Chapter Twenty-Eight — Part One: The Book of Acts

By: Pastors Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne

Publish date: 05/21/2023

Foundation Scriptures:
Acts 28:1-6

1. Malta.
a. Acts 28:1 KJV — And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
b. Melita means “honey” and is called Malta today.
c. Malta is located between Sicily and Africa; and of all the Mediterranean Sea islands, is the one that is furthest from the mainland.
d. It is about 58 miles south of Sicily—20 miles long and 12 miles broad.
e. It is independent now, but through the ages, it has been occupied by several foreign nations.
f. The shipwreck most likely occurred in the area that is now called St. Paul’s Bay.
g. It was not their intended destination, and Paul may never have been inclined to travel to Malta, but the Lord had an assignment for him.

2. Hospitality on the Island.
a. Acts 28:2a KJV — And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness:
b. Barbarous people/barbarians (Greek barbaros) — one who speaks a foreign or strange language which is not understood by another.
c. This name does not necessarily mean that they were uncivilized, but was used by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, of any foreigner who was ignorant of their respective languages and customs.
d. This is the way it is used and meant here by Paul (Romans 1:14; 1 Corinthians 14:11; Colossians 3:11).
e. 1 Corinthians 14:11 KJV — Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
f. After the Persian war, the meaning changed to denote rudeness, brutality, and harshness in demeanor and/or speech.
g. The Maltese people were known for their kind hospitality, then and now.
h. Acts 28:2b KJV — …for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
i. They were wet and freezing cold and the natives of the island welcomed them kindly and started a fire to warm them up.
j. These “barbarians” were more gracious and hospitable to Paul, and those with him, than many in the “civilized” world had been.

3. The Viper.
a. Acts 28:3 KJV — And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
b. Viper (Greek echidna) — a venomous snake.
c. Also used of men: offspring of vipers; addressed to cunning, malignant, wicked men.
d. Jesus called the Pharisees and Sadducees a generation (or offspring) of vipers (Matthew 3:7, 12:34, 23:33).
e. Acts 28:4 KJV — And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
f. When he was bitten, the people assumed that this must be his deserved punishment for the sin of murder.
g. Even though they were a heathen nation, they knew the difference between right and wrong.
h. They understood there is a God who governs the world and that there is a reward for doing good and punishment for the wicked.
i. Vengeance (Greek dikē) — vengeance; judgement; a judicial sentence of condemnation; execution of a sentence; a punishment; also, a personality—the goddess Justice, avenging justice.

4. Vengeance.
a. These people—and indeed also the Jews—believed that being bitten by a serpent was punishment for misdeeds.
b. Ecclesiastes 10:8 AMPC — He who digs a pit [for others] will fall into it, and whoever breaks through a fence or a [stone] wall, a serpent will bite him.
c. Man judges by the outward appearance but God judges the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
d. Luke 13:2-5 KJV — And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
e. Men look at the temporal misfortunes of others and judge them to be worse sinners than themselves, forgetting that there is an eternal judgment, where they too will have to give an account to Almighty God.

5. No Harm.
a. Acts 28:5 KJV — And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
b. This happened suddenly—the snake bit and held on—but he calmly, without fear or fuss, shook it off.
c. This was a test of Paul’s faith and a testimony to those observing.
d. He had fully entrusted his life to the Lord and was confident in His power to protect and preserve him until his race was fully run.
e. Mark 16:17-18 KJV — And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
f. Jesus promised that no poison or snakes would be able to harm those who believe.
g. This is a promise to and for every one of God’s children, if they believe and take it personally.
h. Acts 28:6 KJV — Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
i. They watched and waited for him to swell up and die.
j. When they saw no change in him, it made no sense to their carnal minds.
k. Bewildered, they assumed he must be a god; and went directly from condemnation to idolization.
l. Popular opinion is almost always fickle and double-minded.