Daily Devotion Text

October 16, 2019

Acts 28 – 2019-10-16

By carmenhsu In Acts, Devotion Text with Comments Off on Acts 28 – 2019-10-16
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    vv.1-2: “Malta (Melite), on which the ship was wrecked, is an island about 18 miles long and 8 miles wide. It lies 58 miles south of Sicily and 180 miles north and east of the African coast. It had been colonized about 1000 B.C by Phoenicians, and the vernacular language in Paul’s day was a Punic (Carthaginian) dialect. But in 218 B.C it was captured by Rome at the start of the Second Punic War waged against Carthage and granted the status of a municipium, which allowed a large measure of local autonomy. Augustus established a Roman governor on the island, who bore the title municipi Melitesium primus omnium (‘the chief man over all in the municipality of Malta,’ Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 10.7495; cf. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum 5754–or, as at v. 7, ho protos tes nesou, ‘the first man of the island’). He also settled a number of army veterans and their families there. In Paul’s day the island was known for its prosperity and residential architecture, and its native population must have spoken not only Phoenician but also some Latin and Greek. 

    Melite has at times been identified with Meleda or Mljet off the Dalmatian coast (modern Yugoslavia) in the northeastern part of the Adriatic Sea, far to the northeast of Malta. But that is linked to the confusion of ‘Adrian’ with ‘Adriatic’ (cf. comments on 27:27). In all likelihood the ship was blown west from Crete to the east coast of Malta, rather than northwest into the Adriatic. So the traditional location of Saint Paul’s Bay on Malta should continue to be considered the most probable site for Paul’s landing. The island was first named by Phoenicians, in whose language melita meant ‘a place of refuge’–a function that naturally fits it.”[1]

    “The proposed forty-mile trip from Fair Havens to Phoenix ended two weeks later on the island of Malta, which was scarcely a day’s voyage from the great port of Syracuse in Sicily.  But the people had to wait three months in Malta because it was winter.  The word islanders’ (28:2) is barbaroi, which was how those who did not speak Greek were referred to in those days.  The islanders showed the shipwrecked travelers ‘unusual kindness’.  And Paul despite his exhaustion from the preceding events, joined in setting up a fire, which was probably needed because of the cool autumn temperature. […] The reaction that Paul was probably a murderer (28:4) is typical of superstitious people who see others going through misfortune – they assume that they are paying for their wrong deeds.  When nothing happened to Paul, their superstition led them to change their verdict, saying that he was a god.”[2]

    vv.3-6: “When Paul was bitten by the viper, the islanders concluded he was a murderer whom Justice (he dike) had at last caught up with since he hadn’t died at sea. The Greek goddess Dike, or her Phoenician counterpart, was apparently venerated by the Maltese.”[3]

    “Wherever we are (in church, at home, in society) and whatever our role may be (leader, follower, Christian minister, worker in a secular job…etc), our attitude should always be that of a servant (Phil 2:5-8).  In our study of Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders (20:17-35), we saw that he adopted a servant lifestyle in his ministry.  Now we see him adopting a similar lifestyle in his activity in society.  Though he must have been exhausted from the strenuous trip and though the Maltese people were doing their best to help the people from the ship, Paul was busy gathering wood for the fire that the Maltese people were building (28:2-3).  Commenting on this Barclay says, “It is only the little man who refuses the little task.”[4]

    v.11: “‘After three months’ (meta treis menas), the centurion Julius arranged for another ship to take his contingent of prisoners and soldiers on to Italy. According to Pliny the Elder, navigation on the Mediterranean began each spring on 8 February, when the westerly winds started to blow (Natural History 2.122) […] Therefore sometime in early or mid-February 61, Paul and his colleagues boarded ship again for the last leg of their voyage to Italy after their shipwreck on Malta, perhaps in late October (cf. comments on 27:9). The ship was another Alexandrian vessel, probably another grain ship (cf. comments on v. 13) from Egypt that had been able to make harbor at Malta before winter set in and the disastrous Northeaster struck. Ships, like inns, took their names from their figureheads […] [this ship had] Castor and Pollux, the sons of Leda, queen of Sparta, who in Greek mythology were transformed by Zeus into twin gods represented by the constellation Gemini. The cult of the Dioscuroi (lit., ‘sons of Zeus’) was especially widespread in Egypt and the Gemini were considered by sailors a sign of good fortune in a storm. For an Alexandrian ship, the figurehead was an appropriate one.”[5]

    v.14:“At Puteoli Paul and his companions ‘found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them.’ It was not, of course, unusual for Christians to be found in such an important city as Puteoli.

    “There was a Jewish colony there (cf. Jos. War II, 104 [vii.l]; Antiq. XVII, 328 [xii.]), from which some may have become Christians on their travels or through the witness of believers who visited Puteoli. What is surprising, however, is that Paul a prisoner was at liberty to seek out the Christians of the city and accept their invitation to spend seven days in fellowship with them. Nevertheless, it is possible that for some reason Julius found it necessary to stop at Puteoli for a week after disembarking and that during that time he allowed Paul the freedom (though undoubtedly accompanied by a guard) to seek out his fellow believers and enjoy their hospitality, as he did at Sidon when the journey to Rome began (cf. 27:3).”[6]

    v.15: “At Neapolis, Julius and his contingent turned northwest to travel to Rome on the Via Appia–that oldest, straightest, and most perfectly made of all the Roman roads, named after the censor Appius Claudius who started its construction in 312 B.C. During the seven-day stopover at Puteoli, news of Paul’s arrival in Italy reached Rome. So a number of Christians there set out to meet him and escort him back to Rome. Some of them got as far as the Forum of Appius (Forum Appii), one of the ‘halting stations’ built every ten to fifteen miles along the entire length of the Roman road system. It was forty-three miles from Rome in the Pontine marshland, and a market-town had grown up around it. Others only got as far as the Three Taverns (Tres Tabernae) Inn, another halting station about thirty-three miles from Rome. Paul’s gratitude to God for the delegation that met him must have been unusually fervent, because Luke pauses to make special mention of it.”[7]

    v.16: “At Rome, Paul was allowed to live in private quarters, though a soldier guarded him at all times. The chain he wore (v. 20) was probably attached to his wrists. Yet in Luke’s eyes Paul entered Rome in triumph. Through his coming the gospel penetrated official circles in the capital of the empire, and God used his detention there for two years to spread the proclamation of the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the city (cf. vv. 30-31).

    “With this verse, the last ‘we’ section in Acts closes. To judge by the greetings in Colossians 4:10-14 and Philemon 23-24 (assuming a Roman origin for these letters), Luke and Aristarchus must have remained with Paul through most–if not all of his detention at Rome, being joined from time to time by such friends as Epaphras, John Mark, Demas, and Jesus, who was surnamed Justus.”[8]

    vv.23-28: “We see a familiar sequence in verses 23-28.  The Jews showed an interest in Christianity and a meeting was arranged (v.23a).  Paul tried “to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets” (v.23b).  The familiar word peitho (“persuade, convince”) appears twice in these verses (vv.23-24).  Some are convinced, “but others would not believe” (v.24).  Those who rejected the message had stubborn hearts that did not want to believe.  The result of that meeting was unpleasant for Paul (v.25).  There isn’t much new here.  Luke underscores the tragedy of Jewish rejection of the gospel.  What is new is Paul’s use of a familiar text about hardened hearts to explain Jewish resistance to the gospel (vv.26-27).”[9]

    vv.30-31: “Acts does not conclude on the note of Jewish rejection of the gospel.  Rather, Luke’s conclusion presents a more glorious reality: The Gentiles hear the gospel, and Paul has two years of bold witness about “the kingdom of God and…the Lord Jesus Christ” (v.31).  At the start of Acts Luke gave his key verse (1:8), which predicted that through the Holy Spirit the gospel would be proclaimed “to the ends of the earth.”  The book ends with that prediction being fulfilled.”[10]

    “In the end he comes to a conclusion, implied in his quotation from Isaiah.  It is that this too is the work of God; this rejection of Jesus by the Jews is the very things, which has opened the door to the Gentiles. There is a purpose in everything; on the helm of things is the hand of the unseen steersman – God. The door, which the Jews shut, was the door that opened to the Gentiles….

    To the end of the day Paul is Paul. The Authorized Version obscures a point.  It says that for 2 years he lived in his own hired house. The real meaning is that he lived at his own expense, that he earned his own living. Even in prison his own two hands supplied his need; and he was not idle otherwise. It was there in prison that he wrote the letters to the Philippians, to the Ephesians, to the Colossians and to Philemon. Nor was he ever altogether alone. Luke and Aristarchus had come with him and to the end Luke remained.  Timothy was often with him.  Sometimes Tychicus was with him.  For a while he had the company of Epaphroditus.  And sometimes Mark was with him.

    Nor was it wasted time. He tells the Philippians that all this has fallen out to the furtherance of the gospel.  That was particularly so because his bonds were known throughout the Praetorian Guard. He was in his own private lodging but night and day a soldier was with him.  These headquarters soldiers were members of the picked troops of the Emperor, the Praetorian Guard.  In two years many of them must have spent long days and nights with Paul; and many a man must have gone from his guard duty with Christ in his heart.

    And so the Book of Acts comes to an end with a shout of triumph. In the Greek without let or hindrance are one word and that one word falls like a victor’s cry.  It is the peak of Luke’s story. We wonder why Luke never told us what happened to Paul, whether he was executed or released. The reason is that this was not Luke’s purpose. At the beginning Luke gave us his scheme of Acts when he told how Jesus commanded his followers to bear witness for him in Jerusalem and all over Judea and Samaria and away to the ends of the earth. Now the tale is finished; the story that began in Jerusalem rather more than 30 years ago has finished in Rome.  It is nothing less than a miracle of God. The church, which at the beginning of Acts could be numbered in scores, cannot now be numbered in tens of thousands. The story of the crucified man of Nazareth has swept across the world in it conquering course until now without interference it is being preached in Rome, the capital of the world. The gospel has reached the center of the world and is being freely proclaimed – and Luke’s task is at an end.”[11]

    “Paul wanted to preach the gospel in Rome, and he eventually got there – in chains, through shipwreck, and after many trials.  Although he may have wished for an easier passage, he knew that God had blessed him greatly in allowing him to meet the believers in Rome and preach the message to both Jews and Gentiles in that great city.  In all things, God worked for Paul’s good (Romans 8:28).  You can trust him to do the same for you.  God may not make you comfortable or secure, but he will provide the opportunity to do his work.” [12]

    [1] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.1.

    [2] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 613.

    [3] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.3-4.

    [4] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 621.

    [5] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.1.

    [6] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.14.

    [7] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.15.

    [8] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for v.16.

    [9] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 625.

    [10] Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 625.

    [11] William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1976) 192-193.

    [12] Life Application Study Bible, notes on vv.17-20 (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers,  1991) 2020.

  • Acts 28:1-10 (ESV)

    1 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

    7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.

  • Reflection Questions   

Acts 28:1-10

    • In what ways are Paul’s actions upon landing incongruous with the ordeal they had just barely survived?
    • What reaction does this produce in those observing him? What opportunities for ministry result from this?
    • What inspires or challenges me from this passage? 
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