For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough 

28:1.  “And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita (Malta).

28:2.  “And the barbarous (native) people shewed 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” was the term used by the Greeks to describe those who didn’t speak Greek.  It doesn’t necessarily imply barbarity.  Their conduct was anything but barbarous, and reminds us that we are responsible also to show the kindness of God to others.  Their kindling a fire is an indirect reminder of the need to ensure that when we do extend hospitality to others it is to be with Christian warmth.

Its being recorded that they “... received us every one” seems to emphasize that there was no discrimination.  The prisoners were treated the same as the others, even though some of them may have been criminals.  How often we are selective when it comes to ministering to the needs of others!  The rain and cold affected all the victims of the storm.  When we minister to the needs of those suffering the effects of adversity, it is to be without discrimination.

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.”

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.”

Men, even believers, are quick to judge by outward appearances, in spite of the warnings against passing such judgment, see, for example, Ro 14:13, “Let us not therefore judge one another...” and 1 Cor 4:5, “... judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts....”

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

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.”

This reveals the fickleness of man: he is ever ready to go from one extreme to another.  We need to be careful that we aren’t guilty of similar changeable behavior.

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.”

This man of wealth and influence didn’t discriminate: ship owner, soldiers, passengers, and prisoners were received alike, and treated courteously.  The conduct of this pagan ruler rebukes our own tendency to discriminate against the lowly in favor of the rich and important, see James 2.

28:8.  “And it came to pass that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux (dysentery): to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.”

Kindness has its own reward even here on earth; and even if not, what is done for Christ will be rewarded at the Bema.  The father of their benefactor was to be healed, and the fact that it was to be through prayer, and the laying on of hands, declares that it was still the Jewish age, for the laying on of hands was associated with Judaism; and the absence of any record of legitimate miraculous healing after the early Apostolic age, confirms that the gift of healing is not for the Church age

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

Those who would be healed had to come to Paul.  Those who would be healed of sin must come to Christ.  A man must see his need, and want to be saved, for God will save no man apart from that man’s free-will choice to trust in Christ.

The word for “healed” in verse 9 is not the same as in verse 8, indicating that at least some of the healing may have been the result of Luke’s medical skill.

28:10.  “Who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.”

The islanders’ generous recompense of those who had ministered to their health needs reminds us that it is incumbent upon us to have similar care regarding those who minister to our spiritual needs, see 1 Cor 9:6-14, and 1 Tim 5:17-18.  Nor was their giving niggardly: “they laded them....” with everything they needed.

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.”

Castor and Pollux means The Twin Sons of Zeus, and I believe there is some spiritual truth connected with this name of the ship, but regret that I can’t determine what it is.

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

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:”

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

The seven days indicate that the ship must have spent the time being loaded or unloaded, for it is most unlikely that it would have been anchored for seven days just to accommodate the wishes of the believers.

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

This continues to declare the love the early believers had for one another.  In a day when travel was much more difficult than it is today they were willing to come a distance of approximately 40 miles to meet Paul and his company.  He had long wanted to see these Roman brethren, and his prayer being answered, “he thanked God.”  We tend to be quicker to present petitions to God, than we are to thank Him when He answers our prayers.

“... and took courage.”  Since every believer must surely be encouraged by seeing the caring conduct of his brethren, it behooves us to display that care more often.

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.”

The centurion’s kindnesses to Paul prompt the question whether he himself had become a believer.  We trace God’s hand in all of this, for surely it must have been very unusual for Paul to be allowed to live in his own rented house until his trial.  This is recorded for our encouragement.  God rules in the affairs of men.

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.”

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

His calling the Jews together continues to demonstrate that until AD 70, the principle was “to the Jew first.”  And as it had been with the Master, so was it with the servant: Christ had also been delivered over to the Romans by Jewish hands.

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.”

In spite of there being no cause, the Jews would have killed Paul, as they had done his Master.  His appeal to Caesar, however, was more than just an attempt to save his own life: it was clearly the will of God that Paul should be His witness in Rome.  His work was not yet done.  It wasn’t time for him to be called home.

His refusal to charge his nation with guilt declares that he had the mind of his Master, as did Stephen also.  This ought to deter us from charging fault to those who would persecute us.  Their minds are blinded, and in addition, they can do no more than God permits.  Until our conversion we were as much the enemies of God and His people as were those who persecuted Paul.

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.”

Paul would seek to persuade these Roman Jews, as he had those in Jerusalem and where ever he went.  He had a burning desire to see his nation inherit the long-promised blessings.  The same desire to see men inherit eternal blessings should impel us to a more diligent proclamation of the good news; and the realization that they are spiritually blind ought to make us more tolerant of their conduct, even their persecution and hatred.  They know not what they do.

“... the hope of Israel” was the expectation of the coming of Messiah to set up the millennial kingdom, but Paul’s burning desire was to show them from the Scriptures that the Jesus they had crucified was the Messiah, His sin-atoning death having been foretold by the prophets as being necessary before He could come again in resurrection glory to inaugurate the kingdom.  But clearly Israel’s day of grace was almost ended.  God foreknew that they would refuse to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was their Messiah, and the result was that the nation was soon to be cut off, the Gentiles now being offered even better blessings than those which Israel foolishly rejected.

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

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.”

The reference to “the Way” as being simply another Jewish sect continues to emphasize what we have already discussed: until AD 70 there was one divinely appointed order for Jewish believers, and another for their Gentile brethren.  Its being spoken against demonstrates the enmity that must always exist between the flesh and the Spirit, between faith and unbelief.  The world’s favor can be bought only with our disobedience of God.

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.”

That day, though the Jews knew it not, was one fraught with eternal consequences, for clearly it marked the end of God’s patience with that generation of Israel.  The gospel they had heard and rejected, first from the Lord Himself and then from His disciples for almost thirty-eight years after His crucifixion and resurrection, was being preached to them for the last time, and  by none other than the Apostle Paul himself.   What  bitter remorse must haunt those who left his house that day refusing to believe!  Today, too late, they now believe, as do all with them in hell awaiting the judgment of the great white throne, from which they will be cast into the eternal torment of the lake of fire by the Christ Who had given His life to save them from that very fate.

Paul’s having sought to persuade them “from morning till evening,” reminds us of the centuries during which God had sought to persuade that rebellious nation, but in vain.  And now as they left Paul’s house at evening, that same God Whose patience they had finally exhausted, was about to bring upon them a long dark night of spiritual darkness which has lasted for two thousand years.  But as it is written, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” Ps 30:5.  The foretold day of Israel’s ultimate blessing is already beginning to dawn.  The first faint light of her glorious new day can be perceived by the eye of faith, which reads in that dim but brightening dawn light the evidence of the fulfillment of the Church’s hope: the coming of the Lord to the air to rapture her home to heaven, that rapture to be followed by the seven-year Tribulation era which will bring a remnant of Israel to repentance and deliverance by His return in power and glory to bring her into the enjoyment of those millennial blessings forfeited by the unbelief of that earlier generation.

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

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,”

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:”

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.”  This quotation is taken from Isa 6:9-10

It is to be noted that it was with that unbelieving generation of Israel as it had been with Pharaoh in the days of Moses.  He first hardened his heart against God, Who then made that hardening irrevocable; and so was it with the Jews of Paul’s day: they themselves first hardened their hearts before God made that hardening also irrevocable.

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

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

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

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

Those two years when Paul preached and taught are but a foreshadowing of these past two thousand years when God’s servants have also preached and taught the good news of salvation for all men through faith in a crucified but risen Savior.

While scriptural corroboration is lacking, it is generally accepted that Paul was acquitted and released, but then rearrested two or three years later, and executed in AD 68, probably at the instigation of the Jews.

This study of Acts is concluded with the prayer that it may be used by God to help remove some of the confusion that has resulted from failure to see that in the Apostolic age until AD 70 , there was a divinely appointed order for Jewish Christians, and a different order for their Gentile brethren, the Jewish order being preserved in anticipation of the inauguration of the millennial kingdom, in which the Levitical form of worship will be universal.  God, however, knowing that Israel’s national unbelief would result in forfeiture of that kingdom until a day still future but now imminent, instituted a different order for the Gentile believers, that order superceding the Levitical after AD 70, and remaining as the universal order for Jewish and Gentile believers alike throughout the whole Church age.




     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough