Acts Part 21

Notes on Acts

Part Twenty-One




Read chapter 28.


“It is a foundational biblical truth that obedience brings God’s blessing, disobedience His chastening. In Luke 11:28, Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it.’ James reveals that it is the ‘effectual doer’ who ‘shall be blessed in what he does’ (James 1:25). In Deuteronomy, Moses exhorted the Israelites:


See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:

27     the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today;

28     and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.[1]


Because of his obedience, King Uzziah ‘was marvelously helped until he was strong’ (2 Chron. 26:15). ‘But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense (v. 16). For that act of disobedience, God struck him with leprosy and he lived in disgrace the rest of his life.


One way God blesses those who obey Him is by granting their desires. In Psalm 21:1-2, David wrote:


O Yahweh, in Your strength the king will be glad,

And in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice!

   2         You have given him his heart’s desire,

And You have not withheld the request of his lips.[2]


Psalm 37:4 promises:


Delight yourself in the Yahweh;

And He will give you the desires of your heart.[3]


Psalm 145:19 declares:


He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;

He will also hear their cry and will save them.[4]


Proverbs 10:24 contrasts the disobedient with the obedient:


What the wicked fears will come upon him,

But the desire of the righteous will be granted.[5]


The apostle Paul had desired for many years to visit Rome. In Acts 19:21 he said, ‘After I have been there (Jerusalem), I must also see Rome.’ He repeatedly expressed that desire to the Roman Christians:


For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established…Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome…I have had for many years a longing to come to you. (Romans 1:11, 15; 15:23)”[6]


We have seen before that the apostle Paul is to be our example. He was eager to share the gospel! We have also seen that an eagerness to share the gospel is evidence of being born again.[7] If one is not desirous of sharing the gospel then this is an indication of an unregenerate state. Again, at the risk of being repetitive, it is not what we feel that lets us know what our desires are.[8] Rather, it is what we do that informs us what are true desires are. Do we actually share the gospel? If we do, that is our desire. If we don’t, then that is not a true desire.


“At long last, the time had come for God to grant His faithful servant’s desire. After years of waiting, two years in a Roman prison, a terrifying two-week-long storm at sea, and his fourth shipwreck, Paul would at last see Rome. This climactic passage records the story of the apostle’s arrival in the imperial capital.


Acts 28 opens with Paul on the Mediterranean island of Malta. He had left Caesarea more than two months earlier, bound for Rome to have his appeal heard by the emperor. In a risky attempt to reach a more favorable harbor on Crete to winter in, the apostle’s ship had been caught in the dreaded Euraquilo. That violent storm had driven the vessel for fourteen terror-filled days across the Mediterranean to Malta. There the crew attempted to beach the ship, but it ran aground and was destroyed by the pounding surf. Miraculously, all 276 persons on board managed to reach the shore safely. God had promised Paul that although the ship would be destroyed, no lives would be lost (27:22). He had also promised that the ship would run aground on the island (27:26). Both promises were fulfilled when the ship reached Malta.”[9]


After the incident with the deadly viper (verses 3-6), we read:


Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed. [10]


Paul prayed over the elderly man an laid hands upon him. He was healed! God is still healing through this means today. Although some have the special gift[11] of healing (that is, supernatural healing; some also have the gift of natural healing, such as doctors and nurses), every Christian may lay hands upon others and pray for healing. God uses weak vessels, as you are, to do mighty things, even beyond our expectations. Neither ought we to be concerned about whether God will heal through our actions and words. He heals sovereignly; that is, he chooses to heal some and not to heal others. Even the apostle Paul did not always receive the healing for which he prayed (2 Cor. 12:9)! We simply ask and seek to bless others. We let God do the rest!


Paul , his companions (including Luke who was with him on this journey), and the entire crew were stranded on Malta for three months (vs. 11). Their first stop was Syracuse, which is in Sicily. Luke records that they were there for three days. According to tradition, Paul preached the gospel during the three days that they were at port and several came to faith, so a church was established there.


Next, they went to Rhegium which is on the Italian peninsula. After that, they came to Puteoli, which was the largest seaport in all of Italy, but still 150 miles from Rome. Interestingly, Puteoli was also near Pompeii. Pompeii was a wealthy, thriving metropolis that was destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD (one of the most destructive volcanic eruptions in history) and was buried beneath 15 feet of ash and mud. The burial was so sudden and total that the city was actually preserved and, once excavated, revealed in great detail what Pompeii life was like 1950 years ago.


Finally, Paul arrives at Rome:


And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. [12]


The “Forum of Appius” was forty-three miles from Rome. This would have been a three-day journey on foot. See how important fellowship with the apostle was to the disciples who lived in the area! They were willing to travel for three days in order to accompany Paul! And some disciples today will not travel for 30 minutes in order to attend the meetings of God’s people!


Onçe Paul arrives at Rome he meets with the Jews there. They say:


“We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” [13]


The fledgling faith was spoken against everywhere! After nearly 2000 years, nothing has changed. The exclusive claims of Christ are still spoken against! Modern society sees biblical faith as narrow, close-minded, intolerant and hateful. Why? Mainly because God has clearly spoken against the vileness and rebellion of people’s sins. It calls people to forsake their sin and live for Christ. This, people hate to hear, unless their hearts have been plowed by the Spirit. The reaction is the same as it was in Paul’s day: they will speak against it. This is part of the life of a disciple.


The book of Acts ends on a high note, Paul being given much freedom even in his house arrest. Gathering information from his epistles to Timothy and from early church history, we learn a little more of what happened to Paul after the book of Acts ends.


“Released from the Roman imprisonment recorded in Acts 28, Paul resumed his missionary efforts – probably even reaching Spain (Romans 15:24). Arrested a second time a few years later, he was finally executed. But the story of the church did not end with Paul’s death or that of the last surviving apostle, John, near the end of the first century. The apostles handed the baton to a second generation of leaders, who in turn handed it to others. As a result, the church’s history is still being written today.


Although Acts ends abruptly, it is not incomplete. It reveals the church’s source of power – the Holy Spirit; the pattern of blessing for the church – walking in the Spirit; the church’s message – the saving gospel of Jesus Christ; the perils to the church – sin from within, false teachers from without; and the church’s priorities – teach the word to those who know Christ, and preach the gospel to those who do not.”[14]


Once again, at the risk of being repetitive, although some have these special gifts (teachers teach and evangelists share the gospel), every disciple should be carrying out the church’s priorities, not just evangelists, elders, and preachers. The reasons are obvious. Every disciple knows the gospel and can communicate it. We saw this in chapter eight. Also, every disciple knows more of God’s truth than those those who are younger in the faith than they. They can share those truths (“teaching the word to those who know Christ”) with others and have been asked by the Lord to do so (see the sermon, New and Old Treasures, at church website)!


Will you participate in the priorities of God? Or, will you decide to be a spectator only? If you decide to be a spectator only, you must know that you are outside of God’s will. If you decide to be a spectator only, you will be placing a burden upon the other members of the church because these priorities must still be carried out. If you decide to be a spectator only, you will weaken the local church. If you decide to be spectator only, you may wish to consider attending a church besides a Southern Baptist church. This is because Southern Baptists, despite all their shortcomings, very much seek to live in accordance with biblical examples and commands.[15] So, if you decide to be a spectator only, some other less devoted denomination or non-denomination may be better suited for you.


However, if you wish to remain in a Baptist church, then do not straddle the fence of comfort and the fence of discipleship. Get both feet in or both feet out! Do these seem like strong words? They are less forceful that what our Lord said:


I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.[16]


What can we say to these words of our Lord except, “Amen”?




[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Dt 11:26–28). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ps 21:1–2). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ps 37:4). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 145:19). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Pr 10:24). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[6] John MacArthur, TMNTC, Acts Part Two, 358-359.

[7] See Notes on Acts, Part Thirteen, page 4.

[8] This is because feelings come and go. They can be weak. Even a faint “good” feeling can be interpreted as a real desire when it is nothing more than a faint feeling.

[9] MacArthur, 359.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 28:7–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] I Cor 12:28-30.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 28:15–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 28:21–22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[14] MacArthur, 368-369.

[15] We are not the only ones, but there are probably not that many groups that have both purity of doctrine and zealousness in practice.

[16] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 3:15–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.