1 "And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called
Melita." We for they, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus (twice). Was called.
It reads as if it was the answer to their question to the natives, "What is this island
called?" Melita. That Melita is the
not worth while here to consider the arguments in favor of Meleda. Melita appears
to be a Phoenician name, from the root in Hebrew מָלַט, to escape (Bochart,
from sailors often running into Valetta during a gale; or possibly from מֶלֶ, clay,
Phoenicians, whether from
though we know it was a Carthaginian possession at the time of the first Punic War.
It fell into the hands of the Romans B.C. 218, and at the time of Paul's shipwreck
was annexed to the
or Punic, and probably knew little Greek or Latin. The name of a fountain in St.
Paul's Bay, Ayn tal Razzul, "The Apostle's Fountain," is said (Smith, p. 24) to be
Phoenician. But this is extremely doubtful. It is far more probably, not to say
certainly, the corrupt Africano-Arabic dialect of the island, as I venture to affirm
on the high authority of Professor Wright. Gesenius is also distinctly of opinion
that there are no remains of Phoenician in the Maltese, and that all the words in
the Maltese language which have been thought to be Phoenician are really Arabic.
Four genuine Phoenician inscriptions have, however, been found in the island
('Monument. Phoenic,' pars prima, pp. 90-111,252, and 341).
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." Barbarians for barbarous people, Authorized Version; common for little,
Authorized Version; all for every one, Authorized Version. Barbarians; i.e. not
Greeks or Romans, or (in the mouth of a Jew) not Jews. The phrase had especial
reference to the strange language of the "barbarian." See Paul's use of it
('Trist.,' 3:10, 37), "Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli;" and that of
Herodotus (2, 158), that the Egyptians call all barbarians who do not speak the
Egyptian language (Kuinoel). The word is thought to be formed onomate-poetically,
to express the confused sound which a strange language has in a man's ears.
Kindness; φιλανθρωπία - philanthropia - fondness of humanity; philanthrophy,
here and Titus 3:4 (compare ch. 27:3). Received us all. The whole party, numbering
two hundred and seventy-six. The present rain, and... cold; showing that the gale still
continued, and the wind was still north-east. The plight of the shipwrecked party must
have been lamentable, drenched to the skin, with no change of clothes, a cold wind
blowing. Probably the hearty meal they had taken on beard ship was the means of
saving their lives.
Humanity (v. 2)
“And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness.” How that
kindness found expression is further detailed. “Heavy showers had come
on, and the shipwrecked men were half benumbed with fatigue and cold.
Pitying their condition, the natives lit a huge fire of faggots and
brushwood, that they might dry their clothes, and gave them in all respects
a friendly welcome.” The “milk of human kindness” has ever made men
helpful to each other in circumstances of calamity and distress, and perhaps
the most painful instances of inhumanity the world has known may be
found in the doings of those “wreckers” who used to entice the ships
ashore, that they might plunder their cargoes. The term used here,
“barbarous people,” is somewhat misleading. F.W. Robertson says, “By
‘barbarian’ was meant any religion but the Roman or Greek — a
contemptuous term, the spirit of which is common enough in all ages. Just
as now every sect monopolizes God, claims for itself an exclusive Heaven,
contemptuously looks on all the rest of mankind as sitting in outer
darkness, and complacently consigns myriads whom God has made to His
uncovenanted mercies, that is, to probable destruction; so, in ancient times,
the Jew scornfully designated all nations but his own as Gentiles; and the
Roman and the Greek, each retaliating in his way, treated all nations but his
the common epithet of ‘barbarians.’
The people of
really of Carthaginian descent, and they probably spoke their ancient
tongue, though mixed, perhaps, with Latin and Greek, since the island was
on a great highway of trade.
uniting together mankind in helpfulness, sympathy, and charity. A
sentiment which we can see is based:
Ø On the fact that God hath “made of one blood all nations to dwell upon
the earth.” This truth of fact is now scientifically accepted, and called the
“solidarity of the human race;” but it is the earliest divinely revealed truth,
declared in the parentage of the race.
Ø On the ties of brotherhood which follow the division of the race into
separate families. The bond which binds together the members of families,
binds together also tribes and nations, which are but God’s great family.
Ø On the common image of God which men share, and which applies
chiefly to moral disposition. The most characteristic feature of God is His
care for others, and, apart from the mischief done by sin, this image of God
man still bears.
o Charity is God’s image on man;
o selfishness is the devil’s image on man.
strikingly marked in some nations than in others.
Ø Usually found in those whose country is exposed to calamity, by reason
of a wide seaboard, or an unhealthy condition, or exposure to enemies.
Men are bound together when a common fate hangs over them all.
Ø Also found in nations marked by the milder virtues, rather than those
energetic, active ones which so often lead to war. Peace-loving nations
build hospitals, asylums, etc., and care for the suffering members. War
tends to make men indifferent to suffering. England in later times has
striven to carry humanity into her war, limiting in every way possible the
distress it entails. Humanity strives for the day when war shall be a sound
that men may hear no more forever.
must be humane. They cannot be Christian and wholly fail of brotherly
duties. Those who are bound to God in the dear bonds of redeemed
sonship cannot fail to come nearer in sympathy to their brothers of the
common humanity. Illustrate fully the Christian teaching on the culture of
the spirit of humanity; the New Testament is full of counsels similar to this:
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
3 "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." But for and,
Authorized Version; a viper came for there came a viper, Authorized Version;
by reason of for out of, Authorized Version. Had gathered; συστρέψαντος -
sustrepsantos - of twisting together - only here and in the Septuagint of Judges 11:3
and Judges 12:4, for "to collect," "gather together." But συστροφή - sustrophae -
συστρέφειν - sustrephein - is "to twist up together," to "form into a compact body,"
and the like. A bundle of sticks; φρυγάνων πλῆθος - phruganon plaethos - quanity
of kindling. The word only occurs in the New Testament here; it means "dry sticks,"
"kindlers," any combustible material. In the Septuagint it is used as the equivalent
Theophrastus seems to use it for plants smaller than a shrub ('Hist.,' Plant., 1:3, 1,
in 1853, I went to
occurred .... We noticed eight or nine stacks of small faggots, they consisted of a
kind of thorny heather, and had evidently been cut for firewood." This is a
conclusive answer, if any were needed, to the objection to Melita being
drawn from the absence of wood in the island. But besides this, it is not a fact that
even now there is no wood at all (see Lewin). A viper came out. It is objected that
there are no vipers in
thickly inhabited island (one thousand two hundred people to the square mile,
Lewin, p. 208), is very different from what it was with a sparse population in the
days of Paul. Vipers may well have been destroyed during one thousand eight
hundred and sixty years (add 160 more - CY - 2018) . Lewin mentions that his
traveling companions in 1853 started what they thought was a viper, which
escaped into one of the bundles of heather. Came out. Διεξελθοῦσα - Diexelthousa -
is the reading of Tischendorf, Alford, Meyer, eta., "came out through the sticks."
It is a frequent medical term. The heat; τῆς θέρμης - taes thermaes - of the warmth.
This form of the word is only used here in the New Testament, instead of the more
common θερμότης - thermotaes. It occurs, however, repeatedly in the Septuagint.
for feverish heat. Fastened; κάθηψε - kathaepse - fastens on, here only in the Bible;
but not uncommon in classical Greek, and of general use among medical writers.
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." Beast for venomous
beast, Authorized Version; hanging from for hang on, Authorized Version; one to
another for among themselves, Authorized Version; escaped from for escaped,
Authorized Version; justice for vengeance, Authorized Version; hath not suffered
for suffereth not, Authorized Version. The beast (τὸ θηρίον - to thaerion - the wild
beast). It is peculiar to medical writers to use θηρίον as synonymous with ἔχιδνα -
echidna - a viper. So also θηριόδηκτος - thaeriodaektos - bit by a viper, θηριακή -
thriakae - an antidote to the bite of a viper (Dioscorides, Galen, etc.). Justice
(ἥ Δίκη - hae Dikae the justice). In Greek mythology Dice (Justitia) was the
daughter and assessor of Zeus, and the avenger of crime. In her train was Poena,
of whom Horace says," Rare antecedeutem scelcstum Deseruit pede Poena claude"
('Od.,' 3:2, 32). "The idea of Dice as justice personified is most perfectly developed
in the dramas of Sophocles and Euripides" (article "Dice," in 'Dict. of Greek and
Roman Biog. and Mythol.'). It does not appear whether the islanders had learned
the name and office of Dice from
the Greeks in
native divinity whose name Luke translates into that of Dice. The gods whose
names are found in ancient Maltese inscriptions are Melkarth, another name of
Hercules, the tutelar god of
are named in the Carthaginian inscriptions (see Gesenius, 'Monument. Phoenic.').
Had not suffered. They assume that death will certainly follow from the bite.
The Superstitions of Ignorance (v. 4)
“The natives of Melita, seeing what they did, and ignorant of this prisoner’s
crime, and with their rough notions of the Divine government of the world,
rushed to the conclusion that they were looking on an example of God’s
vengeance against murder. It was in vain that such a criminal had escaped
the waves; a more terrible death was waiting for him.” These men
misinterpreted natural law into vengeance; yet there is a proneness in man
to judge so. We expect that nature will execute the chastisement of the
spiritual world. Hence all nature becomes to the imagination leagued
against the transgressor.
Ø The stars in their courses fight against Sisera (Judges 5:20).
Ø The wall of Siloam falls on guilty men Luke 13:4.
Ø The sea will not carry the criminal, nor the plank bear him;
Ø the viper stings;
everything is a minister of wrath. On this conviction nations construct their
trial by ordeal. The guilty man’s sword would fail in the duel, and the foot
would strike and be burnt by the hot ploughshare. Borne idea of this sort
lurks in all our minds. We picture to ourselves the specters of the past
haunting the nightly bed of the tyrant. We take for granted there is an
avenger making life miserable. In the incident of this text, and the opinions
expressed, we find the thoughts of vengeance which are cherished by those
who do not know the true God. Superstitions are usually akin to truth, and
contain within them some measure of truth; but they are exaggerations,
fashioned by men’s fears, which too often wholly distort and misrepresent
the truth. Estimating the superstitious fears and sentiments of these
“barbarous people,” we note that they were:
ESCAPES PUNISHMENT. Their idea was that Paul was a criminal, guilty
of some great crime, and justice was pursuing him; if he had escaped the
doom of shipwreck, he could not get away from the avenger, who now
struck at him in the viper’s bite. Explain the early notion of the blood
avenger, and the classical ideas associated with the Furies. It is important
that men should have a deep and unquestioning conviction that the guilty
never escape; but it does not seem to be absolutely and constantly true so
far as this life is concerned. ("Some men's sins are open beforehand, going
before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the
good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise
cannot be hid." - I Timothy 5:24-25) Show the moral and social importance
of the assurance that punishment must follow sin, and impress that God’s
revelation wholly confirms the testimony of natural religion.
THING. They thought of it as a force ever working, blindly indeed, but
certainly. If baffled in one way, it set about gaining its end in another.
When heathen ignorance is changed to Christian knowledge, we find:
Ø That the thing which we had called vengeance is but one of the modes
of the Divine working.
Ø That mere calamities — the things that we call accidents — are not
necessarily Divine vengeance (see our Lord’s teaching, Luke 13:1-5).
Ø That God’s wrath on sin need not find its entire expression in this life,
seeing that He has all the ages to work in. This our Lord figuratively
expressed when He said, “Fear him who can cast body and soul into
hell.” (Luke 12:5)
Ø That God’s avengings, being those of a holy Father, can never rest
satisfied in the suffering of the sinful creature, but must go on to secure
the creature’s redemption from the sin which issues in the suffering.
Blind vengeance can rest in the destruction of the criminal. Fatherly
love can never rest save in the recovery of the prodigal child. And
God alone can be trusted with the avenging work. “Vengeance is
mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
5 "And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm." Howbeit
for and, Authorized Version; look for felt, Authorized Version.
Christ’s Promise Precisely Fulfilled (v. 5)
In sending forth His disciples on their first trial mission, our Lord had given
them this distinct assurance (Luke 10:19), “Behold, I give unto you
power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the
enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” And when about to pass
away from them in a surprising and glorious manner, our Lord commanded
them to “go and preach His gospel to every creature,” assuring them that
these signs should follow them in their labors, “They shall take up serpents,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” (Mark 16:18)
These may, indeed, be regarded as figurative Eastern promises that were only
intended to assure the disciples of a general Divine protection while they were
engaged in Christian service; but it cannot be uninteresting to notice that
these promises were precisely fulfilled in the experience of the apostles.
Paul, as narrated in our text, “shook off the beast,” the deadly viper, “and
felt no harm.” From the incident it is suggested to us to consider:
DIVINE PROMISES. We learn to speak of the “exceeding great and
precious promises.” (II Peter 1:4) They are stored for us in all parts of
God’s Word. It may be shown that they are:
Ø sufficient, since no conceivable Christian circumstance or need is
Ø varied, so as to suit all occasions;
Ø adapted, so as to gain gracious influence on all dispositions.
Nothing is more pleasantly surprising in a Christian life than the freshness
with which the promises appear in every new season of anxiety and
trouble. They come to us as if they were words just spoken by the all-
comforting Father. They are the “everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy
33:27), which hold us safe. They are the wings that bear us up and
on and home to God. They are all true and faithful, “Yea and amen
in Christ Jesus.”
They assure, in large and comprehensive terms, that grace shall be given
according to need; but, at least in the case of the apostles, we find them
precise and definite. Illustrate from the case of taking up deadly serpents.
Christians may err in two ways — either by generalizing the promises too
much, or by particularizing them too much, and over-forcing their
adaptation to the individual. Still, if we had a fuller faith, we might
recognize a more definite character in God’s promises. Illustrate by such a
promise or assurance as this, “The prayer of faith shall save the sick.”
ASSURE THE CERTAIN FULFILLMENT OF ALL. This is the lesson
which we have to learn from the fulfillment of Christ’s definite promise in
the case of His servant Paul. It may be taken as a test case, by the help of
which we may know whether we may trust all the promises, even those
which do not seem easy to grasp, and those which seem to promise too
much for mortals and for sinners such as we are. (Seemingly, too good
to be true. CY - 2018) He who is true to His word in the little thing which
we can fully test will be true to the great words which assure to us both
grace and glory. And, as we see the viper falling harmlessly off the apostle’s
arm, we say, “Verily, He is faithful that promised.” (Hebrews 10:23)
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." But they
expected that he would for howbeit, they looked when he should, Authorized Version;
when they were long in expectation for after they had looked a great while, Authorized
Version; beheld nothing amiss for saw no harm, Authorized Version. They expected;
προσεδόκων - prosedokon - they were apprehensive. This word is used eleven times
by Luke, twice by Matthew, and three times in the Second Epistle of Peter (see ch. 3:5;
Luke 1:21, etc.). It is also common in the Septuagint. But it is a word much employed
by medical writers in speaking of the course they expect a disease to take, and the
results they look for. And this is the more remarkable here because there are no
fewer than three other medical phrases in this verse, πίμπρασθαι καταπίπτειν -
pimprasthai katapiptein - to be becoming inflamed; to be falling down, and
μηδὲν ἄτοπον - maeden atopon - nothing amiss, besides those immediately
preceding διεξέρχεσθαι - diexerchesthai - (according to several good
manuscripts and editions) θέρμη καθάπτειν - thermae kathaptein , and θηρίον (beast).
So that it looks as if, having once got into a medical train of thought from the subject
he was writing about, medical language naturally came uppermost in his mind.
Have swollen; πίμπρασθαι - pimptasthai, only here in the Bible, and not found in
this sense in older classical writers. But it is the usual medical word for "inflammation"
in any part of the body. Fallen down; καταπίπτειν, only here and in ch 26:14, and
twice in the Septuagint; but common in Homer and elsewhere, and especially frequent
in medical writers of persons falling down in fits, or weakness, or wounded, or the
like. Nothing amiss (μηδὲν ἄτοπον - maeden atopon). Mr. Hobart quotes a remarkable
parallel to this phrase from Damocrites, quoted by Galen. He says that whosoever,
having been bitten by a mad dog, drinks a certain antidote (εἰς οὐδὲν ἄτοπον
ἐμπεσοῦται ῤᾳδίως - eis ouden atopon empesoutaai radios), "shall suffer no harm."
It is used in medical writers in two senses - of" unusual symptoms," and of fatal
consequences. In the New Testament it only occurs elsewhere in Luke 23:41,
"Nothing amiss;" and II Thessalonians 3:2, Ἀτόπων καὶ πονηρῶν ἀνθρώπων -
Atopon kai ponaeron anthropon - unreasonable and wicked men. It is also used
in the Septuagint for wickedness, doing wickedly, etc. They changed their minds;
as in an opposite direction the Lycaonians did (ch. 14:11, 19). It is a graphic picture
of the fickleness of an untutored mind yielding to every impulse. The impunity with
which Paul endured the bite of the viper was a direct fulfillment of our Lord's
promise in Mark 16:18 (see further note on v. 8).
A Strong Family Likeness (vs. 1-6)
This short episode is, in its proportion, as refreshing to the reader as to
those who played the actual part in it. It is the oasis of narrative. It reads
like a brief parable of the human heart. Or we may be impressed by it, as by
some portrait, which presents to our view features with which we seem to
be very familiar, and half hiding, half revealing a likeness to some one well
known. They are the features that “half conceal and half reveal” the
likeness of the human heart. And throughout the family of human heart,
very strong indeed is the family likeness, above what can be found
anywhere else. Notice these features, so characteristic of it.
Ø The heart loves kindness — to receive it.
Ø The heart loves kindness — to do it. Both of these are deep facts of
the heart, and speak not obscurely of Him who made it.
Ø The kindness that is in the heart is touched towards bodily want, cold,
hunger, thirst, shelterless exposure; and this tells the tale of all the rest
Ø The kindness of the heart contravenes in human life the bare action of
the principle of natural selection; it tempers it with irresistibly modifying
and irresistibly elevating moral influences; it determines and regulates in
a way all its own “the survival of the fittest,” and it is the thing on earth
likest what is habitual in heaven!
Ø The kindness of the human heart is found everywhere, and in every age
of the world.
Ø The superstition that is so often betrayed by the human heart is an
unerring sign of the sense of God and the instinct of the infinite
present in it.
Ø It means that sense unguided, that instinct baffled.
Ø It evidences deep conviction of moral distinctions inside man, and of
presiding moral judgments outside men, and authoritative over them,
all unfed as these may be from truth’s own springs, and unpointed
to their infinitely worthy objects.
Ø It is a constant rehearsal of judgment to come.
Ø The worse uses of such versatility and such swiftness, fickleness, and
caprice, and waywardness, and love of mere variety; but
Ø the better uses, readiness to forgive, swiftness to run and even meet the
Ø the thoroughness of contrition and conversion, that need but a moment
— like those of Paul himself; and
Ø the power to recover, after sorest stricken griefs, and most fearful
storms of sorrow or of passion.
with simplest, most unaffected kindness. They saw no instructing
providence, but when the occasion came superstition filled their heart, and
Paul is “no doubt a murderer, whom vengeance suffereth not to live,
though he hath escaped the sea.” This is their short and summary theology.
But it is not altogether so stiff and unopen to conviction. They are changed
to the opposite pole when they find, “after a great while,” i.e. what seemed
a great while for eyes fixed in one direction, but which was indeed a very
little while, that vengeance does not make an end to the life of Paul. And
from a pursued murderer, they exalt him to the skies of the gods! Happy if
the history of every erring heart had as much of the kindness as was here,
and no more of the error and the mischief and the disaster than were here.
Kindness began the scene, and, when fear clouded it over awhile, the last
“change of mind” was not from better to worse, but from worse to better.
Yet still how mournfully plain it is that nature’s light alone, leaves the
barbarian! For so he must be called justly who exalts the child of God into
a god himself.
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" Now in the neighborhood of that place for in the same quarters,
Authorized Version; lands belonging to for possessions of, Authorized Version;
named for whose name was, Authorized Version; entertained for lodged,
Authorized Version. Lands (χωρία - choria - freeholds); so John 4:5; ch. 1:18-19;
4:34; 5:3,8. The chief man of the island (τῷ πρώτει τῆς νήσου - to prote taes
naesou - the foremost man of the island). It appears that, with his usual accurate
knowledge gained on the spot (see ch. 16:22. note), Luke here gives to Publius
his peculiar official title of primus. For Ciantar (1. 215), quoted by Smith, gives
a Greek inscription on a marble, which in his day was standing near the gates
of Citta Vecehia,
Μελιταίων κ.τ.λ. - Proudens hippeus Rom protos Melitaion k.t.l. -, "Prudens, a
Roman knight, chief of the Maltese, etc. Latin inscription, which was discovered
in 1747, has the same title, MEL PRIMUS. "chief of the Maltese." It may not
improbably be the Greek and Latin translation of the old Phoenician title of the
"headman," in Hebrew הָרלֺאשׁ, in Chaldee ראֵשׁ, as in the title ראֵשׂ הַגְלוּתָה,
the chief of the Captivity. When the Romans succeeded the Carthaginians in the
possession of the island, they would be likely to perpetuate the title of the chief
magistrate. In this case the chief was also a Roman, as his name of Publius indicates.
Alford says that he was legatus to the Praetor of Sicily, and so 'Speaker's
Commentary,' Kuinoel, Meyer, ere.' Received us; ἀναδεξάμενος - anadexqamenos -
receiving - only here (and Hebrews 11:17 in a different sense) for the more common
ὑποδέχομαι - hupodechomai - . Kuinoel quotes from AElian, 'Var. Hist.,' 4, 19,
the similar phrase, Υπέδεξατο αὐτοὺς. . . φιλοφρόνως - ???: and from II Maccabees
3:9, Φιλοφρόνως ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ὑποδεχθείς - Philophronos hupo tou archiereos
hupodechtheis. Entertained us (ἐξένισεν - exenisen - lodges); see ch. 10:6, 18, 23, 32;
philophronos - aimably, only here in the New Testament, but we find φιλόφρων -
philophron - courteous, in I Peter 3:8. We must understand the "us" probably to
include the centurion, Paul, Luke, Aristarchus, and possibly one or two others,
but not the whole two hundred and seventy-six. "Be not forgetful to entertain
strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2)
had a striking fulfillment here. During the three days they would have opportunity
to procure suitable winter quarters.
8 "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." It was so for it came to pass, Authorized Version; fever for a fever,
Authorized Version; dysentery for of a bloody flux, Authorized Version; unto for to,
Authorized Version; and laying, etc., healed for and laid, etc., and healed,
Authorized Version. The father of Publius. The fact of the father of Publius being
alive and living in
(foremost man of the island) is an official title. Lay sick. Συνέχεσθαι - Sunechesthai -
is also the usual medical expression for being taken sick of any disease (see the
numerous passages quoted by
It is used by Luke, with πυρετῴ (συνεχομένη πυρετῴ - sunechomenae pureto -
Κατακεῖσθαι - Katakeisthai - to be lying down is used especially of lying in bed
in Latin. Sick of fever and dysentery (πυρετοῖς καὶ δυσεντερία συνεχόμενον - puretois
kai dusenteria sunechomenon - to fevers and to dysentery being pressed). The terms
here used are all professional ones. Πυρετός - puretos (fevers), in the plural, is of
frequent occurrence in Hippocrates, Aretaeus, and Galen, but elsewhere in the
New Testament always in the singular; δυσεντερία (dysentery), only found here
in the New Testament, is the regular technical word for a "dysentery," and is
frequently in medical writers coupled with πυρετοί or πυρετός, as indicating
different stages of the same illness. Laying his hands on him. So Mark 16:18,
"They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (see also Matthew 9:18;
It is also spoken of as an accompaniment of prayer in confirmation, ordination,
etc. It has been remarked as curious that the two actions of taking up serpents
and healing the sick by the laying on of hands should be in such close juxtaposition
both here and in Mark 16:18. It suggests the thought whether Luke had seen the
passage in Mark; or whether the writer of Mark 16:18 had seen this verse. Or is
the coincidence accidental, arising out of the facts? (I would say consequential
of the prophetic or a natural result of the promised! - CY - 2018)
Christian Returns for Kindness Shown (v. 8)
“Not far from the scene of the shipwreck lay the town now called Alta
Vecchia, the residence of Publius, the governor of the island, who was
probably a legate of the Printer of Sicily. Since Julius was a person of
distinction, this Roman official, who bore the title of πρῶτος - protos
first; foremost — a local designation, the accuracy of which is supported by
inscriptions — offered to the centurion a genial hospitality, in which Paul
and his friends were allowed to share. It happened that at that time the father
of Publius was lying prostrated by feverish attacks complicated with dysentery.
Luke was a physician, but his skill was less effectual than the agency of
Paul, who went into the sick man’s chamber, prayed by his bedside, laid his
hands on him, and healed him. The rumor of the cure spread through the
little island, and caused all the sick inhabitants to come for help and
tendance. We may be sure that Paul, though we do not hear of his
founding any Church, yet lost no opportunity of making known the gospel”
(Farrar). In this instance the order of
He had received their “carnal things,” and he gladly returned to them his
“spiritual things.” We observe:
CIRCUMSTANTIAL BLESSINGS. These are all that the world has at its
command; but these Christians need. They may be illustrated under the
Ø Practical aids.
So the barbarous people could light a fire and show kindness to Paul,
and Publius could offer to him and his friends generous hospitalities.
Especially dwell on the virtue of hospitality, noticing that it was a
characteristic excellence of ancient times; it is a virtue carefully cultivated
in the East, and more particularly among tribes, in the present day; and
that, while it is retained, it is set under very narrow limitations in modern
civilized nations, where class prejudices are strong.
SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS, They have the common powers of brotherhood
and helpfulness which belong to men as set in human relations; but they can
also do for their fellows what no other class of men can do. They have a
new life; that life finds its own peculiar and characteristic expression. It
Ø an unconscious and
Ø a conscious influence for good.
Illustrate that Christians can save a city, as ten righteous men would have
by their calmness in the hour of danger, through their faith in God; as
may be seen in times of shipwreck. They may have actual power to heal,
as the apostles had. They can certainly witness for the living God;
commend the service of the Lord Jesus Christ; carry healing balm to
sin-sick souls; comfort the weary and heavy-laden; and minister truth
and sympathy and love where these are needed. They can be “preserving
salt; uplifted light-bearers; and upon them may hang, in full clusters,
the rich ripe fruits which the world so greatly needs for its refreshing
and its spiritual health. Impress that what the Christian man can be
he ought to be and should strive to be. “Herein is my Father glorified,
that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
9 "So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came,
and were healed:" And for so, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; the
rest for others, Authorized Version; cured for healed, Authorized Version.
The mission of Christianity to heal both body and soul.
THE SPIRITUAL HEALING OF THE WORLD IS THE HOPE OF
10 "Who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed, they
laded us with such things as were necessary." Sailed for departed, Authorized
Version; put on board for laded us with, Authorized Version; we needed for were
necessary, Authorized Version. Honored us with many honors. Kuinoel understands
this in the sense of "gifts, presents," which of course their destitute condition, after
losing all they had in the ship-wreck, would make very acceptable. But there is
nothing in the words to suggest this meaning, and, had it been so, Luke would
have simply stated it, as he does immediately afterwards, when he says that they
put on board such things as we needed. When we sailed (ἀναγομένοις -
, and notes. It is touching to see the kindness of the Maltese,
and we may hope that they had to thank God for light and grace and life
through the ministry of Paul and his companions.
Kindness (vs. 1-10)
Genuine kindness is a pleasant thing to see by whomsoever and under
whatsoever circumstances it is exercised. God has planted it in the human
breast, and it is one of the distinctive attributes of man. Too often, indeed,
the indulgence of bad passions is suffered to choke it, and rival interests to
interfere with its action. Still, there it is, a faint reflection, it is true, of the
love of God, but nevertheless a remnant of God’s image in man; pleasant
to behold, sweetening the relations of man with man, and capable, if
allowed to exercise its rightful sway over human actions, of increasing to
an almost infinite extent the happiness of the human race. Kindness shows
itself, mainly, in two ways. First, in a general inclination to promote the
well-being of others. But secondly and chiefly, in sentiments of sorrow and
compassion for the misfortunes of others, and in active endeavors to
relieve their sufferings and supply their wants. Such was the kindness of
these simple Maltese peasants. They saw before them nearly three hundred
persons in the extremest destitution. Houseless, without food, drenched
with wet from the sea and from the rain, without any change of raiment,
shivering with cold, exhausted with fatigue, their plight was most
miserable. When the kind islanders saw them they were touched with their
misfortunes, nor did they rest in pitiful feelings only. They set actively to
work to alleviate their sufferings. They opened their humble dwellings to
receive them. They supplied them with what food they could. They helped
them to dry their dripping clothes; they collected fuel to kindle fires by
which to warm them; they gave themselves no little trouble and labor to
give them every comfort within their reach. And what enhances the
kindness is that there could be no hope of reward. The men whom they
were helping had lost everything they possessed. Their whole property had
gone down to the bottom of the sea. They could give nothing in return for
what they received. All the more was the uncommon kindness which they
showed them pure and unalloyed with selfishness. They were
unconsciously obeying the precept of Paul’s Master, “Do good, hoping for
nothing again.” (Luke 6:35) May we not hope that they found the truth of
His promise, “Your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of
the Highest”? It is a great confirmation of this hope that we read in the following
verses how the hand of the Lord was stretched out in signs and wonders. The
miracles of Scripture are never useless or gratuitous displays of power. The
most obvious purpose of those wrought in
natives; and it is very pleasant to think that those kind men who were
privileged to minister to the necessities of Paul and Luke and their
companions in the faith, reaped a rich and unexpected reward, when they
learned at their mouths the blessed promises of God’s grace, and were
received into the number of the children of God through faith in Christ
God-implanted in the human heart. Hospitality was not so much a virtue in
heathendom as the refusal of it a crime. So much the more must any
“shutting up of the bowels of compassion” against the needy brother or the
stranger be an offence against the Son of man (I John 3:17). The great charge
which He, in His depiction of the scene of judgment, brings against the
unfaithful is the neglect of the common offices of love.
the love of God in his heart, no coast can be foreign land, no color or
custom of men repel. It was a heathen who said, “I am a man, and nothing
human is foreign to me.” The Christian may translate the saying, “I am a
follower of the Son of man, and nothing that is dear to Him is strange to
How quickly do the open brows of hospitable kindness change into
scowls and frowns as the viper fastens on Paul’s hand! They reason he
must be a murderer. Occurrences are full of effects without visible causes.
The untrained mind makes out of coincidences chains of cause and effect
which do not exist. The afflicted man is supposed to be a wicked man. In
propagating Christianity we need to take the sword of the Spirit, which
owes its bright temper to Divine intelligence. We must meet unreason with
reason, and cast out superstitious darkness by the clear light of all
OTHERS. As Paul casts off the serpent harmless, he is seen to be under
the Divine protection. Here is a man who leads apparently a charmed life.
The waves could not swallow him, nor the serpent sting him (compare
Psalm 91:11; Mark 16:18). The heathen mind revolts from one extreme of
superstition to another. Now Paul must be a god! “The common mass
know no measure; they raise a man to heaven or thrust him into hell”
(ch. 14:12, 18). The Christian may rapidly pass from the extreme of
depreciation or shame to that of honor, feeling equally that he deserves
neither. Yet both in the one and the other the business of the Christian is
not to defend himself from misunderstandings, but “through good report
and evil report,” as Paul said, to go on with his work and witness, leaving
Paul is entirely devoted to the healing activity of the body. There are times
of silence; and the spectacle of the servant of Christ busy in doing good
during his stay in the island may have wrought more on the memory of the
people than many sermons would have done.
A Picture of the Human (vs. 1-10)
In these few verses we have a graphic picture of some of the experiences of
Trouble. Doubtless the first sentiment on escaping death by shipwreck
is intense gladness and gratitude, But the next is the consciousness of
congratulates himself and (if he be a devout man) thanks God that his
life ispreserved; then he realizes what he has left behind him; and he
soonbecomes conscious of the exposure to which he is subjected —
he allowsbecause of the present rain, and himself to be troubled “
because of the cold” (v. 2). It is not shipwreck only, but many other
kinds of wreckwhich plunge men “into the cold,” into adversity, into
bereavement of thegood which they had enjoyed.
pity, “the barbarous people showed no little kindness” (v. 2).
An ineradicable human conviction. Underlying the conclusion to which
the Author of our spiritual nature, which will not be dislodged, which
itselfaccounts for much that we think, say, and do — that sin deserves
truth just stated; it infers that any particular misfortune is referable to
similar kind, though conducting to an opposite conclusion — it infers
thata man who has an extraordinary escape is a special favorite of
Heaven (v.6). Taught of God, we know that, while sin brings penalty,
inward andcircumstantial, and while righteousness brings Divine regard
and honor,God often permits or sends suffering and sorrow in fatherly
love for thepromotion of the highest well-being (Hebrews 12:5-11).
We have alsohere:
influential a passenger on board ship (ch. 27.), and who makes himself
§ That true dignity is never above usefulness, even of the
humblest kind; a Paul may gather sticks in time of emergency
without losing honor.
That bodily benefit is an admirable introduction to spiritual help.
Who can doubt that Paul used the gratitude and honor which
he reaped (v. 10) to find a way for the truth of Christ to the
minds and hearts of the Maltese?
Christ, which nothing else personal to themselves would have either
TO SPREAD. It might be uttered as a taunt against Christian action, or at
all events against this illustration of it, that the benefits were those of
miraculous help to the body. But the taunt would be most unjust, for if
there be one thing plainly written on the historic pages of Christianity now
these twenty centuries, it is this, that wherever its works are found — not
simply its profession — life and inquiry and devotion are found. Whenever
souls are being saved, and wherever, there and then are found a life and
spirit of inquiry and — the multitude athirst.
CHRISTIANITY TO EVOKE GRATITUDE OF THE LARGEST AND
STRONGEST AND MOST PRACTICAL. It is quite true that there is “all
the world’s” difference between the blessings that Christianity gives and
the returns that it receives from those most deeply, truly, touched by it. Yet
none the less is it true that, when these bring of their best, though that best
may be far as earth below heaven, it is to be accepted as a true testimony
of their gratitude, “well pleasing to God.” For what Paul had done the
islanders returned “many honors,” and actually “laded him with such things
as were necessary.”
GROUP OR COMMUNITY OF PERSONS TO HAVE AMONG THEIR
NUMBER ONE OR TWO OF THE REAL CHRISTIAN STAMP.
Probably the special reference of v. 10 is to Paul and his immediate
collaborators, who had lodged with him at the house of Publius, and had
come to be known as particularly belonging to him, as he taught or worked
miracles among the people. Yet, at any rate, we are certainly not told of a
single thing these said or did, till we are told how they came in for a share
of all the bountiful, generous things given by the islanders, “Who also
honored us with many honors; and when we departed, laded us with such
things as were necessary.” There were none ever in the company of Jesus
but had the opportunity of taking infinite advantage from it. And there are
none in the company of the thorough, honest uncompromising servant of
Christ, but get some share of the advantage.
after three months we departed in a ship of
wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux." Set sail for departed,
Authorized Version; island for isle, Authorized Version; The Twin Brothers for
Castor and Pollux, Authorized Version. After three months. At the very earliest
period when the sailing season began after the winter. It would be, perhaps, about
the middle of February, or, as Alford thinks, about March 10. If the weather was
fine, having so short a voyage before them, they would venture to sail without
further delay. Set sail (see preceding verso, note). A ship of Alexandria. Some
ship, better fated than that one (ch. 27:6)
which was wrecked in
which had weathered or avoided the gale, and probably got into the harbor of
Valetta in good time. One would have thought that this ship wintering at Malta
on its way from Alexandria to Italy, via Sicily, would be of itself a sufficient proof
that Melita was Malta. Which had wintered (παρακεχειμακότι - parakecheimakoti -
having wintered); see ch. 27:12, note. Whose sign was The Twin Brothers
(Δίοσκουροι - Dioskouroi - Zeus juveniles; dioscuri, Latin the constellation
Gemini). The twin sons of
Jupiter and Leda, Castor and Pollux, brothers of
("fratres Helenis, lucida sidera," Horace, 'Od.,' 1:3, 2), were called by the Greeks
Dioscuri, the sons of Jove. It was their special office to assist sailors in danger of
shipwreck. Hence Horace, in the ode just quoted, prays that Castor and Pollux,
in conjunction with other deities, would carry the ship in which Virgil sailed
safe to Attica. And in Ode 12:27, etc., he describes the subsidence of the storm,
and the calming of the waves, at the appearance of the twin stars, of Leda's sons.
It was, therefore, very natural to have the Dioscuri for the παράσημον - parasaemon -
the sign of the ship. Every ancient ship had a παρασήμῳ, "a painted or carved
representation of the sign which furnished its name on the prow, and at the stern
a similar one of their tutelary deity." (Alford), which was called the tutela. These
were sometimes the same, and perhaps were so in this instance. Ovid tells us that
Minerva was the tutela of the ship in which he sailed, and that her painted helmet
gave it its name ('Trist.,' 1 9:1), Galea, or the like. We may notice the continual
trial to Jews and Christians of having to face idolatry in all the common actions of life.
Authorized Version. Touching (καταχθέντες - katachthentes - landing); ch. 21:3;
27:3, note. The way in which Syracuse is here mentioned is another redundant
proof that Melita is Malta. "Syracause is about eighty miles, a days' sail, from
Malta" (Afford). Tarried there three days. Perhaps wind-bound, or possibly
having to land part of their cargo there.
13 "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:" Made a
circuit for fetched a compass, Authorized Version; arrived at for came to, Authorized
Version; a south for the south, Authorized Version; sprang up for blew, Authorized
Version; on the second day we came for we came the next day, Authorized Version.
We made a circuit; περιελθόντες - perielthontes - tacking about. Luke only uses this
word in one other passage, ch. 19:13, "The strolling [or, 'vagabond'] Jews;" and it
has the same sense of "wandering" in the only other passages where it occurs in the
the meaning must be "tacking," the wind not allowing them to sail in a direct course.
"I am inclined to suppose that the wind was northwest, and that they worked to
windward, availing themselves of the sinuosities of the coast. But with this wind
they could not proceed through the Straits of Messina .... They were, therefore,
obliged to put into Rhegium But after one day the wind became fair (from the south),
and on the following day they arrived at Puteoli, having accomplished about one
hundred and eighty nautical miles in less than two days" (Smith, p. 156). But Meyer
explains it, "after we had come round," viz. from Syracuse, round the eastern coast
of Sicily. Lewin thinks they had to stand out to sea to catch the wind, and so arrived
at Rhegium by a circuitous course. The other reading is περιελόντες - perielontes -
taking from about it, as in Acts 27:40; but this seems to give no proper sense here.
A south wind sprang up. The force of the preposition in ἐπιγενομένου -
epigenomenou - of coming on shows that there was a change of wind. The south
wind would, of course, be a very favorable one for sailing from Reggio to Puzzuoli.
according to some good manuscripts) that it "was a favorite medical word constantly
employed to denote the coming on of an attack of illness." It occurs nowhere else in
the New Testament, but is common in Diodorus Siculus, Xenophon, Herodotus,
Thucydides, etc., for the coming on of a storm, wind (adverse or favorable), or any
other change. On the second day; δευτεραῖοι - deuteraioi). This particular numeral
occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but the analogous τεταρταῖος - tetartaios -
fourth day is used in John 11:39. And Herodotus has τριταῖος ἀφίκετο - tritaios
aphiketo - he went away on the third day. Τριταῖος - Tritaios is also common in
medical writers with πυρετός - puretos - a tertian ague, a fever that recurs on the
third day; τεταρταῖος - tetartaios, a quartan fever; πεμπταῖος - pemptaios - one
recurring on the fifth day; ἑβδομαῖος - ebdomaios - on the seventh day;
ἐνναταῖος - ennataios - , on the ninth day. The forms δεκαταῖος πεντηκοσταῖος -
dekataios pentaekostaios - , etc., "doing anything on the tenth, the fiftieth day,"
also occur. Puteoli; now Puzzuoli. The Italian port to which ships from Alexandria
usually came. Smith quotes a passage from Seneca (Epist., 77) describing the arrival
of the Alexandrian wheat-ships at Puteoli. The whole population of Puteoli went out
to see them sail into harbor with their topsails (supparum), which they alone were
allowed to carry, in order to hasten their arrival (p. 157), so important to Italy was
the corn trade with Alexandria.
14 "Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days:
and so we went toward Rome." Entreated for desired, Authorized Version;
came to for went toward, Authorized Version. Brethren. It is very interesting to
find the gospel already planted in Italy. The circumstances of Puteoli as the great
emporium of African wheat made it a likely place for Christianity to reach, whether
brethren, not Ξριστιανοί - Christianoi - Christians (ch. 11:26). Perhaps the name
of Christian was still rather the name given by those without, and that of "brethren,"
or "disciples," the name used by the Christians among themselves. What a joy it
must have been to Paul and his companions to find themselves among brethren!
Seven days. Surely that they might take part in the service and worship of the
did not now fail. So we came to Rome. The Revised Version is undoubtedly right.
'We can trace in the anticipatory form of speech here used by Luke, simple as the
words are, his deep sense of the transcendent interest of the arrival of the apostle
of the Gentiles at the colossal capital of the heathen world. Yes:
Ø after all the conspiracies of the Jews who sought to take away his life,
Ø after the two years' delay at Caesarea,
Ø after the perils of that terrible shipwreck,
o in spite of the counsel of the soldiers to kill the prisoners, and
o in spite of the "venomous beast,"
Paul came to Rome. The word of God, "Thou must bear witness also at Rome"
And doubtless the hearts both of Paul and Luke beat quicker when they first
caught sight of the city on the seven hills.
A Week with Brethren (v. 14)
It cannot be that this one verse was written for nothing. Like a waif and
stray on the wide waters of Scripture, to the careless eye, it is anything but
really such. We may notice touching the events the verse records:
Ø They included the heightening pleasure of a very agreeable surprise.
Ø They speak the affection of a hearty invitation. Invitations are often as
superficial and insincere and abased to ill purpose as many other good
things. But the genius of them is good. They mean care and regard,
respect and love, willingness and an anticipation of what may be in
Ø They are tinted with a certain sacred hue. Did not a “seven days’”
pressing invitation mean to make sure of one “day of the Lord” together?
Those who gave that invitation longed for the opportunity it would bring
for themselves and others. They wanted what the memory of it would give
them to lay up as though “precious store.” Those who received that
invitation would read respect to themselves in it, and what was better, the
sign of religious life and love.
Ø They were a most welcome contrast to the scenes and the dangers, the
strife and the talk and the company of all the time since Paul and his
set sail from
the loving, longing, purposing communion of brethren. They stamp the
genuineness and even superior sort of Christian brotherhood. The
communion of Christian brethren is:
Ø Distinctly honoring to the Master, even Him who Himself once said, “One
is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren” (Matthew 23:8).
Ø It is distinctly adapted to be useful at the time to those brethren
themselves, for reminding them of the relation of all of them to One; and of
their mutual relations; for comparing experiences, for imparting instruction,
for joining in the quickening exercises of united worship, so stirring to
deepest feelings of the heart, and so stimulating to faith and love.
Ø It is, further, in one particular direction especially inspiring. While by
nature it takes out the painfulness of many a strong present impression, it
also supersedes these by the materials and the very scenery, which are sure
to abide, full of the resources of comfort and encouragement for “the
future distress.” How much we live on memory! What a force holy
memories have proved themselves! Those that have come out of the silence
and the solitude of the closet have had their peculiar mission. Certainly not
less powerful for good have those holy memories been which have seemed
to come borne by “a cloud of witnesses,” the former companions of our
thoughts, our prayers, and our praises. (Hebrews 12:1)
Ø It is entitled to expect special influences from above, and the special
presence of the Holy Spirit (ch. 1:4; 2:1). Those who meeting
together seek by all means within their reach and by prayer, light, and
knowledge, love and grace, will be those most abundantly rewarded. Light
will be reflected from face to face, and love will glow from heart to heart.
("For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath
shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of
God in the face of Jesus Christ." - II Corinthians 4:6)
Ø It is not vainly added, “So we went toward Rome.” The weeks, the days,
the hours, were numbered of Christian converse for Paul — of Christian
help and enjoyment, whether given or received. And the surprise the
Master had graciously prepared is gratefully received. It assists Paul, body,
mind, and soul, in his journey “toward
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, when, etc., came for
when the brethren, etc., they came, Authorized Version; The Market of Appius
for Appii forum, Authorized Version. The brethren, when they heard of us.
During the seven days' stay at Putcoli, the news of the arrival of the illustrious
confessors reached the Church at Rome. The writer of that wonderful Epistle
which they had received some three years before, and in which he had
expressed his earnest desire to visit them, and his hope that he should come
to them in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:11-12, 15;
15:22, 24, 28-32), was now almost at their gates as a prisoner of state, and they
would soon see him face to face. They naturally determined to go and meet him,
to honor him as an apostle, and show their love to him as a brother. The younger
and more active would go as far as Appii Forum, "a village on the Via Appia,
forty-three miles from Rome" (Meyer). The rest only came as far as The Three
Taverns, ten miles nearer to Rome. Alford quotes a passage from Cicero's letters
to Atticus (it. 10), in which he mentions both "Appii Forum" and the "Tres
Tabernae;" and refers to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 17. 12:1) for a similar account
of Jews at Rome, who, on hearing of the arrival of the pretended Alexander
at Puteoli, went out in a body to meet him (πᾶν τὸ Ιουδαίων πλῆθος ὑπαντιάζοντες
ἐξῄεσαν - pan to Ioudaion plaethos hupantiazontes exaesan). He also quotes
from Suetonius the passage in which he tells us that, on Caligula's return from
Germany, "populi Romans sexum, aetatem, ordinem omnem, usque ad
Vicesimum lapidem effadisse se" ('Calig.,' c. 4). Appii Forum was not far
from the coast, and was a great place for sailors and innkeepers
(Horace, 'Sat.,' 1:5, 3). The Via Appia was made by Appius Claudius,
B.C. 442. It led from the Ports Capena in Rome through the Pontino
Refreshment (vs. 11-15)
What a weary time had Paul’s three last years of life been! Incessant
fightings with his hard-hearted, virulent countrymen; a pitiless storm of
hatred and persecution and false accusation raging incessantly against him;
trial succeeding trial, yet bringing no respite from injustice; weary prison
hours, while the active spirit was bound by the chain which kept him
anxieties of that terrific voyage, and the threats of the savage soldiery, and
the loss of all he had in the shipwreck, and the hardships to be endured by
his frail body in the cold wintry season. Save the kindness of the
barbarians, there had been no rest to mind or body since he arrived at
what awaited him there? He was going there as a prisoner. He was going
to another trial. He was going to stand before Nero, with no protection but
his innocence. He had countrymen at
him as his countrymen in
from the populace at
prisoner there was plenty in that city of blood and lust and unbounded
power to awaken vague fears and undefined anxieties, and to trouble the
firmest spirit. And so he walked on toward the goal, hopes and fears
perhaps struggling within him for the mastery. And now they were just
arriving at Appii Forum, when, lo! a considerable crowd advanced to meet
him. Who could they be? and what was their errand? A moment or two
soon explained it. They were brethren, Christian brethren, issuing from the
foulness of the great heathen city in all the purity of faith and love, to come
and greet and welcome the apostle. There, at a thousand miles from his
native land, he was not among strangers; he was surrounded by those who
had never indeed seen his face, but who loved him fervently in Christ Jesus.
There, in the land of idolatry, amidst heathen temples and every form of
wickedness flourishing in that hot-bed of corruption, he was in the midst of
saints, by whom the Name of Jesus was loved and adored. In that
stronghold of Satan there was a chosen band not ashamed to confess the
faith of Christ crucified, not ashamed of Paul his prisoner — a band of men
to whom Paul’s arrival was a joy and a glory, and who were come upwards
of forty miles, in all the warmth of love and admiration, to honor him and
welcome him, and to give him proof of their obedience and devotion to
him. Their presence was like a bright gleam of sunshine upon the apostle’s
way. His heart leaped up in response to that welcome greeting. His bruised
and wearied spirit revived. Love and joy and hope made music in his soul,
and his first thought was to give God thanks for this refreshment. Then
with fresh courage he went on his way like a giant refreshed with wine,
ready to work or to suffer, to contend, to bear witness, to preach, to travel,
to write, to spend and be spent, to live or to die for Christ, as his heavenly
Father should appoint, till the set time should come when all his toil would
be over, and the cross would be exchanged for the glorious crown of
righteousness and of life.
The Passage from
relationship in Jesus Christ make the unknown as known. The heart
dissolves distance and strangeness. God has everywhere hidden children.
(I Kings 19:18) The discovery of them is the discovery of a dear bond of
brotherhood, and this fills the heart with joy (compare Romans 1:12). The
coming forth of the brethren from
letter to them had not been without result. So he thanked God and took heart.
This slight word seems to allude to a certain failing of heart and dejection,
such as the greatest souls are liable to in critical moments. His life was
passed in cloud and sunshine, and the record of both has been faithfully
left behind. In both there is deep encouragement for us.
Ø For him. His life-goal is at last reached. He comes, a homeless stranger,
yet escorted by loving friends; as an evildoer in bonds, yet with the grace
of God in his heart; as a victim doomed to sacrifice, yet as a victorious
conqueror, to plant the banner of the cross in the citadel of heathendom.
Ø For heathendom it was a critical moment. It is the signal for the wane of
its glory and pride. For the next three centuries it was to lead a struggling
existence, until all that was good in it should be absorbed into the kingdom
of God, and the rest be cast away with THE REFUSE OF TIME!
Ø For Judaism. Paul turns for the last time to his people. Exclusiveness is
decaying; the priest and the doctor and their followers, who refuse to come
to terms with Christ, must fold their garments about them and pass into
amidst the life of civilization.
Christianity. Bloody struggles
await her in
a glorious victory.
Human Kindness (v. 15)
A striking and touching instance is this of valuable human kindness. It is a
positive relief to our minds to think that the faithful veteran soldier of Jesus
Christ, bearing in his body such marks of lifelong conflict, worn with toil
and care and suffering, having escaped from one kind of affliction and on
his way to another, met with such considerate kindness as greatly
comforted and cheered him. The text may remind us:
DISPOSITION. As God created us “in His own image,” we were made:
Ø to feel and show kindness one to another;
Ø to rejoice in one another’s success;
Ø to promote one another’s prosperity;
Ø to sympathize with one another in sorrow;
Ø to be willing to deny ourselves,
Ø to run risks,
Ø to make sacrifices, and
Ø to help others in their time of need.
FROM THE SOUL; e.g. pirates, wreckers, thugs, etc.
CULTURE. Kindness, like all other graces, needs regular cultivation, or it
will decline or even perish. It needs:
Ø The nurture which comes from the utterance of truth; the reception of
right thoughts into the mind.
Ø The strengthening which proceeds from daily illustration; that which is
derived from the practice of slight and simple acts of considerateness
and good will.
Ø The confirmation of larger acts of self-sacrificing love; such acts as
cause trouble, as involve difficulty, as entail risk, as necessitate
Ø To the great King Himself; for shall we not say that much of the ministry
of those women who waited on him so kindly, and something of the
attendance granted by the men who tendered him their aid, was the
offering of human kindness rather than of Divine service? Yet it
was not on that account unacceptable or unserviceable.
Ø To His apostles. Here is one instance in which human kindness greatly
comforted and heartened a valued servant of Christ, and helped him on
his useful and fruitful course.
Ø To His servants in all succeeding centuries. Who shall tell how much
the cause of Christ has been furthered by the opportune kindness shown
by tender hearts and gentle hands to those who have been its
representatives and champions?
esteemed of God (Hebrews 13:16; Ephesians 3:32); one that is beautiful in
the sight of man, that adorns the doctrine, that is to the character what the
bloom is to the plant; one that has a general and precious reflex influence
on those that exercise and exhibit it.
GRATEFUL TO GOD. Paul “thanked God” as well as “took courage.”
We have reason to thank God for human kindness as much as for any
blessing we receive. For though this does not come as perceptibly from Him
as the sunshine and the rain, yet ultimately and actually it is as much His gift
as they are. Only the loving God can originate love in the human heart and
in the human life. “God is our Sun” (Malachi 4:2), from whom streams
every ray of human kindness that falls on our path and cheers our soul.
Let us, too, thank God for it, while we take courage from it.
Gratitude and Courage Well Linked Together (v. 15)
Paul speaks elsewhere of the severity in some sort, at all events of the
stress, laid upon his spiritual sympathies at times (II Corinthians 11:28-30).
We can well understand that any severity, any pain, felt from the claim
set up by such sympathies lay not in the act of sympathizing, but in the
consideration of the state of things, the sins, the errors, the inconsistencies
in “all the Churches,” or in the members of them that called for both
“care,” on the one hand, for the erring, and on the other sympathy with the
aggrieved. The sympathy which he so ungrudgingly gave, however, at
whatever expenditure, he had a wonderful heart to receive when proffered
to himself. And it is among the signs of his large and susceptible heart that
it was so, and that he made so much of it. Here we read of another help of
this kind given him by the way. How gratefully and with what appreciation
he received it! He felt it was a token of the Divine presence and the Divine
goodness, and that as such it must be used and improved. Therefore first
he “thanked God,” and then “took courage” afresh. Let us notice the
following implications of this verse:
Ø This is great testimony to the real character of Christianity.
Ø It is one of its great safeguards against superciliousness (patronizing
haughtiness) and other temptations to affect separateness from or
superiority to ordinary humanity.
KINDNESS STRIKES HOME ALL AS SURELY TO THE HEARTS OF
THE GREATEST AS TO THOSE OF THE HUMBLER.
HEARTS IN HIS HAND, MOVES NOW THE HEARTS OF THOSE
WHO SHALL COME TO GIVE US SPECIAL HELP FOR SPECIAL
Ø How often help coming at the exact crisis of need ought to count with
all as great moral force as a physical miracle, for our persuasion, that a
heavenly Friend is observantly and graciously watching our every step!
Ø What an incentive to religious life the network of hope and fear, joy and
sorrow, and all the play of light and shade, because such constitution of
life finds the prized opportunities of Divine interposition, as no mere
equable life, were it all light or all shade, could possibly find.
HOW DUE THANKS ARE TO HIS MASTER THAN WHEN THAT
MASTER APPEARS TO SHOW HIS OWN COMMANDING
INTEREST IN HIS OWN WORK. How many the ways are in which
Jesus does this!
Ø By the occasional manifest blessing upon it that He gives.
Ø By the Spirit he puts into the hearts of many to uphold the hands
and arms of those who do the actual work.
Ø By such more delicate methods as that now before us, when the help
that the many bring to the one is seen, ay, and felt, to lie in the life
and the love that the Divine work has wrought in their heart. They
can bring nothing except, perhaps, that all to bring, themselves.
DOWN, AWAKENED THOUGH IT MAY BE BY HUMAN AID AND
SYMPATHY, RESTS EVER STILL ON THE DIVINE. It was not in
obedience to any hollow professionalism that Paul “thanked God.” Nor did
his courage lack the energy that came from sincere acknowledgment of
dependence on God. This was surely betokened by his “thanking God.”
16 "And when we came to
to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself
with a soldier that kept him." Entered into for came to, Authorized Version
and Textus Receptus; the words which follow in the Textus Receptus and the
Authorized Version, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the
guard: but, are omitted in the Received Text and Revised Version, following
א, A, B, and many versions; Alford retains them, Meyer speaks doubtfully;
abide for dwell, Authorized Version; the soldier that guarded him for a soldier
that kept him, Authorized Version. The captain of the guard (Authorized Version);
τῷ στρατοπεδάρχῃ - to stratopedarchae - to the chief of the encampment: in Latin
praefectus praetorio (Στρατόπεδον Stratopedon, was the Greek name for the
castra praetoriana). There were usually two great officers so called, and it was
their special duty to take charge of prisoners sent from the provinces to be tried
at Rome. 'Vinctus mitti ad praefectos praetorii met debet" (Pliny, 'Epist.,' 10:65).
It has been argued, from the mention of "the captain of the guard," that Paul's
imprisonment must have occurred when Burrus was sole prefect, as related by
Tacitus ('Annal.,' 12:42, 1), and that hence we get a precise date for it (so
Wieseler, 'Chronologic de Apostolisch. Geshichte'). But this can hardly be
depended upon. Luke might speak of "the prefect," meaning the one to whom
the prisoners were actually committed, just as we might speak of a magistrate
writing to "the secretary of state," or an ambassador calling upon "the secretary
of state," the matter in hand determining which of the three secretaries we meant.
With the soldier that guarded him. It appears from v. 20 that Paul was subjected
to the custodia militaris, i.e. that he was fastened by a single chain to a praetorian
(στρατιώτης - stratiotaes - soldier), but, as a special favor, granted probably on
the good report of the courteous Julius, was allowed to dwell in his own hired
house (v. 30); see ch. 24:23.
Paul, the Prisoner of Jesus Christ (v. 16)
Conybeare and Howson give very full details of the journey of the apostle
and his company from
following description of the place of imprisonment is given: — “Here was
the milliarium aureum, to which the roads of all the provinces converged.
All around were the stately buildings, which were raised in the closing
years of the republic and by the
early emperors. In front was the
Hill, illustrious long before the invasion of the Cauls. Close on the left,
covering that hill whose name is associated in every modern European
language with the notion of imperial splendor, were the vast ranges of the
palace — ‘the house of Caesar’ (Philippians 4:22). Here were the
household troops quartered in a praetorium attached to the palace. And
here Julius gave up his prisoner to Burrus, the praetorian prefect, whose
official duty it was to keep in custody all accused persons who were to be
tried before the emperor.” There we see the great apostle still a prisoner, in
bonds for CHRIST’S SAKE. His bondage was of that kind technically known
as a castodia libera (house arrest), but the prisoner was fastened by a chain to a
soldier who kept guard over him. For the apostle’s references to his imprisonment,
see Philippians 1:7, 13, 17; Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Colossians 4:18, etc.
The constant changing of the guard no doubt brought all the soldiers under his
personal influence, and enabled him to witness for Christ in the palace and in
Ø A prisoner.
Ø A sufferer.
So all Christian workers still find themselves set under limitations of:
Ø physical strength.
And the question constantly recurs — Will we be mastered by our limitations,
or will we master them in the power of a sanctified will? No man works for
God on earth with an absolute and perfect freedom. The limitations are sent
to give quality and character to our service. A man’s credit lies, not so much
in what he does, as in what he overcomes in order that he may do.
Ø Only to body; to restraint of bodily action, and to pain of body.
Ø Not to mind; since no shackles have ever been framed that can bind this.
Ø Not to character; which no sort of earthly persecutions or calamities
Ø Not to will; which can maintain its set purposes, even when it is
rendered helpless to carry them out.
Ø Not to life-work; which the earnest man will surely carry on somehow.
The Christian mastery of bodily disabilities, infirmities, and limitations, may
be illustrated from the Apostle Paul, from J. Bunyan the prisoner in
Hall, H. Martyn, F. W. Robertson, etc. There are martyrs who did not die,
whose service for Christ has been noble and heroic.
Illustrate and impress that, with all his bonds and sufferings upon him, he
Ø Still live Christ.
Ø Still work for Christ.
Ø Still write of Christ.
Ø Still speak for Christ.
Ø Still personally “meeten for the inheritance of the saints in the
light.” (Colossians 1:12)
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
our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from
of the Romans" He for Paul, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; called
together those that were the chief for called the chief... together, Authorized Version;
I, brethren, though I had done for men and brethren, though I have committed,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; the customs for customs, Authorized
Version; was I for was, Authorized Version. After three days. He could but just
have got into his hired house, but he would not lose a day in seeking out his
brethren to speak to them of THE HOPE OF
what unquenchable love! The chief (τοὺς ὄντας... πρώτους - tous ontas…..protous -
the ones being foremost). The expression οἱ πρῶτοι - hoi protoi - for the principal
people of the district or neighborhood, occurs repeatedly in Josephus. The Jews.
They had returned to
time before this (Romans 16:3, 7). I had done nothing against the people, or
18 "Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there
was no cause of death in me." Desired to set me at liberty for would have let me go,
Authorized Version. Had examined me (ἀνακρίναντές με - anakrinantes me -
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 spake
against it. This is a detail not expressly mentioned in the direct narrative in ch. 25,
but which makes that narrative clearer. It shows us that Festus's proposal in