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The Lord disposeth the Hearts of a barbarous People, on whose Ground Paul and the Ship's Company were cast, to receive them kindly. Paul healeth the Sick in the Island. They at length depart, and go to Rome. Paul preacheth in Rome two Years.
And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. (2) And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. (3) And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. (4) And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. (5) And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. (6) Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
This island on which the shipwrecked crew, Paul and his company landed, is the place that is now called Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea. We are not to understand by those islanders being celled barbarous people, that it hath respect as much to their manners, as to their language. Their courtesy to Paul, and the rest of the ship's company, was great indeed. But it is supposed, that they are the rather called barbarous, because their dialect was a broken mixture of different tongues, so that it became difficult to understand them, or to be understood by them, when speaking in the pure language of the Latin, used at that time by the Romans; or in the Greek, by, those of Greece. But, certainly, it was the Lord which gave Paul and his company favor with this people, or they would hardly have received with so much kindness, so large a company, as two hundred, threescore, and sixteen souls; much less have entertained them so long as they remained there, and laded them with such things as they needed, on their departure, (Acts 28:10-11 .) Reader! it is always blessed to observe, the Lord's predisposing the minds of men to favor his people. On Paul's account, the men of Malta shall treat them all kindly. For Jesus's sake, his redeemed shall be taken care of, and fed, if it be needful, and rather than want food, at their enemies table. See Exodus 12:36 ; Isaiah 16:4 .
The circumstance of this viper seems to have been graciously ordained by the Lord, to answer much good. By the miracle of Paul's safety, from the bite of the venomous reptile, the Lord proved that scripture, Mark 16:18 and Luke 10:19 . And, from the different sentiments, induced in the minds of those islanders, from what they saw; first, in supposing him a murderer, and then making a transition to fancy him a God; who shall say, what might follow by grace on the hearts of some of them, during the three months Paul remained there, in bringing them to the knowledge of the truth.
In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. (8) And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. (9) So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: (10) Who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
There is somewhat very interesting in the account of this Publius. He must have been a man of great generosity, as well as wealth. He had no consciousness who this guest was, when he took him in. He reminds one of the patriarchs, when, like Abraham and Lot, they received angels as strangers. And, how graciously the Lord, of Paul took the kindness, in the recompense he enabled Paul his servant to make him and his people, in healing the sick of the island. And who shall make the calculation of all the mercies which they might have received beside? It is said, that Paul went in, and prayed, and laid his hands on the father of Publius, and healed him. And may we not hope, the souls of some of those islanders were brought acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ by Paul's ministry, while he was blessed of the Lord to their bodies?
And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. (12) And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. (13) And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli: (14) Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome. (15) And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum, and The Three Taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. (16) And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
We have here the Apostle brought to his journeys end. And thus the Lord's promise was made good. How welcome Paul was to the disciples at Rome, may he inferred from many of them coming so, far to meet him. Appii forum could hardly be less than fifty miles, and the three taverns, not less than thirty. Surely the Lord sent them, and Paul considered it so, for he found increasing confidence from the sight of them. And thus the Lord frequently strengthens the hands and hearts of his people, in their mutual love and sympathy with each other, and all in Him.
And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. (18) Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. (19) But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had aught to accuse my nation of. (20) For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. (21) And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came showed or spake any harm of thee. (22) But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.
It is a little strange, that Paul's enemies the Jews, both at Caesarea and Jerusalem, had not sent their hue and cry after him, before his arrival at Rome. But perhaps, it may be accounted for on this ground. The Jews were afraid to appear against Paul before the Emperor at Rome. For, though the edict passed by Claudius, which drive all the Jews from Rome, (Acts 18:2 ) became null at his death, and Nero, the then emperor, had not as yet troubled himself about them, (though afterwards he became a bitter enemy both to the Christians and the Jews) yet, recollecting that law of Claudius they thought it prudent, perhaps, to remain quiet.
Let the Reader observe, with what contempt they spake of the faith of Christ. They called it a sect, and one that was everywhere spoken against. Reader! do not deceive yourself, neither be deceived by others. The pure faith of the gospel, which ascribes the whole of salvation to Jesus, unmingled with men's works, is as much spoken against now, and by numbers who profess the gospel, as the faith once delivered to the saints, was of old by the Jews. And that solemn question of Jesus, was never more suited than now, to be brought home to the hearts and consciences of all who profess his truths; when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. (24) And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. (25) And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers, (26) Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: (27) For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (28) Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. (29) And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
What a delightful discourse must this have been? From morning till evening it continued. What a scope of Scripture the Apostle took in, for one end of the Old Testament to the other? But, what was the result? Namely, that which hath always been, and always must be, where the congregation is made up, as it was here, and as it is for the most part everywhere, of a mingled company; they who belong to Christ, and they who do not. And, it is worthy the Reader's closest observation, that in the application Paul made of that memorable scripture, taken from the Prophet, and which Paul here expressly saith, was not the words of, the Prophet, but of God the Holy Ghost; the Lord defines the character of those to whom it is said, Go unto this people! The Lord doth not say, Go tell my people. Oh! no. Here the line is drawn. But go tell this people. And this suits all people, of every age and nation, whether Jews or Gentiles, whose final rejection of the Word of Grace, fully proves, that they are here intended, and marked in their true character. And so infinitely important are those words, which God the Holy Ghost spake, in deciding this solemn truth, that the Lord the Spirit hath been pleased to have it recorded, (after he had spoken it by the Prophet,) no less than six times in his holy word, Matthew 13:14 ; Mark 4:12 ; Luke 8:10 ; John 12:40 . Here in this place (Acts 28:0 ) and Romans 11:8 . Reader! ponder it well!
And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, (31) Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
This was a blessed season to the Church at Rome, which the Lord Jesus granted them. And, from the awful character of the then emperor Nero, under whose cruelty afterwards, both Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom, we can only ascribe it to the Lord Jesus, that he lulled this wretched prince asleep, while Paul thus for two whole years was preaching to the people of God. Supposing, what is generally believed, that Festus detained Paul a year; Felix, we know, confined him two; Acts 24:27 , and, here again, two years at Rome; the whole made five. But, it was the Church's mercy, that during the last confinement, he had not only time to preach, but leisure and direction from the Lord, to write those blessed Epistles, which have been made so blessed to the Church, and will be, till time shall be no more. The Epistle to the Ephesians, was evidently written at this time, see Ephesians 3:1 , and the date at the end. Colossians also, (Colossians 4:18 ) and date. To Philemon (Philemon 1:9-10 ) and date. Philippians, Philippians 1:16; Philippians 1:16 . and date. And, it is more than probable, that it was at the same time he wrote, and sent his Epistles to Galatia and the Hebrews. See the date of each. Some have supposed, that Paul at the end of the two years, was brought to trial, and suffered martyrdom. But this could not be. For his Epistle to Philippi speaks of the confidence he had of being freed, Philippians 1:25 and Philippians 2:16-24 . And his second Epistle to Timothy was written two years after, and is said in the date, to have been written from Rome, when Paul was brought before Nero the second time. And in this Epistle, Paul then speaks of his expectation of death, Acts 4:6 .
READER! let us bless God the Holy Ghost for those precious Acts of his Apostles in his Church, for most blessed and delightful they are, as monuments of the Lord's grace in his servant's ministry. Think what multitudes now in glory, enjoyed the sweet savor of them, while on earth. Think how daily now the Lord is blessing them to his people. And, think what numbers yet unborn, will in succession rise up to the enjoyment of them, when you and I shall have been gathered to our fathers, and have seen corruption. Let us close our perusal of this sweet book of God, with thanks to the Almighty Author of it, for all the mercy shewn in it, and by it, to ourselves, and to all that are past. And let our prayers be added, that the Lord may continue to bless its use to endless generations. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 28". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29