told, but I kind of wonder if by this time that more than a few soldiers aren’t believers by now.

:15 they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.

Luke is a little unclear here, but it seems that Paul met the believers at these two places as he journeyed the 130 miles north along the Appian Way from Puteoli to Rome.

Appii forum ... – about 70 miles to the north of Puteoli located on the "Appian Way"

Three Taverns – 10 miles further north, only 30 miles from Rome.

couragetharsos – courage, confidence. Apparently Paul had gone through another bout of discouragement, but when he saw the believers in Italy, he got excited again. The Christians at Rome had received Paul’s "Letter to the Romans", written from Corinth some three years earlier. They’re excited to see Paul face to face.

:16 the captain of the guard … a soldier that kept him.

captain of the guardstratopedarches – the commander of a camp and army, probably part of the Peregrini, a branch of the Roman army that handled communication and transporting of prisoners.

keptphulasso – to guard

with a soldier – Paul would be chained to the soldier. Perhaps chained to a new soldier every night.

How is it that Paul is finding Christians in Italy, when he’s never been there to preach the gospel?


God can use you.

Paul and the other apostles aren’t the only ones who are telling people about Jesus Christ. We know that Paul’s buddies, Priscilla and Aquila are already there.

At the end of the book of Romans (Rom. 16), we see a HUGE list of believers that Paul already knows are living in Rome.

The point is that God has already been using people, ordinary people, to tell others about Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we get the thought, "If I can only get my friend to Greg Laurie’s Monday night study in Costa Mesa, then they’ll get saved!" What about inviting them to ask Jesus into their heart yourself?

There’s a couple of good questions you could ask to get the conversation started:

"Have you ever thought of life after death? If you were to die tonight, do you know where you’d spend eternity?"

"What do you think of Jesus Christ?"