Acts 24-28 Viper Falls in Fire and Paul Preaches in Rome

Psalm 128:1-6 Blessed and Bountiful
Ps 128:1 Song of The Steps* “Blessed is everyone who fears Yahweh, who walks in his ways. 2 For you will eat the labor of your hands. You will be blessed, and it will be well with you. 3 Your wife will be as a fruitful vine, in the innermost parts of your house; your children like olive plants, around your table. 4 Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears Yahweh. 5 May Yahweh bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. 6 Yes, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel."

Observations: (*See note on Ps 120) 128:1-5 The third psalm of this triad (126-128) focuses on peace in Jerusalem, as do the other third psalms. The path to blessing is fearing God (2x) and walking in His ways. The blessings promised are satisfaction, well-being, fruitfulness, goodness, a heritage, and peace in the community of believers. Not a bad reward for avoiding evil. Olive plants were a source of sustenance and security.
Application: Fear God; walk in His ways; get blessed. Or put another way: care most about pleasing God, do His will rather than your own, and live happily ever after.
Prayer: God of temporal and eternal delights, may my ways please You, and would You show me anything that is displeasing to You. Thanks. Amen.
Proverbs 31:13-15 A Worthy Working Woman
Pr 31:13 “She seeks wool and flax, and works eagerly/willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships. She brings her food from afar. 15 She rises also while it is yet night, gives food to her household, and tasks for her servant girls.

Observations: 31:13-15 Turning from her character of the praiseworthy woman, and her relationship with her husband, the writer next praises her management of her household. She is an eager and disciplined worker. No soap operas and bonbons for this gal. The Hebrew word for “eager” is used to signify delight and pleasure. It is her pleasure to work, turning raw wool and flax into useful and probably beautiful garments. When a person delights in their work, creative things happen. She also seeks out a variety of “imported” foods to tantalize the palate, rather than just the same old, same old. An early riser, she makes sure everyone has what they need and assigns and supervises the tasks of her staff. Where does she get her energy? Vitamins or the supernatural strength of God? Maybe both :)
Application: Taking delight in the will of God and drawing on His strength to do it creatively and well, is the mark of a godly individual.
Prayer: God, thanks that You give everything I need to do Your will excellently, may I embrace Your grace and not settle for mediocrity. Amen.

Acts 24-28 Luke's account of how God gets Paul to Rome reads like the script of a movie, with intrigue, drama, peril, and action. Yet God protects and guides Paul through a variety of means, some natural and some supernatural, to bring His servant to the fulfillment of His will. God uses the injustice and lies of Satan's agents to bring Paul before rulers, governors, a king, and eventually an emperor, to proclaim His truth. Paul reasons with the Jews about the Kingdom which God promised in the OT, and some accepted it, and others rejected it, for reasons discussed in the observations below. Paul then went to the Gentiles who as a group were more receptive to the light of the truth. In His defenses Paul gives insight into the commission Jesus gave Him, as well as his motivation in ministry.

Acts 24 Righteous, Self-Control, Judgment
24:1 After five days, the high priest, Ananias, came down with certain elders and an orator, one Tertullus. They informed the governor against Paul. 2 When he was called, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, "Seeing that by you we enjoy much peace, and that excellent measures are coming to this nation, 3 we accept it in all ways and in all places, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 But, that I don’t delay you, I entreat you to bear with us and hear a few words. 5 For we have found this man to be a plague, an instigator of insurrections among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, and we arrested him. 7 But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, 8 Commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him." 9 The Jews also joined in the attack, affirming that these things were so.
10 When the governor had beckoned to him to speak, Paul answered, "Because I know that you have been a judge of this nation for many years, I gladly make my defense, 11 seeing that you can recognize that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem. 12 In the temple they didn’t find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the synagogues, or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove to you the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that after the Way, which they call a sect, so I serve the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets;
  • 15 having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for,
  • that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
  • 16 This being so (NKJV) I also practice always having
  • a conscience void of offense toward God and men.
17 Now after some years, I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings; 18 amid which certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, not with a mob, nor with turmoil. 19 They ought to have been here before you, and to make accusation, if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what injustice they found in me when I stood before the council, 21 unless it is for this one thing that I cried standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged before you today!’"
22 But Felix, having more exact knowledge concerning the Way, deferred them, saying, "When Lysias, the commanding officer, comes down, I will decide your case." 23 He ordered the centurion that Paul should be kept in custody, and should have some privileges, and not to forbid any of his friends to serve him or to visit him. 24 But after some days, Felix came with Drusilla, his wife, who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ Jesus.
  • 25 As he reasoned about
  • righteousness,
  • self-control,
  • and the judgment to come,
Felix was terrified, and answered, "Go your way for this time, and when it is convenient for me, I will summon you." 26 Meanwhile, he also hoped that money would be given to him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore also he sent for him more often, and talked with him. 27 But when two years were fulfilled, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and desiring to gain favor with the Jews, Felix left Paul in bonds.

Observations: 24:1-9 The high priest and elders bring an orator to try to convince most excellent Felix, the governor, that Paul should be eliminated. Tertullus the orator appropriately flatters Felix and tries to show Paul is a threat to the peace, for which Felix is responsible.
24:10-21 Paul defends himself, both in his blameless actions at the temple, and his worship of God according to the Scriptures. Paul says he believes all that the Scriptures teach, including the hope or expectation of the OT that there will be a resurrection of both the just and unjust dead. Since this reality is inevitable, Paul practices having a clear conscience before God and man.
This is a key point to understand. The forgiven and justified Paul, who believes and preaches Jesus (and communicates directly with Him sometimes), knows that the OT resurrection and judgment necessitates having a conscience void of offense, to do well in the judgment. The conscience is that part of our inner man, or heart, which tells us what decisions and actions we make are right and wrong. By always choosing what is right in God's sight, the conscience doesn't condemn us.
There were no witnesses (Jews from Asia) to make accusation against his behavior in the temple, because their “evidence” wouldn't stand up in court, and they could be punished for bringing false charges. Without witnesses, there isn't much of a case. Paul puts the focus back on the resurrection of the dead which was half of his two sentence speech in the previous chapter. Ananias was a Sadducee, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, so Paul provides a basis for the animosity toward him.
24:22-27 Felix, being acquainted with “the Way,” knows that Paul is innocent, but defers making a decision, saying he wants to hear what Lysias, the commanding officer who rescued Paul has to say, but in realty, he was looking for a bribe (he already had a letter (deposition) from Lysias. He grants Paul privileges but keeps him in custody, for what turns out to be two years. Paul wrote some of his epistles during this period, and Luke might have composed his gospel and Acts during the calm. Felix and his Jewish wife, Drusilla, send for their star “guest” (intellectual diversion was hard to come by in those days) and Paul reasons about three key factors. These are not the typical topics a modern preacher would talk about, but they should be. Among other things, the Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers about sin, righteousness and judgment (Jn 16). Paul spoke of
  • the righteousness God requires of people,
  • the necessity of having self-control (the forgotten fruit of the Spirit Gal 5:22, which believers are supposed to add to their faith 2Pt 1:6 -Who knew?)
  • and the judgment at the resurrection of the just and unjust that will discern between those who have righteousness and self-control, and those who don't.
This made Felix uneasy (it should make modern believers who lack self-control uneasy too).
In hoping to get a bribe, Felix often talked with Paul, but kept him imprisoned for two years as a public relations effort with the Jews. Josephus tells us that Felix was recalled by Nero because of his mistreatment of the Jews, so his unjust treatment of Paul didn't gain him favor. However, God's purposes for Paul continued, since it is likely that Paul wrote some of his epistles at this time.
2Peter 1:4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Application: Exactly how have you added self-control to your faith? See outlines on for some help.
Prayer: Lord, thanks that You desire the best possible life for me both here and in the future; like Paul, may I practice having a conscience void of offense toward You and others. Amen.

Acts 25 Appeal to Caesar
25:1 Festus therefore, having come into the province, after three days went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 Then the high priest and the principal men of the Jews informed him against Paul, and they begged him, 3 asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem; plotting to kill him on the way. 4 However Festus answered that Paul should be kept in custody at Caesarea, and that he himself was about to depart shortly. 5 "Let them therefore," said he, "that are in power among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong in the man, let them accuse him." 6 When he had stayed among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he sat on the judgment seat, and commanded Paul to be brought. 7 When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing against him many and grievous charges which they could not prove, 8 while he said in his defense, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar, have I sinned at all." 9 But Festus, desiring to gain favor with the Jews, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem, and be judged by me there concerning these things?" 10 But Paul said, "I am standing before Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also know very well. 11 For if I have done wrong, and have committed anything worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die; but if none of those things is true that they accuse me of, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar!" 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you shall go."
13 Now when some days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea, and greeted Festus. 14 As he stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, "There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix; 15 about whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, asking for a sentence against him. 16 To whom I answered that it is not the custom of the Romans to give up any man to destruction, before the accused has met the accusers face to face, and has had opportunity to make his defense concerning the matter laid against him. 17 When therefore they had come together here, I didn’t delay, but on the next day sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought. 18 Concerning whom, when the accusers stood up, they brought no charge of such things as I supposed; 19 but had certain questions against him about their own religion, and about one Jesus, who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 20 Being perplexed how to inquire concerning these things, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul had appealed to be kept for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be kept until I could send him to Caesar." 22 Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him." 23 So on the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and they had entered into the place of hearing with the commanding officers and principal men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said, "King Agrippa, and all men who are here present with us, you see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and as he himself appealed to the emperor I determined to send him. 26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him forth before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, that, after examination, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to also specify the charges against him."

Observations: 25:1-27 Festus takes over from Felix, and the Jews pull their same stunt of demanding death without any evidence of wrongdoing. Festus want to please them as had Felix, and wants to send Paul to be “tried” in Jerusalem, with the Jews plotting to kill Paul en route. Paul appeals to Caesar to hear his case, knowing the Jews will kill him.
King Agrippa, who ruled Judean territories under Nero, was the great grandson of Herod the great, who rebuilt the temple (in futile appeasement of the Jews, and slaughtered the infants in Bethlehem), and son of Herod Agrippa I (who killed James to gain favor with the Jews -Acts 12:21). He was responsible for appointing the high priest, and supported Titus in the destruction of Jerusalem. He was the brother of Drusilla and Bernice, who, according to Josephus, was his lover. Festus asks for help in writing up charges against Paul, to send to Nero, since there really weren't any. A fact which would not have been lost on Theophilus. Note how God is now using the government, as corrupt as it might be, to protect and move Paul to Rome to do the work God wants him to do (23:11). Compare Daniel and Babylon.
Application: God uses both corrupt religious, and civil means to accomplish his purposes, we should be discerning in what He might be doing.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I trust that You always know what You're doing, and never make mistakes when it comes to managing the careers of Your servants. Amen.

Acts 26 Opening Eyes, Turning Hearts
26:1 Agrippa said to Paul, "You may speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand, and made his defense. 2 "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, that I am to make my defense before you this day concerning all the things that I am accused by the Jews, 3 especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently. 4 "Indeed, all the Jews know my way of life from my youth up, which was from the beginning among my own nation and at Jerusalem; 5 having known me from the first, if they are willing to testify, that after the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
6 Now I stand here to be judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 which our twelve tribes, earnestly serving night and day, hope to attain. Concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, King Agrippa! 8 Why is it judged incredible with you, if God does raise the dead? 9 "I myself most certainly thought that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem. I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them. 11 Punishing them often in all the synagogues, I tried to make them blaspheme. Being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
12 "Whereupon as I travelled to Damascus with the authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at noon, O king, I saw on the way a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who traveled with me. 14 When we had all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ’Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 "I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’" He said, ’I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But arise, and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose: to appoint you a servant and a witness both of the things which you have seen, and of the things which I will reveal to you; 17 delivering you from the people, and from the Gentiles, to whom I send you,
  • 18 to open their eyes,
  • that they may turn from darkness to light
  • and from the power of Satan to God,
  • that they may receive remission of sins
  • and an inheritance among
  • those who are sanctified
  • by faith towads me.’
19 "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles,
  • that they should repent
  • and turn to God,
  • doing works worthy of repentance.
21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple, and tried to kill me. 22 Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would happen, 23 how the Christ must suffer, and how, by the resurrection of the dead, he would be first to proclaim light both to these people and to the Gentiles."
24 As he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are crazy! Your great learning is driving you insane!" 25 But he said, "I am not crazy, most excellent Festus, but boldly declare words of truth and reasonableness. 26 For the king knows of these things, to whom also I speak freely. For I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe." 28 Agrippa said to Paul, "With a little persuasion are you trying to make me a Christian?" 29 Paul said, "I pray to God, that whether with little or with much, not only you, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these bonds." 30 The king rose up with the governor, and Bernice, and those who sat with them. 31 When they had withdrawn, they spoke one to another, saying, "This man does nothing worthy of death or of bonds." 32 Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."

Observations: 26:1-18 Paul is happy to make his defense before Agrippa, proclaiming the hope of the Jews and the resurrection of Jesus. He recounts his “testimony” touching on his former life and then detailing the commission Jesus gave him to be a witness of what he had seen and of what would be revealed to him (2Cor 12:2-4). Someone who kicked against an oxgoad would get hurt by what they kicked against.
Note in verse 18 the purposes for which Jesus sent him to the people (Jews) and Gentiles:
18 to open their eyes, by proclaiming the truth about Jesus and giving light;
    that they may
    decide to turn from darkness to light, when the see the light;
    and thus turn from the power of Satan (Eph 2) to the power of God (Holy Spirit);
    that they may receive remission/forgiveness of sins as a result of their turning and reception of God's power (Eph 1);
    and an inheritance, their reward in the kingdom (Col 3:24);
    among those who are sanctified, set apart, made holy (cf Acts 20:32);
    by faith towards (eis) me, the means by which the promises of God become a reality in our lives. The faith is toward/eis Jesus, looking toward what He said and did.
26:19-23 Paul claims that his obedience to the heavenly vision entailed merely calling people to repent, turn to God, and do works in accord with their new mindset, which was very parallel to John the Baptist's message. Paul testifies to how God's help protected him and enabled him to say just what the OT says, that the Messiah would suffer (Isa 53) be resurrected (Isa 53 and Ps 16) and that light would be proclaimed to the Jews and Gentiles (Isa 9; 60).
26:24-32 Festus says Paul's great learning has made him insane, to which Paul counters that his words are truth and reason (remember this when you get to 1Cor 2). When Paul presses the truth closer to home by asking if Agrippa believes the prophets, the king acknowledges the persuasive logic, but deflects the conviction. Paul says he prays that all would be like he is, but without the chains. Agrippa tells Festus that Paul would be set free if he hadn't appealed to Caesar. But the point isn't for Paul to be free, but to do the will of God which is better accomplished by being right where he is, free from the Jews, witnessing to kings, and on his way to Rome with an armed escort.
Application: God doesn't just want people to believe, but experience all the benefits and blessings He has in store for them.
Prayer: God, thanks for showing me the light, and may I bring forth fruit consistent with my belief in You and Your promised return. Amen.

Acts 27 Saved Through the Storm
27:1 When it was determined that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan band. 2 Embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to places on the coast of Asia, we put to sea; Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. 3 The next day, we touched at Sidon. Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him permission to go to his friends and refresh himself. 4 Putting to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 When we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. 6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and he put us on board. 7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and had come with difficulty opposite Cnidus, the wind not allowing us further, we sailed under the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 With difficulty sailing along it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. 9 When much time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, because the Fast had now already gone by, Paul warned them, 10 and said to them, "Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives." 11 But the centurion gave more heed to the master and to the owner of the ship than to those things which were spoken by Paul.
12 Because the haven was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised going to sea from there, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, and winter there, which is a port of Crete, looking northeast and southeast. 13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to shore. 14 But before long, a stormy wind beat down from shore, which is called Euroclydon. 15 When the ship was caught, and couldn’t face the wind, we gave way to it, and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we were able, with difficulty, to secure the boat. 17 After they had hoisted it up, they used cables to help reinforce the ship. Fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis sand bars, they lowered the sea anchor, and so were driven along. 18 As we labored exceedingly with the storm, the next day they began to throw things overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw out the ship’s tackle with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars shone on us for many days, and no small storm pressed on us, all hope that we would be saved was now taken away.
21 When they had been long without food, Paul stood up in the middle of them, and said, "Sirs, you should have listened to me, and not have set sail from Crete, and have gotten this injury and loss. 22 Now I exhort you to cheer up, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel, belonging to the God whose I am and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. Behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore, sirs, cheer up! For I believe God, that it will be just as it has been spoken to me. 26 But we must run aground on a certain island." 27 But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven back and forth in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors surmised that they were drawing near to some land. 28 They took soundings, and found twenty fathoms. After a little while, they took soundings again, and found fifteen fathoms. 29 Fearing that we would run aground on rocky ground, they let go four anchors from the stern, and wished for daylight. 30 As the sailors were trying to flee out of the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, pretending that they would lay out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, "Unless these stay in the ship, you can’t be saved." 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it fall off. 33 While the day was coming on, Paul begged them all to take some food, saying, "This day is the fourteenth day that you wait and continue fasting, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I beg you to take some food, for this is for your safety; for not a hair will perish from any of your heads." 35 When he had said this, and had taken bread, he gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it, and began to eat. 36 Then they all cheered up, and they also took food. 37 In all, we were two hundred seventy-six souls on the ship. 38 When they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.
39 When it was day, they didn’t recognize the land, but they noticed a certain bay with a beach, and they decided to try to drive the ship onto it. 40 Casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time untying the rudder ropes. Hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. 41 But coming to a place where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground. The bow struck and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up by the violence of the waves. 42 The soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim out and escape. 43 But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should throw themselves overboard first to go toward the land; 44 and the rest should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship. So it happened that they all escaped safely to the land.

Observations: 27:1-11 They set sail for Rome with soldiers and prisoners on board. The centurion treated Paul kindly and allowed him to meet with his friends. Paul who had spent a fair amount of time on ships warned that they stay at Fair Havens because the sea was particularly dangerous due to winter winds, but the ship's owner and captain wanted to press on.
27:12-20 As Paul predicted, the winds damaged the ship; a great storm, and darkness caused them to lose hope of being saved.
27:21-38 After fourteen days of fear and fasting, Paul tells them that an angel affirmed Christ's promise to him that he would stand before Caesar (Nero), and that God had granted Paul the lives of all on the ship 276 altogether. Paul whose identity was that he belonged to God and was thus a servant of God, affirmed his belief in what God revealed. He begged them to take food so they wouldn't faint from hunger, took bread and gave thanks publicly, and then broke it, and began to eat.
27:39-44 The ship gets stuck in a sand/mud bar and starts to break up. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners since if they escaped the soldiers would forfeit their lives in their place. However, the centurion protected Paul and others and everyone made it safely to shore as promised by the angel and Paul.
Application: If our identity is that we belong to God, and are His servants, then nothing else should matter; He will either protect or dispose of our earthly lives for His purposes.
Prayer: God, I'm grateful that I'm Yours, and can trust You to take care of Your property; therefore I have nothing to fear from nature nor people. Amen.

Acts 28 Viper Falls in Fire and Paul Preaches in Rome
28:1 When we had escaped, then they learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The natives showed us uncommon kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. 3 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. 4 When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said one to another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped from the sea, yet Justice has not allowed to live." 5 However he shook off the creature into the fire, and wasn’t harmed. 6 But they expected that he would have swollen or fallen down dead suddenly, but when they watched for a long time and saw nothing bad happen to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. 7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us, and courteously entertained us for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick of fever and dysentery. Paul entered in to him, prayed, and laying his hands on him, healed him. 9 Then when this was done, the rest also who had diseases in the island came, and were cured. 10 They also honored us with many honors, and when we sailed, they put on board the things that we needed.
11 After three months, we set sail in a ship of Alexandria which had wintered in the island, whose sign was "The Twin Brothers." 12 Touching at Syracuse, we stayed there three days. 13 From there we circled around and arrived at Rhegium. After one day, a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brothers, and were entreated to stay with them for seven days. So we came to Rome. 15 From there the brothers, when they heard of us, came to meet us as far as The Market of Appius and The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God, and took courage. 16 When we entered into Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard, but Paul was allowed to stay by himself with the soldier who guarded him.
17 It happened that after three days Paul called together those who were the leaders of the Jews. When they had come together, he said to them, "I, brothers, though I had done nothing against the people, or the customs of our fathers, still was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, desired to set me free, because there was no cause of death in me. 19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was constrained to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything about which to accuse my nation. 20 For this cause therefore I asked to see you and to speak with you. For because of the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." 21 They said to him, "We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor did any of the brothers come here and report or speak any evil of you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think. For, as concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against."
23 When they had appointed him a day, many people came to him at his lodging. He explained to them, testifying about the Kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning until evening. 24 Some believed the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 When they didn’t agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had spoken one word, "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah, the prophet, to our fathers, 26 saying, ‘Go to this people, and say, in hearing, you will hear, but will in no way understand. In seeing, you will see, but will in no way perceive. 27 For this people’s heart has grown callous. Their ears are dull of hearing. Their eyes they have closed. Lest they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and would turn again, and I would heal them.’ 28 "Be it known therefore to you, that the salvation of God is sent to the nations. They will also listen." 29 When he had said these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.
30 Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who were coming to him, 31 preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, without hindrance.

Observations: 28:1-10 The island they arrived at was Malta. The natives were friendly and made a fire for them. Paul who had saved the lives of all on the ship was ever serving, gathering firewood. A poisonous viper bit him and the natives concluded he was a murder who couldn't escape Justice, being saved from the sea, but slain by the serpent. Paul just shook off the viper into the fire (harbinger of things to come), and when he didn't die, they concluded he was a god. This is better than Lystra (Acts 14) where then concluded he was a god, and then tried to murder him. Paul has one last round of miraculous ministry, healing the father of the chief man of the island, and then all where were sick. It doesn't mention belief and a church being planted, but that's what usually happened under these circumstances.
28:11-16 They eventually make it to Rome where Paul thanked God and was encouraged that the believers (to whom he had written Romans about three years earlier from Corinth -1Cor 16:22-23) were still thriving. He is given preferential treatment, perhaps courtesy of the centurion, and has a “prison ministry” to the rotating shifts of guards who watched him.
28:17-29 Paul calls together the Jews (who had formerly been expelled from Rome under Claudius -Acts 18:2, but allowed back in under Nero), and explains why he is there. They had received no evil reports about him, and want to hear what he has to say. He testifies about the Kingdom which the OT promised would come from God under the rule of the Messiah, and persuades them about Jesus being the Messiah. As usual, some believe, and some don't.
Paul explains that the differing reception is in accord with Isaiah's prophecy about them in Isaiah 6:9-10. In that context, the Hiphil (causative) imperatives imply that Isaiah makes their heart calloused and ears and eyes closed by proclaiming truth to them that they reject. Otherwise they would return back (repent) to God (from whom they had departed), and be healed. Here in Acts, Paul says they won't hear or see because their heart has grown or become calloused, because of the repeated rejection of the truth. It didn't start out that way, but a callous develops when continuous irritation deadens the nerve endings, so one is no longer sensitive to the irritation (truth). If they had been receptive to God, they would understand with a heart that didn't have time to develop the callous, and would have repented (turned back to God, again, from whom they had turned away) and God would heal them. It should be obvious to all but the most hardened theologues that this is a consequence of individual choice (considering that some accepted the truth), not fatalistic determinism. Those who refuse the light go deeper into the dark, and the light of the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles. So the gospel went first to the Jew, and then the Gentile (Rm 1:17).
28:30-31 Luke summarizes the last two years of Paul's ministry, in his own house, under the protection of a Roman guard (safe from the Jews), carrying out the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20) preaching about the Kingdom which God promised in the OT, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ/Messiah (full title), without hindrance.
Application: God uses natural and supernatural means to enable His servants to do His will, spreading truth about His promises, and the means of receiving them; if that is our objective, we will have temporal joy, regardless of our circumstances (Phil 1:18), and eternal joy in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer: God, You are so creative in the means You use to guide Your servants in doing Your will, may I be sensitive to hear, see, and do all You desire, trusting that Your will is best. Amen.

Digging Deeper

God in a nutshell: God has a plan for His servants and His people, and the world, which He works to bring about through natural and supernatural means. He will fulfill His OT promises of the Messiah's Kingdom on earth, and His promise to bless all the world/Gentiles through the promises He made to Abraham. He doesn't spare His servants pain, but does guide and protect them so they can do His will.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus is the resurrected Lord and Messiah, prophesied in the OT, who commissioned Paul to testify about Him.

Us in a nutshell: We have the choice to accept or reject truth. If we reject it, we develop a calloused heart that makes us insensitive to more truth. If we accept the light of the truth and turn from the power of Satan to the power of God, we will received the remission of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by faith in Jesus.

Where to Go for More:

Acts complete text
Bill Blurb: The application that delivers the daily emails has some size restrictions that's been causing problems. So I've eliminated the text, since I'm not editing any of it out above. If we encounter any more genealogies, I'll edit it above and put the entire text here below.

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