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PAUL’S VOYAGE TO ROME—DEPARTURE FROM MALTA
1. Three Months in Malta; or, Two Remarkable Incidents (Acts 28:1-10).
1. The Preservation of Paul (Acts 28:1-6).
2. The Healing of Publius’s father (Acts 28:7-10).
2. The Castor and Pollux; or, Paul’s Arrival in Rome (Acts 28:11-16).
3. An Interview with the Jewish Leaders; or, an Explanation of his Imprisonment (Acts 28:17-22).
4. A whole Day’s Preaching in his Private Lodging; or, a Last Appeal to his Countrymen (Acts 28:23-31).
Acts 28:1. The best authorities read, “And when we were escaped, then we knew”—lit., And having been saved, then we knew, or learned (by intercourse with the inhabitants) Melita.—Not Meleda, an island off the Illyrian coast in the Gulf of Venice, but the modern Malta.
Acts 28:2. The barbarous people, οἱ βάρβαροι, were not savages, but natives who spoke neither the Greek nor the Roman tongue (compare Romans 1:14; 1 Corinthians 14:11; Colossians 3:11), but most likely the Punic—i.e., Phœnician as used by the Carthaginians. No little kindness.—Meant kindness not to be met with every day, uncommon (compare Acts 19:11). They received us.—Not to their fire (Meyer), but to their regards, as in Romans 14:1. The present rain.—Not the rain which came on suddenly (Meyer), but the rain then falling.
Acts 28:3. But when Paul had gathered—lit., twisted together—a bundle, large quantity, or heap, of sticks.—It does not militate against the truthfulness of this part of the narrative, that Malta now shows a great absence of wood; since the growth of population in the island may have led to the destruction of the forests, while, as an additional consideration, the sticks collected by Paul may have been driftwood from the wreck. A viper.—ἔχιδνα, the female adder, the male being ἕχις. The reptile here referred to, the Vipera aspis, was common in the Mediterranean isles (Tristram). Out of.—ἐκ pointing to the local source. The best MSS. read ἀπό which might signify by reason of (compare Acts 20:9; Luke 19:3). The heat.—According to Agassiz vipers become torpid when the warmth of the air sinks below the mean temperature of the place they inhabit. The fact that poisonous serpents are not now found in Malta was formerly adduced (Coleridge) as a difficulty connected with the present narrative; but the disappearance of noxious reptiles from Malta may be satisfactorily accounted for by the increase of population and the cutting down of the timber in the island. In this way vipers have almost entirely disappeared from the island of Arran in Scotland (The Landsboroughs: Arran, its Topography, etc., p. 242).
Acts 28:4. The venomous beast.—Aristotle (Eth. Nic., Acts 7:1) uses the word θηρίον to denote any animal below the nature of man; Dioscorides Physicus (A.D. 60) to designate a reptile. θηριακὰ (from which comes our word “treacle”) φάρμακα mean antidotes against the bites of poisonous animals. Hang—lit., hanging—on his hand.—“The newer critics (Ewald, Lekebush, Hausrath, and others) suppose either that the viper curled itself round and hung from the Apostle’s hand without biting, or that though it fastened itself by biting, it was not poisonous; but this opinion neither the natives nor the writer entertained” (Holtzmann). A murderer.—This the natives probably supposed Paul to be, not because the viper had fastened on his hand (Kuinoel), or because a serpent’s bite was the Maltese punishment for murder (Heinsius), but because they observed his chains (vincula videbant), and concluded him to be a notorious criminal (Bengel). Vengeance.—Better, Justice, or Nemesis, ἡ δίκη. The goddess Dike who avenged crimes was no mere poetical personification, but a divinity honoured with a special sanctuary in the harbour town of Megaris. Her mother was Themis, the ruling world power; her sisters were Irene (Peace) and Eunomia (Good order)” (Holtzmann).
Acts 28:5. Felt or took no harm.—A fulfilment of Mark 16:12 (compare Luke 10:19).
Acts 28:6. Swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly.—“Sudden collapse and death often ensue from the bite of serpents” (Hackett). “Both these, the inflammation of the body and the falling down dead suddenly, are recorded as results of the bite of the African serpents” (Alford). Lucan, 9:790, describes the bite of an African serpent, Prester, named from the verb πίμπρασθαι—
“Nasidium Marsi cultorem torridus agri
Percussit Prestes. Illi ruber igneus ora
Succendit, tenditque cutem, pereunte figurâ.”
which may thus be rendered—
“Nasidius toiling in the Marsian fields
The burning Prestes bit—a fiery flush
Lit up his face and set the skin astretch,
And all its comely grace had passed away.”
And said that he was a god.—Compare Acts 14:13-15. “Aut latro, inquiunt, aut deus: sic modo tauri, modo lapides. Datur tertium; homo deo” (Bengel). What god the Maltese imagined Paul to be, whether Hercules (Grotius) or Æsculapius (Wetstein), cannot be determined.
Acts 28:7. In the same quarters.—Better, in the parts about, or in the neighbourhood of (R.V.) that place. Possessions.—Estates or lands, χωρία, as in Acts 4:34. The chief (or first πρῶτος, as in Acts 28:17; Acts 13:50; Acts 25:2) man of the island was the Roman governor, the legate or deputy of the prætor of Sicily, to which, as in the time of Cicero (4 Ver., c. 11) the smaller island was most propably annexed. The use of this official designation, πρῶτος, has justly been regarded as a striking proof of Luke’s historical accuracy (Baumgarten, Tholuck, Ebrard, Lardner, Paley, Howson), two inscriptions, one in Greek and another in Latin, having been discovered in Malta at Citta Vecchia, in which this title is similarly employed. Moreover, as the person named on the inscription is called Prudens, a Roman knight, it has been inferred that Publius may have belonged to this class. Publius could hardly have been called the first of the Melitæans, πρῶτος Μελιταίων, from his social rank or wealth, so long as his father lived. The us whom he received were probably, besides Paul and his companions, Luke and Aristarchus, Julius the centurion. The notion can scarcely be entertained that Publius provided for the whole ship’s company of two hundred and seventy-six persons.
Acts 28:8. The specification of the disease under which Publius’s father suffered as a fever and bloody flux or dysentery, besides according with Luke’s professional character as a physician, was another testimony to his accuracy as a narrator of facts. Whereas formerly the dry climate of Malta was supposed to be unfavourable to dysentery and inflammation of the lower bowels, physicians resident in the island now report these diseases as by no means uncommon among the inhabitants. Laid his hands on him—as in James 5:14-15—and healed him.—Whether through the co-operation of Luke the physician is not stated—though the probability is not. Yet the healings in Acts 28:9 may have been affected partly through Luke’s aid.
Acts 28:10. They laded us with such things as were necessary.—Better, they put on board such things as we needed for our journey.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 28:1-10
Three Months in Malta; or, Two Remarkable Incidents.—
1. The Preservation of Paul
I. The fire upon the beach (Acts 28:2).—
1. The name of the island on which they had been cast ashore, the shipwrecked voyagers ascertained, presumably, by inquiring of the natives. Formerly believed to be the island of Meleda, in the Gulf of Venice, and near the coast of Illyricum, the scene of Paul’s shipwreck is now universally considered to have been the modern Malta (according to some ancient authorities, Melitene) in the Mediterranean, about sixty miles south of Sicily. The argument on which this conclusion rests one may sum up thus: Malta lies in the track of a vessel driven by a north-east wind, such as the Euroclydon or Euraquilo was; the reputed locality of the wreck, as mentioned in the apocryphal acts of Peter and of Paul, agrees with Luke’s account; the Alexandrian ship in which re-embarkment was made would naturally winter there, rather than at Meleda; the subsequent course of the voyage to Puteoli was that which a vessel would pursue in going from Malta, but not from Meleda (Hackett, Zöckler).
2. The kindness of the natives showed them to be barbarians in speech only, but not in heart. The tongue they used was that of neither Greece nor Rome, but most likely Funic, or a Carthaginian dialect of Phœnician. Nevertheless the service they rendered to the cold and shivering sailors and soldiers whom Providence had cast upon their coast, proved them to be less degraded than many who have borne the Christian name, but by their cruel treatment of shipwrecked mariners and passengers have placed themselves outside the pale of humanity. Observing the hapless plight of the two hundred threescore and sixteen souls who had been rescued from the waves, and who, besides being drenched with brine, were exposed to the combined severity of a strong north-east wind and a steady rain, the natives proceeded to light a fire for their comfort. It was a small thing to do, but it was the right thing at the right time, and evinced the thoughtful consideration of those who did it.
3. The co-operation of Paul was almost what might have been expected from one who had previously taken part in lightening the ship (Acts 27:19). The writer represents him on this occasion as actively engaged in assisting the barbarians by gathering up and twisting together into a bundle a quantity of sticks to cast upon the flame. Some have objected to the truthfulness of the story on the ground that the Malta of to-day is distinguished by a great absence of wood, but the Malta of Paul’s time must have been a barren spot indeed if it contained no brushwood; and in any case there must have been within easy reach, strewed along the beach, pieces of the wreck, which could have been made available for the purpose of keeping up the fire when once it had been lighted.
II. The viper on Paul’s hand.—
1. The possibility of the incident. That no such venomous reptiles are now to be found in Malta does not prove that none such existed there in Paul’s day, any more than the fact that vipers are now almost extinct in Arran in the Frith of Clyde shows they were not formerly numerous in that island. That Paul should have grasped a snake in the handful of brushwood he collected is explainable by remembering that in consequence of the coldness and lateness of the season the reptile may have been in a torpid state, it being characteristic of such creatures that they sink into this condition when the warmth of the air falls below the mean temperature of the place they inhabit. That the beast was restored to activity by the heat of the fire into which it was flung goes without saying, while that it could easily have leaped high enough to fasten on Paul’s hand as he stood in the vicinity of the flames is quite credible, since vipers are accustomed to lurk in rocky places, from which they dart out upon their enemies (Ecclesiastes 10:8), rising sometimes several feet at a bound.
2. The danger arising from the incident. Though not expressly stated that the viper bit Paul, this was probably the case, and was evidently believed to be the case by such of the natives as were standing round and observed what had taken place. Knowing well the deadly nature of the reptile’s sting, they expected every moment to behold the apostle either swelling up in his arm with strong inflammation, or dropping down suddenly to the ground, as Shakespeare (Antony and Cleopatra, Act v., sc. 2) says when speaking of the asp-bitten Cleopatra and her maid Charmian—
“If they had swallowed poison, ’twould appear
By external swelling”;
and of Charmian, who, following Cleopatra’s example, applied the asp to her bosom—
“Tremblingly she stood
And on the sudden dropped.”
(See “Critical Remarks.”)
3. The termination of the incident. Neither of the results anticipated by the spectators followed. Calmly the apostle shook the beast back into the fire, out of which it never again rose; and, though the wondering natives kept on in momentary expectation that something amiss would happen to the apostle, he suffered no evil effects whatever. Rationalist interpreters would like, if they could, to ascribe this either to the non-poisonous character of the reptile or to the fact that it did not bite the apostle, but it is certain that whether the creature bit him or not Paul would see in his preservation a result due to the providential care and special mercy of God. Nor does it seem unreasonable to suppose that Paul was enabled to behave throughout with the calmness he displayed, because he recalled the promise which his Master had given to the eleven, and of which he must have heard (Mark 16:18), and bethought himself of the twice-given assurance (Acts 23:11; Acts 27:24) that he would see Rome, and therefore could not perish in Malta.
III. The thoughts of the Maltese.—These were various and deep, but mistaken.
1. A wrong conclusion. When they saw the reptile springing from the flames and fastening on Paul’s hand, they reasoned, probably observing his fettered wrists, that he must be some notorious criminal—a murderer, for instance—whom, though he had escaped the waves, Divine Justice, that awful minister of high Heaven’s wrath that ever follows on the heels of crime, would not permit to live. This suspicion, which they whispered to each other, bore a striking testimony to the sense or apprehension of Divine justice which sleeps in every man, even the most degraded; supplied a signal instance of man’s readiness to lapse into error when interpreting providential occurrences or pronouncing upon the characters of others; and gave a salutary reminder to all that even the best of men may be misjudged by their fellows.
2. A disappointed expectation. When the natives remembered what the bite of a viper signified they expected to witness the apostle either dropping down before them a dead man or swelling up along his arm and throughout his body with a strong inflammation; but in this also they were at fault, because of not knowing Him who had promised, “They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall in no wise hurt them.” Verily there were more things in heaven and on earth than had been dreamt of in their philosophy!
3. A superstitious exclamation. When they found, as they kept looking on to witness the final collapse of the apostle’s vitality, that nothing happened, and certainly that nothing amiss befell him, they changed their minds, and ejaculated again to themselves and to each other, “He is a God!”—whether “Æsculapius, the god of physicians, who ruled over the serpent, or Hercules, who crushed serpents in his cradle” (Stier), for both were worshipped in Malta, cannot be determined. Once more they were as sadly astray as when they had pronounced him a murderer. Thus “the multitude know no moderation; it either exalts one to heaven, or thrusts him down to hell” (Starke). If Paul understood what the natives said about him, it need hardly be doubted he would correct their misapprehension, as he did that of the men of Lycaonia (Acts 14:13).
1. That human nature at its worst estate is not wholly lost. Soft places exist even in the hardest hearts.
2. That Christ’s people should always be forward in helping their fellows. Paul, though an apostle, disdained not to assist in collecting sticks for the fire.
3. That God is able to protect His people in the midst of greatest dangers. Paul, who had been rescued from the waves, was again shielded from the serpent’s bite.
4. That the best of men are often mistaken for the worst. Paul was looked upon as a notorious criminal. Paul’s master had been condemned as a malefactor.
5. That ignorance and superstition are exceedingly unstable in their judgments. The one moment Paul was shunned as a murderer, the next moment honoured as a God.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 28:2. No common kindness. The behaviour of the natives of Malta to Paul and his fellow-voyagers was—
I. A testimony to God’s providential care in providing for their wants in a time of urgent necessity, in raising up for them friends in a place where, and at a time when, these could least have been expected.
II. A proof of the. remnant of goodness to be found in the hearts of even the most degraded, which renders their ultimate recovery neither impossible nor hopeless.
III. A rebuke to many Christians whose conduct in showing kindness to their fellow-men falls far behind that of these untutored islanders. “Christian dwellers at the coast may learn a Samaritan love from these strangers” (Besser).
Two Fires upon the Beach.
I. On the shore of the Galilean Lake (John 21:9).—Prepared by Christ for His disciples. An emblem of Christ’s love towards, thoughtful care of, and bounteous provision for, His people.
II. On the shore of St. Paul’s Bay in Malta (Acts 28:2).—Prepared by the islanders for the shipwrecked voyagers. An emblem of the kindness which men, and more especially Christ’s followers, should show towards one another, in sympathising with and assisting one another.
Acts 28:3-6. The Incident of the Viper; or, Faith and Superstition.
I. The barbarians’ eyes of superstition beheld in the incident four things:
1. An ordinary occurrence, the bite of a serpent, which they expected to be followed by the usual result, the death of the bitten one.
2. A supernatural detection of an evildoer as they supposed, whom Divine justice would not allow to live.
3. An inexplicable phenomenon, which led them to as erroneous a conclusion as that they abandoned.
4. The presence of a Divine being, in which thought they were right, though the Divine presence was not that of Paul, but of Paul’s Master and Lord.
II. Paul’s eye of faith beheld in the incident four things:
1. A miracle of Divine power. Either in preserving him from being bitten by the adder, or, if bitten, in protecting him against hurt.
2. A token of Divine goodness in thus shielding him from being injured by what might otherwise have proved his death.
3. A proof of the Divine faithfulness. Christ having promised to His disciples before His ascension that they should take up serpents and not be hurt (Mark 16:17-18).
4. A mark of Divine honour. Put upon Paul in presence of the islanders, not for his sake alone, but for theirs as well, to open for him a door of usefulness among them so long as he remained in the island.
Acts 28:1-7. The Necessity of the Advent for the Barbarian World. Exemplified by the barbarian life and religion of the inhabitants of Melita.
I. Barbarian virtues.—Two errors held on the subject of natural goodness:
1. That of those who deny to fallen man any goodness at all, and refuse to admit even kindness of feeling, contradicted by the virtues of hospitality and sympathy which were found among the islanders.
2. The opposite error of placing too high a value on those natural virtues. These Melitans, who “showed no little kindness” to the wrecked crew, belonged to a stock who, in the most civilised days of Carthage, offered human sacrifice, and after every successful battle with the Romans burnt the chief prisoners alive as a thank-offering to Heaven.
3. The advent of Christ brought a new spirit into the world. “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.” That was not the new part. The Melitans would not have disagreed with that. “As I have loved you.” … That makes all new.
II. Barbarian ideas of retribution.—In some form or another the idea of retribution underlies all mythologies, and constitutes the basis of all natural religion.
1. In the barbarian conception of it, however, there was something gross, corporeal, and dangerous; because they misinterpreted natural laws into vengeance. If we ask where these Melitans got their idea of retribution, the reply is out of their own hearts. They felt the external connection between wrongdoing and penalty. The penalty they would have executed on murder was death. They naturally threw this idea of theirs into the character of God, and blended together what was theirs and what is His. This is valuable as a proof of the instinctive testimony of man’s heart to the realities of retribution. It is utterly worthless as a testimony to the form in which retributive justice works, because it is not borne out by the facts of life.
2. As information increased this idea of retribution disappears. Natural laws are understood and retribution vanishes. Assuredly there is no vengeance such as this which suffers not the murderer to live, but arms the powers of nature against him. So the idea of retribution goes for those who can see no deeper than the outward chance of penalty.
3. The advent of Christ brought deeper and truer views. It taught what sin is and what suffering is. It showed the innocent on the cross bearing the penalty of the world’s sin, but Himself still the Son of God, with whom the Father was not angry but well pleased.
III. Barbarian conception of Deity.—“They changed their minds and said that he was a god.”
1. This implied a certain advance in religious notions. There is a stage of worship prior to that of man-worship. Men have worshipped the powers of nature and even brute life. The Melitans were a stage beyond this.
2. In this worship of the human, however, it was adoration of the marvellous, not reverence for the good, which they displayed. It was not Paul’s character to which they yielded homage, but the wonderful mystery of his miraculous escape. The mere worship of the mysterious has but a limited existence. As you teach laws you undermine that religion.
3. The Redeemer’s advent taught a deeper truth to man. The apostle spoke almost slightingly of the marvellous (1 Corinthians 13:1). Love is diviner than all wondrous powers. The revelation of the Son was to proclaim a Father, not a mystery.—Robertson, of Brighton.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 28:7-10
Three Months in Malta; or, Two Remarkable Incidents.
2. The Healing of Publius’s Father
I. The subject of the healing.—The father of Publius, the chief, or first man, of the island, whose estates lay in the vicinity of the scene of the shipwreck. That Publius was designated the “first of the Melitæans” was due neither to his wealth, which was presumably great, nor to his rank, which was obviously high, but to his office, which was that of representative, legate, or deputy of the Roman prætor of Sicily, to which the smaller island of Malta was annexed as an appanage. Two inscriptions found in Malta, at Citta Vecchia, belonging to the time of Augustus, one in Greek and the other in Latin, show that the term “first” was frequently so used—the Greek inscription running, Lucius Caius, son of Quirinus, a Roman knight, first of the Melitæans. That his father lived with him was probably a testimony to his filial affection.
II. The motive of the healing.—A threefold desire on the part of Paul.
1. Philanthropical. To relieve, if he could, the suffering of the patient, who lay sick of fever and dysentery. Paul was never unmindful of his own precept—“As therefore ye have opportunity, do good unto all men” (Galatians 6:10; compare Hebrews 13:16). Like his Master, who “went about continually doing good” (Acts 10:38), he was ever on the watch for occasions to serve. Nor can one more closely resemble either Christ or Paul than by ministering to the infirm and afflicted.
2. Evangelical. To find an opening for the gospel, which he believed and was always anxious to preach. Paul was ever ready to enter with his message of salvation into any door that Providence might open, whether in Ephesus or in Rome, in Cyprus or in Malta. Like Jesus Christ, who was always about. His Father’s business (Luke 2:49), and whose meat and drink it was to do His Father’s will (John 4:32-34), Paul was one that never missed a chance of publishing the good news of grace and eternal life to those who would hear (Romans 1:15).
3. Eucharistical. To make some return for the generous hospitality which for three days had been exhibited towards Paul and his companions, which was only common gratitude, a virtue in which the apostle never failed (2 Timothy 1:16-18). It is not absolutely certain that Publius’s hospitality was extended to the whole ship’s company, though possibly the meaning of the historian may be just this, that for three days Publius was engaged in showing kindness to the shipwrecked voyagers, having them up in relays to his mansion or grounds, and sumptuously feeding them. Others, however, suppose that the entertainment referred to Paul and his companions, Luke and Aristarchus, with perhaps Julius, the centurion, and the master of the ship. But in either case Paul would naturally feel that such generosity would demand some return.
III. The nature of the healing.—
1. Ordinary. The cure of a fever and dysentery, and yet the only cure of its kind reported of Paul—indeed, only the third work of healing ascribed to him in the Acts, the other two having occurred at Lystra (Acts 14:1-10) and at Philippi (Acts 16:16-18), unless the healings and exorcisms attributed to Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12) be taken into account. That the malady from which Publius’s father suffered was not impossible, even in a dry climate like that of Malta, physicians resident in the island have shown.
2. Miraculous. It is evident that though Luke was a physician, it was not by him but by Paul that the cure was wrought. It was Paul and not Luke who entered into the sick man’s chamber. Yet Paul had no power in himself to cure.
IV. The method of the healing—
1. Prayer. The apostle followed the usual practice of Peter in attempting the sick man’s cure (Acts 9:40). It is possible that on entering the patient’s chamber Paul had no idea beyond that of praying for his restoration to health (James 5:14), and that the impulse to perform a miraculous act of healing was communicated to his mind during prayer. If he contemplated a miracle from the first, then the precedence of the prayer would assist the patient to detect the source whence his cure proceeded.
2. Imposition of hands. In so acting Paul imitated the method of Christ (Mark 6:5; Luke 4:20; Luke 13:13). The action would in part serve to connect the healing and the prayer as well as to aid the faith of him on whom the miracle was wrought.
V. The effect of the healing.—Threefold.
1. Spread of fame. The rest of the islanders who had diseases on them came to Paul for assistance, which, like his Master, he denied not, but freely granted, laying his hands upon them and healing them all (Luke 4:40), but whether in every instance miraculously, or with the assistance of Luke, is not told.
2. Increase of honour. The patients whom he cured honoured him and his companions with many honours—not rewards for their services, which Paul would hardly have accepted (Acts 20:33; Philippians 4:17), but “attentions,” marks of favour, in attestation of the kindly feelings with which they were regarded.
3. Supply of need. When the time arrived for departure from the island the natives put on board ship everything they could think of that might be needful for the voyage of Paul and his companions, as once before the friends at Sidon had done (Acts 27:3).
1. That Christians should never allow themselves to be surpassed in courtesy by men of the world, though they sometimes are.
2. That Christ’s people should be distinguished for their gratitude to those who show them kindness, which they sometimes are not.
3. That wherever Christians go they should endeavour to leave those they meet the better for their society, which they do not always do.
4. That Christians will lose nothing either in this world or in that which is to come by doing good, which they frequently forget.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 28:7. The First Man in Malta: a Sermon on true Greatness.—Exemplified in Publius.
I. First in rank.—The deputy of the Sicilian prætor, the representative of Imperial Rome. Exalted station a great talent, conferring great powers and creating great responsibilities.
II. First in wealth.—A reasonable inference from the mention of “lands.” Like social dignity, riches a splendid endowment which, when rightly used, may be productive of immense good to their holder as well as to his less fortunate fellows in society around.
III. First in goodness.—Which after all is the only greatness. Publius, it is obvious, was distinguished by at least three virtues which are rare.
1. Filial devotion. The presence of his aged father in his official mansion probably spoke well for his respect for and attention to his parents (Ephesians 6:1-2).
2. Humble condescension. Though a great man, he did not shrink from condescending to men of low estate like the shipwrecked sailors and prisoners who had been cast upon his island (Romans 12:16).
3. Generous hospitality. A wealthy landowner, he freely parted with his means to supply the necessities of the poor voyagers whose whole goods had been devoured by the sea (Proverbs 21:26; Psalms 112:9; 1 Timothy 6:18).
Acts 28:1-10. The People of Malta: an Expressive Representation of the Heathen World.
I. In their need of redemption.—Their dark superstition (Acts 28:4-6), their manifold misery (Acts 28:8-9).
II. In their capability of redemption.—Their friendly hospitality Acts 28:2); their dim knowledge of God Acts 28:4); their lively susceptibilities for impressions of the Divine (Acts 28:6); their childlike gratitude for kindnesses received (Acts 28:10).
III. In their relation to redemption.—The gospel which Paul carried with him to the island and doubtless preached to its inhabitants having been intended for them, adapted to them, offered to them, and to some extent, it may be hoped, believed and enjoyed by them, as it is in the heathen world to-day.—Enlarged from Gerok.
Acts 28:4-10. The Mistakes of the Maltese.
I. They misinterpreted the providence of God (Acts 28:4).
II. They misjudged the character of Paul (Acts 28:4; Acts 28:6).
III. They misunderstood their own needs (Acts 28:9).
Acts 28:7-10. The Beauty and the Profit of Kindness. Illustrated by and in Publius and Paul.
I. The beauty of kindness.—Shown by—
1. The courteous entertainment of Paul and his companions by Publius.
2. The unstinted philanthropy of Paul in healing not only Publius’ father, but all the diseased islanders who came to him.
II. The profit of kindness.—Experienced by—
1. Publius, who must have felt his generosity to the apostle more than repaid by the healing of his father.
2. Paul, who doubtless also owned himself abundantly recompensed for his labours among the islanders by the tributes of affection he bore away with him from Malta.
Acts 28:11. After three months.—The departure from Malta took place in the following spring, probably towards the end of January—and once more in an Alexandrian ship (compare Acts 27:6). Which had wintered in the isle.—At Valetta, the principal harbour of Malta. Whose sign was Castor and Pollux.—Lit., marked or badged with the Diosouroi—i.e., the Twin Brothers, Castor and Pollux, whom heathen mythology regarded as the sons of Jupiter by Leda, and as the patrons of sailors (see Hor., Odes, I. 3, 2; 12, 27–32).
Acts 28:12, Syracuse.—The capital of Sicily, on the south-east coast of the island, and about eighty miles north of Malta. The modern Saragossa occupies only a portion of the ancient city—viz., Ortygia.
Acts 28:13. And from thence we fetched a compass, or, made a circuit (R.V.)—Lit., having gone round about, περιἐλθόντες—i.e., either tacking because of the unfavourable wind (Smith), or standing out to sea (Lewin). Some ancient authorities read, περιελ ντες, taking up the anchors, as in Acts 27:40. Rhegium.—The present-day Reggio, an Italian seaport opposite to the north-east point of Sicily, at which ships from Alexandria were accustomed to touch on their way to Rome, and where Caligula began the construction of a harbour for their accommodation (Jos., Ant., xix. ii. 5). Titus, taking the same road as Paul from Judæa to Rome, called in at Rhegium (Suet., Tit., c. 5). Rhegium was “a city whose patron divinities were, by a curious coincidence, the same hero-protectors of sea-faring men, ‘the Great Twin Brethren,’ to whom the ship itself was dedicated” (Conybeare and Howson, ii. 369). Puteoli.—Now Pozzuoli, eight miles south-west of Neapolis, the modern Naples. The city earlier called Δικαιάρχεια, derived its later name from the springs (putei) which abound there, or from the odour of its waters (a putendo). From Rhegium to Puteoli was a distance of about one hundred and eighty-two miles, a sail of two days with a fair wind.
Acts 28:14. Where we found brethren.—The city, which was a principal station for Alexandrine ships (Suet., Aug., 981) was at that time the seat of a Christian Church, which had probably been founded from Rome. Seven days.—Compare Acts 20:6; Acts 21:4. Another indication that the early Christians had special Sabbath-day gatherings. Ramsay considers this statement about varying seven days “irreconcilable with Paul’s situation as a prisoner”; but Julius may have had sufficient reasons for granting Paul permission to comply with the request of the brethren (compare Acts 28:12). We went toward Rome.—Better that, we came to Rome (R.V.). The road traversed by Julius and his prisoners would proceed first to Capua, distant twelve miles, where it would join the Appian Way, from Rome to Brundusium, the modern Brindisi. From Capua it would go by Sinuessa, twenty-one miles further on, and Terracina, seventy Roman miles from Capua. At Terracina “they would have to choose between two modes of travel, taking the circuitous road round the Pontine Marshes, or going by the more direct line of the canal,” both roads meeting at Appii Forum, eighteen miles from Terracina” (Plumptre).
Acts 28:15. Appii Forum, or “the Market of Appius” (R.V.).—A small (perhaps an assize) town near the end of the above-named canal, forty-three miles distant from Rome, and called after the builder of the Appian Way. The Three Taverns.—Another town or wayside inn, ten miles nearer Rome. Cicero mentions both places in his letters to Atticus (Acts 2:10).
Acts 28:16. And when we came to, or entered into Rome.—The capital of Italy and of the Roman Empire, situated on the Tiber, fifteen miles from its mouth, was the residence of many Jews (Acts 2:10; Acts 18:2) and of numerous Christians, to whom Paul wrote an epistle (see “Hints” on Acts 28:17). The centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard, or the commander of the camp—i.e., of the Prætorian camp, where the Emperor’s bodyguard was stationed. This clause, omitted in the best MSS., is regarded as spurious by many competent critics (Mill, Bengel, Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort), though by other scholars (Meyer, Alford, Hackett, Plumptre, Hausrath, Holtzmann) it is retained. Alford thinks the omission of the words may have been originally caused by the transcriber’s eye passing from—αρχος to—αρχω, as in Syr. (permisit centurio Paulo); and that this done, the emendation of the text became necessary. Lechler, while regarding the words as spurious, considers them true in fact. Wieseler, founding on the circumstance that Luke speaks of only one Stratopedarch or prefect of the Prætorian guard, whereas there were commonly two, infers that Paul must have come to Rome not later than the early part of A.D. 62, since Burrus Africanus, who had been appointed sole prefect by Claudius, died that year. Luke, however, was not so precise in relating Roman and civil matters that he must necessarily have written “to one of the new prefects,” if there were two, while even if there were Paul would in all probability be delivered not to the two, but to one—to him, namely, whose business it was to look after prisoners sent from the provinces. Ramsay (St. Paul, etc., pp. 347, 348) suggests that the Stratopedarch was not the Prætorian Prefect, but another officer called Princeps Peregrinorum, or Chief of the Foreigners—i.e., of the centurions who belonged to legions in the provinces, and who, when at Rome on military service, resided under his command in a camp on the Celian hill, called Castra Peregrinorum.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 28:11-16
Castor and Pollux; or, Paul’s arrival in Rome
I. Departure from Malta.—
1. The time of sailing. After a three months’ residence in Malta, where Paul and his companions had been honourably and courteously entertained by Publius the Roman governor, and by the natives of the island who had been cured of their maladies, and no doubt in some degree had come to learn the true nobility of their benefactors’ characters. That these three months were not allowed to pass without an endeavour to disseminate amongst the islanders as well as the shipwrecked voyagers a knowledge of the truth may almost be inferred from Paul’s well-known zeal and enthusiasm for the gospel. This much is certain, that both he and his companions bore away with them from Valetta many marks of the affection and esteem of those whom they left behind. The precise date of embarkation, though not stated, may be roughly calculated. If they landed upon Malta about the end of October three months would bring them to the end of January, which was an early but still a possible date for sailing, and the passengers, as well as Julius, would naturally wish to embrace the first opportunity that offered for proceeding with their journey.
2. The vessel in which the voyagers re-embarked. Like the barque which had been wrecked, this was a ship of Alexandria; and like the former also, was probably laden with Egyptian corn for the Roman market. More fortunate than Paul’s vessel, it had escaped the storm which had proved so disastrous to that: or overtaken by the same Euroclydon, it had managed to reach the harbour of Valetta in safety. There, having spent the inclement months of winter, with the opening of spring it was ready to a second time affront the dangers of the deep. It lends to the picture a liveliness which could have proceeded only from an eyewitness to be told that the figurehead upon the ship’s bows was that of the Dioscuri or Twin Brethren, Castor and Pollux, whom heathen mythology regarded as the sons of Jupiter and Leda, and looked up to as the patrons of sea-faring men: “whose benign constellation,” sings Horace (Odes, I. xii), “as soon as it has shone forth to the sailors, the troubled surge falls down from the rocks, the winds cease, the clouds vanish, and the threatening waves subside in the sea, because it was their will.”
II. Progress of the voyage.—
1. Three days at Syracuse. This grand historic city, the capital of Sicily, famous for the siege which it suffered during the Peloponnesian war, lay about eighty or a hundred miles north of Malta—i.e., a day’s sail with a fair wind. Founded in B.C. 735 by Corinthian Dorians on the adjacent island of Ortygia, in B.C. 485 under Gelon, first its Tyrannus and afterwards its king, it became a splendid city, which extended over to the main island. In Paul’s day it contained the residence of the Roman governor, who, since the close of the Second Punic War, had ruled the Romish insular province of Sicily (Riehm’s Handwörterbuch des Biblischen Altertums, art. Syrakus). Having put into the harbour, the Twin Brothers lay for three days, most likely for purposes of trade, though possibly to wait for a favourable breeze. Whether the apostle and his companions were allowed to go ashore is not related; but, judging from the similar permission granted at Sidon (Acts 27:3), and remembering the important services rendered to Julius by Paul during the preceding voyage (Acts 27:10; Acts 27:31), it may reasonably be concluded that they were.
2. One day at Rhegium. Having weighed anchor, and either tacked about or stood out to sea, because of adverse winds—certainly not having sailed round Sicily (De Wette)—“the Twin Brothers on the same day arrived at Rhegium, the modern Reggio, a seaport situated on the Italian coast, and nearly opposite to Messina.” “By a curious coincidence,” say Conybeare and Howson, “the same hero protectors of sea-faring men, the Great Twin Brethren,” were the patron divinities of the city, on whose ancient coins also their heads were exhibited.
3. Seven days at Puteoli. On the following morning, the south wind having begun to blow, the gallant ship resumed her voyage, and next day landed at Puteoli, the ancient Dikæarchia, now called Pozzuoli, eight miles south-west of Neapolis, the modern Naples, and lying in a sheltered recess of the bay. A few months before Paul’s arrival it had been elevated to the dignity of a Colonia (Tacitus, Ann., xiv. 27). Its distance of one hundred and eighty-two miles from Rhegium might easily have been traversed in twenty-six hours, supposing the ship to have made seven knots an hour. In any case it was a quick passage, and due to the favourable wind which filled the sails. “Puteoli,” say Conybeare and Howson, “was the Liverpool of Italy.” In its harbour the corn ships of Alexandria were accustomed to discharge their cargoes—Seneca (Epist., 77) mentioning that these vessels, easily recognised from afar by their flags, were welcomed by loud hurrahs when they sailed into port, especially when they arrived in early spring. From its wharves armies embarked, while ambassadors from foreign parts landed at its quay. Travellers from Syria commenced at Puteoli their land journey towards Rome. Before proceeding onward to the capital, Luke and Aristarchus, if not also Paul, embraced the opportunity of holding fellowship with the Christians whom they found there. That disciples should have existed in Puteoli was not surprising, since already they had become numerous in Rome. And indeed a remarkable confirmation of the wide and rapid extension of Christianity among the provincial towns of Italy has been recently derived from an inscription found among the ruins of Pompeii, destroyed by the first eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Painted on a city wall prior to its overthrow, the words “Igni gaude Christiane,” “Rejoice in the fire, O Christian,” clearly show that in Pompeii, within fifteen miles of Puteoli, a little Christian community existed (see Modern Discoveries and the Christian Faith, by Dr. Stokes, in The Sunday at Home, January 1892, p. 149). Requested to remain among the Christians in Puteoli seven days, the apostle, first having obtained Julius’ permission, consented. That the centurion should have granted such permission need occasion no difficulty. He himself may have been waiting for orders, while his better acquaintance with Paul would undoubtedly dispose him to extend towards so remarkable a person as much indulgence as was consistent with his condition as a prisoner. How the seven days were spent can be easily imagined. As at Troas (Acts 20:6-7) and at Tyre (Acts 21:4), they would doubtless be devoted to Christian fellowship, to speaking and hearing things concerning the kingdom, and on the Lord’s day to the breaking of bread and prayers. Indeed, the mention of seven days in each of these places as the space of time over which Paul’s visit extended points by no means obscurely to the existence at that early date of the Christian practice of meeting for worship on the Lord’s day.
III. Entry into Rome.—
1. Met by the brethren. Having heard of Paul’s arrival at Puteoli, probably through tidings forwarded by the Christians there, “the brethren”—i.e., the Christians—of the metropolis determined to hurry out and proffer him a welcome before he could approach the town. In two separate companies they set forth, on the great military road called the Appian Way, which led from Rome to Capua, and from Capua to Brundusium (Brindisi), on the Adriatic shore. At Capua, distant twelve miles from Puteoli, and one hundred and twenty-five from Rome, Julius and his prisoners would join the road. The advanced party of Roman Christians—among whom may have been Aquila and Priscilla, and others named in the sixteenth chapter of the Romans (Spence)—encountered the apostle and his friends at Appii Forum, or “The Market of Appius,” about forty miles from the capital; the second company at “The Three Taverns,” ten miles nearer. The first of these towns, named from Appius Claudius Cæcus, the builder of the Appian Way, was situated on the northern border of the Pontine marshes, at the end of the canal which ran for several miles along the road, and is described by Horace (Sat., Acts 1:5; Acts 1:4) as having been full of low tavern-keepers and bargemen. The second, not far from the modern Cisterna, appears from Cicero’s letters to Atticus (Acts 2:12) to have been located near the point where the road from Antium crossed the Appian Way. When at these two points in succession the apostle looked upon the Roman Christians who, with kindly forethought, had thus expressed to him their sympathy, he “thanked God and took courage”—he felt the burden of isolation lying on his heart in large measure relieved, and gave utterance to the gratitude to God which their coming inspired within his soul. “The diminution of fatigue, the more hopeful prospect of the future, the renewed elasticity of religious trust, the sense of a brighter light on all the scenery round him—all this, and more, is involved in Luke’s sentence. He thanked God and took courage” (Conybeare and Howson).
2. Lodged by himself. On arriving at Rome the centurion undoubtedly acted as the spurious clause in Acts 28:16 intimates, delivered over the prisoners with whom he had been intrusted to the Prætorian prefect, whose duty it was to receive such as were sent up from the provinces to the capital for trial (see, however, “Critical Remarks”). In the case of Paul, however, through the intercession of Julius, or perhaps in consequence of the representations of Festus and Agrippa, an exception was made. Whereas ordinarily prisoners remanded from the provinces were confined in a prison attached to the Prætorian camp north-east of the city and outside of the Porta Viminalis, it was sometimes allowed a prisoner to dwell in his own lodging under the supervision of a soldier. This favour was extended to the apostle by the prefect of the day, who may have been Burrus Africanus, whom Claudius had appointed sole prefect, and who certainly retained this office as late as A.D. 62 (see “Critical Remarks”). If this was the individual into whose care Paul was delivered, then one more coincidence occurs between Luke’s narrative and the history of the times, since other calculations show that Paul must have reached Rome about—certainly not later than—that date.
1. That ships of commerce have often been used by God to carry His messengers throughout the world.
2. That God’s servants have frequently to visit places where no special blessing appears to be left behind.
3. That God’s hidden ones are commonly found in unexpected places.
4. That the hearts of true Christians beat towards one another with fraternal love.
5. That Christian sympathy has a rare power to support under trial.
6. That God can raise up friends for His people in unexpected places.
7. That when a man’s ways please God, even his enemies are at peace with him.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 28:11. On Board the “Dioscuron,” or, “The Twin Brothers.”—“The three Christians stepped without hesitation on board a ship which carried a heathen flag. Castor and Pollux are nothing (1 Corinthians 8:4); but all the ships belong to the Lord, and no idolatrous banner can injure those who sail with thankfulness thereupon—a consolation for the followers of the apostle of the Gentiles, who go forth with the banner of the cross, and sail in ships which have the golden calf of mammon for their banner.”—Besser.
Acts 28:12-13. Quiet Days.
I. Are found in most people’s history.—No man’s life is all bustle and activity. Interludes must occur when seemingly nothing important transpires or is done. Such days Paul spent at Syracuse and Rhegium.
II. Have their uses when they do occur.—Afford opportunities for rest, if nothing else, and also for meditation, Whether Paul met with Christians at Syracuse is not stated.
III. Are worthy of being recorded in the story of one’s life.—Just because they are not so unimportant as they seem.
Acts 28:14. Seven Days at Puteoli.
I. Seven days of rest in the onward pilgrimage of life.
II. Seven days of communion with the brethren of Christ.
III. Seven days of service in the edification of the Church.
IV. Seven days of preparation for entering the gates of Rome.
And so we went towards Rome.
I. As travellers towards their destination.—A picture of human life, and especially of Christian pilgrims nearing the city of the great king.
II. As prisoners to be tried by their judge.—Such were Paul and many others in the company. Once more a picture of life, both ordinary and Christian. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
III. As missionaries toward their field of labour.—Paul at least, and perhaps also his companions, should be viewed in this light, since Paul had already been assured that he should testify for Christ at Rome also (Acts 23:11).
Acts 28:14-15. Finding Brethren.
I. Christ’s people are to be met with in unexpected places.—Paul found them in places where he himself had not been before, as at Puteoli and Rome.
II. Have usually small difficulty in recognising each other.—All being brethren in Christ, and possessed more or less of the same moral and spiritual characteristics.
III. Commonly take (or should take) delight in each other’s society.—The communion of saints being an article in the creed which they profess in common.
IV. Should always endeavour to be mutually helpful.—Bearing each other’s burden’s, and so fulfilling the law of Christ.
Acts 28:15. Gratitude and Courage.
I. Paul thanked God.—
1. For the approaching termination of his journey.
2. For the goodness and mercy that had attended him throughout his pilgrimage.
3. For the numerous friends that God had raised up around him at every time of need.
4. For the evidence afforded by the presence of these Roman Christians of the progress of the gospel.
II. Paul took courage.—Believing—
1. That God would guide him till his journey closed.
2. That God’s mercy would not fail him in the great city he was about to enter. 3 That friends would not be wanting to him in Rome, and that least of all would his heavenly Friend desert him.
4. That he would still have an opportunity to advance his Master’s cause in the metropolis of the world.
Acts 28:16. Paul Before the Gates of Rome.
I. As a homeless stranger, and yet welcomed by loving brethren.
II. As an evildoer in bonds and yet with the gracious testimony of God in his heart.
III. As an offering appointed unto death (for sooner or later he was to lose his life within these walls), and yet a victorious conqueror, who plants the standard of the cross in the citadel of heathenism.—Gerok.
From Jerusalem to Rome.—This the course of the gospel in the Acts.
I. A painful course, full of shame and persecution.
II. A heroic course, full of the power of faith and the glow of love.
III. A victorious course, full of mighty acts and Divine wonders.
IV. A blessed course, full of salvation and grace for the present and the future.—Ibid.
Acts 28:17. The best authorities omit Paul. The chief of the Jews.—Better, those that were the chief (first, or principal men) of the Jews, or, otherwise, those that were of the Jews first. Most likely the parties summoned were the rulers of the synagogues, and such as were socially exalted.
Acts 28:18. Would have let me go, or desired to set me at liberty.—Bethge and Holtzmann, who regard this address of Paul’s to the Jews of Rome as a pure compilation of Luke’s, pronounce the statement in this clause incorrect, and as justified neither by Acts 25:9 nor by any other verse. But the apostle’s intention obviously was to say that the Roman officials who examined him had found no fault in him, and would have dismissed him from the bar had it not been for the opposition of the Jews; and this is distinctly the impression one receives from reading the accounts of the different trials the apostle underwent.
Acts 28:21. We neither received letters out of Judæa concerning thee.—Zeller, Baur, Wendt, and Holtzmann think it incredible that the Jews of Rome had no knowledge of Paul, of his missionary labours, or of his imprisonment. But the Jewish leaders do not say they were entirely ignorant of either the apostle or his doings; merely they assert they had received no official intelligence regarding him from the Palestinian Church, either by letter or by messenger (see “Homiletical Analysis”).
Acts 28:22. As concerning this sect.—The above critics also pronounce it strange that the Jewish leaders should have affected to be ignorant of the existence of a Christian Church in Rome, and detect in their statement a deliberate misrepresentation of history on the part of the author of the Acts for the purpose of sustaining his theory that Paul was an orthodox Jew, who only turned to the Gentile mission in Rome as elsewhere after the Jews had declined to accept his gospel. (See “Homiletical Analysis.”)
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 28:17-22
An Interview with the Jewish Chiefs; or, an Explanation of his Imprisonment
I. The assembly convened.—
1. The place. Either Paul’s own private dwelling (Acts 28:30), which doubtless, through the kindness of Luke, Aristarchus, and other Christian friends, he had been enabled to hire; or a temporary lodging which had been provided for him by some of the Roman brethren “Tradition points to the vestibule of the Church of Santa Maria, at the junction of the Via Lata and the Corso, as the site of this dwelling; but it has been urged by Dr. Philip, at present working as a missionary in the Ghetto at Rome, in a pamphlet On the Ghetto (Rome, 1874), that this site, forming part of the old Flaminian way, was then occupied by arches and public buildings, and that it was far more probable Paul would fix his quarters near those of his own countrymen. He adds that a local tradition points to No. 2 in the Via Stringhari, just outside the Ghetto, as having been St. Paul’s dwelling place, but does not give any documentary evidence as to its nature or the date to which it can be traced back” (Plumptre).
2. The time. After three days, which most likely the apostle spent in recruiting his wearied frame after the long and fatiguing journey he had undergone. It showed his zeal for the cause he represented, that he rested only three days. If any part of these days was devoted to social intercourse, it would certainly be with Luke, Aristarchus, and the friends who had so kindly met him at Appii Forum and The Three Taverns.
3. The guests. In other circumstances Paul would have sought out his countrymen at their synagogues. As this was impossible in the position in which he then was, he could only invite them to wait on him at his lodging. Accordingly at his request they come—the chief men or rulers of the synagogues, and others probably of high rank to whom invitations had been issued. The Jewish community in Rome inhabited the “Trastevere” or district beyond the river, a part of the city then notorious as the residence of a low rabble and a place of the meanest merchandise. The beginnings of the Jewish colony in that quarter could have been traced back to the captives brought to the capital by Pompey after his eastern campaign, many of whom had become freemen, and to whom additions were constantly made as the years went on, in consequence of the mercantile relations which subsisted between Rome and the East. Many of these colonists were wealthy, and contributed largely for sacred purposes to the mother country. (See Conybeare and Howson, ii. 388, 389; compare “Hints” on Acts 28:17).
II. The explanation offered.—
1. A protestation of his innocence. To the leaders of the Jewish community Paul explicitly affirmed that, though a prisoner, as they beheld, he had been guilty of no offence against the people—i.e., the Jewish nation or against the customs of their fathers. Paul had all along contended that Christianity formed the legitimate because divinely promised development of Judaism, and that in seeking to carry over his countrymen to an acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, he was not actuated by hostility to the ancestral religion. Nay, he had even shown by his unwonted zeal in attending the Jewish feasts and by his observance of a Nazarite vow (Acts 21:26), that he was well disposed towards the customs of the fathers; and, though critics like Zeller (Die Apostelgeschichte, p. 292) cannot understand how Paul with a good conscience could have advanced the claim here put into his lips, when he knew that his whole activity aimed at nothing else than to subvert the Mosaic religion through faith in Christ, and that his whole religious consciousness had its middle point in the abrogation of the Law through the gospel, it is by no means hard to comprehend if one remembers that Paul never did insist upon a Jew renouncing Moses before he exercised faith in Christ.
2. A vindication of his appeal. The apostle doubtless felt that his countrymen in Rome would want to understand how he came to be a prisoner if he had not been chargeable with any offence; and in order to meet this unspoken but natural request, he proceeded to relate how the Roman officials who examined him were so convinced of his innocence that they would willingly have set him at liberty had it not been for the interference of the Jews—i.e., of the Sanhedrists—and how solely, as a means of self-defence, and not at all because he intended to prefer any accusation against the nation, he had been obliged to appeal unto Cæsar. The accuracy of this statement also has been challenged by Holtzmann (Hand Commentar, in loco), and that on two grounds: first, that the Roman officials expressed no such desire to liberate Paul as Luke here states; and, second, that it was not the Jews but Festus (Acts 25:9-12) who constrained Paul to appeal to Caesar. But one who reads between the lines at Acts 25:9 can have no difficulty in perceiving that, while Festus demanded of Paul whether he would go to Jerusalem to be judged, Festus himself felt inwardly disposed to discharge the apostle, and probably would have done so but for the threatening attitude assumed by the Sanhedrists; and that his actual proposal partook of the nature of a compromise, which enabled him neither to condemn Paul nor to displease the Jews. Moreover, if this explanation be correct, it will show how Paul could speak of the Jews rather than of Festus as the parties whose action constrained his appeal.
3. A reason stated for his invitation. He wished himself to place his case before the bar of their unbiassed judgments, and to let them know that he was in reality a sufferer for one of the main points of the national faith, that in fact he was a prisoner for the hope of Israel. Perhaps also he cherished the expectation that in this way he would obviate any hostile interposition on their part in the course of his trial (Holtzmann).
III. The answer returned.—
1. A confession of ignorance. About the details of his case. The Jewish leaders assured the apostle that they had neither received letters from Judæa concerning him, nor had any of the brethren arrived in the city to report or speak harm of him. According to some interpreters the synagogue chiefs imagined that Paul half suspected they might have heard disingenuous and depreciatory rumours concerning him from the Judæan metropolis, and were desirous of disabusing his mind of any such suspicion. Others are at a loss to understand how people, living in the centre of the world, as the Roman Jews did, could have professed to be unacquainted with the extraordinary commotion excited by Paul in every Jewish community into which he had hitherto come. It should, however, be noted that they do not assert they had never before heard of Paul—in which case they would scarcely have accepted his invitation to wait upon him in his lodging; but only that they had received no official papers from Judæa about his case, and that no personal messenger had arrived with tidings to his disadvantage. Both of which statements might easily have been true. Until Paul had appealed to Cæsar the Jerusalem Sanhedrists had no special reason for sending word about him to the Roman Christians; and even after that event, as no great interval elapsed between the appeal and the voyage to Rome, it is easy to comprehend how communications or passengers from Judæa may not have had time to reach Rome before the apostle himself arrived.
2. An expression of desire. To hear what Paul himself had to say about the new sect of which he was so distinguished a champion, and which, they told him, as a reason for their request, it had come to their ears, was everywhere spoken against. How they could have pretended to be so ignorant of Christianity as to represent it as a sect of which they had only incidentally heard has perplexed the critics, some of whom do not hesitate to suggest that the synagogue leaders told a lie (Schneckenburger, Tholuck), while others see in the narrative a falsification of actual history on the part of the writer, for the purpose either of vindicating Paul’s character as that of an orthodox Jew (Zeller), or of showing how Paul in Rome, as elsewhere, commenced a Christian mission only after the gospel had been rejected by the Jews (Baur, Holtzmann). That a large and important Christian Church existed in Rome at this date the Epistle to the Romans written from Corinth shows, not to speak of the evidence supplied by the Neronic persecution, of which Tacitus says, “Nero subdidit reos et quæsitissimis pænis affecit quos per flagitia invisos, vulgus Christianos appellabat” (Annals, 15:44). That the Jewish leaders were ignorant of the existence of such a Christian community is inconceivable. Nor do they deny that they were cognisant of its existence. Only they express themselves concerning it with caution, talking of it as a sect everywhere spoken against, about which they were anxious to receive further information. As to the reason of this reserve various explanations have been offered; as, for instance, that even before Claudius had banished the Jews from Rome the Christians had separated themselves from the synagogue, so that they remained practically unknown to the Jews who returned after the edict of banishment had been recalled (Olshausen); that the Jews purposely deceived Paul in order to obtain from him intelligence about the sect (Tholuck); and that the Jews seeing Paul apparently in favour with the Roman authorities, did not wish to assume an attitude of strong opposition towards the Christians, and therefore carefully concealed their private opinions (Philippi).
1. That the love of a truly Christian heart for the salvation of others is practically unquenchable. Paul’s desire for the conversion of his countrymen was a remarkable phenomenon. Had he not imbibed much of his Master’s spirit, his love for his own kinsman must have long since been extinguished.
2. That a truly Christian heart is incapable of revenge. Paul had nothing to accuse his nation of, although they had unjustly hurled against him baseless charges, loaded him with undeserved chains, and even pitilessly thirsted for his blood as well as frequently attempted his life.
3. That Christ’s followers are tender of the errors and superstitions of others. Paul in preaching Christ never ran down Moses or depreciated the value of his religious institutions.
4. That good men are always careful of their own good names. Paul desired to protect himself against the calumnies that he feared might have reached the ears of his countrymen in Rome.
5. That the Christian Church has in no age lacked detractors. As in the first, so in the nineteenth century, this sect is everywhere by some, though happily now nowhere by all, spoken against.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 28:17. The Jews in Rome.—“The Jewish quarter in Rome had for almost a hundred years been the unceasing object of attention, of sport, and of anger, to the metropolis. Before the first Jewish war the number of the Jews in Rome had been of less importance, but Pompey, Cassius, and Antoninus had sold numerous Jewish prisoners of war as slaves, who either soon were made free because they were of little value as slaves, or indeed were even many times bought free. These liberti formed the proper root of the Jewish community in Rome, on which account the Romish Jews were styled simply the Libertines.” So, at least, narrates Philo the origin of the Jewish community in Rome. “Cæsar desired for himself no employment for his genius, reports the philosopher, and made no secret that he approved of the Jews when they abominated such. Otherwise had he not permitted that a large part of the town on that side of the Tiber should be occupied by those of whom the greater number were freed men—that is, persons who were set free by their masters, because they could not be constrained to forsake the customs of their fathers. He knew also that they sent to Jerusalem collections under the. name of ‘firstfruits,’ by means of representatives who offered these on their behalf. Intentionally had they been restricted with their retail traffic to the fourteenth district across the Tiber, whither all dirty trades were banished. Their quarter lay upon the slope of the Vatican, and stretched itself over one of the flat islands in the Tiber, which were exposed to inundations, and at which the Tiber boats coming from Ostia were accustomed to land. Here, where the ships’ cargoes were discharged, was for the Jewish brokers the correct place which from year to year they in greater numbers occupied.” … “To the grief of the Roman world the Jewish immigrants in no way restricted themselves to business in general, but with that manysidedness which was peculiar to them, no department of life was safe from their invasion. Whilst great and small, from Josephus, the favourite of Flavius, who dwelt in the palace at Septizonium, down to the female beggar who was stationed on the Capena, they loved to make gain, and by their Oriental manners, which were strange to the metropolitan, and the abomination in which the Romans held the gods and mysterious writings of the East, they largely increased their power, on the other hand we see them, through their pliantness, accommodating themselves to the manners of the metropolis, and developing an incredible allsidedness. What business had the son of Israel not practised in the capital of the world? Merchant, banker, shopkeeper, pedlar, as a rule, he was also an officer, and frequently a soldier; he was scholar, poet, critic, yea, even actor and singer. He swore by the temple of the Thunderer, and declaimed in mythological rôles tragic trimeters to the astonishment of the court. He practised also as a physician, and the doctor of Herod stood in such favour that one had better lock up his silver if he allowed himself to bargain with him. This emancipated Jew loved to imitate all the ways of the heathen. In spite of certain mockery from the heathen, he pressed into the public baths, and with the persistence peculiar to him blocked up the best places, doubly pleased if he succeeded in concealing his Jewish origin. The sportive youth of the metropolis he joined in all playgrounds with success; in short, no place was either so holy or profane that it could not lodge a Jewish guest. The speech of this Jewish community in Rome was the Greek, as indeed Paul had written in Greek to the Christian Church there. The inscriptions upon the Jewish churchyard in the Transtiberine quarter and upon the other superior churchyard on the Appian Way at Capena and upon the third in the Catacombs are composed in a Hebraising Greek, less often in bad Latin, never in Hebrew. Consequently even in the Metropolis the Jewish Greek jargon of Asia Minor was spoken, as Martial makes merry over the manner of speech even of the literary Jews” (Hausrath, der Apostel Paulus, pp. 474–478).
Acts 28:20. The Hope of Israel.
I. Implanted in Israel’s heart by God.
II. Recorded in their sacred scriptures.
III. Fulfilled by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
IV. Published to the Jewish people.
V. Rejected by the unbelieving portion of the nation.
I. A disgrace to Israel.
II. An honour to Paul.
III. A comfort to Christians.—In case they should be called upon to suffer for the truth.
Acts 28:22. Everywhere spoken Against. That this could have been said of Christianity about the middle of the first century was a signal testimony to many things.
I. To the truthfulness of Christ’s prediction.—That against His people men should say all manner of evil (Matthew 5:11; John 16:2).
II. To the wickedness of the human heart.—Which could speak evil of those who were really the lights of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14).
III. To the success of Christianity.—Which had made its presence known and felt even in the centre of the world (Romans 1:8).
IV. To the spiritual power of the gospel.—Which roused against itself the opposition of the world.
Acts 28:22. Everywhere spoken against; or, Popular Objections against Christianity.—Now, as in Paul’s day, Christianity is objected to by various classes of persons, and on widely different grounds; as, e.g.—
I. The supernatural character of its origin.—This has been a difficulty with Christianity from the beginning. Christ advanced this claim on behalf of His doctrine when He first promulgated it (John 7:16); and indeed the New Testament writers generally maintain that, like Mosaism, Christianity has its source in Divine revelation, and not merely in such Divine revelation as might be imparted to the human mind through, but in such as transcended, ordinary channels. The Pharisees and Jews generally rejected this claim on the ground that they found it impossible to accept as Divine revelation what seemed to them so unmistakably to set aside the revelation which they believed had been given to Moses (John 9:29). Scientific men at the present day reject it as in their judgment incompatible with the Reign of Law, affirming in vindication of their action that, if there be a God, of which many of them are not sure, they have no knowledge of any action of His that transcends the bounds of natural law (2 Peter 3:4). Philosophers reject it on the ground that a supernatural origin is not required for the production of what they find to be the essence or kernel of Christianity; after having stripped off what they regard as the legendary accretions with which it has come down through the past nineteen centuries, all that is valuable in it, they affirm may be sufficiently accounted for by the evolution of the human mind. Students of comparative religion, as they are called, reject it on the plea that other religions, such as Mohammedanism and Buddhism, claim to have originated in the same way, and yet their claims have not been accepted by the critical faculty of mankind, though as religions they contain not a few of the same doctrines as Christianity itself.
II. The metaphysical character of its doctrines.—Not so much the circumstance that the Christian documents record miracles, in which the scientific and philosophic worlds do not believe—though, of course, to many this does constitute a serious difficulty in accepting the religion which these documents teach; but the circumstance that as a religion Christianity claims to be based on a series of supernatural facts, which, if once admitted, not only explain and justify the miracles complained of, but render all other objections to Christianity itself unreasonable, These facts are:
1. The incarnation of the Second Person in the Godhead in the person of Jesus; which, if true, involves not only Christ’s supreme divinity, but demands also a plurality of persons in the Godhead.
2. The vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross, which, if true, involves the antecedent doctrine of the fall of man, the total corruption of the race, and the inability of man to save himself, as well as the possibility of a free salvation.
3. The resurrection of Christ from the dead, which again, if true, involves the truth of the two preceding, and the certainty of both a future resurrection of the dead (Acts 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15:20) and a final judgment of the world (Acts 17:31).
4. The necessity of a free justification by Divine grace, and an entire regene ration by the Holy Spirit, in order to salvation—which, once more, if true, lays the axe at the root of self-sufficiency and pride, and thus inevitably excites the hostility of the natural heart. It is perfectly well known that not one of these doctrines is palatable to the world, and even within the precincts of the Church itself there are those who in some surprising manner claim to be counted Christians who repudiate them all.
III. The objectionable character of its precepts.—Many of the objections urged against these are indeed unreasonable and contradictory, having only this in common, that they dislike Christianity and often lead to its rejection.
1. According to one class of objectors, the precepts of Christianity are too humbling. This holds good, especially of the commandments, to repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ. Did repentance of sin mean nothing more than a formal, conventional, and external acknowledgment that one had not behaved exactly as he should have done—an acknowledgment which one might condescendingly make without unduly putting an indignity upon his self-respect; and were faith in Jesus Christ nothing beyond an equally generous recognition on man’s part that Christ had lived in His day and generation a noble and self-sacrificing life, from which all subsequent ages had received an inspiration and impulse for good, then the acceptance of Christianity by men’s hearts would not have been so difficult as it is But repentance being an inward and real sorrow for sin, which prostrates the soul before God in self-humiliation, and faith signifying the soul’s absolute and final surrender to Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life, the soul instinctively becomes conscious of antagonism against demands so imperious and exacting.
2. To a second class, the precepts of Christianity are too severe—too lofty, too spiritual, too inward, too thoroughgoing. Easily enough summed up in love to God and love to man, when it comes to be understood that what Christianity regards as a perfect discharge of these duties is not the performance of a few external, conventional, and formal courtesies to God in the shape of bodily worship, however elaborate or costly, and philanthropies to man in the shape of munificent and frequent gifts of charity; but the continual up-going of the heart towards God in adoring love and obedience, and outgoing of the heart towards man in sympathy and succour—then Christianity is felt to be too exalted, too inward, too exacting a religion for the natural man, with the almost inevitable result that it is spoken against and rejected.
3. A third class complain that the precepts of Christianity are too impracticable. While to many the Sermon on the Mount, with its doctrines of non-resistance of evil, renunciation of wealth, love to enemies, doing unto others as one would that others should do unto him, etc., is esteemed the very essence of Christ’s religion, the class of objectors now alluded to pronounce its programme impracticable and visionary—in fact, declare its non-suitability to the exigencies of modern civilisation, shrink not from saying that its morality will not do for either commercial or political life, and that if Christianity insists on its doing, Christianity must go to the wall. Of course Christianity will not go to the wall, but the nation and the people shall go to the wall that propose to transact their business s and conduct their politics on other principles than its.
IV. The visionary character of its rewards.—Had Christianity proposed to confer on its adherents immediate benefits of a material kind, such as increased wealth, power, pleasure, fame, such as the world thirsts for, its reputation might have stood higher to day than it does with the unbelieving world. But the chief blessings which Christianity undertakes to confer on its adherents are of a spiritual sort (see Ephesians 1:3), and to be enjoyed in their fulness in a future world. Not that Christianity has nothing to confer on its adherents here, because it has (see 1 Timothy 4:8)—it has a sense of the pardoning mercy of God, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, a growing enlightenment in the truth of God with a growing conformity to the image of God, and over and above these it has all things needful for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), all those “other things” which the heavenly Father knows His children require (Matthew 6:33). But because Christianity sets a higher value on its spiritual blessings than on its temporal gifts (John 6:0 :), teaches men to set their affections on things above rather than on things on the earth (Colossians 3:1-2), and encourages them to seek for their inheritance in the future life rather than in this (1 Peter 1:3-5), men pronounce it visionary, otherworldly, illusory, and pass it by for what they imagine to be a more substantial good, but what they eventually discover to be a shadow.
Acts 28:23. Into his lodging.—Probably the “hired dwelling,” μίσθωμα, of Acts 28:30, though some (Heschyius, Hackett) consider the term ξενία points to a private house—perhaps that of Aquila, or of some other Roman Christian—in which he was entertained as a guest. For expounded and testified read expounding, testifying, and persuading.
Acts 28:25. The one word spoken by Paul did not occasion (Meyer), but accompanied (De Wette) the departure of the Jewish leaders.
Acts 28:26. The Isaianic utterance, also quoted in the Gospels (Matthew 13:14; John 12:40), was taken from the LXX.
Acts 28:28 gives the last recorded words of Paul in Luke’s narrative. Their resemblance to the words uttered at the beginning of his mission (Acts 13:46) deserves notice.
Acts 28:29 is omitted by the best texts, and the majority of critics regard it as spurious (Mill, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort).
Acts 28:30. Two whole years in his own hired house.—This almost implies that his former lodging was not a rented dwelling, The charge of his present house would no doubt be borne by his Christian friends at Rome, and perhaps also at Philippi (Philippians 4:14; Philippians 4:18); but see on Acts 21:23 (“Critical Remarks”). Whether he obtained release at the end of these two years is doubtful. “What became of him after those two years,” writes Beyschlag (Riehm’s Handwörterbuch des Biblischen Altertums, art. Paulus), “whether he obtained his freedom and made a journey to the far west, or whether the persecution under Nero, A.D. 64, found him still in prison, can no more be ascertained.” “We must therefore abide by the view,” says Weiss (Manual of Introduction to the New Testament, 1:373), “that Paul’s deliverance from the Roman captivity can neither be proved nor denied on secure historical grounds.” According to Eusebius (H. E., Acts 3:22) Paul was released from his first, and experienced a second captivity under Nero; and this opinion has been advocated by Church historians like Mosheim, Neander, and Gieseler, as well as by introduction writers like Ewald, Bleek, Schulze, Lange, Salmon, and Dodds. That he perished in the Neronian persecution is supported by Baur, Hausrath, Holtzmann, and others, who dispute, as well as by Wieseler, Ebrard, Reuss, Schaff, and others, who uphold, the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles. (See “Hints” on Acts 28:30.)
Acts 28:31. With all confidence, or boldness.—Referring rather to the unrestricted freedom with which he preached than to the unwavering assurance he had that what he preached was true. No man forbidding him explains what was meant by his boldness.
That the writer should have closed his work in this sudden fashion, without intimating whether Paul was successful in his appeal or what became of him, has given rise to various explanations; but manifestly, either
(1) the book was written and published before the trial came on—in which case its issue could not be mentioned—which is hardly likely; or
(2) if after his death or liberation, whichever of these was the issue of Paul’s trial, was already known to Theophilus, and did not require to be mentioned—which again is not perfectly satisfactory; or
(3) Luke may have ended as he did because he entertained the idea of writing a third treatise, which once more is a plausible hypothesis, if Paul was liberated and resumed his missionary labours, but not if he was put to death in A.D. 64.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 28:23-29
A Whole Day’s Preaching; or, a Last Appeal to his Countrymen
I. The circumstances under which this appeal was made.—
1. The place. The same as that in which the previous address was delivered—viz., his lodging. (See preceding “Homily.”)
2. The time. A day which had been appointed by the Jewish leaders themselves more than likely the Jewish Sabbath, when they found themselves free from business engagements.
3. The auditors. These same Jewish lenders, and others of their co-religionists whom they had persuaded to accompany them to the apostle’s lodging.
4. The speaker. The chained prisoner of Jesus Christ, who, though himself looking forward to a trial of doubtful issue, had time and thought to bestow on the spiritual necessities of his countrymen in Rome.
II. The character which belonged to this appeal.—
1. The burden of it. The kingdom of God and Jesus who had been its herald (Ephesians 2:17; Matthew 4:17) and founder (Luke 22:29-30), and was its exalted Head and Lord (Matthew 28:18; John 13:36; Romans 14:9; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:9-11).
2. The manner of it. By expounding the Scriptures (compareActs 17:2; Acts 17:2), reasoning out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets (compareLuke 24:27; Luke 24:27), and persuading them to recognise in Jesus their long-promised Messiah (compareActs 19:8; Acts 19:8).
3. The fervour of it. Indicated by the fact that he continued a whole day from morning till evening (compareActs 20:7; Acts 20:7).
III. The result in which this appeal issued.—
1. The faith of some. To these the apostle’s preaching carried conviction. Paul seldom taught without gaining converts; and wherever Christ crucified and risen as the King and Head of God’s empire of salvation is proclaimed, it may reasonably be anticipated that some hearts will be won to believe.
2. The unbelief of others. This also usually resulted from Paul’s preaching. If it awoke faith in some hearts it likewise aroused unbelief and opposition. So to-day the proclamation of the gospel excites against it the antagonism of the natural heart, which not unfrequently terminates in unbelief and rejection of the truth.
3. The departure of all. As the Sanhedrists in Jerusalem (Acts 23:7), so the Jewish listeners in Rome, could not agree among themselves, and, after an interchange of views it may be supposed (Acts 28:29), withdrew from the apostle’s presence.
IV. The announcements by which this appeal was followed.—
1. That their rejection of the gospel had been foretold. Quoting from Isaiah 6:9-10 (LXX.), a passage which had also been cited by Christ in Capernaum (Matthew 13:14-15) and in Jerusalem (John 12:40), he assured them that their present obduracy had been distinctly anticipated in the Divine commission given to that Old Testament seer to whom Jehovah said, “Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not, and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed.” The words practically signified that Isaiah would carry his message to a people who should refuse to hear it; and Paul’s citation of the words to his countrymen in Rome imported that he recognised in them the true successors of the unbelievers to whom Isaiah preached, persons with souls so fast bound in carnal security that they could not be aroused to a concern for spiritual things (Ephesians 4:19), and understandings so darkened that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God could not shine into them (2 Corinthians 4:4); yea, it seemed to the apostle as if his countrymen, through love of the darkness and devotion to their own self-righteous ways, had deliberately closed their understandings and hearts against the truth in case they should repent and be saved (John 3:19). If both the Hebrew prophet and the Christian apostle represent the obduracy of the Jewish people as a punishment sent on them by God for their unbelief, that was only a strong way of saying that they had wilfully put away from themselves the offer of eternal life (compareActs 13:46; Acts 13:46).
2. That the gospel should be henceforth preached to the Gentiles, who should not reject but accept it. That this actually took place the last two verses of the narrative inform us. For two whole years the apostle waited for the hearing of his case, either because his accusers had not arrived, or their witnesses had not been collected, or it did not suit the emperor’s convenience. Whether at the end of that period he was released from captivity or put to death is debated among expositors (see “Critical Remarks”). But during its continuance he lived in a hired dwelling of his own, the rent of which he was without question enabled to pay through the kindness of his numerous Christian friends (see, however, on Acts 21:23). In this, though still chained to a soldier of the Prætorian guard, he enjoyed a large amount of liberty, and in particular “received all that came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none forbidding him.” Here also from time to time he welcomed friends from distant Churches, such as Tychicus, Epaphras, Epaphroditus, and Onesimus, who visited him with tidings how the brethren in those Churches fared, and carried back in the shape of oral communications, sometimes also in the form of letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon), wise and loving words of counsel and encouragement such as their circumstances seemed to demand. Likewise, all who sought his presence in the city to inquire into the kingdom or concerning Jesus met with a cordial reception, and went away with all their questions answered, even if not always with all their doubts removed.
1. The supreme burden of the gospel ministry—the kingdom of God.
2. The transcendent value of the Scriptures—they testify of Jesus, the founder and sovereign of the kingdom.
3. The dividing power of the gospel,—it separates men into two hostile camps, those of believers and unbelievers.
4. The prescient knowledge of Jehovah—who foresees the treatment men will accord to His message of reconciliation.
5. The culpability of all who reject the truth—men are held responsible by God for the hardness of their hearts.
6. The mercy of God—in sending the gospel to the Gentiles.
7. The highest glory of the Gentile world—that it accepts God’s message of salvation.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 28:16-29. Last Words of Paul.
I. A last testimony to his innocence (Acts 28:17-20).
II. A last confession of Jesus Christ, as the Messiah (Acts 28:23).
III. A last effusion of love toward His people (Acts 28:17; Acts 28:19-20).
IV. A last stroke of the hammer on hardened hearts (Acts 28:25; Acts 28:28).—Gerok in Lange.
Acts 28:23. An All-day Meeting.
I. The place.—A private lodging. A vindication of kitchen meetings and drawing-room assemblies for the preaching of the gospel.
II. The speaker.—A chained prisoner. As strange a preacher probably as ever addressed his fellow-men. Certainly as sublime a spectacle as eye ever gazed upon—a man so absorbed in the desire to honour Christ and save his fellow-men, that he forgets all about his own suffering and shame.
II. The themes.—The kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. The grandest topics that can engage the intellects and hearts of men. Worthier than any other themes to claim a day’s conversation.
IV. The hearers.—The Jews of Rome. Not the Christian Jews, but the Jews who belonged to the synagogues. So that this all-day meeting was not a fellowship meeting of disciples, but a meeting for the preaching of the gospel.
V. The results.—Such as often happen. Some believed and some believed not.
Acts 28:26-27. The History of Unbelief.
I. Its nature.—A deliberate and wilful rejection of the truth of the gospel.
II. Its origin.—It results from an incapacity to understand the truth.
III. Its effect.—To render the heart obdurate, the understanding darker, the soul’s sensibility to Divine things smaller, and the possibility of ultimate recovery feebler.
IV. Its end.—The soul’s loss. Since without knowledge the soul cannot believe, without believing it cannot turn, without turning it cannot be healed or saved.
Acts 28:28. This Salvation.
I. Its author.—God.
II. Its mediator.—Christ.
III. Its preacher.—Paul, and after him the pastors and teachers of the Christian Church, not excluding all who believe. “Let him that heareth say, Come!”
IV. Its mission.—To the Gentiles. Not to the exclusion of, but as well as to the Jews.
V. Its fortune.—If rejected by some (the Jews) heard by others (the Gentiles).
Acts 28:30. Two Whole Years in his own Hired House. What then?
I. That Paul was liberated after a successful trial is supported by the following considerations:
1. The unanimous testimony of the Primitive Church.
(1) The Epistle of Clement, Bishop of Rome—believed to have been Paul’s friend and disciple (Philippians 4:3)—wrote in A.D. 99 that Paul, after instructing the whole Roman world in righteousness, “had gone to the extremity of the west” before his martyrdom (Clem. Rom., 1:5).
(2) Muratori’s Canon (A.D. 170), in the account given by it of the Acts of the Apostles, says: “Luke relates to Theophilus events of which he was an eyewitness, as also in a separate place”—(Luke 22:31-33) it is supposed—“he evidently declares the martyrdom of Peter, but (omits) the journey of Paul from Rome to Spain.”
(3) Eusebius (A.D. 320) writes: “After defending himself successfully, it is currently reported that the apostle again went forth to proclaim the gospel, and afterwards came to Rome a second time, and was martyred under Nero” (Hist. Eccl., ii. 22).
(4) Chrysostom (A.D. 398) mentions it as an undoubted historical fact, that “St. Paul after his residence in Rome departed to Spain.
(5) Jerome (A.D. 390) relates that “Paul was dismissed by Nero, that he might preach Christ’s gospel in the west.”
2. The indirect witness of Scripture.
(1) The fact that Acts closes without mention of the apostle’s death suggests that he was liberated at the end of the two years (Acts 28:30).
(2) The apostle appears himself to have expected a favourable issue to his first trial (Philippians 2:24).
(3) If the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by Paul, as many still contend, it proves conclusively that he was liberated from his Roman imprisonment; for its writer is in Italy and at liberty (Hebrews 13:23-24).
(4) The Pastoral Epistles, whose genuineness has often been disputed but never satisfactorily disproved, support the theory of the apostle’s liberation, as the historical facts they mention cannot be placed in any portion of the apostle’s life before or during his first imprisonment in Rome.
II. That Paul was put to death by Nero, either as the result of his trial or soon after in the persecution that arose in A.D. 64 against the Christians, though advocated by many has little to rest upon except—
1. The absence of any account of the apostle’s subsequent labours. “It is a fact that we have no historical trace of Pauline Church foundations in Spain, which makes the Spanish journey (above referred to) highly improbable” (Weiss, Manual of Introduction, i. 372).
2. The circumstance that in Acts 20:25 Luke appears to betray complete ignorance of the apostle’s return to his former mission field, which shows, it is argued, that Luke knew nothing of Paul’s deliverance from the Roman captivity (Ibid., i. 370).
3. The necessity of finding an argument in favour of the spuriousness of the Pastoral Epistles, since if Paul was not released from captivity the case against them is closed.
4. The improbability of a second imprisonment being repeated so soon afterwards under circumstances so nearly similar to those attending the first (Baur, Paul, his Life and Works, i. 246). The similarity of the circumstances, however, is not so obvious as is here suggested (see Weiss, Manual, i. 373).
Acts 28:31. Paul Preaching in Rome.
I. The sublimity of the spectacle.—“History has few stranger contrasts than when it shows us Paul preaching Christ under the walls of Nero’s palace. Thenceforward there were but two religions in the Roman world—the worship of the Emperor and the worship of the Saviour. The old superstitions had been long worn out.… The residuum they left was the philosophy of Epicurus and the religion of Nerolatry. But a new doctrine was already taught in the Forum and believed even on the Palatine. Over against the altars of Nero and Poppea the voice of a prisoner was daily heard, and daily woke in grovelling souls the consciousness of their Divine destiny” (Conybeare and Howson, 2:458).
II. The success of the work.—Of this testimony is furnished by the Epistle to the Philippians, in which Paul told them that “his bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole Prætorian guard and to all the rest” (Philippians 1:13), and that even out of Cæsar’s household saints had been gathered into the Church of Christ (Philippians 4:22), while those who had been preaching before he came, or commenced preaching in the city while he taught in his own hired room, had by his example been stimulated to greater diligence (Philippians 1:14).
III. The immortality of the preacher.—Whether Paul was liberated or put to death at the end of two years, it is certain that his labours in the world’s metropolis came to an end, and himself disappeared from the stage of human history. But the work he then began has never ceased to influence the thoughts and destinies of men both within the Church and without, not in Rome merely, but throughout the world; while of himself the words of the Hebrew prophet will evermore be true: “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
The Theology of Paul as set forth in the Acts of the Apostles.
IT is frequently asserted that so glaring a contradiction exists between Paul’s theology in the Acts of the Apostles and his theology in the four larger Epistles bearing his name, that if the latter represents Paul’s doctrinal system the former can only be regarded as the free composition of the author of the Acts. A careful examination of the various discourses attributed to Paul in the Acts, however, will show that this allegation is not well founded. These discourses are:
1. That delivered in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:16-41).
2. The address to the Lycaonians (Acts 14:15-17).
3. The exposition given to the Athenians on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-31).
4. The farewell charge to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20:17-35).
5. The defence made to his countrymen from the castle stairs of Antonia in Jerusalem (Acts 22:1-21).
6. The answer before Felix to the charges of Tertullus (Acts 24:10-21).
7. The oration before Agrippa (Acts 26:2-23). And the last words spoken to his countrymen in Rome (Acts 28:23-28). A study of these with the isolated utterances which have been preserved in illustration of his teaching, as, for instance, at Philippi (Acts 16:31), Thessalonica (Acts 17:3), and Corinth (Acts 18:5), shows that the germs at least of the teaching developed in the Epistles may be detected in the Acts.
I. The doctrine of God—Theology proper—which appears in the Acts, represents the Supreme Being:
(1) as a living, personal intelligence, unlike the dumb idols of wood and stone which were worshipped by heathen nations (Acts 14:15; Acts 17:29);
(2) as a spiritual essence, who could neither be confined to temples made with hands (Acts 17:24) nor worshipped by mere external performances (Acts 17:25);
(3) as the Creator of the universe (Acts 14:15), and in particular as the Author of human life (Acts 17:25; Acts 17:28);
(4) as the Lord of providence (Acts 14:16-17; Acts 17:26) and of grace (Acts 17:30; Acts 26:18); and
(5) as the final Judge of mankind (Acts 27:31).
II. The doctrine of Christ—Christology—is equally explicit.
1. The human nature of Jesus is repeatedly and clearly emphasised (Acts 13:23; Acts 13:38; Acts 17:31).
2. So also is His essential Godhead—directly by calling Him God (Acts 20:28), and indirectly by styling Him Lord (Acts 16:31).
3. His Divine Sonship, if not unambiguously stated, is at least suggested (Acts 13:33).
4. His Messiahship is proclaimed in language that admits of no hesitation (Acts 13:27; Acts 17:3; Acts 26:23).
5. His death as an atonement for sin is assuredly implied in such statements as these, that “through this man”—who had been slain for no sin of His own and raised again from the dead—“is preached the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38), and that “the Church of God” (Christ) had been “purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
6. His resurrection from the dead is set forth in the clearest light (Acts 13:30; Acts 13:34; Acts 17:31; Acts 26:23).
7. His future advent as the Judge of men is not forgotten (Acts 17:31).
III. The doctrine of man—Anthropology—is also admirably outlined.
1. The heavenly origin of man’s spiritual nature is impressively taught (Acts 17:28-29); as also is
2. The reality of his fallen condition, which, in order to salvation, demands the forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38).
3. The responsibility of man for his dealing with the Gospel offer (Acts 13:46; Acts 28:19-28); and
4. His ultimate accountability to God (Acts 17:31; Acts 24:25), are likewise plainly set forth.
IV. The doctrine of salvation—Soteriology—finds a place, and that in several particulars.
1. The blessings of which salvation consists are indicated as at least three in number:
(1) forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38);
(2) sanctification (Acts 20:32; Acts 26:18); and
(3) an inheritance in the great hereafter (Acts 20:32; Acts 26:18),
2. The method by which salvation is imparted is explained to be
(1) by a Divine act of justification, which acquits the sinner, and renders him righteous in the eyes of the law (Acts 13:39);
(2) by an equally Divine work of up building through the word of God or truth of the Gospel (Acts 20:32); and
(3) by a Divine bestowment of heavenly glory when the work of sanctification has been completed (Acts 20:32).
3. The ground on which salvation is bestowed on any is the atoning death of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:39), and not the performance of any ceremonial or moral works whatsoever.
4. The condition of salvation is in every instance faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).
5. The principal source of salvation is grace (Acts 18:27; Acts 20:32).
6. Its world-wide intention is expressly pointed out (Acts 13:46-47; Acts 22:15; Acts 22:21, Acts 26:17; Acts 26:20; Acts 26:23; Acts 28:28).
7. So also is its rejection by some who hear (Acts 28:27).
V. The doctrine of the last things—Eschatology—is not forgotten.
1. The resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust, is repeatedly insisted on (Acts 17:32; Acts 23:6; Acts 24:15; Acts 26:8).
2. The judgment of the last day is lifted into view more than once (Acts 17:31, Acts 24:25).
3. The blessed portion of believers is declared to be eternal life (Acts 13:46), or an inheritance among the sanctified (Acts 20:32; Acts 26:18).
It is impossible to note these several points of doctrine extracted from the Acts without perceiving how completely they harmonise with the fuller statements contained in the Epistles.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 28". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25