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Bible: What Does Acts 28 Teach Us About the Apostle Paul and His Imprisonment in Rome?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Apostle Paul


Acts 28: Three Days on Malta/Paul Arrives in Rome/Under House Arrest for Two Years

Paul Meets the Kind Maltese

The survivors discover the island’s name: Malta (v. 1); its kind natives welcome them and build them a fire on that cold, rainy day (v. 2).

While helping them with this chore, Paul encounters a viper that attaches to his hand (v. 3).

The superstitious islanders surmise that the apostle is a murderer who survived the shipwreck, but upon whom Justice now is about to exact retribution (v. 4).

[Observations: The Maltese, though “barbarians,” manifest an admirable character trait (kindness) and recognize the need for Justice to mete out punishment upon transgressors of a universal law.

What theological truth accounts for these “moral motions”?]


Paul Protected

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The Maltese Declare Paul a God

Their expectations are not realized, however, when Paul shakes off the creature and does not collapse, even after a long time (vv. 5-6b); therefore, the Maltese acclaim him a god (v. 6b).

[They said that he was a god, but they made no extraordinary gestures of worship toward him—only more honor and generosity—unlike the people of Lystra (Acts 14)].

Publius, an island magistrate, graciously houses them for three days (v. 7).

[Whom does Publius entertain? Paul, Luke, Julius? Certainly, it does not include the whole ship’s complement.]

Paul Heals the Magistrate's Father

During their stay, Paul heals Publius’ father from fever and dysentery after praying for him and laying his hands on him (v. 8).

The miraculous news spreads, and the apostle is able to carry on an extensive medical ministry on the island (v. 9).

After spending three days on Malta, the crew finally leaves their benefactors fully supplied for the remainder of their voyage (v. 10).

Various Stops in the Voyage

Three months into their trip, they sail an Alexandrian ship (having Castor and Pollux as its figurehead) to Syracuse where they stay three days (vv. 11-12).

Rhegium, “a town on the ‘toe’ of Italy” (Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 260), and Puteoli are their next stops (v. 13); in the latter place, they stay with fellow Christians for one week before traveling northwest to Rome (v. 14).

Believers from Appii Forum and Three Inns encourage Paul as he made his way toward the city (v. 15).

Julius hands over the other prisoners to the captain of the guard in Rome, but allows Paul to stay with his own personal soldier (v. 16).

The Hope of Israel: Messiah Jesus and the Resurrection


Paul Under House Arrest

A few days into his house arrest in Rome, the apostle addresses Jewish leaders living there, hoping to extinguish any fires before they started (vv. 17-29).

First, he professes his innocence of the charge that he preaches against the Jewish faith (v. 17a).

Paul then relates that Romans had already examined him and found that he had committed no capital offense (vv. 17b-18).

He informs his Jewish audience that their Jerusalem brethren objected to the Roman decision, forcing him to appeal to Nero (v. 19; cf. 25:9-12).

Finally, the apostle asserts that he was under arrest for preaching about “the hope of Israel”: Messiah Jesus and His resurrection (v. 20).

The Scriptures


The Apostle Debates with Jewish Leaders

Claiming not to have received any news from Israel regarding Paul, the Jewish spokesman sets up an appointment to hear the apostle’s defense and testimony about the much maligned sect to which he belonged (vv. 21-23a).

When the Jews visit Paul later at his “prison,” the apostle spends all day reasoning with them from the Old Testament (here, the Law of Moses and the prophets) about the kingdom and Jesus’ Messiahship, convincing some and leaving others in disbelief (vv. 23b-24).

Not receiving the unanimous approval he sought, Paul rebukes the spiritual disobedience of some of them, quoting the Holy Spirit’s message found in Isaiah 6:9-10: God had sent the prophet to Israel to decry their failure to understand His call to repentance (vv. 25-27).

Paul: "I'm Taking the Gospel to the Gentiles"

Having concluded that the Jews have rejected God’s salvation, Paul announces that the Lord has sent the gospel message to the Gentiles (v. 28).

Luke records that the apostle’s opponents were arguing with each other as they left Paul’s place (v. 29).

[While the NU omits verse twenty-nine, the M includes it.]

Since Paul had rented a home there, he stays in Rome for two more years during which he freely carries on a preaching and teaching ministry among all his visitors (vv. 30-31).

© 2013 glynch1


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