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THE LANDING AND DIVINE HEALING
1. The island of Malta, as they told me when I was there three years ago, is still infested with those venomous reptiles here mentioned, because the prickly pear there abounds indigenous, growing in clusters so dense and producing needles so fine and sharp that they will pierce the flesh far into the bone before one is aware, thus affording both hiding-places and protection for these dangerous vipers, of whose poisonous bite you see here Paul was miraculously healed, convincing the simple natives that he was not a murderer thus suffering divine retribution, but a god, having power over the poison which, without Divine intervention, always proved fatal.
7-10. Here we see Paul rendered himself eminently useful while on the island, practicing divine healing, not only in behalf of the old king, who was dying of bloody flux and fever (an awful combination), but many others. It seems that the healing was quite general among the suffering invalids of the island. “Going in and praying and laying hands on him he healed him.” This is a beautiful and profitable lesson for us all. When we find sick people we should go in and pray for them, with the simultaneous imposition of hands, committing them to God for healing. The people were very grateful for his benefactions, not only showing kindness to him and Luke and Cleopas during their three months’ sojourn on the island, but loading them with good things to eat on their voyage when they embarked amid singing birds and blooming flowers the next February, which is spring-time in that climate. Of course, Paul and his comrades labored in the interest of souls, preaching the gospel to them, but in this hurried narrative it is not mentioned.
RE-EMBARKATION FOR ITALY
11. It was an Alexandrian ship that went down in the muck. Now they embark in another of the same company which had spent the winter in the island, and was dedicated to the sons of Jupiter, i. e., Castor and Pollux, who were believed to have great power over storms. Hence they were sacred to sailors. When I was in Rome I saw their statues, very large, and said to be two thousand years old. Rhegium is on the coast of Italy. They sailed in a circle from Syracuse, the capital of the large island of Cicily, on a direct course from Malta to Rome. The circular course was to keep away from the Scylla and Charybdis, terrible whirlpools off the coast of Cicily, the consternation of all ancient mariners, the theme of many a legend and poem, but of latter days utterly bereft of their glory by the steam engine and mariner’s compass.
13. Puteoli is now the city of Naples, the metropolis of Italy.
14, 15. It is two hundred and twenty miles to Rome. Paul and his comrades had a nice walk. I ran over it by steam. The brethren came out forty miles and met him at the Appii Forum and the Three Forums, a good recreation walk.
PAUL’S RECEPTION AT ROME
16. He is permitted to select his quarters and preach the gospel ad libitum to all who saw proper to attend his Bible school. This continues two years daily, and was then discontinued by the untimely death of Marius, the commander-in-chief of the praetorian army, which guarded the royal palace and the emperor’s person. Of course, the emperor was too great a man to give personal attention to a prisoner. Hence Marius received Paul, and gave him perfect liberty as long as he lived. This was owing to the excellent and even wonderful report given him by Julius, the centurion, who told about the storm and thrice miraculous deliverance through this paradoxical man, and the letter of Festus, simply stating that there was nothing against him criminal in Roman law, but simply complicated matters connected with the Jews’ religion. These two years in Paul’s own hired house in Rome are memorable not only for his preaching, but for his writing the Acts of the Apostles, and Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians and Philemon. Having arrived February, A. D. 61 (leaving Caesarea August, A. D. 60), he is taken out of his hired house February, A. D. 63, Marius, his friend and protector, having died, that official’s successor, neither reading nor caring for the letter of Festus and the report of Julius, became rigid with him, taking him to the barracks, where he wrote the Epistle to the Philippians, stood his trial, and was acquitted for the want of evidence. Again returning to his vast field of labor in Greece and Asia, visiting the churches once more, and writing the Pastoral Epistles, A. D. 65-7, he was arrested at Necropolis, Macedonia, and again imprisoned in Rome on charge of the conflagration which was imputed to the Christians, tried and condemned by Nero, and beheaded about one mile west of the city gate. I was on the spot in 1895.
PAUL’S RECEPTION OF THE JEWS AT ROME
17. When the Jews finally failed in Judea, and they saw Paul was gone far away to Rome, they utterly surrendered their enterprise for his destruction, of course knowing that their brethren in Rome were but a handful in the heart of the heathen world, and could not hope to be especially influential with the emperor, who neither knew nor cared anything about their religion.
21. Consequently they neither wrote letters nor sent delegates to Rome to assist the prosecution of Paul.
22. “We desire to hear from thee the things which thou thinkest; for concerning this heresy it is known to us that it is everywhere spoken against.” The Greek word here translated “sect” in E. V. is heresy, which means separation, and truly applied to the followers of Jesus, because in so doing they necessarily became separate from the rank and file of the church, who rejected Him. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit, Revelator, and Successor of our ascended Jesus, who promised to “be with us always, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The holiness people are simply the followers of the Holy Ghost, the Substitute of Jesus in His dispensation. In following Him we become spiritually separated from the fallen, worldly churches, and consequently heretics from their standpoint. Here you see the primitive Christian Church was denominated “heresy” by the Jews. In a similar manner, the true people of God in all ages have been anathematized and persecuted as heretics, because we can not be true to God without so separating ourselves experimentally and practically from the apostate ecclesiasticisms as to become heretics in their estimation.
23. “And appointing a day with him, they came to him in his hired house in great numbers, to whom he expounded, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and the prophets, from morning till evening.” We see not only throughout the epistles but constantly in the Acts a peculiar prominence given to the “kingdom of God.” The connection here shows very clearly that Paul on this occasion told them that Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, was none other than the King of Israel, the Successor of David, who Is coming back to restore the kingdom of Israel and reign forever. This kingdom was predicted by the old prophets, proclaimed by John the Baptist and preached by the Savior and His apostles and their successors to all nations, calling out the elect, and getting the bride ready for the return of her divine Spouse from heaven, when He will restore the kingdom of David and reign forever (Acts 15:12).
24, 25. This proved no exception to the universal rule in all the Pauline ministry: the Jews divided, some with Paul and some against him. So here, as everywhere else, he got the credit of dividing the Jewish church. All salvation is bound to produce division, as Jesus said: “I came not to send peace on earth, but division.” People can not be saved without breaking up their old worldly and carnal alliances, social, civil and ecclesiastical. Paul winds up this day’s preaching with that notable quotation from Isaiah setting forth the spontaneous rejection of the Holy Ghost by the Jews and all other fallen churches, thus incurring spiritual blindness, hardness of heart, utterly grieving away the Holy Spirit, crossing the dead-line and sealing their doom in hell.
28. Now Paul having given the Jews his first message, turns to the Gentiles. So in all our ministry we are to begin with the church people, giving them the first gospel privileges, then when they reject, go at once to the “highways and hedges.”
30, 31. So during Paul’s ministry of two years in his hired house, he was constantly “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus,” with all authority, no one hindering him. During this gospel dispensation, the church, i. e., the ecclesia, is to prevail throughout all nations, this word meaning “the called out.” Hence the great work of the gospel age is to call the people out of this wicked, ruined world and separate them unto God, thus getting them ready for the return of our glorious King who now sits upon the mediatorial throne at the right hand of the Father. “The age to come” (Hebrews 6:5) will not be the church period, but the Kingdom, Satan having been cast out (Revelation 20:0), and the world redeemed and dominated by the King of Glory, so the people will no longer have to come out of the world to be in harmony with God, as the world will have been gloriously delivered from Satan’s kingdom and
“King Jesus shall have dominion over river, sea and shore; Far as the eagle’s pinion or dove’s light wing can soar.”
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Acts 28". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29