Paul's Ministry on Malta
Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. 2 And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. 3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid
on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live." 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
[Supernatural events demonstrate that there is something beyond the natural world. Throughout the Bible God has used supernatural events or Miracles, to get our attention and to signify they He was actively involved in the life of a man or group of men. In the study of nature, you will find God, if you just follow the evidence (Romans 1:20). Because nature is not self existent or eternal it requires an agent outside of itself, which is both of those things; and that outside agent, is God.
Paul meets the residents of Malta along with 275 shipmates. These people shared the common superstition of the day that "bad things happen to bad people". First Paul is shipwrecked then snake bit. To the natives of the island, this is proof of his guilt. They fully expect Paul to fall down dead after he is bitten, but God intervenes. Without the correct theology, they interpret the supernatural event to mean that Paul is a god, rather than a child and minister of the living God! If you look at a map of Malta you will find nearly all the major landmarks named after apostles, which means the apostles had a chance to change the theology on that Island.]
In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. 8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. 10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.
[There is an illness called Malta fever common to those islands, linked to bacteria in the native goats milk, without modern medicine the infection could last months or even years. Publius learns of Paul's abilities through the power of the Holy Spirit, and asks Paul to heal his father which he does through praying and laying hands on the sick father. After that became well known Paul ministered to the sick for the rest of the winter on Malta.
By the time they leave Malta Paul was admired by the Islanders and they provided for Paul and his companions.]
Arrival at Rome
After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.
[After 3 months on Malta and at the beginning of spring they found anther Alexandrian ship, that had harbored before the winter storms. The "Twin Brothers" – refers to Castor and Pollux the mythological sons of Zeus, this was a good-luck-charm for Roman sailors , represented in astrology as the constellation Gemini and also by St. Elmo's fire, an ionization of the atmosphere sometimes visible at night from storms in the distance.
They sailed the 60 miles to Syracuse on Sicily, then to Rhegium at the tip of Italy, finally to Puteoli which is modern day Possouli near Pompeii. Here they stayed a week with "brethren" or fellow Jewish believers before going to Rome.]
15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.
[We have no record of any apostles being here before Paul, so where did these people hear the gospel? As early as Acts 2 and the day of Pentecost it lists "visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes" among those who heard Peter preach. Also in Acts 18 when Claudius Caesar evicted Jews from Rome, they went to places like Athens, and Macedonia where Paul was preaching. When news of Paul's arrival reached the brethren they traveled to meet Paul on his way to Rome. Finally in Rome Paul was again held under house arrest with just one guard.]
Paul's Ministry at Rome
And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: "Men
brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let
go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews (rulers or Jewish leaders) spoke against
, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see
and speak with
, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."
[Paul's desire to see Rome was not for the scenery or the local culture; Paul wanted to witness, to share the gospel with the Jews and Gentiles in Rome.]
Then they said to him, "We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere."
[The Jewish leaders in Rome didn't know much about Paul, but whenever they traveled they would hear from the Pharisees of Jerusalem, that they should stay away from Jesus followers. They thought of "The Way" as a sect of Judaism, but the Jews in Rome wanted to hear about Jesus in more detail, and Paul would happily teach them.]
So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at
lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.
[Paul taught from morning until evening showing from the Law and the Prophets that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah. As usual some would believe, but not all.]
25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying,
' Go to this people and say:
" Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with
eyes and hear with
Lest they should understand with
hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them."'
[Paul quotes from Isaiah his understanding of why there are always those who doubt. Not everyone who hears really listens; not everyone who listens understands; not everyone who understands is willing to repent and believe to turn to Jesus.
In Matthew 7 Jesus said "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (v. 13-14)]
28 "Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!" 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.
30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31
preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
[Here for two years Paul did what all of us are supposed to do; share Jesus with all those who come to us. It is probably not possible to overstate the importance of Paul's ministry in Rome, toward sharing the gospel with the whole world.
During his imprisonment here he wrote four "Prison Epistles" Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. It is generally believed that Paul was eventually released by the Romans, and he visited Spain and Crete. There are references to these places in his letters, even though they are not mentioned in Acts (Romans 15:24, Titus 1:5).
In 64 AD much of Rome was burned by an unexplained fire. Contrary to popular legend Nero did not "fiddle" (or play the Lyre) while Rome burned. He did however blame the fire on Christians. The Historian Tacitus wrote that "Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians".
Christian and secular writings from the 1st and 2nd century tell us that during this persecution, Paul was re-arrested, and in 67 AD the Emperor Nero tried to end Christianity by executing both Paul and Peter; Paul was beheaded, and Peter was crucified upside down.
Christians in the Roman Empire faced periods of persecution for the next 246 years until the Edict of Milan made religious tolerance the official policy of the empire, and Constantine would be the first Emperor to personally profess Christianity.