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Acts 28







Paul on the Island of Malta Paul's Ministry on Malta Paul in Malta In Malta Waiting in Malta
28:1-10 28:1-10 28:1-6 28:1-6 28:1-6
    28:7-10 28:7-10 28:7-10
Paul Arrives at Rome Arrival at Rome The Journey to Rome From Malta to Rome From Malta to Rome
28:11-15 28:11-16 28:11-15 28:11-15 28:11-14
      In Rome 28:15-16
28:16   28:16 28:16  
Paul Preaches in Rome Paul's Ministry at Rome Paul and the Jews of Rome   Paul Makes Contact with the Roman Jews
28:17-22 28:17-31 28:17-22 28:17-20 28:17-20
      28:21-22 28:21-22
        Paul's Declaration to Roman Jews
28:23-29   28:23-29 28:23-27 28:23-27
      28:28 28:28
    Conclusion 28:29 Epilogue
28:30-31   28:30-31 28:30-31 28:30-31

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. 2The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. 3But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. 4When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, "Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live." 5However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.

28:1 "they had been brought safely through" This is the term sōzō (cf. 27:31) with dia prefixed. It was used regularly for someone reaching safety (cf. 23:24; 27:44; 28:1,4). Luke even uses it for physical healing in Luke 7:3.

The aorist passive participle shows that Luke attributed the safety as being provided by God (passive voice) according to His word (cf. 27:21-26).

▣ "Malta" The Phoenician sailors also called this island Melita, which was a Canaanite term that meant "refuge." This was originally a Phoenician colony. It is located between Sicily and North Africa. It is only eighteen miles long and eight miles wide, but its location afforded great maritime commercial value. It has several good harbors.

28:2 "natives" This is literally "barbarians." This is not a derogatory title, but simply refers to anyone who did not speak Greek or Latin.

NASB"extraordinary kindness"
NJB"unusual kindness"
TEV"were very friendly"

This intensified phrase has the term philanthrōpos, which is literally "lover of men" as in 27:3. The specific care and provision given by the natives was because they saw Paul's miraculous encounter with a serpent on the beach. This, and other miraculous acts (cf. vv. 7-10), opened the door for evangelism! Paul always had a mind toward gospel proclamation (cf. I Cor. 9:19-23).

28:3 "Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks" This really shows Paul's humility. He worked along with all the others. No elitism since the road to Damascus!

▣ "a viper. . .fastened itself on his hand" This term's basic meaning is "to attach." It can mean "a bite" or "coiled around."

28:4 "the creature" This term for "creature" became the medical term for poisonous snakes (cf. 10:12).

▣ "justice has not allowed him to live" "Justice" or "Fate" was the name of one of their gods. They were expressing the irony of the situation, similar to Amos 5:19. Verse 6 shows that the native islanders were superstitious polytheists.

28:6 These islanders had personal experience with the snakes on the island. Their radical change of attitude is similar to the pagan reactions to the miraculous in Acts 14:11-13.

"to swell up" This is one of many medical terms used by Luke (cf. v. 8). It is found only here in the NT.

 7Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. 8And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured. 10They also honored us with many marks of respect; and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed.

28:7 "the leading man" This word means some type of governmental official, literally, "the first" (cf. 13:50; Luke 19:47, "of people"; 16:12, "of a city"). It has been found in two inscriptions on this island, one Greek and one Latin. Rome had allowed this island self-rule and at some point, full Roman citizenship.

28:8 "lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery" Malta was known for its fever which came from microbes in their goats' milk.

▣ "laid his hands on him and healed him" See Special Topis: Laying on of Hands at 6:6.

28:9 Both of these verbs are imperfect, which implies repeated or continuing action in past time (indicative mood). They kept coming. God kept healing them through Paul.

The Greek verb behind the English translation "getting cured" is therapeuō, from which we get the English "therapy." The term can be used for "service" as well as "healing." Only a specific context can determine which one is appropriate.

 11At the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead. 12After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13From there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium, and a day later a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome. 15And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

28:11 "an Alexandrian ship" This was probably another large grain ship going to the Bay of Naples from Egypt (cf. 27:6,38).

▣ "ship which had wintered at the island" The Mediterranean Sea was too stormy to navigate during the winter months. The shipping lanes opened back up in late February or March.

▣ "the Twin Brothers for its figurehead" This refers to Zeus' twin sons, Caster and Pollox. They were the patrons of sailors in the Roman pantheon. Poseidon had given them power and control over wind, waves, and storms. Their special constellation was Gemini. Apparently there was a carving of them on the bow, two little elf-like men.

28:12 "Syracuse" This was the principal city of Sicily located on the eastern coast. This port was eighty miles north of Malta.

28:13 "sailed around" The ancient uncial manuscripts א (Siniaticus), and B (Vaticanus) have "weighing anchor," which was a technical sailing term (so characteristic of Luke), but other ancient manuscripts P74, אc, and A have "passing by," like 16:8.

▣ "Rhegium" This is the city at the southwestern tip of Italy.

▣ "Puteoli" This was the grain importing center for Rome in the Bay of Naples. They traveled about 180 miles in two days.

28:14 "There we found some brethren" There were existing Christian congregations in Italy (cf. v. 15) and Rome who embraced Paul.

28:15 "Market of Appius" This was the end of the barge trip from the south of Italy and the beginning of the great Roman highway called the Appian Way. It was forty-three miles to Rome.

▣ "Three Inns" This was a rest stop about thirty-three miles from Rome.

▣ "Paul. . .took courage" Paul apparently had become discouraged again. He seems to have been prone to this. Jesus appeared to him personally several times to encourage him.

 16When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.

28:16 "When we entered Rome" This was not the way Paul expected to come to Rome. But, this was God's way to arrange for Paul to speak to the Roman governmental, military, and religious leaders.

▣ "Paul was allowed to stay by himself with the soldier who was guarding him" Paul was placed under house arrest. The testimony of the officer who brought him was instrumental in this decision.

 17After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, "Brethren, though I had 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. 18And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. 19But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation. 20For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel." 21They said to him, "We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. 22But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere."

28:17 "Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews" This was Paul's standard approach (cf. Rom. 1:16; 2:9). He explains his current circumstances and opens the door for a gospel presentation.

28:18-19 Here again Luke's apologetic purpose can be clearly seen! Christianity was not a threat to the Roman government.

28:19 "the Jews objected" This phraseology seems strange spoken to Jewish leaders in Rome. Luke uses Ioudaios (Jews) in two senses.

1. nationality – 2:5,11; 9:22; 10:22,28; 11:19; 13:56; 14:1; 16:1,3,20; 17:1; 17:10,17; 18:2,4,5,19; 19:10,17,34; 20:21; 21:21,39; 22:3,12; 24:5,9; 24:24,27; 25:8,9,24; 20:7; 28:17

2. those who had eyewitness knowledge of the last week of Jesus' life – 2:15; 10:39

He also used it in different evaluations.

1. in a negative sense – 9:23; 12:3,11; 13:45,50; 14:2,4,5,19; 17:5,13; 18:12,14,28; 19:13,14,33; 20:3,19; 21:11,27; 22:30; 23:12,20,27; 24:19; 25:2,7,10,15; 26:2,21; 28:19

2. in a positive sense – 13:43; 14:1; 18:2,24; 21:20

Possibly the best text in Acts which shows the different connotations of this term is 14:1-2.

28:20 "for the sake of the hope of Israel" Paul is addressing these Jewish leaders in such a way as to establish a relationship with his audience. He tries to find a common ground with these Jewish leaders in "the hope of Israel." For Paul, that referred to Jesus, for them, the Promised Coming One, the Messiah or possibly to the resurrection!

28:21 This lack of information about Paul is surprising in light of Paul's ministry on three mission journeys and the events and rumors in Jerusalem.

28:22 It is obvious that the news about Jesus was spreading and that many were responding to the gospel. In Jewish circles this was not good news! However, these Jewish leaders were willing to give Paul a hearing.

▣ "This sect" See Special Topic: Jesus the Nazarene at 2:22.

 23When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. 24Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. 25And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, 26saying, ‘Go to this people and say, You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 27For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes; Otherwise they might see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.' 28Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen." 29[When he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.]

28:23 "they came. . .in large numbers. . .from morning until evening" Paul explained the Christian faith to these Jews all day! What a marvelous opportunity.

▣ "the kingdom of God" This was the central theme of Jesus' preaching and teaching (parables). It is a present reality in the lives of believers and a future consummation of God's reign over all the fallen earth (cf. Matt. 6:10). This phrase is obviously not related to Israel only, but it was an integral part of Israel's hope (cf. v. 20). See Special Topic at 1:3.

▣ "the Law of Moses and from the Prophets" This is two of the three divisions of the Hebrew canon (see Special Topic at 13:15 and the note at 24:14) which stood for the entire OT (cf. Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 22:40; Luke 16:16; 24:44; Acts 13:15; 28:23). Paul's methodology (Christological typology and predictive prophecy) was to set the OT texts alongside the life of Jesus.

28:24 This reflects the mystery of the gospel. Why some believe and some do not is the mystery of a sovereign God and human free will.

In one sense Paul's ministry to the Jewish leaders in Rome is a microcosm of Paul's ministry. He first shared with the Jews. He shared Jesus' fulfillment of OT Scriptures. Some believed, but most did not. This too, was predicted in the OT (cf. Isa. 6:9-10).

28:25-27 "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah" This reveals Paul's view of the mystery of Israel's unbelief! The quote in verses 26-27 is from Isa. 6:9-10. Jesus used this verse often of human unbelief (cf. Matt. 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:39-40). By this time Paul had already penned Romans 9-11 (why has Israel rejected her Messiah?). Israel of the OT would not/did not fully believe either. There was a remnant of faith, but a majority of unbelief.


28:28 "this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles" This may be an allusion to Psalm 67, especially v. 2. This universal aspect of Christianity is what caused the riot in Jerusalem and was an ongoing problem for many Jews. This is logical from Gen. 1:26,27; 3:15; 12:3. It was prophesied in Isaiah, Micah, and Jonah. It is clearly stated as God's eternal plan by Paul in Eph. 2:11-3:13! See Special Topic at 1:8.

"they will also listen" This is the truth of Romans 9-11. The Jews rejected the Messiah because He did not fit their expectations and because the gospel opened the door of faith to all people.

The NT issue really is not Jew vs. Gentile, but believer vs. unbeliever. The issue is not who is your mother, but is your heart open to God's Spirit and God's Son?!

28:29 This verse is omitted in the ancient Greek manuscripts P74, א, A, B, and E. It does not appear in any Greek manuscript before P, which dates to the sixth century a.d. UBS4 rates its exclusion as "A" (certain).

 30And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

28:30 "two full years" This was possibly

1. the normal period of time required to see the Caesar

2. the time needed to get new papers from Festus

3. the mandatory waiting period for witnesses from Asia or Jerusalem

4. close to the legal statute of limitations

It was during this time that Paul wrote his prison letters (Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and Philippians).

▣ "in his own rented quarters" Paul had some source of income.

1. he worked at tent making or leather working

2. he was helped by churches (Thessalonica and Philippi)

3. he had some inherited funds


"welcoming" Luke uses this term often with the connotation of "heartily welcome" (cf. 18:27; 28:30 and paradechōmai in 15:4). It is used of the crowd welcoming Jesus in Luke 8:40 and 9:11. It is used of welcoming the gospel as preached by Peter in Acts 2:41.

"all who came" This was the problem. Paul's gospel had a universal reach. It was "good news" for all humans, not just Jews!

28:31 "preaching. . .teaching" The early, post-apostolic church made a distinction between these two ways of presenting truth. The body of sermons recorded in Acts (Peter, Stephen, Paul) is called the Kerygma (proclamation, cf. 20:25; 28:31; Rom. 10:8; Gal. 2:2; I Cor. 9:27; II Tim. 4:2), while the teaching of Jesus interpreted in the Epistles is called the Didache (teaching, cf. 2:42; 5:28; 13:12; Rom. 16:17; I Cor. 14:20).

"the kingdom of God" This was the subject of Jesus' preaching. It refers to the reign of God in man's hearts now that will one day be consummated on earth as it has been in heaven. This passage also shows that the topic is not only for Jews. See Special Topic at 1:3.

"the Lord" "Lord" is the translation of the Hebrew term adon, which meant "owner, husband, master, or lord" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 1:6). The Jews became afraid of pronouncing the sacred name YHWH lest they take it in vain and break one of the Ten Commandments. Whenever they read the Scriptures, they substituted Adon for YHWH. This is why our English translations use all capitals Lord for YHWH in the OT. By transferring this title (kurios in Greek) to Jesus, the NT authors assert His deity and equality with the Father.

▣ "Jesus" "Jesus" is the name given to the baby in Bethlehem by the angel (cf. Matt. 1:21). It is made up of two Hebrew nouns: "YHWH," the covenant name for deity, and "salvation" (i.e., Hosea). It is the same Hebrew name as Joshua. When used alone it often identifies the man, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary (e.g., Matt. 1:16, 25; 2:1; 3:13,15,16).

▣ "Christ" "Christ" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah (i.e., an Anointed One, see Special Topic at 2:31). It asserts Jesus' OT title as YHWH's promised One sent to set up the new age of righteousness.

NASB"with all openness, unhindered"
NKJV"with all confidence, no one forbidding him"
NRSV"with all boldness and without hindrance"
TEV"speaking with all boldness and freedom"
NJB"with complete fearlessness and without any hindrance from anyone"

This verse shows that the Roman authorities did not consider Christianity subversive or dangerous. The Greek text ends with the adverb "unfettered" or "unhinderedly." This seems to emphasize the ongoing nature of the task of proclamation and the power of the Spirit.

Many have assumed, based on Acts 1:1 use of "first," which implies more than two, that Luke planned to write a third volume. Some even think that this third volume may be the Pastoral Letters (I Timothy, II Timothy and Titus).

For the Greek term (parrhēsia), translated "openness" by NASB, see Special Topic at 4:29.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does Acts end with Paul still in prison? Why does it end so abruptly?

2. Why does Luke take so much time in describing Paul's trip and stay in Rome?

3. Why did Paul always try to witness to the Jews first?

4. Explain the difference between the Kerygma and Didache.


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