Thursday, May 10, 2012

Acts Bible Study Notes Chapter 28

Acts 28

-The remarkable description of the events on Malta begin the last chapter of this incredible book of Scripture. The natives, which history tells us were of Phoenician descent, were extremely kind and helpful to the weary and beaten down travelers. They were nourished back to well being. *Application* The word of God is clear that we should be welcoming to strangers and sojourners who come along our path (Exodus 22:21; 23:9, Leviticus 19:10, 33-34; 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:20-21; 26:11, Zechariah 7:10, Matthew 25:34-40). In fact we may at times be entertaining angels and be total unaware of it (Hebrews 13:2). These people from Malta should be our example in how to help people in a sincere and loving fashion.

-Paul pulls out a snake that fastens to his hand and flings it in the fire on the Island of Malta. When he doesn’t swell up and die, the accusers turn to worshipers (Luke 10:19). Although the text is silent after this event, I am sure that Paul corrected them and directed them to the true God and Lord, Jesus Christ, who gives the power for protection and all good things.

-Paul does a healing of a leading man of the island’s dad. This leads to other miraculous healings and a powerful witness on the island. The crew destined for Rome is treated well with many marks of respect as they set sail and were provided with all that they needed for their journey. *Application* What a powerful story of hospitality in a desperate situation. God ordained this event for safe passage to the capital of the Roman empire so that His fame could be spread throughout the whole world! God looks after His servants and works all things out for good (Romans 8:28).

-As the party ventured northward towards Rome they made several stops along the way. It is fascinating to read how the brethren (God fearing believers in Christ) connected up with Paul and his entourage. The question becomes, how did they come to know Christ in these places? The answer lies somewhere in the spreading of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. It may have been other converts that matriculated to these environs. It could have been people who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost and returned with the joy and Spirit of the Lord to spread the gospel (Acts 2:10). In any event, the word of God was reaching places further and further away from Jerusalem as was prophesied (Acts 1:8). These brethren encouraged Paul a great deal. This gave him the vigor and strength to go on and face the call of God on his life in Rome. *Application* Be an encourager to someone today. All they may need to continue on is a good word from you. People need words of blessing and hope.

-Paul finally enters Rome and is given some privileges by his guardians. He calls together the leading men of the Jews and witnesses to them defending his innocence of being against his people and their customs. We must understand that Paul never ventured away from his Jewish roots. He abided by the Law, but accurately pointed out its deficiencies in its ability to provide salvation (Galatians 2:15-3:29). As was always the case, some were persuaded to believe in Christ and received eternal life. Other rejected the message of God and left unbelieving. Paul quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 upon their rejection of the gospel and again turned his message of salvation to the Gentiles. There arose a great dispute over the issue of Jesus concerning His work on the cross and resurrection. *Application* This fight of faith still rages today doesn’t it?

-Paul remains two full years in his own rented quarters awaiting trial and his accusers. He was welcoming all who would come to him as he preached the Kingdom of God and taught the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. God had given him an open door! He was able to even penetrate Caesar’s household with faith in Christ (Philippians 4:21-23). We are not told from Scripture what happened next in Paul’s life. The point of the Holy Spirit’s work unto the utter ends of the earth (Rome was the commercial and governmental center of the known world) was accomplished in the text, and therefore there was no need for further revelation. Historical tradition has that Paul was released for a short period of time (maybe because of the two year limit on the prosecution bringing a case to trial). There is no record of him standing before Caesar. He also indicated that he hoped he would soon be released in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 2:24). Paul mentioned places he would like to take the gospel like Spain (Romans 15:24,28). He may have gotten that chance according to early Christian literature that speak plainly about other travels by Paul.

Writings from nonbiblical orthodox and heterodox traditions include:

  • The Acts of Paul (Orthodox, 160-190) A collection of legendary stories which emphasize the asceticism of Paul and his followers
  • The Acts of Thecla (Orthodox, circulated separately and as a part of the Acts of Paul, 160-190) Legends about a young virgin from Iconium (now Konya, Turkey) who refused to marry and followed Paul in the face of many persecutions
  • The Acts of Peter and Paul (Orthodox, c. 200) Only the first chapters of this book describing Paul and Peters last days and their confrontation with Nero survive
  • Acts of Xanthippe, Polyxena, and Rebecca (Orthodox, c. 270) Legends about some women in Spain who leave their husbands to follow Paul
  • Apocalypse of Paul (Orthodox, c. 380) A widely circulated book which claimed to describe Paul's experiences when he was caught up in the third heaven (I Corinthians 12:2-4)
  • Apocalypse of Paul (Gnostic, 2nd century) This heterodox fragment of a book exalts Paul above all of the other apostles. It is entirely different from the one by the same name listed above.

-Tradition tells us that Paul eventually died a martyr’s death in Rome in the mid to late 60s A.D. His life is a testimony of the graciousness of God and a man who died to himself and lived in Christ’s resurrection power (Galatians 2:21). His example has been the standard for Christian missionaries ever since.

-God’s church was expanding and the world was becoming aware of His love and chance for redemption. We read in Acts the work of the Holy Spirit in ever-widening circles of influence through merchants, travelers, slaves, jailers, church leaders, males, females, Gentiles, Jews, rich, and poor. The gospel is for all and we should receive and transmit it gladly. It is the hope for eternity! Continue the story of God’s glory!

Verses to Memorize: Acts 28:30-31

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