Main point summary
Providential Preservation of Witnesses to the World. The main thing, it seems, is God's continual care and preservation of Paul. God has called Paul to preach in Rome (Acts 27:24; cf. 9:15–16). Neither shipwreck (ch. 27) nor serpents (ch. 28) can prevent God from bringing his purposes to pass (Job 42:2).
Καὶ διασωθέντες τότε ἐπέγνωμεν ὅτι Μελίτη ἡ νῆσος καλεῖται.
After we were brought safely through , l we then learned that m the island was called Malta.
οἵ τε βάρβαροι παρεῖχον οὐ τὴν τυχοῦσαν φιλανθρωπίαν ἡμῖν,
n The native people 1 showed us unusual o kindness ,
ἅψαντες γὰρ πυρὰν προσελάβοντο πάντας ἡμᾶς
for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all,
διὰ τὸν ὑετὸν τὸν ἐφεστῶτα καὶ διὰ τὸ ψῦχος.
because it had begun to rain and was cold.
Συστρέψαντος δὲ τοῦ Παύλου φρυγάνων τι πλῆθος καὶ ἐπιθέντος ἐπὶ τὴν πυράν,
When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire,
ἔχιδνα ἀπὸ τῆς θέρμης ἐξελθοῦσα καθῆψεν τῆς χειρὸς αὐτοῦ.
a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand.
ὡς δὲ εἶδον οἱ βάρβαροι κρεμάμενον τὸ θηρίον ἐκ τῆς χειρὸς αὐτοῦ, πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔλεγον·
When p the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another,
πάντως φονεύς ἐστιν ὁ ἄνθρωπος οὗτος
q “No doubt this man is a murderer.
ὃν διασωθέντα ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης ἡ δίκη ζῆν οὐκ εἴασεν.
Though he has escaped from the sea, r Justice 1 has not allowed him to live.”
ὁ μὲν οὖν ἀποτινάξας τὸ θηρίον εἰς τὸ πῦρ ἔπαθεν οὐδὲν κακόν,
He, however, s shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm .
οἱ δὲ προσεδόκων αὐτὸν μέλλειν πίμπρασθαι ἢ καταπίπτειν ἄφνω νεκρόν.
They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead.
ἐπὶ πολὺ δὲ αὐτῶν προσδοκώντων καὶ θεωρούντων μηδὲν ἄτοπον εἰς αὐτὸν γινόμενον
But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him ,
μεταβαλόμενοι ἔλεγον αὐτὸν εἶναι θεόν.
t they changed their minds and u said that he was a god.
General Setting/Specific Event
I'm using interpretation here to note that the people on the island interpreted the event (fact) in a certain way. In their mind, because the serpent had bitten Paul, it meant that Paul was guilty and deserved death. In other words, though he had been lucky enough to escape death in the shipwreck, "Justice" had finally come for him.
I'm using Set (Setting) and Ev (Event) to make the two parts clear, though this isn't meant to communicate too much. The native people caring for Paul, kindling a fire, gives us the general picture of the setting. Yet, Luke takes us into the setting to a particular or specific event. This event gives rise to two interpretations based on the data the native people have. On both counts, they missed what was going on. The whole scene is yet another example of God's providence. He has a mission for Paul, one that will come to fruition. The natives did not have eyes to see God. First, they thought some impersonal force, that of Justice, had come for Paul. Then, Paul was a god. Instead, in both instances, the people should have seen that God, the true God, was in control of all things.
Paul, however, shakes off the snake and no "evil" befalls him ( 28:5 ). Because he doesn't suffer any ill effects, the people are forced to re-interpret what they've seen. Again, however, they get it wrong. Instead of being led to worship the God who is preserving and protecting Paul, they exalt him as god. They need eyes to see the Giver, not the gift.
Providential Preservation of God's Witnesses Acts 28 What we should not miss is God's providential care for Paul. The native people interpreted the events in ways that didn't take God into account. They referred to an impersonal idea ("justice"), and then, to Paul as a god. They looked at the events and didn't see them pointing to God's care for his apostle. Yet, the Lord had told Paul that he'd preach the good news to the Gentiles, and that he'd go to Rome. We've seen God protecting Paul in order to ensure the divine commission comes to fruition. Notice how Paul is protected: His nephew "accidentally" overhears the plot to ambush and kill Paul (Acts 23:16) The Roman law allowing him to appeal to Caesar (25:11) Roman authorities find nothing worth sentencing Paul to death (26:31) The gracious/merciful treatment of Paul by the centurion guard (27:3) Preservation during the storm (27:13–20) God-given influence on the ship (27:21–38) Protection from the soldiers by the centurion (27:42–43) Preservation through the Shipwreck (27:44) Chapter 28, then, carries on the clear idea that God was preserving Paul and would bring him to Rome. Jewish leaders, Roman politicians, murderous plans, shipwrecks, and snakes are not able to prevent God from accomplishing his purposes through Paul. Snakes can bit the hand of man, but nothing can stay the hand of God. He does what he pleases and what pleases him, he does (Job 42:2). This idea, that we are invincible and untouchable until God's plan for us is done, should free us for radical obedience. And that is exactly what Paul does. He goes to Rome, he speaks to the Jews who haven't received messages from anyone in Israel. He could let them know it's all a big mistake, shrink back from declaring Jesus as the Messiah, and likely be let go. Escape was within reach! But, Paul persists. He keeps preaching Jesus and telling the Jews they are missing God's Messiah. And now, in Rome, Acts 1:8 has indeed come to fruition and will continue through the apostles and future disciples.
Aim: Strengthen our Confidence in God Abstract: God will accomplish his purposes. He will do what he says he will do. No one and nothing can stay his hand. He will accomplish his plan. And he uses his people to accomplish the particular plan of witnessing to the world, of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. He leaves us on this planet, with life and breath and all that he gives us, so that we live a life that spreads the fame of Jesus' name. Until our task is done, God will providentially preserve his people. Because God providentially preserves his people, our resolve to tackle the task is strengthened. OUTLINE Introduction Setting the Stage The Text: God Preserves His Witness(es) Explanation A. God Preserves His Witnesses (28:1–6) Through the Unusual Kindness of Unbelievers ("Native Peoples") Through Unusual Intervention ("No harm" from the "viper") B. The Pattern of Preservation (various texts) His nephew "accidentally" overhears the plot to ambush and kill Paul (Acts 23:16) The Roman law allowing him to appeal to Caesar (25:11) Roman authorities find nothing worth sentencing Paul to death (26:31) The gracious/merciful treatment of Paul by the centurion guard (27:3) Preservation during the storm (27:13–20) God-given influence on the ship (27:21–38) Protection from the soldiers by the centurion (27:42–43) Preservation through the Shipwreck (27:44) Illustration History of Redemption: God Works Everything According to His Will (Eph 1:11) Church History Example: ?? Iraq and Bullets (a game...or providence...of inches) Application How Now Shall We Then Live Hopeful People (the doctrine of meticulous sovereignty should make us a hopeful people) No Fear Wisely (Serpents and Doves)—balancing the previous point (We don't jump out of an airplane, without a parachute, and think the Lord will deliver us from our stupidity). Prayerfully (if the Lord is keeping me for a purpose, what purpose is that? Generally, witness to the world. But, specifically?) Faithful in our Station of Life—Gospel Intentionality in all of Life (Called and Kept to Witness to the world) Hopeful: God will do his work in his time in his way Summing Up: Conclusion The art of summation!