Skip to content
Sep 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 25, 2016 – Acts 28

Miracles and Manacles

When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta.
The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. 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 itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.”
However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. Acts 28:1-6

Intro: Have you ever felt like God has given you too much to handle?

Finally out of hurricane, Paul’s feet were on solid ground
– yes, it raining and cold, but a warm fire was burning nearby
• Paul picked up a few sticks to toss into the flames and felt a sudden sharp pain
• he looked, and a viper was hanging from his hand
◦ this had to feel like the last straw
– at that point, I would look up and say, “Really?!”
• I imagine Paul shaking his head
◦ then shaking the snake of his hand and into the flames
• in high school sports, whenever we took a hit or missed a play
◦ our coaches would shout, “Shake it off!”
◦ there would always be lots of bumps and bad calls
◦ but they wanted us to keep our head in the game

The last few chapters have been about Paul
– but what was Paul about? – this question leads us to the larger theme
– we already know what it is, but Luke wants it clearly spelled out

After the shipwreck, they learned they had washed up on the shores of Malta
– “natives” is misleading, but Greek even more so — barbarians
• anyone who spoke foreign language
(they sounded like they were saying “Bar-bar” or “Blah, blah, blah”)
◦ to us, the word barbarian sounds like savage
◦ but, in fact, it could refer to educated and cultured people
• we get a more accurate picture if think, “the locals”
– the snake bite is good illustration how popular opinion can turn on dime
• in a few minutes, Paul went from being perceived as a murderer to a god
• perhaps there was a purpose for this “last straw” with the snake

7-10 The beach was near the estate of the island’s magistrate

For three days Publius hosted Paul and his companions
– it’s likely, Publius’ intended guests were the centurion, captain and any othe VIPs on board
• but for some reason, Paul was included
• while there, they learned Publius’ father was ill
◦ Paul visited him, then prayed, then touched and healed him
◦ the next thing we know, Paul was taking patients from all over the island
– “divine healing” is for us a tricky and confusing issue
• it’s been complicated by faith healers and bad doctrine
◦ it has a definite role in evangelism and the life of the church (cf. Heb. 2:2-4; Jas. 5:14-15)
• but it is not a skill we can master or control
◦ and miracle healings are rare and not guaranteed (except the ultimate healing)
◦ we ask for healing and accept what God gives

11-16 The final leg of this long journey

Compared to the previous chapter, Luke provides only a summary from his journal
– in fact, he has picked up the pace, as if now rushing to the climax of the book
• these verses move forward in threes and a seven
◦ three days in home of Publius,
◦ three months on Malta (as in Ephesus & Athens; 19:8; 20:3)
◦ three days at Syracruse,
◦ three days (if my math is correct) after arriving at Rhegium to reach Puteoli
◦ seven days in Puteoli with local believers
◦ Paul later met other believers at a place called Three Inns
◦ and (jumping ahead to v. 17) Paul had been in Rome three days, when he assembled local Jewish leaders
• the number three is often related to completion of a task — as is also the number seven
– when believers from Rome came to greet Paul, he thanked God and took courage (v. 15)
• that Luke notes Paul’s response indicates that it had special significance
◦ the journey had been exhausting and the future looked threatening
• the whole time, even when living on his own, a guard was with Paul

17-23 Paul’s first concern in Rome: talk to the leading Jews

Paul did not waste any time setting up the meeting
– what was his concern? – it was possibly twofold:

  1. They might be expected to press the case raised against him by their countrymen in Jerusalem
  2. Perhaps Paul wanted to clear the air so that he could deliver God’s message unhindered

– Paul concluded his explanation with a reference to his jewelry

For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel (v. 20)

His audience, however, showed little interest in his legal case
– what they wanted to learn about was this sect–i.e., the Christian faith
• it probably sounded to them like some kind of Jewish cult
◦ they picked up his word, (v. 19) “spoken against”
◦ like Paul, they heard this Jewish sect, spoken against everywhere
• so they scheduled a meeting was arranged

Paul delivered his entire theology in an all day session
– it is abbreviated to one sentence with two themes (v. 23)

  1. Paul was testifying to them about the kingdom of God
    • he introduced them to the revelation that God’s kingdom had come
    • he did not make a theological argument for this, but told of his personal experience
    ◦ Paul had seen it, tasted it, lived it
  2. Paul was trying to persuade them concerning Jesus
    • he could also testify about his experience of Jesus, but they needed more
    ◦ so he provided evidence from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets
    ◦ this parallels closely Jesus’ final words to his disciples in the last chapter of Luke
    Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Lk. 24:27)
    Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Lk. 24:44)
    trying to persuade others of God’s truth in Jesus may be the best we can hope for
    ◦ ultimately, what happens afterward comes down to each individual’s response
    ◦ their destiny is affected more by what they do with the message than our best effort

24-29 As usual, there was a mixed response

Only here in Rome there was the intense reaction to the gospel that we’ve seen elsewhere
– this crowd was more reserved and cosmopolitan
• it was similar to the reaction of Paul’s audience in Athens (Acts 17:32-34)
• there is an inherent danger in the busyness and distractions of city life
◦ unbelievers are not radically hostile and believers are not radically devoted
– Paul’s assessment of those who wouldn’t believe
• he quoted Isaiah regarding a spiritual deafness and blindness (cf. Mk. 4:10-12; 8:17-18)
◦ these people could not see new light in the old Scriptures
◦ they already knew the truth–or so they thought
no one has God all figured out!
◦ our interpretations (and our methods of interpretation) are not final
◦ we will not hear God in scripture if we read it to find verses to support our arguments,
or if we look for what we already know, or confirm what we already believe
◦ when reading the Bible, let God’s Spirit take your beliefs apart so he build in you a real faith

30-31 Our last, fading images of Paul

And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28:30-31)

Acts ends where it began, with Jesus and the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3)
– the kingdom of God is a dimension beyond our four-dimensional universe
• it includes and sustains our four dimensions, but also transcend them
◦ the kingdom of God is where God’s will is done–perfectly and all the time (Mt. 6:9-10)
• the kingdom of God is hidden in every moment of our lives and every square inch of our environments
– Jesus Christ stands at threshold of God’s kingdom inviting us and ushering us in

Conc: I said earlier that Luke was rushing to the climax of the story

But now that we’re here, the ending is anticlimactic
– for heaven’s sake! what happened when Paul went to court?
• was he condemned? exonerated? acquitted?
• we have been held in suspense for six chapters and more than five years of his life
– what happened? did Luke run out of scroll space? did he not know? (that is unlikely)
• Luke doesn’t divulge Paul’s fate or give us closure
◦ and maybe the reason is that if Paul’s life came to an end, so does the story
◦ that is exactly what Luke does not want to do — end the story
• without closure, we are forced to ask, “What then?”
◦ Luke’s answer is, “It’s up to you”

It is here, at the end, that Acts intersects our spiritual journey
It is with our lives that God’s Spirit is writing the current chapter of Acts
It is our turn to walk with Jesus,
to be filled with the Spirit
and to turn the world upside down

Leave a comment