Around 62 AD, the Jews made an accusation against Paul, even though he had not sinned against the Jewish law or against Caesar. He stood pure and innocent before God and man, without fault, as God expected. Paul defended himself in a speech before King Agrippa. Here he professed his conversion to God. Toward the end Agrippa said to Festus, in Acts 26:32: “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Due to his own appeal to Caesar, Paul was handed over to Julius along with other prisoners. This is how the report of Paul’s trip to Rome in Acts 27 begins. They boarded a ship from Caesarea. They sailed to Sidon and then came to Myra (present day Turkey). The next stop was at Fair Havens near the city of Lasea. Here Paul warned them not to continue. However, Julius was persuaded by the others, so they raised the anchors and continued on. Then came what the captain did not expect: a strong storm broke out.
From this we can learn that many people, even Christians, do not listen to well-intended warnings, and steer towards personal shipwreck. This has also occurred in churches that ignored warnings. People sometimes experience unnecessary storms in life because they are unwilling to listen. If mature brothers and sisters or parents give you good advice, then pray, think it over, and accept the advice.
Due to the storm, they struck sail so that they might not run aground. The ship was driven by the storm. For days they saw neither sun nor stars. They were without orientation and all hope of life was lost.
This is a fitting picture for many people. Dear reader, are you without hope and direction? Look to the Lord! Christ is the hope for the hopeless! He wants to give you direction and focus. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Be encouraged!
Paul was an example in this hopeless situation. He was not upset because they failed to accept his advice at first. Instead, he sought the best for everyone – a Christian mindset which many have difficulty putting into practice. He spoke of an angel from the God he served. Paul had assurance of salvation and knew he belonged to God. The joyful, godly news from the angel said: “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you” (Acts 27:24). Imagine that you were distressed at sea. How much would these words bring comfort and hope to you?! Paul trusted God and encouraged 275 discouraged people in the rocking ship. When others are discouraged, children of God are calm and can support others.
Let us remember: Your trust in God is encouraging to others. Discouraged people cause others to be discouraged. In complete trust to God, Paul encouraged them all to “take nourishment, for this is to your survival.” Paul took the bread. Then he raised a prayer of thanks to God upon the ship that was about to sink. May you also thank God in spite of the trouble you may be in. Chapter 27 ends with a report that all were saved.
The unknown island on which they were stranded was called Malta. The natives there showed unusual kindness. We must remember that 276 unexpected people who were in great need had arrived.
Paul was an example in every aspect. He did not stand around idly, but gathered a bundle of sticks for the fire. Suddenly, a viper came out and fastened to his hand. The island dwellers saw this. What did they think? They were completely mistaken and said: “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped sea, yet justice does not allow to live” (Acts 28:4). Wrong thoughts bring wrong conclusions and false claims, which are out of line with truth. Sadly, we sometimes fall into this kind of thinking. We should keep silent about things that we are not certain about.
And Paul? He shook the snake off into the fire. The islanders waited for him to die. Their wrong thinking produced false expectations. They waited and waited, but nothing happened. They didn’t know about the power of believing in the Lord Jesus who said: “And these signs will follow will follow those who believe: In my name they will… take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they lay hands on the sick and they will recover” (Mark 16:17a-18). We find an additional promise in Psalm 91:11-13: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways… The young lion and serpent you shall trample underfoot.” After some time, the people reached the verdict that Paul was a god.
Publius, the leading citizen of the Island, courteously entertained the 276 guests for three days. His father lay sick with fever and dysentery. Paul went into his room, prayed for him, laid hands on him, and healed him. This news spread like wildfire and other sick people were healed by the power of God. What an encouraging faith-builder this is for all those who are sick! Christ still has the same power and might today! The Maltans honored their guests and gave them all that was needed for the long journey.
They began to approach Rome. In Puteoli (approximately 60 km south of Rome) they met up with some brothers. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. How good is the fellowship with fellow believers! Paul was not alone. Here were brothers who encouraged him and supported him in prayer.
In Rome, Paul was permitted to move about freely under the supervision of a soldier. After three days, Paul called the Jewish leaders of the city together for a discussion. Most likely they were overseers of the synagogue. These men had not received any negative reports about Paul. Yet they knew that this sect, known as the Church of God, was spoken against all over.
Justin, who is called the martyr (who died in 165 AD in Rome), reported that the Jews from Jerusalem sent men out all over to warn about the Christians who were considered an atheistic and evil sect. For this reason, the Jews may have referred to them as a “sect.” No matter how people might describe the church, it is still the church of the living God!
Another meeting was arranged. Numerous Jews came to hear Paul speak. From morning until evening, he spoke with them about the kingdom of God. He explained to them how God establishes His kingdom and tried to show from the law of Moses that Jesus is the Messiah. Some were convinced and others failed to believe. It seems that a debate arose between the two sides. In response to the unbelieving Jews, Paul cited Isaiah 6:9-10 and added: “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” (Acts 28:23-28).
Dear reader, has the Gospel found its way to your heart? Accept salvation while there still is time of grace. Paul remained 2 years in his rented home, and received all who came to visit. During this time Paul preached about the Kingdom of God, about Jesus, his Savior, “with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:31b). Are you a joyful witness of your Savior? May God help you with this!