28:1-6 Paul bitten by viper on Malta.
28:7-10 Paul’s ministry to those on Malta.
28:11-15 Paul’s safe arrival in Rome.
28:1 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.
28:2 The islanders [of Phoenician ancestry; island of Malta (from Canaanite word for “refuge”)] showed [continued to show] us unusual kindness. They built a fire [to warm survivors who were chilled from being in the sea and because of the foul weather] and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.
Note: When was the last time you showed “unusual kindness” to someone?
28:3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.
28:4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.”
28:5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.
28:6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
28:7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official [probably a political authority, like a governor] of the island [literally “first man of the island”]. He welcomed us [either only Paul (and Luke), Julius, and ship’s owner or the entire crew/passengers (276 people)] to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably.
28:8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands [only reference in Acts that mentions both prayer and laying on of hands] on him and healed him.
28:9 When this had happened [good news travels fast], the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.
28:10 They honored us in many ways [a reminder that unbelievers do good deeds] and when we were ready to sail [after spending three winter months on the island (28:11)], they furnished us with the supplies we needed [islanders provided for the needs of their guests].
28:11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux.
28:12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days.
28:13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.
28:14 There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.
28:15 The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.
28:16 When [after spending three months on the island of Malta (Acts 28:11)] we [Luke was still with Paul] got to Rome [during this two-year period Paul wrote Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon], Paul was allowed to live by himself [Paul considered a low-risk prisoner], with a soldier [to whom Paul apparently was chained, at least some of the time (Acts 28:20)] to guard [“a captive audience”] him.
After spending three months on the island of Malta (Acts 28:11), Paul finally arrived in Rome. He had already visited some of the most beautiful cities of his day and yet had eagerly longed to visit Rome (Rom. 1:15). His arrival in this influential city fulfilled the promise of the Lord that he would one day preach the gospel there (Acts 23:11).
Considered a low-risk prisoner, Paul was permitted to stay by himself in his own rented quarters. This arrangement gave him more freedom than a typical prisoner. However, the presence of a soldier who guarded him was a reminder that he was nevertheless a prisoner. Some of the soldiers who guarded Paul may have become believers as they listened to him share the gospel over a period of two years (see Phil. 1:13).
28:17 Three days later [after arriving in Rome] he called [since Paul could not go to the synagogue, he summoned members of the synagogue to visit him; Paul had freedom to invite people to visit him, but did not have freedom to move about city] together the leaders [capable of influencing others] of the Jews. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.
Three days after arriving in Rome and settling into his rented quarters, Paul was ready to meet with Jews in the city. Since he could not go to the synagogue, he summoned the leaders of the Jews to visit him, even though he did not know them. Even within limiting circumstances we can make new acquaintances, which will give us new opportunities to witness. These Jews were likely leaders of various synagogues but not an official ruling body. Paul’s purpose in meeting with them was to state his innocence of the charges against him. He summarized the events that had led to his arrest in Jerusalem and maintained his innocence of all charges of violating Jewish customs.
28:18 They [the Roman authorities (cf. 23:29; 25:25; 26:31)] examined me and wanted to release me [cf. Acts 26:32], because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death.
Paul pointed out that the Roman authorities who examined him wanted to release him. Claudius Lysias, the Roman army commander who had protected Paul from the Jews in Jerusalem, affirmed Paul’s innocence in a personal letter to Felix (Acts 23:29). Festus, Felix’s successor, also said that Paul had done nothing to deserve death (Acts 25:25). And King Agrippa and Festus again reaffirmed that Paul had not committed a capital offense (Acts 26:31).
28:19 But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—not that I had any charge to bring against my own people [Paul was a loyal Jew; although he had been falsely accused, he did not want to retaliate; Paul did not bring counter charges against his own people].
Even though the charges against him were groundless, Paul felt no other recourse than to appeal to Caesar. However, he made it clear to the Roman Jewish leaders that he had no intention of bringing any charges against his own people. Paul was a loyal Jew and did not want to harm his own countrymen. Instead, his greatest desire for his fellow Jews was for them to come to faith in Christ (see Rom. 9:1-5).
28:20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel [cf. 23:6; 24:15; 26:7; 28:20; Paul believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to Israel] that I am bound with this chain.”
Paul’s reason for calling the Roman Jewish leaders together was to explain why he was a prisoner. He was a prisoner because of the hope of Israel or because he believed that the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited Messiah—the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to Israel. Christianity was not some illegitimate or dangerous sect, but instead the ultimate fulfillment of Judaism. This conviction was the source of contention between Paul and the Jews.
28:21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you.
The Roman Jews told Paul that they had not received any letters or oral reports about him from Judea. This is not surprising since Paul’s ship was probably among the first to arrive in Rome after winter. And, because of winter travel conditions, it is likely that the Jews in Jerusalem had not yet had an opportunity to send an emissary to communicate with their counterparts in Rome. Or, it is possible that they had given up hope of having Paul prosecuted since he had appealed his case to Caesar.
28:22 But we [Roman Jews] want [indicates they were receptive to what Paul had to say] to hear [because they knew little about this movement] what your views [concerning the Jesus movement] are, for we know that people everywhere [indicates that the awareness of Christianity had spread throughout the Roman world] are talking against this sect [from Gr. word hairesis from which we get our word heresy; considered an illegitimate branch of Judaism].”
While the Jewish religious leaders had not received any reports about Paul, they had heard about the Christian movement. Awareness of Christianity had spread throughout the Roman world. In fact, people everywhere were speaking either against or about this sect. The word sect translates a word from which our word heresy derives. The Jewish leaders in Rome were interested in hearing what Paul had to say about this growing movement. Like Paul, we should always take advantage of opportunities to talk to others about what we believe and why we believe it.
28:23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying [lodging; own rented quarters (cf. Acts 28:30)]. From morning till evening [shows intensity of Paul’s appeal and the depth of his concern for his own people (cf. Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1)] he explained [to lay out, to set forth] and declared to them the kingdom of God [the rule of God in the hearts of people] and tried to convince [persuade] them about Jesus [must always be the focus of our witnessing] from [cf. Acts 17:2-3; Paul’s message/witness was grounded in Scripture] the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
On a prearranged meeting day, large numbers of Roman Jews came to meet with Paul. Though confined to a house, Paul readily made appointments with and witnessed to people who were interested enough to come to him.) Those who came were interested in hearing what Paul had to say about the Christian movement and Paul was eager to preach the gospel to them. He witnessed to his guests from dawn to dusk. Using the Old Testament prophecies and references to the Messiah, Paul tried to persuade them concerning Jesus.
Jesus must always be the focus of our witnessing. Paul explained how passages from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets had been fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every Christian witness should learn how to use the Scriptures to share with others about Jesus.
28:24 Some were convinced [but not necessarily converted] by what he said, but others would not believe [cf. parable of the sower in Matt. 13:1-8, 18-23].
The response to Paul’s teaching and testimony was mixed. As is almost always the case, some of those present were persuaded by what he said. This does not necessarily mean that they were converted, but that they found Paul’s arguments convincing. Some of these may have actually become Christians. Others, however, did not believe. The parable of the sower teaches that all people will not respond in the same way to the message of salvation (see Matt. 13:1-8,18-23).
28:25 They disagreed [out of harmony] among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement [a desperate warning]: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet [cf. Isa. 6:9-10: God told Isaiah that people would not heed his message; cf. Jesus’ use of this passage in Matt. 13:13-15, Mk. 4:12, and Lk. 8:10]:
The Jews who were persuaded by what Paul said and those who did not believe argued among themselves. Paul had a final and solemn word for these unbelieving and arguing Jews. The particular Old Testament prophecy he quoted applied specifically to them. Citing Isaiah 6:9-10, he compared them to their stubborn forefathers who had refused to hear and heed the word of God. Paul’s guests began to leave when they heard this statement, perhaps angered by the comparison. How eternally dangerous to refuse to hear and believe, yet many do just that.
28:26 “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing [opportunity to hear] but never understanding [to comprehend]; you will be ever seeing [opportunity to see] but never perceiving.”
28:27 For this people’s heart has become calloused [to become fat, to become dull]; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
28:28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent [to send as an authoritative representative] to the Gentiles, and they will [indicates receptivity] listen!”
When the Jewish leaders in Rome rejected the gospel, Paul determined to find others—Gentiles—who would listen and respond to the gospel. He told these unbelieving Jews that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles. This does not mean that the Jews were excluded from the opportunity to receive God’s salvation. Instead it emphasizes the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s people.
The message of Acts is that God’s salvation has been sent to all peoples. When we encounter people whose hearts and minds are closed to the gospel, we can make plans to find others with open minds, which will give us other opportunities to witness.
28:29 After he said this, the Jews left, arguing vigorously among themselves.
This verse emphasizes again the fact that the Jews were arguing or debating among themselves (see Acts 28:25). The gospel challenges people to think about what they believe and in what or whom they are trusting in for their salvation. Those who left Paul’s residence continued to debate among themselves about what they had heard that day.
We should be patient and understand that these periods of debate and reflection are important in the conversion process. The Holy Spirit continues to work in the hearts and lives of those who have heard the truth of the gospel.
28:30 For two whole years [may indicate that the time period for Paul’s accusers to appear had elapsed] Paul stayed there [cf. Phil 1:12-14 re: how gospel flourished during his imprisonment] in his own rented house and welcomed all [cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23] who came to see him [indicates many opportunities to witness].
The events recorded in the book of Acts began in Jerusalem and ended in Rome. Paul stayed two whole years under house arrest in Rome. Even though he was confined to his own rented house, Paul enjoyed a measure of freedom. He was allowed to have visitors and graciously welcomed all who came to see him—Jews as well as Gentiles. As a result, God’s work never slowed down.
During this period, Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians and told them that his imprisonment had “actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). Even within limiting circumstances Paul took advantage of opportunities to witness to all the people who came his way.
28:31 Boldly [candidly, forcefully] and without hindrance [the Romans did not hinder Paul from sharing the good news; implies that the Romans (at this time) did not see Paul’s message as subversive] he preached the kingdom of God and taught [strong tradition that Paul wrote the prison epistles at this time (his first Roman imprisonment): Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon / Paul released and wrote First Timothy and Titus / Paul arrested and wrote Second Timothy (his “last will and testament”) / Paul executed (beheaded) by Roman authorities in A.D. 67/68] about the Lord Jesus Christ.
The book of Acts ends on a triumphant note. The Romans did not hinder Paul from sharing the good news. This indicates that, at this time, they did not consider Paul’s message to be either dangerous or subversive. Sadly, that attitude on the part of the Romans would change in the coming years.
Paul had the freedom to preach with full boldness about the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke did not record what happened to Paul, only that in a period of about thirty years, the gospel had spread from Jerusalem, across Asia Minor, all the way to Rome, the center of the world.
From Rome, the gospel has continued its march across continents and oceans, touching people of every tribe, and nation, and tongue. May God use us to write the continuing story of Acts as we faithfully tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Note: What to do when facing limitations.
L = Look for creative opportunities to share the gospel.
I = Invite others to meet with you.
M = Make the most of difficult situations.
I = Initiate conversations with those around you.
T = Talk freely about what Jesus has done for you.
A = Ask questions that can give you insight into what others believe.
T = Take practical steps to get to know others.
I = Inspire interest in the gospel through godly living.
O = Open the door for others to approach you.
N = Never allow obstacles to discourage you.
S = Stand firm on the truth of the gospel.