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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Acts 28

 

 

Verses 1-10

Paul On the Island of Malta - Acts 28:1-10 gives us the account of Paul's ministry on the island of Malta.

Acts 28:2 — "And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness" - Comments- The term "barbarous" is comparable to the Jewish term "Gentiles" in the sense that a barbarian was anyone who did not speak the Greek language. The Romans used in to refer to anyone who was not a Roman citizen. Note how Paul the apostle uses this same term to contrast it with the Greeks and as a person who does not understand the spoken language of the people.

Romans 1:14, "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise."

1 Corinthians 14:11, "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."

Colossians 3:11, "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all."

Luke would not have used this term in Acts 28:2; Acts 28:4 in a derogatory manner after the kindness that the people of Malta had showed them.

Acts 28:3Comments- Paul was a hard worker with a servant's heart.

Acts 28:4Comments - Donald Guthrie and others note the suggestion by David Ladouceur that it was a pagan belief in New Testament times that survival of a shipwreck proved a man's innocence. Perhaps Luke included this lengthy story as a defense for Paul's innocence. 327]

327] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grover, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1990), 373; see David Ladouceur, "Hellenistic Preconceptions of Shipwreck and Pollution as a context for Acts 27-28 ," Harvard Theological Review 73, 1980, pp 435-449 and G. B. Miles & G. Tromph, "Luke and Antiphon: The Theology of Acts 27-28 in the Light of Pagan Beliefs about Divine Retribution, Pollution and Shipwreck", Harvard Theological Review 69, 1976, pp 259-267.

This view finds support from a verse in Acts 28:4 which alludes to such a belief when it says, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live."

We also see this believe alluded to in Jonah 1:4-10 when the men of the ship sought the cause of the storm in their belief that someone on board had sinned against his god.

Jonah 1:7, "And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah."


Verses 11-16

Paul Arrives in Rome - Acts 28:11-16 gives us the account of how Paul finally reached Rome.

Acts 28:11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.

Acts 28:11 — "whose sign was Castor and Pollux" - Comments- Strong says the Greek word "Dioscuri" ( διό σκουροι) (G 1359) means, "sons of Jupiter, i.e. the twins Dioscuri." Albert Barnes says this compound word is derived from κῦρος (Liddell-Scott "son") and διός (meaning "god," but particularly "Zeus" in Greco-Roman mythology), and it refers to the twin sons of Zeus named Castor and Pollux. He says according to Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were "the twin brothers, sons of Jupiter and Leda, the wife of Tyndarus, the king of Sparta. After their death, they are fabled to have been translated to heaven, and made constellations under the name of Gemini, or the Twins. They received divine honours, and were called the sons of Jupiter." 328] In astronomy, they refer to the two bright northern stars in the constellation Gemini, Castor being the northernmost, a constellation placed within the Zodiac. Smith says that these two deities were considered guardians for sailors, watching over them in the midst of stormy seas. Thus, John Gill says their images were placed as figure-heads on the bows of ships. John Gill says that sailors would often make their vows to these two images before casting out to sea and endeavour to fulfill them upon their safe return. 329] Whether or not the captain of the ship chose this ship out of a selection of ships for its good omen is not mentioned.

328] Albert Barnes, Acts , in Barnes" Notes, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1997), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), comments on Acts 28:11.

329] John Gill, Acts , in John Gill's Expositor, in e-Sword, v 777 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Acts 28:11.

Paul is telling us that the figures of Castor and Pollux were carved or painted on the forepart of the ship.

Acts 28:15Word Study on "meet" - Strong says the Greek word "meet" ( απά ντησις) (G 529) means, "to encounter." According to Moulton and Milligan, this Greek word appears to carry a technical meaning for an official welcome of an arriving dignitary. 330] F. F. Bruce says that it was often used when an important person was approaching a town to pay an official visit. The leaders of the town would go out to meet him and escort him to his final destination. Bruce says that this Greek word was so distinct in its meaning that it was carried over into Latin, where it was used with the same meaning. He says Cicero used it when Julius Caesar went on diplomatic visits. Because of this απά ντησις was often used with its counterpart παρουσί α, which refers to the official visit of a king or other dignitary. 331]

330] James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-literary Sources (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1914-1929), 53.

331] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), 68-70.

In each of the four uses of this word in the New Testament, the Greek word απά ντησις carries the same meaning. Note:

Matthew 25:1, "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom."

Matthew 25:6, "And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him."

Acts 28:15, "And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage."

1 Thessalonians 4:17, "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

Acts 28:15Comments- We now know that the believers in Rome met Paul with a royal welcome in Acts 28:15, although he arrived as a prisoner. We know now that this is the reason that we will meet Jesus in the air in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and not on the ground or in heaven. This is why the five virgins went out to meet the bridegroom in Matthew 25:1; Matthew 25:6.

It is interesting to note that I have seen this formal welcome given to important people in Uganda, East Africa on many occasions. The greater a man's importance in this culture, the larger the crowds that will welcome such dignitaries.

Acts 28:16 — "And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard" - Comments- The name of the centurion that had custody of Paul was Julius ( Acts 27:1; Acts 27:3). He now favored Paul and probably instructed the captain of the guard to give Paul special privileges, such as being given living quarters by himself. Nevertheless, Paul still held the status of a prisoner under Roman military custody. Therefore, scholars suggest that an arrangement was made with one Burrus, the Praetorian Perfect until A.D 62, as Roman history leads us to believe, to confine Paul to his own hired house with one soldier being assigned to him instead of placing him within the Praetorian barracks with a multitude of other prisoners. The condition to this special confinement was the Paul had to be chained to a private guard 24-hours a day. Thus, Paul may have been subjected to some of the rough treatment that Roman soldiers so often inflicted upon their prisoners or with the successor of Burrus named Tigellinus. 332]

332] Bernard W. Henderson, The Life and Principate of the Emperor Nero (London: Methuen & Co, 1903), 135-136.

Acts 27:1, "And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus" band."

Acts 27:3, "And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself."

Acts 28:16 — "but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him" - Comments- God gave Paul favor with man. This is because Paul walked in mercy and truth.

Proverbs 3:3-4, "Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man."

Acts 28:16Comments- While in prison Paul wrote a number of epistles. We can more easily hear God"s voice when we have time to be still and quiet. The Lord often speaks to me early in the mornings, or while sitting in church, or while flying an airplane or driving a car. It is in these times of quietness that I often hear from God.


Verses 17-29

Paul Ministers in Rome - Acts 28:17-29 records Paul's ministry in Rome while awaiting his first trial before the Rome's highest court.

Acts 28:20 — "I am bound with this chain" - Comments- Heinrich Meyer notes that practice of chaining prisoners to a soldier was a Roman custom, and he gives several references. 333] Josephus tells us about Agrippa being chained to a soldier while in bonds (Antiquities 1867). Pliny the Younger refers to sending a prisoner in chains (Letters 1065). 334] Lucius Seneca writes, "…the same chain fastens the prisoner and the soldier who guards him..." (Epistles on Morals 5) 335]

333] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. William P. Dickson (New York: Funk and Wagnalis, 1884), 230.

334] William Melmoth, The Letters of Pliny the Consul (Boston, Mass: R. Larkin, 1809), 231.

335] Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Seneca Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, vol 1, trans. Richard M. Gummere, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. E. Capps, T. E. Page, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1935), 23.

Acts 28:21Comments- The Jews in Rome saw themselves under the authority of the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, which was understood as the central authority of all Jewry. Therefore, Jewish leadership was able to exert tremendous influence over the Jewish synagogues of the Diaspora. In Acts 28:21 the Jews interpreted Paul's teachings in light of their Jewish heritage.


Verse 30-31

Conclusion: The Church's Rest (Rest) - Acts 28:30-31 serves as a conclusion to the book of Acts , reflecting the theme of divine rest. The apostle Paul stands as the towering example of the office of the New Testament apostle in the book of Acts. He finds rest in fulfilling his destiny of taking the Gospel to Rome, which testifies of the divine commission of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ ( Acts 1:8).

Paul's Two-Year Imprisonment (A.D 61-62) - Acts 28:30-31 is considered a somewhat abrupt ending to the book of Acts , which leaves Paul in Roman imprisonment and his fate unresolved. If we consider the third imperative theme of Luke/ Acts , we easily see these concluding remarks as a fulfillment of the office and ministry of the prophet and apostle. Ananias had prophesied that Paul was a chosen vessel to bear Christ's name to the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel ( Acts 9:15-16). Paul fulfilled this prophecy as an apostle to the Gentiles, by planting many churches in the Roman Empire, and by standing before the Emperor to appeal his case for recognition of the Christian faith, and by writing the book of Hebrews towards the end of his ministry.

Comments on the Abrupt Ending to the Book of Acts - Many explanations for such an abrupt ending for the book of Acts have been proposed by scholars; for the story ends with Paul sitting in prison preaching the Gospel and receiving all who came to him. Could Luke have intended on writing a third volume and failed, or did Luke's death bring an abrupt end to his writing of the book of Acts? Perhaps Luke's underlying intent was to write Acts as a defense for Paul's upcoming trial, since this writing clearly shows events that prove the innocence of those who lived and preached Christian faith. Eusebius tells us that Luke continued "his history down to the period when he was with Paul." (Ecclesiastical History 2226) 336] Thus, Luke did not write after Paul's first imprisonment because Luke no longer traveled with him. The most likely explanation lies in the understanding of the purpose of this book and of how of how historians of this period of history wrote not only to provide information about historical events, but also to teach a moral or ethical lesson. It is important to understand the literary structure of the Gospels and Acts , that they are not just historical records, but that they were intended to be teaching tools for the early Church. The book of Acts is not intended to be a biography of Peter or Paul. Luke ends where he does because his purpose has been accomplished, which is to show that the early apostles had been empowered by the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel "both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." ( Acts 1:8) Ending in Rome, Paul had taken the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Jeffrey Arthurs says that this ending "creates a sense of forward momentum. The gospel has reached the capital. Nothing can stop it! Stay tuned for updates." 337]

336] Eusebius writes, "And Luke , who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, brought his history to a close at this point, after stating that Paul spent two whole years at Rome as a prisoner at large, and preached the word of God without restraint." (Ecclesiastical History 2221)

337] Jeffery D. Arthurs, Preaching With Variety (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2007), 82.

Perhaps Paul's missionary journeys after his two-year Roman imprisonment are not recorded (although the Pastoral Epistles reveal some of his later ministry) because he finished his course, fulfilled his purpose and plan upon earth. Thus, this later material of Paul's life would serve no redemptive purpose in the overall scheme of the Holy Scriptures.

Finally, we know that the outcome of Paul's trial would not destroy the foundation that Paul had laid. The Church was now established and the gates of Hell could not prevail upon it nor overcome it.

Matthew 16:18, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Paul Writes Some of His Greatest Epistles During His Two-Year Imprisonment- It was during Paul's two-year imprisonment in Rome that he wrote some of his greatest epistles. William Burkitt said, "Satan had better have let these two holy men alone [referring to Paul and Luke], than have them cast into prison, for by their pens they battered the walls of his kingdom and made them shake about his ears." 338]

338] William Burkitt, The Acts of the Holy Apostles, in Expository Notes, with Practical Observations, The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, vol 1 (Philadelphia: Sorin & Ball, 1844), 589.

The Prison Epistles of Ephesians ,, Philippians ,, Colossians , and Philemon reveal how much freedom Paul had to visit and discuss issues with fellow Jews and believers. On one of these occasions when guests arrived to visit Paul, he received news from Epaphras about the believers at Colossi. This faithful messenger and perhaps the founding missionary of the church at Colossi ( Colossians 1:7) had recently come to Rome and briefed Paul about the progress of the Gospel in this church that Paul had never actually visited. He informed Paul about their faith in Christ and of their love for one another ( Colossians 1:4; Colossians 1:8). We know from the context of the short epistle of Philemon that Onesimus, a slave that belonged to Philemon , had fled to Paul for freedom. We do not know the cause of his flight nor why he sought Paul. During his exile in Rome Paul had led him to the Lord ( Acts 1:10). The need to bring reconciliation to this situation resulted in Paul's letter to his owner named Philemon. From these two occasions, Paul also took the opportunity to write his less personal letter to the church at Ephesus, which he intended to be circulated among the other churches in this region. At a later date, the church at Philippi sent Epaphroditus to Paul with a love offering and with instructions to minister to his needs ( Philippians 4:18; Philippians 2:25). The events of this visit could have occasioned Paul's letter to the Philippians. For we assume that Epaphroditus brought news of the progress of church growth at Philippi and any pending problems. While in Rome this messenger becomes gravely ill, near unto death. When he was strong enough to return, Paul sent him back to inform the church of this illness ( Philippians 2:26-30). This return gave Paul the opportunity to write them a thank you letter for their offering to him and to give Epaphroditus the praise the he was worthy of receiving for his deed. Therefore, he is most likely the one who carried this epistle to the Philippian church. In addition, Paul was now intending to send Timothy to Philippi to deal with several issues that Epaphroditus has reported to him. Paul would first send Timothy and then follow up with a personal visit ( Philippians 2:19; Philippians 2:24). This letter thus serves to notify the church at Philippi to prepare for such visits.

Philippians 4:18, "But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God."

Philippians 2:25, "Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants."

Paul's Anointing in Relation to His Imprisonments- In May 2001 I had a dream one night in which I was told that in each of Paul"s imprisonments, he received a greater anointing of the Spirit in which to walk. When Paul writes his second epistle to the church at Corinth, he reveals to them the secret of his strength. He explains that it is in the midst of his persecutions that the grace of God rests upon him.

2 Corinthians 12:10, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ"s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

The Author's Rhetorical Use of Chiasm - Chiasm is a literary device used in antiquity that arranges thoughts and words into a symmetrical order. David Allen notes how Luke uses the rhetorical device of "chiasm" in the prologue and conclusion to the book of Acts. In his prologue to Acts , we find the key words "Jesus," "teach," and "kingdom of God" mentioned in this order, while the conclusion reverses this word order as "kingdom of God," "teaching," and "Jesus." Allen says this structure served as a "linguistic signature" of Luke. 339] Ancient literature used such rhetorical devices for emphasis or for the purpose of persuading one's listeners towards a particular view. 340] In this rhetorical device, Luke is testifying to the expansion of the Kingdom of God through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the apostolic office of Paul and others.

339] David L. Allen, "Class Lecture," Doctor of Ministry Seminar, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 25 July to 5 August 2011.

340] Gaston Boissier, trans. W. G. Hutchison, Tacitus and Other Roman Studies (London: Archibald Constable and Company, Ltd, 1906), 3.

Acts 28:30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,

Acts 28:30Comments- Apparently, it took two years for the process of his trial to be completed. The Roman court system would have required that Paul's accusers appear before Caesar in Rome. This would have taken time for his Jewish accusers to prepare their case and appoint a prosecutor to represent them. Thus, the distance that would be traveled, the nature of the Roman court system and the convenience of the Emperor would have probably accounted for the fact that Paul spent two whole years in prison.

Acts 28:31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

Acts 28:31Comments- In defense of the view that the ending of the book of Acts in intentional, Lechler and Gerok note that both Luke and Acts close with a double participial sentence structure. Luke closes with "…praising and blessing God," while Acts closes with "preaching…teaching…" 341]

341] G. V. Lechler and K. Gerok, Theological and Homiletical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Specially Designed and Adapted for the Use of Ministers and Students, vol 2, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. John P. Lange, in Clark's Foreign Theological Library, third series, vol 25 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1864), 456.

Luke 24:52-53, "And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen."

 


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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 28:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/acts-28.html. 2013.

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