Acts 28

Thursday Evening Bible Study

February 21, 2008


We’ve followed Paul on his three missionary journeys, which ended with his arrest in Jerusalem.  After being put on trial at Caesarea and then kept in prison for two years, Paul made his appeal to Caesar and was put on a ship to Rome.  Our last study followed Paul across the Mediterranean sea where he and his shipmates encountered a winter storm and spent weeks being tossed on the sea until they finally were shipwrecked on a strange, unknown island.

:1-10 Paul on Malta

:1 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta.

escapeddiasozo – “rescued”, “saved through”. 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!

Malta – 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.
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.
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.
Jesus talked about the storms of life.
(Mat 7:24-27 NKJV)  "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: {25} "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. {26} "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: {27} "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

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.

Could it be possible that the storm you might be going through is God’s way of getting you where you need to go?

:2 And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.

nativesbarbaros – “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.  Here the phrase is “not the kindness that happens every day”.  They showed “unusual” kindness to the entire shipload of people.

:3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.

Apparently the snake had been somewhat dormant in the cold weather, but woke up when it got close to the fire.

:4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live."

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.  They thought 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 NKJV)  He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished 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 NKJV)  Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. {2} And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" {3} Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed 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.

Be honest.  What do you think when a friend has something tragic happen in their life?  Do you wonder what they did to deserve this?

:5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.

It’s kind of interesting that Jesus had promised the disciples:

(Mark 16:17-18 NKJV)  "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; {18} "they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

There are some who would be tempted to take this and stretch if for all it’s worth.  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 NKJV)  Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, {6} and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'" {7} Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'"

The issue is – are you putting yourself in danger to “test” God?  Or are you simply finding yourself in a dangerous situation?

:6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, 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?"
There were some people during Jesus’ life who didn’t want to let people know what they thought:
(John 12:42-43 NKJV)  Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; {43} for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
We hear about vox populi, the voice of the people, but let me tell you that the voice of the people is a fickle voice. If you don’t believe that, ask the relatives of Marvin Griffin. He ran for governor against Carl Sanders. His strategy was to have great gatherings around barbecued dinners all over the state of Georgia.
In the early ‘60s I went to Statesborough. His campaign manager was an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Hinesville. I was deputized to say the prayer. Twelve thousand people gathered in Statesborough to eat Marvin’s barbecue. But when the election was over, he had lost decisively. He held a news conference in which he said, “They ate ol’ Marvin’s barbecue, but they didn’t vote for me.”

-- W. Frank Harrington

If you perhaps look for praise and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it--if you are of that stripe, dear friend--then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way, you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears. Affliction is the best book in my library.

-- Martin Luther

:7 In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days.

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

:8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him.

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.

healediaomai – to cure, heal; to make whole

:9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.

healedtherapeuo – to serve, do service; to heal, cure, restore to health

:10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.

honoredtimao – to estimate, fix the value; to honor, to revere

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.

It would be interesting to interview the other shipmates of Paul.  He started off as simply one of the many prisoners.  Nobody paid attention to Paul when he gave advice about sailing into the storm.  And now after having spent several months on Malta, all their needs seem to have been met because of Paul’s ministry, what did they think of Paul now?

:11-16 On to Rome

:11 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island.

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.

the Twin BrothersDioskouroi (“Zeus” + “youth”) – Castor and Pollux, were the twin sons of Jupiter and Leda, also known as the “Gemini” twins of the zodiac.  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.

wintered – Paul and his shipwreck friends weren’t the only folks to have spent the winter on Malta.

:12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days.

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

:13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli,

Rhegium – another 75 miles north of Syracuse, on the southern part of Italy.  There is a city there today named Reggio di Calabria.  You can’t see it on the map, but there is a small gap (about two miles) between the island of Sicily and the mainland of Italy called the Strait of Messina. see map

Puteoli – the modern 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 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.

brethren – Paul is not the first to bring the gospel to Rome.  Remember he’s already written a letter to the church of Rome a few years earlier.

(Rom 16:3-5 NKJV)  Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, {4} who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. {5} Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.

His old buddies Priscilla and Aquila got to Rome before Paul did.  Paul goes on to list a LOT of people that he knows in Rome.

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 5:16 NKJV)  "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

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

:15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, 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.

Appian Way – one of the main Roman roads, connecting Rome with the east coast city of Brundisium.

Appii forum ... – about 70 miles to the north of Puteoli located on the “Appian Way”. see map

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 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded 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.

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

:17-31 Paul in Rome

:17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together.

Paul is one totally crazy guy.  He’s had nothing but trouble with Jewish leaders around the world.  His goal here is not to see if these guys are interested in helping Paul with his case.  His goal is to do what he always does.  Paul wants to share the gospel with them.

One of Paul’s dreams has always been to share the gospel in Rome.  Paul has also had a practice of always sharing the gospel first with the Jews of whatever city he was in.

(Rom 1:15-16 NKJV)  So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. {16} For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

Illustration – Barnyard Ducks

There’s a story about a duck flying in formation, looking down below at a farm and wishing he had such a luxurious life like those ducks down there.  All they had to do was waddle around the barnyard all day long.  So he flew down to enjoy a winter at the barnyard.  As the winter passed, he had grown fat, and was unable join his flock as they were flying overhead, heading north.  Eventually he just grew used to the old barnyard.  He had lost his sense of purpose and was no longer able to fly in formation with the others.

We too need to be careful that we don’t grow too used to this old world around us that we forget what we’re to be about.

:17  So when they had come together, he said to them: "Men and brethren, though I have 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,

:18 "who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death.

:19 "But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation.

:20 "For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."

Though Paul had his own place to stay, he was still kept chained to a Roman soldier.  The guard was changed every six hours.  Each one had to listen as Paul preached to whoever came to his house.  Some of the guards got saved.  Paul wrote at this time:

(Phil 1:12-13 NLT)  And I want you to know, dear friends, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. {13} For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.

:21 Then they said to him, "We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you.

If there had been any letters from Judaea, either they wouldn’t have arrived yet, or they were at the bottom of the ocean with the grain that was on Paul’s ship!

:22 "But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere."

:23 So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.

You can get a little insight into three aspects of witnessing:

1)  Explained – the idea is that of explaining the Scriptures.  Opening up your Bible and explaining it to another person.

2)  Testified – giving a thorough witness, telling others clearly what Jesus has done for you.

3)  Persuading – there is room to give persuasive arguments.  Paul did.  I think that one of the most persuasive arguments is how Jesus has fulfilled prophecy.  If you take all the prophecies that Jesus has fulfilled and calculate the odds of any one person fulfilling them, the argument is quite persuasive.

:24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.

Not everyone we share with will believe in Jesus.

In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus tells about a farmer whose seed landed on four different kinds of soil.  It was only the good soil that produces fruit from the seed.

:25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers,

:26 "saying, 'Go to this people and say: "Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive;

:27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them."'

Paul is quoting from Isaiah 6:9-10

turnepistrepho – to turn to the worship of the true God, KJV translates this “be converted”

I don’t think the real issue is that people don’t want to be healed by the Lord, it’s that they don’t want to be “converted”.  We don’t want to turn around from our sins.


They don’t hear because they don’t want to give up their sin.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  It’s not that we have to clean up our lives before we can come to the Lord.  God accepts us and receives us just the way we are.  We aren’t saved because we work real hard to deserve our salvation.  But when we come to Him, we must be willing to turn from our sins.  What’s the purpose in calling Him “Lord” if we aren’t willing to do whatever He asks us to?
Sometimes people will give you a very hard time as you share Jesus with them.  They’ll come up with all the standard “stumpers” like, “How can a God of love send people to hell?” (note: We’re the ones who send ourselves to hell when we reject God’s loving offer to pay for our sins.  If you don’t let the lifeguard rescue you, how are you going to be saved?)
It’s not uncommon for stuff like this to only be a “smokescreen”.  It’s a way of covering up the fact that there’s an area of their life that they’re just unwilling to turn over to the Lord.
Yet the irony is that their stubbornness is keeping them from receiving the very thing that they are crying out for deep inside their heart, acceptance from God.  It’s when we turn around that we receive the healing.
Illustration – Monkey Treats
Monkey trappers in North Africa have a clever method of catching their prey. A number of gourds are filled with nuts (monkey treats) and firmly fastened to a branch of a tree.  Each has a hole just large enough for the unwary monkey to stick his forepaw into it. When the hungry animal discovers this, he quickly grasps a handful of nuts, but the hole is too small for him to withdraw his clenched fist.  And he doesn't have enough sense to open up his hand and let go in order to escape, so he is easily taken captive.
Too often we get these certain things in our lives that we just don’t want to let go of.  Yet it’s these very things that keep us captive.  If we’d just let go, we could be free.

:28 "Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!"

Paul follows his usual custom of preaching first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles.

:29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.

:30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him,

:31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

It’s during these two years that Luke probably wrote out the book of Acts.  The book ends here because this is as far as things had gone when Luke wrote it out.

What happened to Paul after this?

It is thought that during the first two years in Rome, that Paul wrote his letters to Ephesus, Colossae, Philemon, and Philippi.  Apparently it took at least two years for Paul to be brought through the Roman court system in Rome.  Though we don’t have a record in Scripture, church history tells us that Paul was eventually acquitted of all charges at his first trial before Caesar.  After this, he apparently had a few years of ministry where he went to Ephesus and left Timothy to supervise the churches there, then on to Macedonia where he wrote his first letter to Timothy (1Tim.1:3).  He visited Crete, where he left Titus to supervise the churches, then went to Nicopolis in southern Greece where he wrote his letter to Titus.  It was around this time that Nero burnt Rome and blamed it on the Christians.  When Paul visited Troas (2Tim.4:13), he was arrested, taken to Rome again, and imprisoned.  From prison in Rome he wrote his final letter, 2Timothy.  History tells us that after another series of trials, Paul was condemned to death and beheaded at the command of Nero.

Though Acts ends with Paul in Rome, there’s a sense in which it isn’t finished.


You are writing chapter 29.

Though many of your Bibles has the book entitled “The Acts of the Apostles”, it would better be titled, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Church”.
The book of Acts hasn’t really ended.  The Holy Spirit is still working.  The work goes on.  It is being written with your life and my life.