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Acts Chapter Twenty-eight


Acts 28

At Melita we find him again exercising his accustomed power among that barbarous people. One sees that God is with him. Evangelisation does not however appear in the account of his sojourn there or of his journey.

Landed in Italy we see him depressed: the love of the brethren encourages and reanimates him; and he goes on to Rome where he dwells two years in a house that he hires a soldier being with him as a guard. Probably those who carried him to Rome had been given to understand that it was only a matter of Jewish jealousy for all through the journey they treated him with all possible respect. Besides he was a Roman.

Arrived at Rome he sends for the Jews; and here for the last time their condition is set before us and the judgment which had been hanging over their heads ever since the utterance of the prophecy (which was especially connected with the house of David and with Judah)-the judgment pronounced by Esaias which the Lord Jesus declared should come upon them because of His rejection the execution of which was suspended by the long-suffering of God until the testimony of the Holy Ghost was also rejected-this judgment is here brought to mind by Paul at the end of the historical part of the New Testament. It is their definitive condition solemnly declared by the minister of sovereign grace and which should continue until God interposed in power to give them repentance and to deliver them and to glorify Himself in them by grace.

We have already marked this characteristic of the Acts which comes out here in a clear and striking manner-the setting aside of the Jews. That is to say they set themselves aside by the rejection of the testimony of God of the work of God. They put themselves outside that which God was setting up. They will not follow Him in His progress of grace. And thus they are altogether left behind without God and without present communication with Him. His word abides for ever and His mercy; but others take the place of positive and present relationship with Him. Individuals from among them enter into another sphere on other grounds; but Israel disappears and is blotted out for a time from the sight of God.

It is this which is presented in the book of Acts. The patience of God is exercised towards the Jews themselves in the preaching of the gospel and the apostolic mission at the beginning. Their hostility develops itself by degrees and reaches its height in the case of Stephen. Paul is raised up a witness of grace towards them as an elect remnant for he was himself of Israel; but introducing in connection with a heavenly Christ something entirely new as doctrine-the assembly the body of Christ in heaven; and the setting aside of all distinction between Jew and Gentile as sinners and in the oneness of that body. This is linked historically with that which had been established at Jerusalem in order to maintain unity and the connection of the promises; but in itself as a doctrine it was a thing hidden in God in all the ages having been in His purposes of grace before the world was. The enmity of the Jews to this truth never abated. They used every means to excite the Gentiles against those who taught the doctrine and to prevent the formation of the assembly itself. God having acted with perfect patience and grace unto the end puts the assembly into the place of the Jews as His house and the vessel of His promises on earth by making it His habitation by the Spirit. The Jews were set aside (alas! their spirit soon took possession of the assembly itself); and the assembly and the clear and positive doctrine of no difference between Jew and Gentile (by nature alike the children of wrath) and of their common and equal privileges as members of one only body has been fully declared and made the basis of all relationship between God and every soul possessed of faith. This is the doctrine of the apostle in the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians. [1] At the same time the gift of eternal life as promised before the world was [2] (the commencement of a new existence with a divine character) and partaking of divine righteousness; these two things being united in our resurrection with Christ by which our sins being forgiven we are placed before God as Christ who is at once our life and our righteousness. This life manifests itself by conformity to the life of Christ on earth who left us an example that we should follow His steps. It is the divine life manifested in man-in Christ as the object in us as testimony.

The cross of Christ is the basis the fundamental centre of all these truths -the relations between God and man as he was his responsibility; grace; expiation; the end of life as to sin the law and the world; the putting away of sin through the death of Christ and its consequences in us. Everything is established there and gives place to the power of life that was in Christ who there perfectly glorified God-to that new existence into which He entered as man into the presence of the Father; by whose glory as well as by His own divine power and by the energy of the Holy Ghost He was raised from the dead.

This does not prevent God's resuming His ways in government with the Jews on earth when the church is complete and manifested on high; and which He will do according to His promises and the declarations of prophecy. The apostle explains this also in the Epistle to the Romans; but it belongs to the study of that epistle. The ways of God in judgment with regard to the Gentiles also at the same period will be shewn us in the Apocalypse as well as in prophetic passages of the Epistles in connection with the coming of Christ and even with His government of the world in general from the beginning to the end; together with the warnings necessary for the assembly when the days of deception begin to dawn and to be developed morally in the ruin of the assembly viewed as God's witness in the world.

Our apostle when brought to Rome declares (upon the manifestation of unbelief among the Jews which we have pointed out) that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles; and he dwells two whole years in the house he had hired receiving those who came to him (for he had not liberty to go to them) preaching the kingdom of God and those things which concerned the Lord Jesus with all boldness no man forbidding him. And here the history is ended of this precious servant of God beloved and honoured by his Master a prisoner in that Rome which as head of the fourth empire was to be the seat of opposition among the Gentiles as Jerusalem of opposition among the Jews to the kingdom and to the glory of Christ. The time for the full manifestation of that opposition was not yet come; but the minister of the assembly and of the gospel of glory is a prisoner there. It is thus that Rome begins its history in connection with the gospel that the apostle preached. Nevertheless God was with him.


[1] In Romans in their personal position in Ephesians in the corporate.

[2] The word "regeneration" is not applied in scripture to our being born again; it is a change of position in us connected with our having died with Him and resurrection. It is found twice; once in Matthew 19 it is Christ's coming kingdom; and in Titus it is the washing of baptism as typically bringing out of the old Adam state and into the christian but distinguished from the renewing of the Holy Ghost.

── John DarbySynopsis of Acts


Acts 28

Chapter Contents

Paul kindly received at Melita. (1-10) He arrives at Rome. (11-16) His conference with the Jews. (17-22) Paul preaches to the Jews and abides at Rome a prisoner. (23-31)

Commentary on Acts 28:1-10

(Read Acts 28:1-10)

God can make strangers to be friends; friends in distress. Those who are despised for homely manners are often more friendly than the more polished; and the conduct of heathens or persons called barbarians condemns many in civilized nations professing to be Christians. The people thought that Paul was a murderer and that the viper was sent by Divine justice to be the avenger of blood. They knew that there is a God who governs the world so that things do not come to pass by chance no not the smallest event but all by Divine direction; and that evil pursues sinners; that there are good works which God will reward and wicked works which he will punish. Also that murder is a dreadful crime one which shall not long go unpunished. But they thought all wicked people were punished in this life. Though some are made examples in this world to prove that there is a God and a Providence yet many are left unpunished to prove that there is a judgment to come. They also thought all who were remarkably afflicted in this life were wicked people. Divine revelation sets this matter in a true light. Good men often are greatly afflicted in this life for the trial and increase of their faith and patience. Observe Paul's deliverance from the danger. And thus in the strength of the grace of Christ believers shake off the temptations of Satan with holy resolution. When we despise the censures and reproaches of men and look upon them with holy contempt having the testimony of our consciences for us then like Paul we shake off the viper into the fire. It does us no harm except we are kept by it from our duty. God hereby made Paul remarkable among these people and so made way for the receiving of the gospel. The Lord raises up friends for his people in every place whither he leads them and makes them blessings to those in affliction.

Commentary on Acts 28:11-16

(Read Acts 28:11-16)

The common events of travelling are seldom worthy of being told; but the comfort of communion with the saints and kindness shown by friends deserve particular mention. The Christians at Rome were so far from being ashamed of Paul or afraid of owning him because he was a prisoner that they were the more careful to show him respect. He had great comfort in this. And if our friends are kind to us God puts it into their hearts and we must give him the glory. When we see those even in strange places who bear Christ's name fear God and serve him we should lift up our hearts to heaven in thanksgiving. How many great men have made their entry into Rome crowned and in triumph who really were plagues to the world! But here a good man makes his entry into Rome chained as a poor captive who was a greater blessing to the world than any other merely a man. Is not this enough to put us for ever out of conceit with worldly favour? This may encourage God's prisoners that he can give them favour in the eyes of those that carry them captives. When God does not soon deliver his people out of bondage yet makes it easy to them or them easy under it they have reason to be thankful.

Commentary on Acts 28:17-22

(Read Acts 28:17-22)

It was for the honour of Paul that those who examined his case acquitted him. In his appeal he sought not to accuse his nation but only to clear himself. True Christianity settles what is of common concern to all mankind and is not built upon narrow opinions and private interests. It aims at no worldly benefit or advantage but all its gains are spiritual and eternal. It is and always has been the lot of Christ's holy religion to be every where spoken against. Look through every town and village where Christ is exalted as the only Saviour of mankind and where the people are called to follow him in newness of life and we see those who give themselves up to Christ still called a sect a party and reproached. And this is the treatment they are sure to receive so long as there shall continue an ungodly man upon earth.

Commentary on Acts 28:23-31

(Read Acts 28:23-31)

Paul persuaded the Jews concerning Jesus. Some were wrought upon by the word and others hardened; some received the light and others shut their eyes against it. And the same has always been the effect of the gospel. Paul parted with them observing that the Holy Ghost had well described their state. Let all that hear the gospel and do not heed it tremble at their doom; for who shall heal them if God does not? The Jews had afterwards much reasoning among themselves. Many have great reasoning who do not reason aright. They find fault with one another's opinions yet will not yield to truth. Nor will men's reasoning among themselves convince them without the grace of God to open their understandings. While we mourn on account of such despisers we should rejoice that the salvation of God is sent to others who will receive it; and if we are of that number we should be thankful to Him who hath made us to differ. The apostle kept to his principle to know and preach nothing but Christ and him crucified. Christians when tempted from their main business should bring themselves back with this question What does this concern the Lord Jesus? What tendency has it to bring us to him and to keep us walking in him? The apostle preached not himself but Christ and he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Though Paul was placed in a very narrow opportunity for being useful he was not disturbed in it. Though it was not a wide door that was opened to him yet no man was suffered to shut it; and to many it was an effectual door so that there were saints even in Nero's household Philippians 4:22. We learn also from Philippians 1:13 how God overruled Paul's imprisonment for the furtherance of the gospel. And not the residents at Rome only but all the church of Christ to the present day and in the most remote corner of the globe have abundant reason to bless God that during the most mature period of his Christian life and experience he was detained a prisoner. It was from his prison probably chained hand to hand to the soldier who kept him that the apostle wrote the epistles to the Ephesians Philippians Colossians and Hebrews; epistles showing perhaps more than any others the Christian love with which his heart overflowed and the Christian experience with which his soul was filled. The believer of the present time may have less of triumph and less of heavenly joy than the apostle but every follower of the same Saviour is equally sure of safety and peace at the last. Let us seek to live more and more in the love of the Saviour; to labour to glorify Him by every action of our lives; and we shall assuredly by his strength be among the number of those who now overcome our enemies; and by his free grace and mercy be hereafter among the blessed company who shall sit with Him upon his throne even as He also has overcome and is sitting on his Father's throne at God's right hand for evermore.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Acts


Acts 28

Verse 2

[2] 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 the barbarians — So the Romans and Greeks termed all nations but their own. But surely the generosity shown by these uncultivated inhabitants of Malta was far more valuable than all the varnish which the politest education could give where it taught not humanity and compassion.

Verse 4

[4] 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 when the barbarians saw — they said - Seeing also his chains Doubtless this man is a murderer - Such rarely go unpunished even in this life; whom vengeance hath not suffered to live - They look upon him as a dead man already. It is with pleasure that we trace among these barbarians the force of conscience and the belief of a particular providence: which some people of more learning have stupidly thought it philosophy to despise. But they erred in imagining that calamities must always be interpreted as judgments. Let us guard against this lest like them we condemn not only the innocent but the excellent of the earth.

Verse 5

[5] And he shook off the beast into the fire and felt no harm.

Having shaken off the venomous animal he suffered no harm — The words of an eminent modern historian are "No venomous kind of serpent now breeds in Malta neither hurts if it be brought thither from another place. Children are seen there handling and playing even with scorpions; I have seen one eating them." If this be so it seems to be fixed by the wisdom of God as an eternal memorial of what he once wrought there.

Verse 6

[6] 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.

They changed their minds and said he was a god — Such is the stability of human reason! A little before he was a murderer; and presently he is a god: (just as the people of Lystra; one hour sacrificing and the next stoning:) nay but there is a medium. He is neither a murderer nor a god but a man of God. But natural men never run into greater mistakes than in judging of the children of God.

Verse 7

[7] 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.

The chief man of the island — In wealth if not in power also.

Three days — The first three days of our stay on the island.

Verse 11

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

Whose sign was — It was the custom of the ancients to have images on the head of their ships from which they took their names.

Castor and Pollux — Two heathen gods who were thought favourable to mariners.

Verse 15

[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.

The brethren — That is the Christians came out thence to meet us - It is remarkable that there is no certain account by whom Christianity was planted at Rome. Probably some inhabitants of that city were at Jerusalem on the day of pentecost Acts 2:10; and being then converted themselves carried the Gospel thither at their return. Appii-Forum was a town fifty-one miles from Rome; the Three Taverns about thirty.

He took courage — He saw Christ was at Rome also and now forgot all the troubles of his journey.

Verse 16

[16] 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.

With the soldier — To whom he was chained as the Roman custom was.

Verse 17

[17] 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.

And after three days — Given to rest and prayer Paul called the chief of the Jews together - He always sought the Jews first; but being now bound he could not so conveniently go round to them.

Though I have done nothing — Seeing him chained they might have suspected he had. Therefore he first obviates this suspicion.

Verse 19

[19] But when the Jews spake against it I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.

When the Jews opposed it — He speaks tenderly of them not mentioning their repeated attempts to murder him.

Not that I had any thing to accuse my nation of — Not that I had any design to accuse others but merely to defend myself.

Verse 20

[20] 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.

The hope of Israel — What Israel hopes for namely the Messiah and the resurrection.

Verse 21

[21] 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.

We have neither received letters concerning thee — There must have been a peculiar providence in this nor has any of the brethren - The Jews related - Professedly in a set discourse or spoke - Occasionally in conversation any evil of thee - How must the bridle then have been in their mouth!

Verse 22

[22] But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect we know that every where it is spoken against.

This sect we know is every where spoken against — This is no proof at all of a bad cause but a very probable mark of a good one.

Verse 23

[23] 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.

To whom he expounded testifying the kingdom of God and persuading them concerning Jesus — These were his two grand topics 1. That the kingdom of the Messiah was of a spiritual not temporal nature: 2. That Jesus of Nazareth was the very person foretold as the Lord of that kingdom. On this head he had as much need to persuade as to convince their will making as strong a resistance as their understanding.

Verse 24

[24] And some believed the things which were spoken and some believed not.

And some believed the things that were spoken — With the heart as well as understanding.

Verse 25

[25] 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

Well spake the Holy Ghost to your fathers — Which is equally applicable to you.

Verse 26

[26] Saying Go unto this people and say Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see and not perceive:

Hearing ye shall hear — That is ye shall most surely hear and shall not understand - The words manifestly denote a judicial blindness consequent upon a wilful and obstinate resistance of the truth. First they would not afterward they could not believe. Isaiah 6:9 etc.; Matthew 13:14; John 12:40.

Verse 28

[28] Be it known therefore unto you that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles and that they will hear it.

The salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles — Namely from this time. Before this no apostle had been at Rome. St. Paul was the first.

Verse 30

[30] And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house and received all that came in unto him

And Paul continued two whole years — After which this book was written long before St. Paul's death and was undoubtedly published with his approbation by St. Luke who continued with him to the last 2 Timothy 4:11.

And received all that came to him — Whether they were Jews or Gentiles. These two years completed twenty-five years after our Saviour's passion. Such progress had the Gospel made by that time in the parts of the world which lay west of Jerusalem by the ministry of St. Paul among the Gentiles. How far eastward the other apostles had carried it in the same time history does not inform us.

Verse 31

[31] Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence no man forbidding him.

No man forbidding him — Such was the victory of the word of God. While Paul was preaching at Rome the Gospel shone with its highest lustre. Here therefore the Acts of the Apostles end; and end with great advantage. Otherwise St. Luke could easily have continued his narrative to the apostle's death.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Acts


Chapter 28. Imprisonment in Rome

Preach Boldly
Without Hindrance

I. Testimony in Malta

  1. Unharmed by the Viper
  2. Heal the Chief Officer's Father
  3. Honor in Many Ways

II. Arrival at Rome

  1. Have His Own Living Quarters
  2. The Reason to Appeal
  3. Talk Against Paul Everywhere

III. Declare the Kingdom of God

  1. About Jesus
  2. Convince or Disbelieve
  3. Sent to the Gentiles
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament