ACTS - CHAPTER 28 -SHIPWRECK AT MALTA
ACTS – CHAPTER 28 - (1) SHIPWRECK AT MALTA (2) PAULS FIRST TEN DAYS IN ROME
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
August 16, 2022, the Year of Our Lord
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
After a wild night in the sea of Adria, the storm having crashed the Alexandrian corn-ship, and the emptying of all the cargo, danger and death have stared them in the face, the sailors and crew found themselves shipwrecked on the island of Malta. The professional sailors would surely have been familiar with this island. It is the largest island in an archipelago some fifty miles south of the Italian Island of Sicily. Numerous bays along the coastline provide good harbors. Malta brings Paul within 430 miles of Rome.
Acts 28:1-2: Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.
“Malta has a subtropical-Mediterranean climate with very mild winters and hot summers. According to International Living, Malta is the country with the best climate in the world.” (Wikipedia).
The religion of Malta today is the Roman Catholic apostolic religion. Religious teaching is provided in all state schools as part of compulsory education. Tradition holds that the church was founded by Saint Paul the Apostle and saint Publius, who was its first bishop. The economy of Malta is classified as an advanced economy. (Wikipedia).
It seems the kindness of the natives to Paul and to the crew of the ship brought a perpetual blessing to this island and its people.
Acts 28:3-5: "But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm."
This is a spirit of superstition. Pagan mythology held that “divine justice” (the goddess Nemesis) finally caught up with escaped criminals in the end.
The Greek word Luke uses for “fastened,” is one which medical writers employ to describe a poisonous bite. From what we know of the viper’s jaw and the function of its poison glands, plus the attitude of the natives, it seems clear that God miraculously stayed the normal effect of the bite and saved his servant from a painful death.
28:6: "They were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god."
But as the natives watched and nothing happened to Paul, their minds shifted to the other extreme. The same superstition which let them to conclude he was being punished by divine vengeance, now led them to suppose he was a god. So,
for the second time, in the face of the miraculous, Paul is received as a god. We can be sure he denied it just as vigorously here on Malta as he did in the town of Lystra. It is interesting that primitive people have no trouble believing a god can take on human form and walk among men.
28: 7-10: "In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed. He laid his hands on him and healed him. When this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary."
Paul has a revival that seems to still be affecting the island in the 21st century. This is retaliation against Satan trying to destroy God’s plan for Rome through the apostle; as well as all the future epistles which are yet to be written from Rome to the churches.
PUBLIUS’s conversion led to Malta being the first Christian nation in the West. Publius, was the Roman Governor of Malta. He became the first Bishop of Malta following his conversion to Christianity. Since Malta was a province of Sicily, he served under the governor of Sicily. As a matter of protocol, Julius, the Roman Centurion, would have paid his respects to the magistrate. Julius would have given an account of Paul’s help at sea; and the dubious political/religious charges against him. Publius showed hospitality and for that kindness, the magistrate was well paid for from the goodness of God. God will not allow himself to be any man’s debtor. We will never out-give God.
Malta fever is a disease still common in the island. Paul laid his hands on him and healed him. Laying-on-of-hands is one of God’s provisions for healing. The Malta revival began and covered the island in three months. Never limit God on time, power, glory, grace, and his ability to save a whole island in just three months. We have less than three months to our mid-term elections. Let us pray the Lord will save this nation with a revival.
28:11-12: "After three months, we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. Landing at Syracuse, (Sicily) we stayed three days."
The three months were probably November, December, and January. They left Caesarea in the fall and arrived in Rome in the spring. Many ships had wintered at the main harbor of Malta (some 8 miles S.E. of the spot where Paul’s ship was wrecked). Julius, the Roman Centurion, would only have to commandeer a ship and he would become the ranking officer.
Interesting to me that Luke mentions the figurehead of the “Twin Brothers,” which would refer to the twin sons of Zeus (Jupiter). These twin brothers were regarded as the patrons of navigation and were the favorite gods of seamen.
The following twenty-eight verses cover Paul’s last years in Rome. Verses 13-26 cover Paul’s first ten days in Italy. PAUL’S FIRST TEN DAYS IN ROME The gospel power of the all-powerful name of Jesus of Nazareth was the watchword and the life-motto of this great soldier of the cross, from the hour he first lifted his sword, until the hours in this city of his closing years, he laid that armor down and the good fight was finished. He nobly redeemed his pledge, upheld his testimony, and fulfilled his commission: Acts 23:11: Be of good cheer, Paul, for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.
Paul’s ministry in Rome begins with Acts. 28:13-14: From there we brought a compass, and came to Rhegium; and after one day the south wind blew and we came the next day to Puteoli. There we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days; and so, we went toward Rome. Rhegium (now Reggio), Italy, is at the toe of the Italian boot. It was only 6 or 7 miles from Sicily and 150 miles to Puteoli, Italy. It is of interest that Christians were found in Puteoli---another evidence of the wide spread of the Gospel by A.D. 61.
As Paul was invited to stay with them, his ministry in Italy began there. We have no idea what faithful Christian started the church there---possibly one of the disciples who fled Jerusalem at the time of the persecutions. Julius, the Roman Centurion again gives Paul favor and they are permitted to spend seven days ministering to the brethren. Apparently, that time was needed to get a response to a dispatch sent to Rome and outfit his soldiers with new equipment to replace that lost in the ship-wreck. It was mandatory that all military units enter Rome in full regalia.
Luke anticipates the longed-for goal: “And so we went toward Rome.” The wait in Puteoli would have allowed time for messengers to announce the coming of the apostle. Paul had prepared the church for his coming years before by writing his Letter to the Romans. The Christians in Rome set out on the Appian Way to welcome the apostle. One party waited for him at Three Inns, which was thirty miles from Rome. Another party made it to the market town of Appi Forum, 10 miles further.
28:15: From there, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appi forum, and the three taverns; whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
Paul had written to the Roman Christians, but he didn’t know how they would receive him. Now his heart is warmed by their effort in coming this distance to greet him and escort him to the city. It gave him new courage to face the work he has to do for Jesus in that great city. It could not have been easy for him to arrive in chains.
Christians always consider encouraging the ministers of the gospel who are trampling out the Word of God. We all fight the good fight of faith and we take courage by the love and kindnesses of the saints. It is surely a “mark” against those Christians, especially in leadership, who do not extend the right hand of Christian fellowship to one another.
28:16: When we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was allowed to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
I have to believe that by this time, all of those prisoners were saved and preaching the gospel in the prisons. Again, the Lord gave Paul favor and a dwelling from which to minister the Gospel of Christ. This great favor was arranged by the Lord, but could have been due to the letter which king Agrippa drafted for procurator Festus. We are not told if they letter was lost at sea during the ship-wreck. It is believed he was not allowed to leave his quarters to visit the synagogues or work at his trade, but he was able to write letters to friends in other cities and counsel those who came to him. It was during this time that he wrote his prison epistles.
Note the “We” has been dropped from this point on. While Luke was nearby for much of the imprisonment, he was unable to serve as an intimate companion. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon are believed to have been written during this two-year period of imprisonment from 60a.d.-62a.d. Hebrews, Titus, I Timothy, are believed to have been written from 64 a.d.-67a.d. ---after his first imprisonment. The final epistle is II Timothy from 67-68 a.d.in prison and just before his death.
28:17-20: Just three days after his arrival in Rome, Paul summoned all the local Jewish leaders to his quarters for a meeting. When they were assembled, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have never done anything against our people or the customs of our fathers, I was seized by those in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans as a prisoner. The Romans questioned me and had a mind to release me because there was no capital charge against me. But the Jews objected and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, even though I have no complaint against my own nation. As you can see, I am a prisoner. This is why I asked you to come, that I might talk with you and explain that it is because of the ‘Hope of Israel’ that I am wearing this chain.”
Bearing in mind, the exhaustion and deprivation Paul suffered, I marvel that he moved so fast to begin his ministry in Rome. Only two days are spent getting settled in a place to live. On the third day, he summoned Rome’s leading Jews to his quarters. The invitations were probably carried by Luke, Aristarchus, Timothy or Demas, who were known to be with him. Other friends had perhaps also traveled to Rome once they knew Paul was headed there for a trial.
I am amazed that he was able to command such a turn out from so many. Obviously, the Jews in Rome had heard of Paul. He was probably the chief topic of conversation among Jews everywhere. Paul was careful to remember that his commission was to the Jew first (Ro. 1:14--16). Paul was anxious to make his defense to the Roman Jews. They knew he had arrived as a prisoner and had appealed to Caesar. He gave his defense on four counts:
1. He was not a prisoner because of any crime against the people of Israel or their customs.
2. He had appealed to Caesar as a matter of self-defense since the Jews at Jerusalem has protested his release when the Romans found him innocent of any capital crime.
3. He had no counter charges to bring against his own countrymen.
4. The reason he was a prisoner was because he believed in the Messiah as prophesied by the Hebrew Scriptures. When he says the “Hope of Israel”, he is quoting the prophet Jeremiah concerning our Savior.
The Jews denied receiving any word from Jerusalem with specific charges against Paul. Neither had anyone been sent to Rome to press any charges against him. They had no instructions to present the case for the accusers.
28: 21-22: They said to him, “we have not received letters out of Judea’ concerning you, nor any of the brethren that came showed or spoke any harm of you. But we desire to hear of you what you think; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
The high priest and his colleagues must have realized the hopelessness of seeking an adverse sentence in Rome when they had failed in Caesarea. The elders however wanted to hear the truth about the Nazarene sect. Because of the slow growth of the Christian church in Rome in the past 60 years, and the frequent decrees of expulsion against the Jews, there was probably little contact either way between the two communities in Rome.
28: 23: "When they had appointed 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 to evening."
The Jewish leaders flocked to Paul’s house. The place was packed. Obviously, it must have been a large structure. He preached Jesus from Genesis to Malachi. According to his written epistles and this verse, we know he preached the Kingdom of God. This was the great hope of the Jews. However, they had to accept entrance into the Kingdom contingent upon the Atonement and the arrival of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.
When he began to link the rejected and crucified Jesus of Nazareth with the Atonement, the atmosphere changed. We think we have preached after an hour. Paul preached from dawn to dusk. Paul’s presentation of the gospel to the Jews has been considered in Acts and his method is unchanged. This constituted a solemn testimony to the Kingdom of God which depended on the recognition of the rightful King. When the Lord gives us a message, we have but one message to preach.
Both Jesus and the Apostles preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Jesus was with Paul first, last, foremost, midmost, upmost, and without end. Wherever he went, the theme was the same; to the astute philosophers of the Areopagus; the uncultured peasants in the wilds of upper Asia; the Ephesian elders on the sea beach; sailors in the midst of the Adriatic storm; or to the warriors of this ancient capital. A hundred times over in the course of his Epistles, is that name mentioned, which is above every name.
We never hear of Paul but once in tears and that was weeping over the enemies of the cross. He again tells the story once more at Rome; ---the theme of all themes---the power of all powers---the gospel of the grace of God to dying men and a dying world! In one of his letters written from Rome, this is his watchword and manifesto, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14).
Though Rome is the world’s metropolis, he declares that he is not ashamed to preach even there the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Thus, we have Romans, Jews and Greeks---all specially named and grouped together. This moral hero knew his weapons. He had ranged against him the powers of man; but he was conscious of “a power” mightier than all, and which out of weakness made him strong.
Christian when the Lord sends us into battle, know your weapons and how to handle them. The propagators of the Gospel were scorned and vilified as revolutionary fanatics. In the words of the chief of his own nation, who visited him in his Roman lodging, “as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” News Flash---- If we preach the power of God through the Blood and Gospel of Jesus Christ in the 21st century ---nothing has changed. We are still considered as the fanatics on the fringe. They just aren’t killing us “yet” in the United States.
What was the sum of Paul’s theme? That the world, the proud world, in the haughty zenith of its glory, should come and lay that glory at the foot of a cross of shame; and confess that, for salvation, its millions were indebted from first to last to a dying Redeemer! Their poets, philosophers and soothsayers had dimly foreshadowed the advent of some great Prince, who was to descend on the earth and inaugurate an era of peace and blessing.
Could these dreams possibly have so poor a fulfillment as in the incarnation of the Christ of Nazareth, the son of a lowly woman of Galilee? What! The proud Roman! He who never imagined any of his heroes could die---who dreamt of them as translated into palaces of glory or changed into constellations in the firmament. One mightier than all his gods or demi-gods, the Savior of sinners, was a crucified Man, who perished on a felon’s cross! What was perhaps more insulting to a Roman and by this apostolic expounder and interpreter is the “POWER”. Who dared mention such a rival word in a Roman ear? Their empire was the embodiment and apotheosis of Power.
Again – The Jew! Is it possible he can bid farewell to all his revered and time-honored rites? Is the temple and all its lofty pageants, the pomp of his solemn feasts, the pride of his ritual, all to pale before the reputed Son of a carpenter? Can he receive as King of the royal nation, a crucified Nazarene? And that too, when his own law utters the words---“Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree?”
The Greek! Is he to part with all his divine philosophy to accept the teaching and doctrines of one who perished by a cruel death among a nation he esteems as barbarian? Amid the beautiful dreams of his mythology, that peopled every wood, grove and stream with a deity, must he say, with St. Paul, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified?” Nor was it only old Romans, Jews and Greeks, who opposed the Gospel---human nature to this hour remains unchanged and the offense of the cross will never cease.
What! Says the pride of intellect, reason, pride and self-righteousness, am I to stand indebted for salvation to a crucified Man? “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to them that are saved, it is the power of God.” Roman pride may scorn it and Jewish bigotry may frown on it. Greek philosophy may discard it; yet the day is coming when Roman, Jew, Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, will own that throne-crowned MAN as “King of kings and Lord of lords!”
This Gospel of Christ is the power of God. Of the dominant power at present in our nation, we have reason to be “ashamed”; ---the power of brute force---the monster-power of war---the power associated with paganism and the savage ages. Let us confront the demon-power with the angel-power---the power which has proved earth’s greatest blessing---the power of guilty man to destruction, with the power of Almighty God “unto salvation”. Without this gospel of Christ, the world does not have one ray of light to be saved from the guilt and dominion of sin.
Oratory, poetry, philosophy, taste, intellect, and reason, are all baffled and confounded; professing themselves on this great mystery to be wise, they become fools. The world had tried for ages and generations to solve the problem; but every oracle was dumb on the great question, “What must I do to be saved?” Acts 28: 25-26: When they could not agree among themselves, they departed, after Paul had spoken one word, Well spoke the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, Saying, "Go to this people, and say, hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see and not perceive; For the heart of this people has waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; less 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."
Paul announced his purpose of going to Rome in Romans 1: 15-16: I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are in Rome also. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. To be continued next week – St. Paul in Rome
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor Eastgate Ministries Church www.eastgateministries.com
Scripture from K.J.V. – I entered into the labors of C.S. Lovett’s Lights on the Book of Acts; John Ross MacDuff, St. Paul in Rome and F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary by: E. H. Trenchard; “Such A One Was Paul the Aged,” Bible Study 6/2/15 pastor Carolyn Sissom; Comments and conclusions are my own. The quest for this study came by a “quickening”.