Acts 28

ACTS 28:1  1 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta.

Where is "Malta" (Acts 28:1)?
"The island" (Acts 28:1) of Malta is located 97 km south and was a part of the Roman province of Sicily, the large southern-most island of what is Italy today. They arrived on the southern, unfamiliar shore, not main familiar port on north.

ACTS 28:2  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.

Why was it "cold" (Acts 28:2)?
It was "winter" (Acts 27:12, see Cnidus), and the storm hadn't yet lifted: "the rain that was falling" (Acts 28:2).

ACTS 28:3-6  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. 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.” 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 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 god.

What was Paul doing?
He was out gathering wood for the fire to warm everyone else: "Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire" (Acts 28:3), displaying the servant leadership that Jesus taught and exemplified: "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded... So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you." (John 13:3-5,12-15)

How did Paul react to being bitten by the viper? How would you react? What’s the difference?

After being bitten by the viper, why did Paul shake "off the creature into the fire" (Acts 28:5)?
Had he let the viper live, someone else risked getting bitten.

Why didn't Paul immediately turn to Doctor Luke for medical attention?
The Lord Himself had told him, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome" (Acts 23:11), which means he wasn't going to die in Malta. Paul trusted the Lord to deal with the viper venom.

Why would the Maltese call Paul "a god" (Acts 28:6) and why would God let a viper bite Paul?
The original Greek word translated "justice" (Acts 28:4) is δικη (Dike) (pronounced "dee-kay"), who in pagan mythology was the goddess of justice. The Maltese were especially into goddess worship and thought their goddess of justice isn't allowing Paul "to live" (Acts 28:4). When they realized that their goddess couldn't kill Paul, they "changed their minds and said that he was a god" (Acts 28:6). The Lord apparently had a ministry lined up for the Maltese and was setting the platform for Paul, who undoubtedly told them about the true God during his stay in Malta.

Besides "the natives" (Acts 28:2), who else should have been paying homage to Paul on the shore?
Everyone who had been on the ship. Since Paul had prayed for and led all 276 passengers safely through the storm and the shipwreck so that "they all escaped safely" (Acts 27:44), he easily could have been at the 'best seat' by the fire receiving their gratitude and adulation.

ACTS 28:7  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.

Who was "Publius" (Acts 28:7)?
He was "the leading citizen of" (Acts 28:7) Malta. This “is the exact technical term for the person who represented Rome in that place; it is another example of Luke’s extraordinary accuracy.” (Boice) He may have been the first bishop and saint of Malta. 

Who are the "us" (Acts 28:7)?
Unless Publius was an exceptionally rich man who "entertained" (Acts 28:7) and "provided" (Acts 28:10) for all 276 passengers from the ship, it is likely to have been a smaller group that included or was limited to just Paul, about whose incident with the viper Publius may have heard about, and Paul's companions Luke, Aristarchus, and perhaps the Roman centurion.

ACTS 28:8  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.

Why didn’t they send in Dr Luke? Do you know of any example of Luke healing someone? What does that tell you?

Who healed Publius' father "of a fever and dysentery" (Acts 28:8)?

ACTS 28:9-12  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. 11 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days.

Why did God have Paul heal Publius' father?
So that "the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came to be healed" (Acts 28:9).

Does this sort of healing still happen?

What must they, their families and friends have heard from Paul during the "three months" (Acts 28:11) that he spent in Malta?

What happened after those three months?
Spring arrived and the wind changed so that they could sail north to Italy.

What is meant by "an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers" (Acts 28:11)?
A ship from the port city of Alexandria in northern Egypt whose figurehead was two figures who apparently were brothers in the pagan Greek mythology. North Africa was the breadbasket of the Roman Empire at the time, so this may have been a grain ship bound for Italy.

Where is "Syracuse" (Acts 28:12)?
Syracuse is a port city on the east coast of the island of Sicily and is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Malta. Archimedes lived there - it is believed a Roman soldier killed him there.

ACTS 28:13-14  13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.

Where is "Puteoli" (Acts 28:13)?
Puteoli was next to the modern Italian city of Naples and 140 miles (225 kilometers) southeast of Rome. "Puteoli" literally means "little wells" in reference to the many hydrothermal wells that were in the city, which was well-known as a large port that could accommodate big ships. In fact, adjacent to Puteoli was Misenum, the Roman naval base that housed the largest naval fleet in the ancient world. Earthquakes have since sunk most of Puteoli under water.

How did they go "toward Rome" (Acts 28:14) from Puteoli?
On foot.

Why did they get off the ship so far - 225km -  from Rome?
The ship most likely wasn't going any farther, as Puteoli was the largest cargo port for Rome, especially for grain ships coming from Alexandria in north Africa.

Where is "Rhegium" (Acts 28:13)?
Rhegium is a port city at the extreme southern tip - right on the 'toe of the 'boot' - of Italy, across the narrow Strait of Messina from the island of Sicily. Rhegium, now called Reggio Calabria, is 337 km south of Puteoli and 120 km north of Syracuse.

Why did the ship carrying Paul circle "round" (Acts 28:13) to reach Rhegium from Syracuse, which is to its south?
The wind most likely was blowing from the west, so the ship first had to sail east and then diagonally against the wind to head north. When the wind then shifted and blew from the "south" (Acts 28:13), the ship was able to cover the 340km from Rhegium to Puteoli in just one "day" (Acts 28:13).

ACTS 28:15  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.

Where are "Appii Forum and Three Inns" (Acts 28:15)?
Three Inns and Appii Forum were 48 km and 64 km, respectively, south of Rome. When the Christians in Rome "heard" (Acts 28:15) that Paul was headed their way from Puteoli, they walked for a couple of days and 30 to 40 miles south to greet him. "When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage" (Acts 28:15).

ACTS 28:16  16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to live by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

Who established the church in Rome? 

They had received Paul’s letter to the Romans a few years before.
God used someone other than Paul, since this was Paul's first visit to Rome. But Paul and the church in Rome weren't strangers. Before heading to Jerusalem, most probably from Corinth - "But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem" (Romans 15:25-26) - Paul wrote to the church in Rome and shared his prayers, now granted: "To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established - that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me" (Romans 1:7-12).

How many Christians did the Roman Christians greet?
Since the "centurion" (Acts 28:16) was with Paul, so were his soldiers and the other prisoners bound for Rome, as well as perhaps the other passengers from the ship who were bound for Rome. After what they had witnessed, lived through and heard from Paul since leaving Caesarea, it is highly likely that the Roman Christians greeted many more Christians than just Paul, Luke and Aristarchus, as many of the passengers who had been on the ship that wrecked in Malta may have been saved in more ways than one.

To whom did the centurion deliver the prisoners upon arrival in Rome?
The head of the Praetorian guards - "captain of the guard" (Acts 28:16) - who guarded Caesar and his palace.

Why was Paul "permitted to live by himself with the soldier who guarded him" (Acts 28:16)?
For one, he was an uncondemned Roman citizen. For another, the centurion may have vouched for Paul.

Why then did the Lord have "soldiers" guard Paul?
To protect him during his ministry in Rome: "Then Paul lived two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him" (Acts 28:30-31).

What happened to the soldier guarding Paul?
God turned them into Christians, as Paul later wrote to the church in Philippi: (the original Greek word translated "household" is οικιας (oikias), which can mean either "household" or "house," which for the Caesar is his palace): "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household." (Philippians 4:21-22)

What did Paul's guard do in turn?
Spread the Gospel to the "whole" Praetorian guards, as Paul also wrote: "But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ" (Philippians 1:12-13).

ACTS 28:17-18  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.

Who did Paul call after "three days" (Acts 28:17) in Rome?
"The leaders of the Jews" (Acts 28:17). Being under house arrest, he couldn't go to the leaders of the Jewish community in Rome, so he had them come to him.

How did Paul address them?

What is the significance of the word “yet”?

Is Paul being treated justly?

Hadn't "Claudius ... commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome" (Acts 18:2)?
Claudius expelled Jews from Rome in 49 AD and then died, allegedly from poisoning, in 54 AD, when Nero, the son of Claudius' fourth wife and his alleged murderer, began to reign. Those Paul called were the leaders of the Jews who had either hidden through Claudius' expulsion order or moved (back) to Rome after his death.

ACTS 28:19-20  19 “But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 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."

What "chain" (Acts 28:19) was Paul talking about?
Being under Roman house arrest, Paul's right wrist would have been chained to a Roman guard.

What did Paul first establish with the Jewish leaders in Rome?
His innocence: "I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers ..." (Acts 28:17).

Then why was he a prisoner?
"For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain" (Acts 28:19).

What is the "hope of Israel"?
The Messiah - i.e., Jesus - as the Jewish leaders were about to learn.

ACTS 28:21-22  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. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

What had the Jewish leaders of Rome heard?
Nothing negative concerning Paul, but they had heard negative things about Christianity, so they wanted to hear Paul's opinion on the matter: "But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere" (Acts 28:22).

ACTS 28:23  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.

What was Paul's "lodging" (Acts 28:23)?
"His own rented house" (Acts 28:30).

For how long did the non-Christians who came to Paul's house sit and listen to the Gospel being preached?
"From morning till evening" (Acts 28:23).

How long should a sermon (or Bible study) go on for?

ACTS 28:24  24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.

What happened after Paul preached the Gospel to Rome's Jewish leaders from "morning till evening" (Acts 28:23)?
"Some were persuaded ... and some disbelieved" (Acts 28:24).

How did the unbelief of some become known?
They began to argue against those who believed (see below).

ACTS 28:25-31  2 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 perceive; 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.” ’ 28 "Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the gentiles, and they will hear it!" 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.  30 Then Paul lived 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 forbidding him.

When did the Holy Spirit speak through Isaiah the prophet as Paul mentions in Acts 28:26-27? (See Isaiah 6:9-10)
Paul paraphrased God's word to Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 6:9-10 as having come true for the unbelieving Jewish leaders.

What did the unbelieving Jews do after leaving Paul? Were they unified in their response?
They continued to argue against the believing Jews: "the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves" (Acts 28:29).

Does this passage make you feel it’s hopeless?

See 1 Corinthians 2:14.  2 Corinthians 2:13-18

What is the biggest obstacle to overcome to become a Christian?

Why didn't Paul hang onto them a little longer and plead with them to receive Jesus?

How did Paul spend his time in the two years mentioned in verse30?

What is the message of verse 28?
Paul had shared the Gospel with them and explained that Jesus is their long-awaited Messiah "from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets" (Acts 28:23), so his job was done. In fact, it was his words that kicked them out of his house when they continued in their unbelief.

Is that what Jesus would have done?
Jesus told us to "depart" from those who reject the Gospel: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14).

Then to whom are we supposed to turn?
To those who have yet to hear the Gospel, as Jesus turned: “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth” (Mark 1:38).

To whom did Paul turn after the incident above?
The "gentiles" (Acts 28:28) of Rome who had yet to hear the Gospel.

Which “gentiles” are you most concerned about and need to hear the gospel?

This is the end of the book called Acts - what happened next?

1410 Modified: 22-09-2022
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