Evening Bible Study
On the day of Pentecost, the church was born. It began with the Holy Spirit
filling the believers. As the apostles preached about Jesus, the church began
By chapter seven, the church was beginning to experience persecution.
Stephen was the first one to die for his faith. One of the main men behind the
persecution was a man named Saul. But when Saul headed for the city of Damascus
to pursue the Christians there, he was knocked off his horse by a bright light
and he met Jesus. Saul is more well known by his Roman
By chapter 10, the gospel began to reach even the Gentiles, starting with a
Roman Centurion named Cornelius.
In chapter 13, we began a new section of Acts as we began to focus on the
ministry of Paul.
We followed Paul on three different journeys as he planted churches in
cities like Ephesus, Philippi, and Corinth.
On his third journey, while Paul was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover,
a riot breaks out in the Temple, and the Jews try to seize Paul and put him to
Some of the unbelieving Jews thought that Paul had brought a Gentile into
the Temple because they had seen him walking around town with a Gentile.
He had not.
The Romans stepped in to take Paul away from the crowd, but Paul was
allowed first to speak to the crowd.
Paul gave his first defense to the crowd.
Paul’s next defense was before the Sanhedrin.
Paul’s third defense was before Felix the governor in Caesarea.
His fourth defense was two years later, before a new governor, Porcius Festus.
Lastly, Paul has given his fifth defense to King Agrippa.
None of these court proceedings led to anything, and so Paul exercised his
right as a Roman citizen, appealed his case to Caesar, and was sent to Rome.
The last chapter (27) described Paul’s dangerous sea journey to Rome, including
being caught in a storm, and shipwrecked.
28:1-10 Paul on Malta
:1 Now when they had escaped, they then found out
that the island was called Malta.
:1 the island was called Malta
Cicero wrote that Malta was known for a wintering island for pirates!
The island of Malta was 560 miles west of Crete and only 65 miles southwest
God’s Rapid Transit System
They’ve gone through a terrible storm.
They don’t have a clue where they are or where they were headed.
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 course.
God wanted Paul to get to Rome.
At the end of the storm, they were much, much closer than when they
God has His way of getting us to where we need to be.
We might not enjoy going through the storms of life, but sometimes they are
the method God uses to get us where we need to be.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which
is your reasonable service.
: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.
: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.”
:4 justice does not allow to live
We often have the same mindset, thinking something like, “Well, they got
what’s coming to them…”
There are times when bad things do 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).
We have this thought inside us that when a tragedy occurs, there must be a
reason for it.
Sometimes that actually is the case.
Sometimes it’s not.
The Bible says,
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 sometimes
God chooses to show mercy to us.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
Sometimes good things happen to bad people.
On Sunday we will be reading Psalm 73, about how the writer struggled when
bad people seemed to live such charmed lives.
Things aren’t always black and white.
TrulyMyWhenFor there are no pangs in their death,But their strength is firm. are they plagued like other men.Violence covers them like a garment.And
Until I understood their end.Surely You set them in slippery places;
:5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and
suffered no harm.
:5 suffered no harm
Jesus made an interesting promise to His apostles before He ascended into
NKJV) —17 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.”
We’ve seen every one of these things happen in the book of
Acts, except for the “drink anything deadly” thing.
Some people have taken these promises and turned them into bizarre
practices within their churches.
One of the points of confusion is on how these preachers interpret Mark
The Old King James says, “they shall
take up serpents”.
The word “shall” can indicate a
command such as “thou shalt not kill”.
But the Greek text is not a command (imperative), it is a future tense.
Jesus is saying that there will be a time in the future
when a disciple will take up a snake and it won’t hurt them.
He’s not commanding them, He’s
telling them what’s in the future.
The issue seems to me to be one of trusting God or testing Him.
In Paul’s case, he didn’t go looking for the snake, but
when the snake bit him, his trust was in the Lord, and God did whatever He
wanted to do – and this time God kept Paul unharmed.
The people who practice snake handling go looking for
trouble and are expecting God to bail them out.
When Jesus was being tempted by Satan,
4:5–7 NKJV) —5 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.’ ”
It seems to me that when a person is forcing the issue,
looking for danger, handling snakes, just to prove some point, they are
“tempting” or “testing” God.
Keep it up and maybe one day God will just take you home.
And yet there is a sense in which we as believers are indeed
In a sense, as believers, we are “indestructible”.
Video: Unbreakable Trailer
54:17 NKJV) No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every
tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is
the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their
righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.
God knows how much time I have left on this earth. He knows when my “mission” in life is
As a believer, there’s a sense in which I’m indestructible
until God is done with me.
: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
: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.
– Poplios –
“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.
:8 fever – puretos – fiery heat; fever.
It’s plural here, the idea is that the man had frequent,
intermittent attacks of fever.
:8 dysentery – dusenteria – dysentery, bowel
Dr. Luke is lending his medical diagnosis.
:9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the
island who had diseases also came and were healed.
:10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we
departed, they provided such things as were necessary.
:10 honored us in many ways
Because of Paul and his ministry to the people of the island, 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
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?
28:11-16 Paul goes to Rome
:11 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian
ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island.
:11 an Alexandrian ship
Their last ship was also an Alexandrian ship, part of the merchant shipping
fleet that brought Egyptian wheat to Rome.
:11 the Twin Brothers
In Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were the names of the twin sons of
These are the “Gemini” twins of the zodiac.
They were worshipped as being the protectors of men who were at sea.
Many Roman ships had them painted on the front of the ship like a
:12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days.
:13 From there we circled round and reached
Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to
:14 where we found brethren, and were invited to
stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.
: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.
Syracuse is a major port on the east coast of the island of Sicily, about
85 miles north of Malta.
This is the first port on the actual country/peninsula of Italy
Puteoli is another 200 miles up the coast of Italy. The south wind helps them to make great time to
do this in one day.
At Puteoli, they will leave the ship and head inland to Rome.
Paul and his companions find some Christians at Puteoli, and are allowed to
stay with them for an entire week before continuing on to Rome. Apparently the believers in Puteoli send out
word ahead to the believers in Rome.
This is where the ancient Lakers team used to play before they built the
Actually, this is a small market town on the way to Rome.
:15 Three Inns
Another town, 10 miles closer to Rome.
Paul is traveling on the road known as the “Appian Way”, called the “queen
of the long roads” that leads to the city of Rome.
Various believers from Rome meet Paul at these two towns along the way.
Video: Malta to Rome map clip
Paul’s new ship leaves Malta and goes to Syracuse.
Then the ship travelled on to Rhegium and Puteoli.
From Puteoli they go on foot to the Appii Forum,
Three Inns, and then finally on to Rome.
:15 the brethren heard about us
Paul knows people in Rome.
He wrote his letter to the Romans a little under three years earlier while
staying in Corinth. At the end of his
letter he sent greetings to the people he knew in Rome. Look at how many people he is familiar with
NKJV) —3 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. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow
prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before
me. 8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.
Paul goes on to list 19 other people by name that he knows in Rome.
Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them.
You get the sense that Paul loved many people in Rome, and they loved him
:15 took courage
courage – tharsos – courage, confidence
I don’t mean to cheapen Paul’s journey in any way by comparing it to my
experiences, but when you’ve traveled a long ways through unknown places, it is
amazingly encouraging when you find fellow Christians.
There’s a sense of feeling like you’re “home” with friends when you’re with
I wonder what the centurion and his men think when they see Paul and the
believers meeting each other.
:14 invited to stay with them seven days
Paul is in custody of the Roman centurion and his soldiers. Yet when the church asks if Paul can stay for
a week, they are allowed.
Relationships with unbelievers
Paul had given some advice that was rejected early on in the voyage, but respect
for Paul changed during the journey.
Paul’s advice proved to be correct.
Paul and Luke worked side by side with the sailors and soldiers during the
storm (Acts 27:19).
At the right time, Paul encouraged the guys to eat and get ready to swim.
Paul helped 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.
Paul said of elders…
(1 Timothy 3:7
NKJV) Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside,
lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
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?
: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.
:16 we came to Rome
Since leaving Caesarea several months earlier, Paul has travelled over 2300
miles to Rome
:16 Paul was permitted to dwell by
For the time being Paul has his own place in Rome, living with a soldier.
It seems that Paul will actually be chained to the soldier on duty.
28:17-31 Ministry at Rome
:17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul
called the leaders of the Jews together. 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
: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.”
:20 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 talked
to whoever came to his house. Some of
the guards got saved.
Paul wrote around this time:
1:12–13 NLT) —12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters,
that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the
Good News. 13 For
everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains
because of Christ.
:17 Paul called the leaders of the Jews
Paul wants to give these Jewish leaders his version of the events leading
up to his arrest before any people might arrive who will represent the Jewish
Paul is also going to follow his own pattern of first preaching the gospel
to the Jews first, and after that to the Gentiles.
He’s followed this pattern in every city he’s come to, and now that he’s in
Rome, he will do the same.
Staying On Task
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. He wrote to the Romans:
NKJV) —15 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
– Barnyard Ducks
There’s a story about ducks flying in
formation, when one of them looks 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
: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
:22 But we desire to hear from you what you think;
for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”
They’ve never heard any bad things about Paul.
They HAVE heard bad things about the “sect” of Christianity.
: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.
– peitho – persuade
:24 And some were persuaded by the things which
were spoken, and some disbelieved.
– peitho – persuade
Not everyone we share with will believe in Jesus.
: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
: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.” ’
:25 through Isaiah the prophet
Paul is quoting from Isaiah 6:9-10
KeepAndAnd shut their eyes;
This passage is quoted by Jesus as well regarding the unbelief of the Jews.
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, seeing you will see and not perceive;Their earsAndLest they should see with their eyes and hear with their
‘Seeing they may see and not
‘Seeing they may not see, hearing they may not understand.’
has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, they should see withLest they should understand with their hearts and turn,So that I should heal them.”
Just“God has given them a spirit of stupor,Eyes that they should not seeAnd ears that they should not hear,To this very day.”
:27 Lest they should understand …and
Unbelief and sin
Sometimes people don’t want to find the forgiveness and healing the Lord
has to offer because they don’t want to give up their sin.
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
Sometimes these things are only 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
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 (or other kinds of 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
I understand this principle even works in New York City.
Video: Catching a Monkey in NYC
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!”
While in Rome, Paul will now turn his efforts to share the gospel with the
: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
:30 Paul dwelt two whole years
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
This was not the end of Paul. What
happened 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.
Church tradition 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
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
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.