The Book of Acts (Chapter 28) (Part 40)
In the very last days before our Lord Jesus comes back Stan will make an onslaught on the faithful Body of the Messiah in a last ditch stand to eradicate faithful believers but he will fail. Even though he succeeds in destroying all religious structures and institutional denominationalism he will not be able to destroy the faithful Body of the Messiah. In these days only those who over the Lord Jesus and His Word and their brothers and sisters in the power of the Holy Spirit will be victorious even though many will lose their lives in this world. No matter what opposition Satan cooks up he will not be able to stop the spread of God’s Word or from souls from being saved. As the Lord Jesus Himself said; “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) As the prophet Joel said and the apostle Peter affirmed; “And whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved!” There may be “blood and fire and vapours of smoke and the constellations not giving their light but there will be souls being saved. After the harvest of mercy has come in, then the harvest of judgement will come. (Revelation 14: 14-20) Now let’s look at our text…
(Vs.1-2) “When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all.”
When the faithful Body of the Messiah enters the Great Tribulation the necessities of life for them will be limited. During this time the Lord will feed His people supernaturally through others who are not saved but will be favourably disposed towards Christians. God will have put it in their hearts to do this for His people even if He knows they will not ultimately be saved. Having said this it will also be that many of the unsaved will be saved when they see the faith, the courage and the spiritual fortitude of faithful believers in adversity.
(Vs.3-6) “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 itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.”
They say that when the believers went into the arena to face the lions that sometimes the power and glory of God rested on them to such a degree that the lions would not attack them. Paul was bitten by a deadly snake and those who saw it thought he had committed murder and that he was now being punished for it. Often the unsaved will see a believer struggling with adversity and laugh at them but they do this when they feel secure. But let adversity or ill health or sickness come upon them and they soon change their tune. In Paul’s case it was a miracle in that he shook off the snake into the fire and suffered no ill effects from its bite. Right at the end of the Great Tribulation the faithful Body of the Messiah will be rescued out of Satan’s hands. Even though Satan had been killing their bodies he could not kill them.
When Paul shook of the snake into the fire it teaches us about how the faithful Body of the Messiah will not be hurt by the second death which is the lake of fire into which Satan, the Antichrist, the false prophet and all of the unsaved will go for time and eternity and in those eternal flames be in conscious torment. In the last days believers will bring hope and healing to many who do not know God or the Lord Jesus Christ. Many unsaved will see the courage and perseverance of believers in adversity and will want to be saved.
Well Paul suffered no ill effects from the snake bite. It was miraculous to say the least and it happened not to draw attention to Paul but to be a witness to many on the island who had not heard the gospel. Those who saw it thought Paul was a god but undoubtedly he quickly put an end to that kind of thinking as he had done previously at Ephesus when the people wanted to make him a god.
(Vs. 7-10) “Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured. They also honoured us with many marks of respect; and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed.”
Healing and miraculous deeds of power were the marks of the first century Body of the Messiah. Healing, miracles, signs and wonders were done primarily through the hands of the apostles although others were also used in this way. Signs, miracles and wonders were done through the power of the Holy Spirit to draw the unsaved to faith in the Lord Jesus who was the source of all physical healing but more so of spiritual healing which the physical miracles pointed to. Paul’s wrote; “My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) Paul prayed and laid hands on Publius’ father and he got well. Others also came to be healed and undoubtedly Paul preached the gospel to them even though we are not specifically told that he did. The impact was clear and the people of the Island sent Paul and the others on their way.
During times of persecution and adversity God will send provisions and respite as he did to Elijah when he was weary and tired and feeling spiritually fragile after being relentlessly pursued by Jezebel. God used the ravens to feed Elijah. During the dark days of the Great Trouble God will feed and nourish His people supernaturally. Many will be martyred and others go to prison and others deprived of the things of this world and the basic necessities needed to survive but God will take care of all of His elect especially those who cry out to Him day and night to avenge them against their adversary Satan and his cohorts from hell. God will avenge them speedily in those days! Now let’s read on…
(Vs.11-14) “At the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead. After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. From there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium, and a day later a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.”
Sometimes there will a respite from adversity. After the severe persecution of Saul and his subsequent conversion we read; “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” (Acts 9:31) Paul and the others continued on their journey to Rome and there was fair weather and no further hindrances in reaching Rome. Satan cannot keep the pressure on. God is still in control and calls the shots where Satan is concerned. Like He did in the case of Job the LORD said to Satan this far and no more! It is the same with persecution and adversity for the believer’s stand for the Lord Jesus Christ. God will not allow anymore suffering than is necessary.
Even during the Great Tribulation there will be places of refuge for God’s beleaguered, tried and tested saints as there was for the prophet Elijah. Paul and his companions found fellowship in their journey to Rome. It was undoubtedly a refreshing time for them all for seven days, being God’s perfect provision for them all. Even the Roman soldiers responsible for Paul saw that they could trust him. Paul had no intention to try to escape because he knew he was in God’s will and that he had to appear before Caesar in Rome. Satan had tried to stop Paul from going to Rome but had failed because of the providence and power of God over the whole situation. Well they finally landed in Rome. And so we read…
(Vs. 15-16) “And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.”
Word spread quickly among the believers in Rome that the apostle Paul had arrived and came down to meet him at the harbour and to accompany him back to the city. Paul was encouraged by them having been tossed about by adversity and hardship along with his travelling companions. Paul was allowed to have his own room with a soldier guarding him but Paul was free to have a ministry even though he was in chains. He may have been chained but God’s Word could not be chained either by men or demons!
(Vs.17-20) “After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation. For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.”
Even though Paul knew he had been called and commissioned by the Lord Jesus to be an apostle to the Gentiles he still carried a burden in his heart for his fellow Israelites. Whenever he entered a city the first thing he usually did was to go down to the local synagogue and preach to them about their Messiah the Lord Jesus. As usual he declared to them his innocence and that there was no proof of guilt against him as far as doing harm where Judaism was concerned. He was a Torah compliant Jew and nobody could fault him in this. He went on to say that the chains he wore was for the hope of Israel being of course their Messiah our Lord Jesus who had been sacrificed for them on the altar of the cross. Paul never lost sight of the fact that the gospel was to the Jew first before the Gentile.
As he wrote to the believers in Rome; “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Greek. For the gospel reveals the righteousness of God that comes by faith from start to finish, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:15-17) This was the message burning in the heart of God’s apostle for his brethren. Sadly the message was to fall on deaf ears with most of them.
(Vs.21-22) “They said to him, “We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.”
To those who are religious but lost there is a fascination with those who are born again and move in the power of the Spirit. Those filled with the Spirit of God always challenge the dead and legalistic religion of those who do not know God but profess to know Him. Paul had a clear testimony and there was nothing reported about him that was bad. These religious Jews knew about the People of the way as the believers in the Lord Jesus were called and obviously the religious Jews wanted to hear more. It would prove to be a great opportunity for Paul to address his fellow Jews but as always there was the chance that they would reject his message as they did in most of the places Paul preached. So these religious leaders set a day and time for Paul to speak to them and their theological colleagues. It would be a field day for Paul as he tackled this so called ‘college of Cardinals’ head on! And do we read…
(Vs.23) “When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.”
The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17) Paul knew that the scriptures were the instrument the Holy Spirit uses in His convicting and converting work. He understood that the seed with life in it from the Holy Spirit was the Word of God and that it was the sword or weapon the Spirit used to convict of sin and to fight Satan and the spirits of wickedness in high places. Paul knew that it was the Word of God wielded in the power of the Holy Spirit that brought Satan’s spiritual strongholds tumbling down big time!
These Jewish religious leaders undoubtedly knew their scriptures but had no inner revelation of its truth being devoid of the Spirit and in need of being born again. Paul; also understood that a partial hardening had come of their hearts towards their Messiah and that for most of the Jewish people a veil was also over their hearts. The Holy Spirit was at work as we read…
(Vs.24) “Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.”
The Holy Spirit will convict men of their need to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for their Salvation but He will not do the repenting or believing for them, that they must do for themselves. Many were persuaded to become believers but would not make that commitment. There must have been those among that large Jewish religious gathering that were being persuaded and convicted about the things Paul was preaching. Some just would not believe. This is a mystery why one will respond and the other does not even though they both hear the same message. While the Holy Spirit enables a sinner to be capable of responding the Holy Spirit will not override the human will in this matter otherwise texts like John 3:16 do not make sense. After Paul had been preaching his listeners could not agree. Possibly they thought to gang up on Paul but in the end they could not best him in an argument. When the Holy Spirit is really in control of a believers tongue even Satan will be hard pressed to stop the power of that believers testimony to the grace and mercy of God. After listening to Paul they started to leave. They wanted to hear what Paul had to say but the sayings were just too hard for them to handle. And so we read…
(Vs 25-28) “And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say,“ You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes; Otherwise they might see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.”’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.”
The religious Jews loved to hear the scriptures read and prided themselves on their knowledge of the scriptures. They thought they were guides to the spiritually blind and yet could not see the spiritual blindness residing in them. They were in reality the blind leading the blind and in the end both would fall into the pit of hell. They could transverse land and sea to make one convert but make them instead a child of hell as they were themselves. Paul recognized that what Isaiah the prophet had experienced that he was experiencing the same thing as well.
The religious mind that is not open to the ministry of the Holy Spirit will have an appetite to hear but no capability to respond to what they hear. While they hang on to their religious systems, regulations and commandments and doctrines of men they cannot be saved! Religion in the end makes people dull. They get tired of trying to please God and even though they keep up an outward religious veneer, secretly, they give in to their fleshly sinful appetites over which they have no control because they are spiritually dead men on the inside, spiritual corpses and mausoleums filled with the bones of dead men as it were.
Religion may dull the pain of conviction but will not deal with the problem of inbred sin and rebellion. The problem with these religious people Paul was preaching to was not a case of a spiritual ignorance and blindness but a wilful and deliberate blindness refusing to see the truth even when confronted with it and convicted by it. They just refused to believe.
When someone refuses to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus to save them God can do nothing further. The Lord Jesus is God’s last word to those who are unsaved. If they do not deal with the Lord Jesus they cannot be saved! As the Lord Jesus Himself said; “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36) True Biblical faith that saves the soul is not only believing but acting upon what we believe. What we really believe is what we will be in our words and actions. Paul also wrote about the obedience of faith or the faith that results in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Belief without obedience is faith without works and both are dead.
Faith is something that one acts upon. Abraham was justified by faith but a faith that he acted upon. When he acted on what he believed he found justification before God. So in the end Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah and recognized that his ministry would find fruit among Gentiles and not the Jews. He also realised that God’s plan was that Gentiles be saved. Having said this in no way did away with God’s future plans for Israel as a nation but that plan would not come into fruition for another 2,000 years. In 1948 God started to turn His grace back to Israel. Make no mistake about that. God always remembers His covenants and that includes the ones He has made with Israel. In the last days God will pour out His Spirit one last time upon Israel and for the nation it will be “Life from the dead!”
(Vs. 29-31) “When he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves. And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”
Paul was a prisoner and we know that he would die in Rome at the hands of Nero. However, this was to come and in the meantime he was free to preach the Word of God unhindered. Even though he was physically chained his spirit was free. He knew that God’s Word could not be chained either by men or by demons either.(2 Timothy 2:9) For two years he taught God’s Word and undoubtedly many Gentiles were brought to faith, many of whom in time would go to the lions in the arena or become human torches to light up Nero’s garden parties. Peter also foresaw this when he was in Rome at the end of his life. Both Paul and Peter were martyred for their faith under Nero. They died in around 68AD. In 70AD Jerusalem fell to the Roman armies and the Temple destroyed bringing Mosaic Judaism to an end.
The Jewish people had heard and seen the Lord Jesus in action but just refused to come to Him as their their Lord,Saviuor and Messiah and the axe that had been laid to the root toppled the tree 40 years after the Lord Jesus had ascended to the Father. Right up to the end Paul had freedom to preach the unchanging and unadulterated Word of the Living God even though he was chained physically. In the Time of the Big Trouble believers, though in physical chains and adversity and in much affliction, will find a freedom and a joy in the Holy Spirit and find themselves unhindered when preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. Only when the job is done can the Lord Jesus come again. When will He come back? When the job is done! As the Lord Jesus Himself said; “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)