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Acts Chapter Twenty Eight, Deliverance

In our study of Acts chapter twenty eight, we witness the faithfulness of God in delivering His servant through struggles. We will see the purpose for it and apply the promise of it to our lives.

Acts 28:1

Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.

The island was called Myletus or Melita at the time but it is what is known as Malta today. Today, most of the population of Malta are Christians but, at the time that Paul landed here, it was pagan natives. We see the faithfulness of God as He has delivered Paul and the crew out of the waters and to the shores of this island just as was promised. That same promise is for us as God's children on a mission in this world today.

Acts 28:2

The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.

We all have pictured pagan natives as being blood-thirsty but, here, we see the favor of God at work once again. The natives welcomed Paul and his companions and made a fire for them. These natives (who had never even heard of Jesus Christ) welcomed 276 people to their home.

Acts 28:3

Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.

This one little verse tells us so much about the heart of the apostle Paul. This great apostle was humble enough to get his hands dirty by picking up firewood. There was more than enough people to pick up the wood but Paul did not kick back like a big shot. Instead, he took on the role of the servant just as Jesus had done. There are many people today that are using titles (even the title of apostle) as an excuse for them kicking back and being served by those under them but that is not the pattern that we saw demonstrated in Jesus or, here, in Paul. This verse has also been wrongly used by many to promote the religious practice of snake handling but that is not what happened here. Many, today, want to knowingly pick up a serpent as a demonstration of their faith and use this verse to say that Paul was doing the same. These people are yielding to the temptation of pride. This is the same sort of temptation that Satan used against Jesus as he tried to get Him to throw Himself from the highest point of the temple (see Luke 4:9). Jesus' answer was that we are not to put God to the test. In the same way, we see that Paul did not intentionally pick up the snake as it was hidden in the pile of sticks and only came out when it was close to the fire. The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus told the eleven apostles that were left after his resurrection that this was going to happen (see Mark 16:18). He did this to reassure them that, no matter what, He was in control and they did not need to fear death and the things of this world.

Acts 28:4

When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, 'This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.'

When the native people saw Paul get bit by this poisonous snake, they immediately thought that it was a god at work bringing justice to him for wrongdoing. That is what happens even today as many people (even Christians) seem to think that God is just waiting to send punishment on the people every time they do something wrong. That is not the case for Christians as God does not condemn His children. Once we are saved by the grace of God, it brings freedom. This freedom also allows us to make mistakes without the fear that God is waiting to send a plague upon us.

Acts 28:5 & 6

But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

When Paul was not killed, they changed their minds and tried to say he was a god. We see how quickly people change their opinions and how, if we chase after their approval, we will always be disappointed. What we actually see in this passage is the fact that God's people are not subject to death until He is finished with them here on the earth. Another example of this is found in the two witnesses described in Revelation 11. Paul was on a mission from God and no snake had the power to interfere with God's plan for him.

Acts 28:7

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably.

It would not have been normal for any official of the Roman Empire to entertain a prisoner but Publius must have heard about Paul and the snake. The number three is associated with the earthly expression of God's will and we see, here, that God's will was for Paul to visit with this official and be a witness to him.

Acts 28:8

His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.

The man's father was sick and we see that God had sent Paul to heal him. It is interesting to note that before healing the man Paul prayed to God for guidance. This healing was important in showing Publius (a pagan) the power of the living God and so Paul looked for guidance from God. Today, it seems that it is a popular thing among "churches" to hold healing services and the like. Many times the people are lined up and herded through like cattle and often the man performing the healing is glorified instead of God. We can take a lesson from Paul as the people were lifting him up as a god (in verse 6) but he made sure that it was obvious that it was a work of the one true God and not of man.

Acts 28:9

When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.

The rest of the island heard about the healing and brought their sick to be healed. It is obvious that Paul let them know that the healing was from God and not of himself. The result is that, even today, the island of Malta is a "Christian nation".

Acts 28:10

They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

Once again, we see the favor of God at work with Paul and his companions. This verse reminds us that God's provision may be in unexpected ways through people that we would not normally expect to help.

Acts 28:11

After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.

In Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux were twin brothers who were said to watch over sailors on the seas. In Latin, they were known as the Gemini twins and that is where we get the name for the Gemini constellation in the sky. The people with Paul must have known how ridiculous the idea of some false gods watching over the sailors was as they had experienced the protection of the real God.

Acts 28:12-14a

We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them.

Syracuse was the capitol of the island of Sicily which is located just to the south of Italy. The next stop was Rhegium which was located on the tip of Italy and the twin gods were worshiped there. The final stop was at Puteoli which is today named Pozzuoli and is located about five miles to the west of Naples. This was the main port for grain ships at this time and so Paul's travel by sea comes to a close. Paul and his friends were taken in and spent a week with fellow Christians there.

Acts 28:14b & 15

And so we came to Rome. The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.

As Paul went on to Rome, he was met by his fellow Christians and this comforted him and he praised God for them. The same thing can happen to us as we walk in the purpose and plan that God has for our lives. Many times, it will seem that we are alone and headed for the unknown but we find that God has already prepared His workers to meet us and give us comfort.

Acts 28:16

When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

Once again, we see the favor of God at work in the life of Paul. He is allowed freedom even though he is still a prisoner and so he is able to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and to strengthen the believers around him. We, too, shall see this favor when we are listening to the Spirit and following God's plan for our lives.

Acts 28:17

Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: 'My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.'

It was the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem that had caused Paul to be arrested and so he calls the Jewish leaders of Rome together to work out their differences. This is the biblical pattern for settling disputes among men. It is the same for us today in that, if we have a disagreement with someone, we are to go to them and discuss it with them. Many times, this does not happen and instead gossip and rumors are started.

Acts 28:18-20

They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar - not that I had any charge to bring against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.

Paul explains to the local Jews how he came to be in chains in their city. We notice that, in this attempt to settle the differences, he did not point his finger at the Jews in Jerusalem and blame them. Instead, he sees and explains that the reason he is being held is to further the gospel of Jesus Christ which is the hope of all men. We, too, should remain focused on our goal of sharing the gospel instead of whining about our circumstances and blaming others for them.

Acts 28:21 & 22

They replied, 'We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.'

We see that this direct way of settling differences is effective as Paul was asked to share his faith with the Jews of Rome. The Jews were used to lively discussions of the scriptures and so invited Paul to share his point of view. There is something that has been lost among Christians today and that is the ability to have this type of discussion without judging the salvation of the people involved and condemning them.

Acts 28:23a

They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying.

Because of Paul's open honesty, people were willing to listen to him and so they came in large numbers to hear what he had to say. He knew that it was the Word of God that drew people to hear and not anything about himself. Today, there is a tendency for pastors/evangelists to get a "rock star" mentality. They get carried away with themselves and forget that their whole purpose is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Acts 28:23b

From morning to evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Paul met the Jews where they were in terms of their understanding. They knew of the Law of Moses and the words of the prophets and so he tried to show them that the promise of Jesus was contained in them. This is the same thing that Jesus did with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus after His resurrection (see Luke 24:27). The same principle applies to us in our efforts to tell people about Jesus (we must meet them where they are in their understanding).

Acts 28:24

Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.

Paul shared the Good News and some accepted it but others did not. It is the same today but, like Paul, we are called to share the Word and trust God to open the hears of those He has chosen.

Acts 28:25-27

They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: 'The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: "Go to this people and say, 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.' For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them."'

Here, we see that it is possible to reach a point where you are no longer open to the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul uses this quote from Isaiah 6 and we see that the people had closed their own eyes so that they could not see the plan of God. The people could just not accept the fact that they could not work for their salvation but merely had to accept it as a gift. The same type of struggle followed Paul everywhere that he shared the good news and the same thing is happening today. This is also the same struggle that will continue even to the end of the great tribulation described in Revelation.

Acts 28:28 & 29

'Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!' After he said this, the Jews left, arguing vigorously among themselves.

Why was salvation sent to Gentiles (those that were not God's people)? The simple answer is to shame Israel by letting them see that the gift they had rejected (Jesus) would be gladly accepted by others. This fact brought controversy to the Jews as they could not see the that it was God's plan all along.

Acts 28:30 & 31

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

In this final passage of the book of Acts, we see that God is faithful and will deliver His people for His purpose. We might ask why God allowed Paul to go through all that he did and we see the reason contained in this passage. He was able to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in the heart of the Roman Empire "without hindrance".

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