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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 28

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-31

Very soon contacting inhabitants, they found that the island was called Melita, present day Malta. The people are called "barbarous," which only means they were not Greek or Jewish -- not the cultured classes: there is nothing derogatory in the term. In fact they proved themselves most hospitable and kind, kindling a large fire to warm the shivering crowd. Paul, not averse to laboring with his hands, gathered sticks also to supply the fire. When a poisonous viper, springing out of the heat, fastened on Paul's hand, the natives expected immediate death, and supposed that he must be a murderer whom providence had decreed should die. Paul however paid no more attention to it than to shake the creature off into the fire. When it became evident that it had done no harm, then the natives went to the opposite extreme and decided that Paul was a god. This illustrates how undependable and foolish are men's superstitions.

They had disembarked near the property of the chief man of the island, his name Publius, who extended the same courteous treatment to them, lodging them for three days. If we have already seen a miracle in the protection of Paul, now we are told of the miraculous healing of the father of Publius through Paul's intercession, and the resulting interest of others also who came and were healed.

In spite of the pleasant relationships seen here, however, and the outward blessing of healing, there is no record of any conversions to the Lord Jesus, though the people honored them with many honors, supplying them with necessities that arose because of their being shipwrecked. Where they lived after leaving the hospitality of Publius we are not told. Likely there would be a large seaport town where they could find lodging, since they found another ship of Alexandria which had wintered there. But they remained three months in Malta, concerning which we are given no more history

Typically we have reached the point where the testimony of the church has been already shipwrecked. The pleasant circumstances following are surely a picture of the time in which Christianity began to be recognized in the world, when Constantine, early in the fourth century, adopted it as the state religion. Many felt this a wonderful triumph for Christianity, but it was the reverse, for this resulted in mixing worldly principles with the principles of the truth of God and unbelievers with believers, eventually so obscuring the truth as to leave souls in darkness and bondage, with men given honor instead of rightful honor being given to the blessed Lord of glory. Even Paul is given honor, but he is still a prisoner: the truth committed to him has been kept confined in spite of lip-service being given him. Significantly, the real working of the living power of the Spirit of God in souls is not mentioned in Malta.

The next ship they board is no improvement in this regard either, being also of Alexandria, and having the idolatrous insignia "Castor and Pollux." Christianity, mixing with the world, wilt certainly find itself also mixed with idolatry. Their first landing place was Syracuse (in Sicily), meaning "dragging unwillingly," indicating that not all consciences of Christians were content with being drawn downward at that time, in the direction of the world and its idolatry. They remained there three days.

Leaving Syracuse, the ship sailed in a circuitous route (for the church has certainly not always taken a straight path toward her destination) to land at Rhegium, meaning "forcing the way through," for even in the testimony of the church of God men's forceful wills have too often taken the lead, rather than the principle of faith.

From there they continued by ship to Puteoli, meaning "little mineral springs, a place of at least a little relief from the general tenor of the trip, for they found brethren there, who desired them to stay with them for seven days. Perhaps the soldiers were glad to give Paul liberty for this, since after long sea travel it would afford some respite for them before taking the foot journey to Rome. Accommodations would have to be found for the prisoners, but other passengers of the ship would no doubt have dispersed. Then we are told, "and so we went toward Rome." The statement is significant as implying the drift of the church publicly at the time here typified, gravitating toward the ritualism that characterizes the church of Rome.

Word of the coming of Paul and company had reached the brethren at Rome, who came out perhaps 30 miles to meet them, an encouragement for which Paul thanked God. Coming to Rome, the centurion allowed Paul to live outside the prison, but in the custody of a soldier, though the rest of the prisoners were committed to prison. Paul was no mere usual prisoner, as their so trusting him indicated. But the soldier was virtually a captive audience for the gospel!

Having been there only three days Paul was able to call the Jewish leaders to visit him, and explained to them the circumstances of his arrest and imprisonment. He declares his innocence as regards any infraction of Israel's law, but that the Jews of Jerusalem had delivered him to the Romans as a prisoner. The Romans, after due examination, found no charge that could be substantiated, so were inclined to release him, but the Jews being opposed, Paul had appealed to Caesar. He adds, "not that I had ought to accuse my nation of." He might have accused them of their attempt to murder him in Jerusalem, but he made no issue of this. Now, he says, he desires to speak with them in Rome because it was actually on account of the true hope of Israel that he was a prisoner.

At least their minds had not been poisoned against Paul by letter or by personal contact, but they knew that Christianity was everywhere spoken against, and were interested to inquire about it. This gave Paul an open door, and on an appointed day from morning to evening he fully explained to them the truth of the kingdom of God. Many came to his own lodging to hear him expounding from their own Old Testament scriptures, showing that in the Lord Jesus Christ all their prophecies and types are fulfilled.

Some believed. others refused, but not without the warning of Paul in the language of Isaiah 6:9-10 that they were fulfilling prophecy in rejecting the word of God sent to them for their blessing. This was refusing God the liberty of healing them. Therefore, he tells them, the gospel of God was sent to the Gentiles, who would hear it.

Verse 29 is not included in the earliest Greek manuscripts. Paul lived for two years in his own hired house, glad to receive all who would come to him. Altogether Paul was kept a prisoner 4 years without a trial! Rome's judicial processes were apparently as lax as those of present day United States law courts

Yet even under the eye of Rome, God gave Paul liberty to proclaim the kingdom of God -- so high above the boasted power of the Roman empire -- and to teach the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with fullest confidence, no man forbidding him.

The ending of the book may seem abrupt, specially with no mention of the eventual outcome of Paul's imprisonment. But God is infinitely wise in the way He presents His Word. Does it not teach us that throughout the entire history of the church Paul remains virtually a prisoner, confined in his ministry? Professing Christianity does not give him full liberty, though it shows him some respect, and we are thankful that the truth is still not bound, but available for all who desire to receive it, though it identifies us with him who calls himself "the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles" (Ephesians 3:1). Earth holds no satisfactory conclusion for the history of the church. This must await the coming of the Lord.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 28:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/acts-28.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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