ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
MELITA AND ROME
In our last lesson, the ones on the ship were able to safely get to the shore in spite of the difficult time they had at sea. God had promised there would be no loss of life, but that the ship would not be saved. They were to land on a certain island.
They escaped to an Island called Melita – Vs. 1-11. This is now called Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea. They were barbarous people, of Phoenician descent, who had a language different from Greek. They were kind to those shipwrecked people who were wet and cold. They kindled a fire for their comfort. Here a great miracle took place. Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire. A viper (poisonous snake) came out of the heat and fastened itself to Paul’s hand. When those island people saw this take place they figured that this man, Paul, must have been a murderer who had escaped the sea. Now he was going to get what was coming to him, and they just knew he would die. Instead of that, Paul just shook off the beastly thing into the fire and felt no harm. They all watched, thinking he would die any minute. When he didn’t die, just like human nature they changed their minds and figured he was a god. Before Jesus went back to heaven after His resurrection, He told the disciples to go into all the world and preach and gospel to every creature. One sign which would follow them that believe, would be – “They shall take up serpents” – Mark 16:17. That didn’t mean they could just play around with poisonous snakes and not be hurt. This is really what Jesus meant. This was not presuming on God’s protection. This WAS God’s protection.
The people didn’t forget about this miracle. The chief man of the island, Publius, received them and let them stay with him for three days. While there, Publius’ father became very sick. Paul went in and prayed, laid hands on him, and he was healed. That opened the way for many others to come and be healed. The ones there gave them a lot of honor, so that when they left the island, they were given many necessary things. They stayed there for three months.
On to Rome – Vs. 12-16: The shipwreck people had lost everything they had in the storm. Now with the provisions the island people gave them, they could go on their journey. There was a ship which had wintered in the island, named Castor and Pollux. They were able to board that ship. Their first stop was Syracuse, where they stayed three days, then on to Rhegium and Puteoli. The three believers, Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus, were able to stay with other Christians there for seven days. Then they went on as far as Appii forum and the three taverns. There they were net by other brethren. Paul thanked God for that and took courage. Upon their arrival in Rome, the centurion delivered them to the captain of the guard. Paul was allowed to live by himself with just a soldier to watch over him.
Paul’s ministry in Rome – Vs. 17-31: As was Paul’s custom, he gave his message to the Jews. He called the chief of the Jews together to tell them first. He explained to them why he was there in Rome. He told them he had appealed unto Caesar and it wasn’t because he had anything against his nation, nor had he done anything against their customs. He told them he was bound because of the hope of Israel. They told him they had not received any letters against him, nor had anyone who had come from Israel spoken any harm of him. They did want to know about this “sect” for it was everywhere spoken against. Then they decided upon a day when they would come where Paul lived and hear his message. So they did. He testified of Jesus, out of the Law of Moses, and out of the prophets. They stayed all day listening. The result was the same as always – some believed; some did not. They left when they couldn’t agree among themselves. Paul knew this was an example of what had been written by Isaiah the Prophet, that some would hear and not understand, and see and yet not perceive. He knew their hearts were not really open, so they could really see, and really hear, and have an heart understanding, and be converted. So they departed and kept on reasoning among themselves.
Paul lived two whole years in his own “rented” house. He received all that came to him. He preached and taught them about Jesus and no one kept him from doing so. Paul had the opportunity in Rome to give the gospel story to the guards who watched over him. He also ministered to some in Caesar’s household. Some of them believed in the Lord Jesus Christ – Phil. 4:22. The Bible does not say when or how Paul died, but history says he was beheaded there in Rome.
Another part of Paul’s ministry in Rome was writing epistles (letters) to the churches at Ephesus, Philippi, and Colosse. He also wrote letters to Timothy (II Timothy) and to Titus. What a wonderful life Paul lived. He told those who lived in Philippi that he was ready for whatever God had in store for him, Whether to live or to die. He just wanted the Lord to be glorified – Phil. 1:20-23. And God was indeed glorified by the life and even the death of the Apostle Paul.