Dr. Jack L. Arnold
The End Which Never Ends
We have now arrived at the
end of the Book of Acts but it is not really the end; it is the beginning. The Book of Acts is God's inspired
record of the first century church, but the last chapter of Acts is the
beginning of uninspired church history.
The Book of Acts is really the acts of the resurrected Christ through
the power of the Holy Spirit.
“The first account I
composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day
when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the
apostles whom He had chosen” (Acts 1:1, 2).
Jesus Christ is still doing
mighty things on earth through the Holy Spirit although bodily He is at the
right hand of the Father. The Book
of Acts is an unfinished book and introduces us to the whole record of the
history of the church which continues to this day.
The real thrust of the Book
of Acts will never end until the second advent of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 27, we were given a
cliff-hanging account of an exciting shipwreck as the Apostle Paul was on his
way as a prisoner to Rome to appeal before Caesar. We left Paul and the passengers of the ship swimming to
shore or clinging to planks as they abandoned ship. They were stranded and had no idea where they were
PAUL AND THE VIPER - Acts
“And when they had been
brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta.” -- The ship had wrecked on the island of Malta in the
Mediterranean. The bay where they
actually shipwrecked is referred to today as the Bay of St. Paul.
“And the 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.” -- Apparently,
on the island of Malta the people were rather primitive or uncivilized compared
to Greek and Roman standards. Yet,
they were not naked savages.
Whatever, they showed great kindness to those in the shipwreck. As this bedraggled group came ashore,
they greeted them, made a fire and took care of their needs.
These natives were very
superstitious and probably had no exposure to the gospel. Perhaps this is the reason Paul used
signs in the preaching of the gospel at Malta.
Incident with the Viper (28: 3-6)
“But when Paul had gathered a
bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, . . .” -- Paul, along
with the others, was gathering up sticks to throw onto the fire. Notice, Paul did not think himself
better than the others and he gladly picked up sticks. He did not say, “Why, I'm a man of the
cloth. This work is beneath me!” No, he was just one with the many and
he did his share in everything.
“. . . a viper came out
because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.” -- Paul picked
up a bundle of sticks and unknown to him a snake was in that bundle. The snake was inactive because it was
hibernating. When the snake came
near the fire, it warmed and awakened.
When it came to life, this poisonous snake struck at Paul and its fangs
sank so deep into Paul's body that it just dangled from Paul's hand.
“And when 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.’” -- While these natives had no exposure to
the gospel of Christ, they were religious and had an understanding that sin in
the universe will be judged by God or gods. They had this understanding because they were created in the
image of God. They had a sense of
guilt over sin and that wrong will be judged, although this was marred by sin. These natives wrongly concluded that
Paul was a murderer and this snake bite merely proved that the gods had finally
gotten even with Paul for his sins.
They, because of their superstition, jumped to conclusions, but there
was no justification for their thinking.
“However he shook the
creature off into the fire and suffered no harm.” -- Paul shook
off this viper and showed absolutely no symptoms of a snake bite. There was no redness or swelling or sickness. Obviously a miracle had occurred.
“But they were expecting that
he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they 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.” -- The superstitious natives recognized immediately that a
miracle had taken place and they changed their minds and decided Paul was a
God planned it so this
incident would occur and Paul would have a grand opportunity to witness for
Christ to these natives. Nothing
happens by accident, not even a snake bite. John Calvin said, “The viper certainly did not come out of
the bundle of sticks by chance, but according to God's secret purpose; the Lord
directed it to bite Paul because He saw it would be for the glory of the
God gave a sign to these
superstitious natives, for we know Paul had the special Apostolic sign-gifts of
the first century. According to
Mark 16:14-20, it was the Apostles who truly believed in the resurrected Christ
who would be given special sign-gifts such as tongues, healings, picking up of
serpents and drinking poison. Acts
28:3-6 and Mark 16:17, 18 cannot be signs which accompany anyone who believes
in Christ because the context will not permit it.
Snake handling among
so-called radical Christians is quite often reported in this area of the
country. These snake handlers get
their supposed biblical authority from Mark 16 and Acts 28. They pride themselves in being able to
handle timber rattlers. It is
recorded quite frequently that some snake handler died because of being bitten
by the snake.
A few years ago there was a
story about Oscar Pelfry of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Pelfry, who was 65 years old, stood before a congregation
holding a pair of timber rattlesnakes.
He did this as an act of worship in the Holiness Church of God in Jesus
Name. He said, “I believe Jesus;
oh Jesus, I believe, thank you Jesus; I believe” and then suddenly one of the
rattlers bit him in the temple. He
was taken home. He refused medical
attention and died six hours later.
The reporters, after this
incident, gathered a few of his friends together who were also snake handlers
and asked them questions. One of
these friends was a certain Mr. Mullins.
Mullins said, “When the ecstasy of the Lord comes upon you and you take
up serpents, you have no fear.
You've got to believe this yourself. If you move too fast or too slow, sometimes you will get bit
but if under the anointing power of God, the serpent won't hurt you.” Then the reporter said, “Of course, God
does not always provide His anointing power.” Mullins himself lost his right hand in 1953 after he was
bitten by a rattler, but he lived.
Statistics show there may be as many as 75 snake bites a year as a
result of snake handling by radicals.
Nevertheless, the snake handlers faith remains unshaken. They argue that the deaths are simply God's
way of showing how little faith men have, for if we have enough faith, God will
not let the rattlers strike.
PAUL AND THE HEALING OF
PUBLIUS' FATHER - Acts 28:7-10
Supernatural Healing (28:7, 8)
“Now 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.” -- It is quite likely that Publius, who welcomed them, was the
head of the Roman government on Malta, and Julius, the centurion in charge of
the crew and passengers on the ship, arranged a visit with him.
“And it came about 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.”
-- This man was ill with
something like the flu. Paul went
in and prayed for and laid hands on him and he was instantaneously healed. A miracle of healing took place. Again Paul had the Apostolic sign-gifts
which included the gift of healing.
While Paul had the sign-gifts
of miracles and healings, he did not always use them. He told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach (1 Tim
5:23) and left Trophimus at Miletus sick (II Tim. 4:20).
Natural Healing (28:9, 10)
“And after this had happened,
the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and
getting cured.” -- The word for the healing of Publius'
father is supernatural, instantaneous healing, but in this verse it says people
were bringing the sick of the island to Paul and he was “curing” them. This word means a gradual cure. It is similar to our English word therapeutic. This has caused some scholars to think
that a unique combination of medical skill and divine healing were used by Paul
in the healing of the sick.
Perhaps Dr. Luke was deeply involved in the natural healing process
while, at the same time, praying for God's providential healing. Dr. Luke was perhaps the very first
“And they also honored us
with many marks of respect; and when we were setting sail they supplied us with
all we needed.” -- When Paul and Luke left, the natives
supplied the new ship with supplies out of deep appreciation for their ministry
No doubt multiple thousands
of people heard the gospel of Christ during that short stay on the island of
PAUL AND HIS TRIP TO ROME -
Method of Travel (28:11-14)
“And at the end of three
months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had winter at the island and
which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead.” -- Paul and
Luke set sail on a totally pagan ship.
On the front of the ship were two gods, Castror and Pollux, sons of
Zeus. Paul and Luke were not total
separationists because they sailed on a ship dedicated to a pagan deity.
“And after we put in at Syracuse,
we stayed there for three days.
And from 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. There we found some brethren, and were
invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.” -- Almost everywhere in the Roman Empire there were brethren
who exercised their gift of hospitality and took Paul and Luke into their
Meeting with Other
“And 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.” -- Paul arrived on the outskirts of Rome and Christians came to
meet him at the Market of Appius (40 miles from Rome) and Three Taverns (30
miles from Rome). Notice the joy
and encouragement Paul received when he met these Christian brethren, most of
whom he had never met. Yet there
was an immediate oneness between them.
What a time this must have been.
They prayed together; fellowshipped together and encouraged one another
to greater dedication to Christ.
Three years earlier, Paul
wrote the Book of Romans, but now at last he is coming to Rome. God is faithful, for He promised Paul
he would get to Rome about four years before this time. Our timetable is not necessarily God’s
Manner of Imprisonment (28:16)
“. . . Paul was allowed to
stay by himself with the soldier who was guarding him.“ -- Paul was put under house arrest either chained to a guard or
a guard was posted at his door.
Every so many hours there would be a changing of the guard. Before long, the entire guard had heard
the gospel of Christ from Paul. He
had a captive audience and he took every opportunity to share Christ.
PAUL AND HIS GATHERING WITH
THE JEWS - Acts 28:17-29
Contact with the Leaders (28:17-22)
“And it happened that after
three days he called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, . . .” -- Wherever Paul went to preach Christ, he always went to the
Jews first. “For I am not ashamed
of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who
believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). He invited the local Jewish leaders to
come and see him. Probably most
came out of respect for Paul who was a well-known Jew and was probably a member
of the Sanhedrin.
“. . . and when they had come
together, he began saying to them, ‘Brethren, though I had nothing against our
people, or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from
Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because
there was no ground for putting me to death. But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to
Caesar; not that I had any accusation against my nation. For this reason therefore, I requested
to see you and to speak to you, for I am wearing chains for the sake of the
hope of Israel.” -- Paul explained to them that he was
innocent and the real reason he was in chains was because he believed in the
hope of Israel. That is, he
believed in the promised coming Messiah who had come in the person of Jesus
Christ. Paul believed that Jesus
Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah; that is, Christ
did signs, died for sinners, and was resurrected from the dead just as the Old
Testament predicted Messiah would do.
Christ was the hope of Israel and yet the Jews rejected the Messiah;
therefore they rejected Paul who also followed Christ.
Even today the issue is still
the same for the Jews--the promise of Messiah. Is Messiah Jesus Christ or not? Jews today, after reexamining the issues, are turning to
Christ as Messiah in larger numbers than before and we praise God for this.
“And they 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. But we desire to hear from you what
your views are; concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken
against everywhere.’” -- Their curiosity was aroused by this new
Jewish sect called Christianity which was springing up everywhere. Also Christianity was evilly spoken of
everywhere. True New Testament
Christianity is always spoken against by the non-Christian world. This is true even today. If we go out with the same gospel
message, with the same aggressive evangelism in the power of the Holy Spirit,
we will be everywhere spoken against as were the early Christians. Identification with Christ always means
alienation from the world. We
cannot be true to Christ without being controversial.
“If the world hates you, you
know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but
because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore
the world hates you. Remember the
word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also
persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:18-20).
Coming for Discussion (28:23-29)
“And when they set a day for
him, 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.” -- These Jews came to Paul’s apartment or
rented home from morning until night as he explained to them about the kingdom
of God (God's sovereign rule over heaven and earth). He also spoke to them about Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the
way of entrance into the kingdom of God in both its spiritual and earthly
forms. Men acknowledge the Messiah
as King and in so doing are saying He has the right to rule in the heart. Messiah is the key to God’s kingdom.
Notice that Paul explained
or expounded the Scripture to these Jews. He went verse by verse through the various parts of the Old
Testament which spoke of God's kingdom and Messiah. Paul's method was to expound the Scripture, testify
concerning the kingdom and persuade men concerning Christ as
Messiah. He sought to bring men to
a point of decision and commitment to Christ.
“And some were being
persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.” -- Even the Apostle Paul could not persuade everyone to
trust Christ, but he tried. Paul
was bent on seeing men saved. “ .
. . I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some” (I
“And 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, saying, “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; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE
HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED
THEIR EYES; LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND
UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND TURN AGAIN, AND I SHOULD HEAL THEM.’” -- Paul quoted from Isaiah 6:9,10 to show that the Bible
predicted that the majority of the Jews would harden their hearts and close
their minds to the truth of Messiah.
The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of the Old
Testament but the Jews rejected, because to accept Messiah meant they had to
change their life styles and suffer for Messiah. Their comforts would be disturbed if they followed
Messiah. They wanted tradition,
wrong theology, ritual and whatever.
To follow Christ meant change and they did not want to change. They had a comfortable pattern of life
and they did not want it disturbed.
They resented everything which would upset the so-called tranquility of
their lives. Yet, to follow Christ
“Let it be known to you
therefore, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will
also listen.” -- The Jews were hardened, so Paul turned
to the Gentiles with the gospel of Christ. The reason that you and I (as Gentiles) are saved today is
because the gospel was taken to the Gentiles, for the Jews turned from the
truth and were bypassed as a nation.
This verse is a tremendous
promise. As we take the gospel to
the Gentiles, some hear and respond to Christ.
PAUL AND HIS MINISTRY IN ROME
- Acts 28:30, 31
His Abode (28:30)
“And he stayed two full years
in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him, . . .” -- Paul dwelt two years in his own home or apartment at his own
expense while he was awaiting trial.
Two whole years he was confined to his home. This would seem like a “bummer” but God used this time for
him to write Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon. Paul's letters during this time are filled
with rejoicing and complete submission to the sovereign purposes of God for his
“Now I want you to know,
brethren, my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the
Gospel” (Phil. 1:12).
“For to me to live is Christ,
and to die is gain. But if I am to
live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know
which to choose. But I am hard
pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ,
for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary
for your sake” (Phil. 1:21-24).
“I know how to get along with
humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every
circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both
of having abundance and suffering need.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil.
“Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I say rejoice” (Phil. 4:4)!
"Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your
requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
His Activity (28:31)
“. . . preaching the kingdom
of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness,
unhindered.” -- For two years Paul preached and taught
about Christ and God's kingdom. He
had an evangelistic home Bible class and a discipleship class for his
converts. It was the greatest home
seminary which ever existed.
Notice the very last word of
the Book of Acts is unhindered.
Paul was bound but the gospel was unhindered. For two thousand years the good news of Christ has been
preached in this world. Many have
tried to stop the progress of the gospel but it will go forth unhindered and it
will be victorious (II Tim. 2:9).
PAUL AND HIS LAST DAYS
According to tradition, Paul
appeared before Caesar (Nero) and was acquitted in about 63 A.D. Apparently he went back to the island
of Crete, and may have visited Ephesus once more. It is also stated in church tradition that Paul finally
reached Spain, for this was one of the main goals of his life. Some scholars even feel he may have
Then in 64 A.D., Rome burned
and Nero, who started the fire, blamed it on the Christians. There was then a great persecution of
Christians in the whole Roman Empire.
Shortly after this Paul was taken again and imprisoned in a jail,
isolated and lonely in a cold, dark cell.
It was during this imprisonment that he wrote the Book of Second Timothy
and was being made ready by God to meet the Lord Jesus Christ through
“I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there
is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous
Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who
have loved His appearing” (II Tim. 4:7, 8).
And finally one day,
according to tradition, Paul was led out of the jail and taken outside the
walls of Rome. He knelt down and a
sword flashed in the sun. His head
was cut off and he went home to be with the Lord.
Paul was a tremendous man of
God. What a life! What a man of passion for Christ! Paul's life should be a challenge to each
one of us to live consistently for Jesus Christ in the midst of the most severe
Paul was a great Christian
but the Book of Acts is not just about Paul but it is all about Jesus Christ,
the One who died for sinners, was resurrected from the dead and ascended to the
right hand of God.
Do you know the resurrected
Christ? He is Lord of all and one
day all men will face Him. He will
either be Savior or Judge. Receive
Christ; believe He died for your sins; bow your will to Him as Lord so you will
not face Him as Judge and be cast into everlasting misery. Trust Christ as your Savior so He may
reward you with everlasting bliss in heaven.