Acts 28 Part 1       Next chapter       Back to Bible Studies    


Chapter 28 continues on with Paul’s journey to Rome and the shipwreck that occurred at the end of Chapter 27. This was where Paul and all hands aboard the vessel carrying them from Cyprus to Rome were cast upon the beach at Malta. Clearly God delivered them upon the beach as He promised, “But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you’…” (Acts 27:22-24) and, “And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.” (Acts 27:44).


Continuing in chapter 28, God continued to deliver them safely. Two events immediately occurred to the survivors as they came ashore; “The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold” (v.2). Note that in the King James Version and in the actual Greek, “islanders” is translated “barbarians” but not in the violent sense. The Greeks called anyone who did not speak their language a barbarian. So, they were immediately looked after by the locals.


Of greater note in v.3 Paul is bitten on the hand by a viper. The locals felt certain he must be cursed, “This man must be a murderer…”; however, God continued to look after Paul and reveal Himself to the locals as Paul suffered no ill effect from the bite.


Paul continued to do the Lord’s work in Malta when he went to Publius’ father and “after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.” (v.8). It is interesting to note that this is the first occurrence where Paul healed by laying on of hands in the entire book of Acts.


While this concludes the disaster at sea and Paul’s time in Malta, which lasted three months, the key point of this chapter is yet to come. The remainder of the journey went relatively quickly leading them to Puteoli. “There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they travelled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us.” (v.15). The Forum of Appius was and still is approximately 56 miles from Rome, a significant distance in those days. These “brothers” were fellow Christians, and so a church was already well established in Rome (It was well established approximately 25 years before this time). Remember back to our study of Acts chapter 2:8-10, “…visitors from Rome…” who were with the among the “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.” They were among the apostles in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit fell upon them. It is also important to note that Paul’s letter to the Romans would have arrived in Rome approximately three years earlier than this time. So Paul arrived in Rome amongst fellow Christians, something he had been planning to do for a very long time (see Romans 1:8-15).


Once in Rome, and while he awaited his trial before Caesar, Paul went straight to work. He didn’t waste any time, “Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews.” (v.17). One must think back to all the earlier confrontations that Paul had with Jewish leaders during his travels. Could he have been expecting a confrontation here? Most of his previous meetings with Jewish leaders had lead to riots and near lynching of Paul. These leaders in Rome, however, had not heard of Paul. He begins to present his case in v.17 and yet, “They replied, ‘We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you.’” (v.21). There had been plenty of time for the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to write and tell the Roman Jews about Paul, but, for whatever reasons, they had not.


So the leaders “arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers…” (v.23) to hear Paul speak. Paul had a real compulsion to speak with the Jews here in Rome, as “It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain” (v.20). To the Jews the “hope of Israel” was the Messiah, and Paul wished to testify that the Messiah had come in Jesus Christ. In fact these Jews were eager to hear his message (v.22) and came to him on the appointed day (v.23). Paul had a real burden for the lost, as was Christ’s burden. This is the interesting part of this chapter. We note that earlier in his journeys Paul considers the Jews as unbelievers, and in his letter to the Romans years before, Paul refers to the Old Testament stating:


“What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written:

‘God gave them a spirit of stupor,

eyes so that they could not see

and ears so that they could not hear,

to this very day’

And David says:

‘May their table become a snare and a trap

a stumbling-block and a retribution for them.

May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,

And their backs be bent for ever.’” (Rom11:7-10).


Yet despite his own feelings he was willing to persevere and teach them again here in Rome. Remember, the Lord had told him to go to Rome earlier on and so Paul responded in obedience and taught. “From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets” (v.23).


So here in Rome, Paul taught Christ to the Jews, and “some were convinced” (v.24), but others “would not believe” and so he presented to them a hard message from the words of Isaiah in verses 26-27. Now Paul wasn’t being tactless here, he wasn’t throwing the Old Testament scriptures at the Jews to make them feel uncomfortable. No, Paul was showing his strong desire to get through to them. “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers…”.


We will break for the week here, though the key theme for next week is this:

“’You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’

For this people’s heart has become calloused;

They hardly hear with their ears,

And they have closed their eyes…”


Next week we will explore how the Jews came to “hear but never understand” and “see but never perceive”. As we concluded this week’s study we read the following scriptures:


Jer 6:16

Ezek 12:2

Zech 7:11

2 Tim 24:4

Luke 8:15

John 12:37-41

Deut 29:2-4


In preparation for next week, please read Deuteronomy 29 in its entirety.

May the Lord bless this study to our hearts.