Acts Chapter 28: Paul; Shipwrecked on Melita, Imprisoned in Rome

Nov 4th, 2009 | By | Category: Acts, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Acts Chapter 28: Paul; Shipwrecked on Melita, Imprisoned in Rome

Acts 28:1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.

Paul, the centurion, and the others were shipwrecked on the isle of Melita (called Malta today). The angel in the vision had told Paul that none would perish, and all from the boat did get safely onto the island, even though the boat was completely destroyed. Those who could not swim clung to pieces of the wreckage and thus got to shore.

Comment: A Bible map calls water at Melita “St. Paul’s Bay.” Apparently, the bay was named for him after he left.

Acts 28:2 And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

Paul, the soldiers, and the others arrived on Melita under tumultuous circumstances. Not only were they drenched from the sea, but when they came on shore, they were shivering in the cold and rainy weather. The “barbarous people” kindly warmed them by fire. The natives were “barbarous” in the sense of being uncivilized Gentiles.

Acts 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.

Acts 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.

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

Acts 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.

Although not a young man, Paul was active in gathering sticks and helping temporally. The fire providentially would have been quite large. When Paul laid his bundle of sticks on the fire, the intense heat caused a venomous “viper” (probably a scorpion) to come forth from the midst of the sticks. Fastening itself on Paul’s hand, the viper bit him and hung there until Paul shook it off into the fire; that is, Paul did not even flinch but simply shook off the scorpion into the fire. A scorpion arches its tail over its head, and then the tail zooms down and fastens itself into an individual like a hypodermic needle.

At first, the superstitious people thought Paul was a murderer because of the scorpion on his hand, and they expected him to grow weaker, become swollen, and die. Thus they watched him very closely to see the reaction, but Paul “felt no harm.” When no hurt came to Paul, the people changed their minds and thought he was a god. The firelight illuminated the entire incident as if it were occurring on a stage.

We are reminded of the account where Elisha sent his servant to anoint Jehu to be king over Israel (2 Kings 9:1-6,11-13). The servant spoke privately to Jehu, anointed him secretly, and then left. When Jehu came out, the others asked what that crazy man had wanted. When Jehu recounted that the servant had anointed him to be king, the others suddenly thought the servant was wonderful. From a negative circumstance, the mood changed radically.

Acts 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.

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

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

Acts 28:10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.

Paul healed the chief’s father of a “bloody flux,” which could have been a hemorrhage or dysentery. When others heard of the healing, they brought their sick to Paul to be healed. In gratitude, the inhabitants “honoured us with many honours.” Of course Paul was mostly the focus of attention, and the natives felt that providence had shipwrecked the boat for their benefit. Just as the Ethiopian eunuch regarded Philip as a messenger of God, so these barbarians considered Paul to be the same.

Comment: After the centurion and the other soldiers witnessed so many miracles, it must have saddened them to have to remand Paul over for imprisonment.

Acts 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.

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

Paul and all of the men from the ship stayed on the isle of Melita for three months. Then they sailed on a ship from Alexandria, Egypt, and landed at Syracuse, which was on the island of Sicily. The reference to Castor and Pollux may indicate the inhabitants were given to looking at the stars, and to them, the signs may have portended that something unusual would happen.

Q: This was the second ship from Alexandria that is mentioned in the Book of Acts. Was Alexandria a major seaport of Egypt?

A: Yes, it was a famous seaport.

Acts 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:

From Syracuse, they “fetched a compass”; that is, they followed the shoreline north toward a strait, and the ship landed at Rhegium on the mainland of Italy. After one day, a favorable wind from the south helped them to go north through the strait and quickly up to Puteoli, which was just south of Rome.

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

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

Acts 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.

Acts 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.

Paul met brethren at Puteoli, and the centurion was amenable to Paul’s wishes, allowing him to stay there for seven days. The fact that Paul “took courage” when brethren were found shows that he had some low periods, and seeing the brethren encouraged him. The classes of brethren in Italy were not founded by Paul. Apparently, Peter’s early sermon on the Day of Pentecost had resulted in some converts there. Also, when famine and hard circumstances arose, some of the brethren from Israel may have taken up residence in Italy.

Appiiforum and “The three taverns” were on the Appian Way en route to Rome. When all of them got to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard, and Paul dwelled by himself with a soldier who “kept” him. This term probably means that a soldier was chained to Paul while he was under house arrest.

After three days, Paul summoned the chief of the Jews (the leaders of the synagogue) to preach to them. He told of the circumstances that brought about his arrival in Rome as a prisoner and said that the charges against him were false. He was not an insurrectionist.

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

Acts 28:19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had aught to accuse my nation of.

Acts 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 recognized his being in Rome was providential so that he would be a witness there of the “hope of Israel.” Because of his faithfulness to the truth, he ended up in Italy, just as the Apostle  John would later be sent to the Isle of Patmos “for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9).

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

Acts 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.

Acts 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.

Knowing that the “sect” was spoken against, the Jews “appointed him a day” for expounding and testifying of the Kingdom of God, and Paul preached to them from morning until evening.

Paul repeatedly preached to the Jews who visited him while he was under house arrest (Acts 28:30,31).

Paul had a reputation as a cultist who did not believe in the Law of Moses and was eroding the faith of the Jew. In truth, however, Paul did the opposite—he enhanced the faith of the Jew.

Even today when the truth is enlarged, some consider the thinking to be jeopardizing the truth because it is a new area. Therefore, Paul tried to show that he still had the faith of Abraham.

God’s providence had now brought a different message based on faith rather than on the ceremonial works of the Law.

Paul was a notable prisoner, for word had spread from the passengers on the boat. In addition to the nearly 200 prisoners, there were at least another hundred people, including ship hands and passengers. Therefore, the general public, the unconsecrated, were curious about this strange passenger, and Paul took advantage of his providential experience to invite various ones to visit him.

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

Acts 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,

Acts 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:

Acts 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.

At the end of his sermon, Paul quoted Isaiah 6:9,10. Some of the Jews from the synagogue believed, and some (the majority) did not.

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

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

Paul concluded his sermon by saying that his first responsibility and desire as a Jew were to speak to his own people. However, as Isaiah had prophesied, the message was not received wholeheartedly by the Jews because of deaf ears and blind eyes, so the gospel would go to the Gentiles. Paul was saying, “If, as a people, our eyes and our ears are not open to the message that is due at this time, God will make you jealous by turning the message to the Gentiles, among whom there will be better results.” As the Jews were leaving, they discussed the

startling things that had happened: the arrival of the boat, the unusual messenger, his membership in this strange “sect,” and his sermon. Those Jews who believed would have made further contact to hear more as time went on.

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

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

Paul remained under house arrest for two years, being blessed with many witnessing opportunities. He felt it was just a matter of time until he would be put in Caesar’s prison and lose these privileges. Meanwhile, he proceeded on a daily basis, not putting off his Christian armor.

The Book of Acts ends abruptly, but we know from tradition, from certain statements in the epistles to Timothy, and from writings of the early Church fathers that Paul was exonerated after the two years and that he got an audience with Caesar and some in Caesar’s household.

Then tradition says he went to Spain. Paul did mention his intention to go to Spain, but we cannot prove from the Scriptures whether he actually got there (Rom. 15:24,28). At any rate, he was imprisoned and put on trial a second time in Rome for an offense of a similar nature. At that time, he asked for “the cloak” he had left at Troas with Carpus and “the books, but especially the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13). The Book of Hebrews may have been Paul’s last treatise because his witnessing opportunities were now curtailed. That message to the Jews was the burden of his heart. He was finally executed in either AD 64 or 66. Peter and Paul both died in that time slot.

The abrupt ending of the Book of Acts indicates there was a change in Luke’s circumstance. He may have gone somewhere else before Paul’s second imprisonment.

Comment: What a marvelous character the Apostle Paul was! We can be thankful that so many details of his experiences were providentially recorded for us in Holy Writ.

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