Daily Devotional

October 22, 2019

Daybreak: Acts 28:1-31

“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. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed.” Acts 28:8-9

It is important to be faithful in utilizing every opportunity to share the Gospel message. Several years ago, some of our church people were visiting Aurangabad, India. While walking around in a local shopping center, they went into a small department store. There, a man approached them and asked what they were doing in India.

One of the women explained that she was in India to tell others about the love of Jesus and how He changes lives. The man was so interested that he asked if she would speak to all of his employees. When she agreed, he gathered his workers together and began to explain what each of them needed in their lives. He asked, “Can Jesus heal this man?” For another, “Can Jesus take away smoking?” Next, “Can Jesus take away bad attitudes?” The questions went on and on.

What joy this Christian woman felt as she responded in the affirmative to each question and told the assembled group that Jesus saves, and how He died on the Cross so that He could save them from their sins! She explained that salvation is the starting point in a walk with Jesus, and that He could solve every problem these people had in their lives. She handed out copies of a Gospel tract in the Hindi language explaining the love of Jesus and His forgiving power, and how through salvation, each one could make Heaven his or her eternal home. The employees took the tracts eagerly, and their eyes lit up as they heard about Jesus for the first time.

On her next visit, she went back to the shopping mall, only to find that the store had been closed. The impact the message of salvation had on these individuals will not be known until we reach Heaven, but she had done her part by speaking of Jesus when she had an opportunity.

In our lesson text today, Paul was another who took advantage of an unexpected opening to share the Gospel. As a prisoner bound for trial in Rome, the Apostle had come through a ferocious storm lasting at least two weeks, and then a shipwreck. After making it to land, he had been bitten by a venomous viper while gathering sticks to build a fire. However, Paul was always ready to minister to others in the Name of the Lord. When he lodged with the chief man on the island and learned that his father was desperately ill, the Apostle prayed for him, and the man was healed. The result of this miracle was that many others on the island came to Paul for healing.

Our opportunities for sharing the Gospel message will be different than Paul’s. And we likely will never speak about Jesus in a department store in India. But we will have our own opportunities! When God opens a door, let us purpose to do what we can to plant the Gospel seed. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to cause the seed to grow, but we can be sure that our faithfulness in reaching out to those who do not know about Jesus will yield results in eternity.

Background

Luke concluded his account of the Acts of the Apostles by detailing the end of Paul’s transport to Rome along with other prisoners. After their ship broke apart in the storm, they came to shore on the island of Malta, known by the Greeks and Romans as Melita. There they encountered “barbarians” — people who were not educated in the Greek language. Being descendants of the Phoenicians, the islanders were actually very civilized and educated in their own right.

Being educated did not prevent them from being superstitious, however. First, they assumed Paul must be receiving “vengeance” or justice from the gods after he was bitten by a snake they knew to be poisonous. Then, in a matter of minutes, their suspicion turned to admiration at his divine protection and they decided he must be a god himself.

Publius was a Roman name or title given to the chief official of Malta. Members of the island’s elite were likely Roman citizens, conversant in Latin and Greek. The “bloody flux” most likely was dysentery, a disease of the bowels that is very painful, accompanied by a fever, and often deadly.

Paul and his companions on this sea journey waited three months at Malta until it was safe to travel. The sailing season began in early February, but most voyages commenced in late February or early March. Luke continued his travelogue, cataloging the places they stopped along the way as he had before the shipwreck. The distance from Malta to Syracuse was nearly one hundred miles. Situated on the east coast, it was the main city on the island of Sicily.

Rhegium was a city on the mainland of Italy, near the strait that separated Sicily from Italy. It was a common stop for travelers journeying between Sicily and Rome. From there, it took only a day for the ship Paul was on to reach Puteoli, due to a favorable wind from the south. At that location, Paul and Luke met fellow Christians who had heard of their coming. They were able to stay there a week, evidence that the captain of the ship was accommodating to Paul. The journey inland from Puteoli to Rome was over one hundred miles and usually took about a week.

The Forum of Appius was a small town which was forty-three miles from Rome. Some Roman Christians came this far to meet Paul.

As the largest city of the ancient Mediterranean world and capital of the Roman Empire, Rome had close to one million residents. There, Paul was allowed to live in his own rented house rather than being imprisoned. He used this “parole” as an opportunity to meet with anyone who came requesting his account of Jesus, guidance, or encouragement.

Apparently the decree that the emperor Claudius had made to expel the Jews from Rome (see Acts 18:2) had been allowed to lapse, and some Jews had returned to Rome. Several of their leaders came to see Paul, having heard of the events in Jerusalem regarding Jesus, and wanting to hear Paul’s account. Paul concluded his presentation by stating that God’s salvation had been sent to the Gentiles, which was a main theme of the Book of Acts.

The Book of Acts ends with Paul’s first Roman imprisonment; Luke states that Paul lived two years under house arrest. According to tradition, Paul was set free for a time after this. Historians indicate that charges had to be brought within two years, so he possibly was released when that time ran out. His letter to the church at Philippi, which was written during this first imprisonment, records Paul’s expectation of being released shortly (see Philippians 2:24). Later, Paul was imprisoned again, most likely in Rome, and under much more strict conditions. It was then that he wrote his final epistle, 2 Timothy. The New Testament does not say when or how Paul died, but historians believe he was martyred sometime after the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64 and before the last year of Nero’s reign in A.D. 68.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outline - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
    E.    The journey of Paul to Rome
        3.    His witness on the way to Rome
            b.    His witness on Malta (28:1-15)
                (1)    Paul’s miraculous preservation (28:1-6)
                (2)    Paul’s healing of Publius’ father (28:7-10)
                (3)    Paul’s continued journey toward Rome (28:11-15)
        4.    His witness in Rome (28:16-31)
            a.    The occasion for his witness (28:16-22)
            b.    The content of his witness (28:23-28)
            c.    The result of his witness (28:29)
            d.    The summary of Paul’s witness in Rome (28:30-31)

A Closer Look

  1. What was the initial reaction of the island natives when the snake bit Paul? How did it change when he wasn’t hurt?

  2. Why do you think the captain of the ship allowed Paul such freedom? 

  3. What are some ways you can serve others on a day-to-day basis?

Conclusion

Opportunities to share the Gospel message will come to each of us, sometimes in unexpected ways. Let us purpose to be alert for such times, and be faithful to utilize them for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom.

Reference Materials