And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
We have here:—
I. The accomplishment of a long-cherished purpose by the Apostle. From an early date in his ministry his heart had been set on visiting the imperial city. Take heart then, my brother. No matter what may be the Rome on which you have set your desire, if it be but to bless and benefit your fellows and honour Christ, be sure that for you, too, there will come a day when you will be able to sympathise with Paul and Luke when they say, "So we went toward Rome."
II. We have in these words something that reminds us that Paul's purpose was not attained precisely in the way in which at one time he had expected it would be realised. One cannot read his letter to the Romans without feeling that when he wrote its chapters the Apostle did not dream of entering the imperial city as a prisoner. Now, many among us could tell of similar things in our own histories. We set our hearts on some enterprise of benevolence, or on the attainment of some post of usefulness, and we get it ultimately, but it comes to us accompanied with something else of which we had at first no thought. It is to keep us through all our efforts at the feet of Jesus, and to impel us, from first to last, to depend entirely upon Him.
III. While Paul's entrance into Rome was not quite what he at one time expected it would be, yet it really accomplished all he desired. The Jews, indeed, would not receive the truth at his lips, but he found a rich harvest among the Gentiles. And what forum even could contain the myriads to whom Paul has preached in his noble letters? And who may attempt to reckon up the millions who will yet read them in future ages, when the discourses of today shall have passed into oblivion? Yes, it is true, prisoner as he was, Paul went to Rome in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.
W. M. Taylor, The Limitations of Life, p. 264.
Reference: Acts 28:14.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 45.
Acts 28:14-15Seeds of Life.
I. The words of my text describe very simply St. Paul's entry into Rome by the Appian Way, a prisoner, nearly two thousand years ago. How much has risen and fallen in those two thousand years? Millions upon millions of men and women have come into the light of our sun and passed away also; but this fact of St. Paul's entry into Rome does not pass away. We know that he was a life-seed, carrying life; we know that that life has wrought these great changes; that life is our inheritance and lives in us, and will never die. This we know now. The clever foolishness of the most foolish knowledge-worshipper of modern times acknowledges St. Paul to have been a great power. But—how was it then at the time? how looked the seed which had so mighty a growth?
II. I have often thought St. Paul's last ten miles into Rome the most fearful contrast this world ever saw, the most splendid triumph of life matched against force and impossible mountains of evil. There is something terribly real in that single man going into the gorgeous pit of hell, which was Rome, in the sunny spring day, down the flowery slopes of the Alban hills and along the great street, and matching his spirit calmly and quietly against the crushing magnificence of temples, palaces, fortresses, legions, and empires. Truly this was a seed of life, an immortal germ, living now and ever growing, though Rome has perished and many an imperial city since 1 But then, it was only one poor prisoner. When we see any one like St. Paul, distinctly labouring for others and the good of life, we see a seed of life, and can never calculate the greatness it may be. Each and every one of us can be a seed power, can be a life able to sow itself, as part of the life of God on earth.
E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. ii., p. 353.
References: Acts 28:14, Acts 28:15.—Good Words, vol. iii., p. 255. Acts 28:15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 9.
Acts 28:20If we turn to inquire historically what were the elements in the Christian faith by virtue of which chiefly it worked and spread in the early days after the death of Jesus, we find one at least of the most important to have been the conviction among His followers that in Him the hope of a Messiah was fulfilled. Rather, I should say, this was the central belief round which others are grouped, either supporting it or belonging to it as consequences. Even a belief so fundamental and so influential as that in the resurrection of Jesus seems to have been viewed chiefly as proving or confirming His Messiahship. That was the aspect of the significance of the resurrection which especially struck men in the first age of the Church.
I. Many thoughtful men at the present day feel that it is impossible to find any sure basis for Theism itself, apart from belief in Christianity. And there is an unquestionable tendency now for doubters who are logical thinkers to assume purely an agnostic position. Hence the supreme importance of establishing the historical truth of the great facts of Christianity, even for the sake of belief in the existence of God. The agnostic is bound to face the question how he will account satisfactorily for the existence of Christianity. For if the gospel narrative is true, we have in this a direct proof of the existence of God and manifestation of His character.
II. What were the predominant characteristics in the conception of the Christ, which were seized upon in the faith that Jesus was the Christ, and retained still as the most essential features, even though by the fact of being applied to Jesus they were marvellously transformed? First, to say that Jesus was the Christ was to assert that in Him the heart's yearnings would find their final satisfaction. If He was the Christ, there was no need to look for another. The long vista of expectation was closed with His form. The conception of the Messiah and His reign took different shapes. Especially there is the important distinction between the representatives of portions of the Jewish Apocalyptic literature, in which He is invested with something of a supernatural glory, and the times of His coming connected more and more with a last judgment and the beginning of a new age, and on the other hand the simpler anticipations of a King who would restore the kingdom of Judah and Israel to more than the glory of the days of David and Solomon. Again, the Messiah would be in a sense altogether special, the God-appointed Saviour to deliver the nation from their enemies, their internal dissensions and sins; a King to rule over them in righteousness and peace. The stamp of God's authority would be visibly on Him, the favour of God would be manifestly with Him. Hence it was that the Jews called the Messiah "the Son of God." With this we must combine the thought of the kingdom over which He would rule. The restored and glorious kingdom of Israel and Judah was even a more universal object of hope than the Messiah. There were periods in Jewish history, such as that of the Maccabees, when there seems to have been no expectation of a personal Messiah; but even at such times the kingdom was looked for, though under another form of government. But when the expectation of a Messiah flourished, as in the time of our Lord's earthly life and before, His coming was necessarily connected with the setting up of the kingdom, and the expected character of the kingdom illustrates His character. The Kingdom of God it was called, and the Kingdom of Heaven. "The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." It would be the final dispensation of Him who rules all things, permanent, sure to prevail over all human opposition. Thus to say that the work of Jesus was the bringing in of the Kingdom of God was above all to say that His work was founded upon the will of God the Eternal, strong with the strength of heaven.
V. H. Stanton, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, Dec. 4th, 1879.
References: Acts 28:24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 516; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 146.
Acts 28:28The Churches Warned.
Note in what points, if in any, we may claim affinity with these representatives of Judaism at the eventful epoch of its dying struggle with the infant Church.
I. They, like us, had long been in possession of exclusive privileges, and accustomed to survey without emotion the great mass of mankind deprived of them.
II. Note the influence of long-continued and exclusive privileges on the opinions and the doctrinal belief of those enjoying them. It is curious, yet melancholy, to observe, with what facility advantages possessed by a few for the good of many may come to be regarded as prerogatives belonging to the few to the entire exclusion of the many. If the Jews, with an unfinished revelation and a heavy ceremonial yoke upon their necks, could dream of an exclusive right to God's compassions, what may not we, without preventing grace, infer from our unclouded light and our unshackled freedom? And if this grand error had a tendency to vitiate their whole view of divine truth, what security have we that an analogous effect may not be realised in our experience?
III. If we are conscious of inadequate exertions and of cold affections in the great cause of missions, let us think of Israel according to the flesh, and of what he was and what he is—remember that such revolutions are still possible—that if we do not value Christianity enough to share it with the heathen, they may yet become possessed of it at our expense—nay, that while the glorious gospel is so commonly neglected and despised among ourselves, the word of this salvation is already sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it—are hearing it.
J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 195.
Reference: Acts 28:28.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 316.
And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
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.
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.
And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
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.
In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.
And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:
Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.
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.
And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.