Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28

Chapter 26

The first fourteen verses of this chapter tell us that when Paul was brought before this assembly Agrippa gave him liberty to speak, which he was not reluctant to do, since he knew that Agrippa was "expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews." He then relates a little of his personal history, how that he was brought up and lived as one of the strictest of the Pharisees, and that now he was being judged for the "hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers." This is the same promise for which "the twelve tribes," all the whole nation of Israel , were serving God day and night, and to the fulfilling of which they hoped to come. This hope is, of course, the resurrection of the dead; so Paul asks Agrippa the question, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" Since Agrippa was so "expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews," there is no reason he should think it incredible that God should raise the dead. Paul then continues his personal history leading up to, and including his experience on the Damascus road. Here he tells more of what the Lord said to him at that time than has been given us before.


(Verses 15 through 18) "And I said, Who art Thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith in Me."


Jesus not only appeared to Paul, and identified Himself, but He also told Paul to get up, and stand up on his feet, because He had purposed a work for him to do. Paul was to be a witness not only of what he had already seen, but also of things to be shown him later. The Lord promised to deliver him from "the people," that is, the people of Israel , and also from the Gentiles. It was to the Gentiles that He was sending Paul; and His purpose in sending him was "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith" that is in our Lord Jesus. Although surely we realize that the power of this whole operation is in the hands of God, yet to Paul was given, and to us is given, a great responsibility in this very statement.


No one should even imagine that to Paul was, or to us is, given the power to open the eyes, in the sense of giving any one faith to believe the gospel, which faith is in Jesus alone. He is its source, and it is anchored in Him, but to us is given the responsibility of opening their eyes, in the sense of declaring to them the true gospel, and thus turning them from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge; and in teaching them the true principles of godliness, we turn those who believe from the power of Satan unto God. As we do this, they receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified. Every one who believes has already had his sins forgiven on the foundation of the precious blood of Jesus, but he does not in his consciousness receive this forgiveness until, in the gospel, Jesus is set forth crucified before him, and he, through faith, believes it. In the same manner he receives the inheritance, though by the unconditional election of God, it is already his. Paul expresses it in slightly different words in Ephesians 1:13 , "In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in Whom also after ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of Promise." A conversation between our Lord and a man who had been blind might help toward understanding this. (John 9:35-38) "Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said unto him, ‘Dost thou believe on the Son of God?’ He answered and said, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I might believe?’ And Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou hast both seen Him, and It is He That talketh with thee.’ And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And worshipped him." None would attempt to say that Jesus had not already healed the man, but the man did not yet know Who it was Who had done the work. Although, in this instance, Jesus Himself informed the man, Who He was, since He is now at the right hand of the Father on high, His ministers are charged with identifying Him through the gospel to those to whom the Holy Ghost has given faith.


(Verses 19 through 21) "Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me."


Since Paul was fully persuaded that this was a heavenly vision, he was not disobedient to it, but immediately set about doing that for which he was called, first to the Jews, and then, when, as we have seen earlier, they made it clear they wanted nothing to do with him or the gospel he preached, to the Gentiles. The last one third of verse 20 describes for us the apostle's preaching, "that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." Today we may hear someone preaching that people should "repent and turn to God," but there it usually ends. Are we afraid to preach that they should do works that befit people who have indeed repented, lest we step on someone's toes, perhaps even our own? It was because of these things the Jews sought to kill Paul.


(Verses 22 and 23) "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That the Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and unto the Gentiles."


Paul here said something of himself that we all know about ourselves, "Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day." No man continues of himself or by his own power, nor even indeed did he come into existence on his own. We are here by the help of God only. No doubt Paul's emphasis was upon the protection God had afforded him through all the dangers he had experienced. He then declared that he was still fulfilling his mission of witnessing to small and great, avoiding no man; and that which he witnessed is nothing but what the prophets and Moses had said would come to pass, the death and resurrection of our Lord the Christ. (The K. J. V. omits "the" before "Christ" in verse 23, but it is in the Greek, as it should always be.) Festus was so aroused by this that he spoke forth very loudly, and declared that Paul had done so much studying that it had affected his mind, "much learning hath made thee mad."


(Verses 25 through 27) "But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest."


Paul declares that he is not insane, but is speaking soberly, and that what he says is the truth. Further, he has no inhibitions about speaking of these things before Agrippa, because the king is already well informed of them, since they were done openly, and are known far and wide. They were "not done in a corner," that is, in some hidden away place. He asks Agrippa if he believes the prophets; and gives his own answer. Whether his answer was really factual, or rhetorical, we may never know. The Holy Ghost could have revealed to Paul that the king did believe the prophets. However, it could also be that Paul answered his own question for rhetorical effect, and to make it unnecessary for Agrippa to answer, in the event that he did not believe, because such an answer would have made him more unpopular with the Jews than he was already. This Agrippa was Herod Agrippa II, whose policies were not nearly so well liked by the Jews as were those of his father Herod Agrippa I, who was the instigator of the great persecution against the Christians back in Chapter XII.


(Verses 28 and 29) "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. and Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds."


Here we have the most outstanding example ever given anywhere of the inability of man, of himself, either to persuade men to believe the gospel, or to believe it himself when it is presented to him. Certainly, few, if any, today would claim to be more zealous in preaching the gospel than was Paul, and few could be found of greater eloquence. Yet, though Paul's most sincere desire before God was that all who heard him might be "both almost, and altogether such as" he was, except for his bonds, he could only almost persuade Agrippa, though no doubt he used all the power of persuasion at his command. At the same time, it would be foolish to argue, as do some, that Agrippa just stubbornly resisted the Spirit of God, and refused to believe. All evidence points to the fact that he wanted to know more about this "new doctrine"; for it was he who requested this hearing to begin with. The sobering truth is that, unless the Holy Spirit of God imparts faith, no man will, or indeed ever can, come any closer than being "almost persuaded."


(Verses 30 through 32) "And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: and when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar."


Here is a situation that may cause some to wonder. They may think that Paul made a grave mistake when he so abruptly appealed to Caesar. Had he not done so, he could now have been set at liberty. Both of his judges are agreed on this. Not only so, but even now Festus has no charge to send with Paul to Caesar. However Paul has, as some may think, foolishly, appealed to Caesar, effectively tying the hands of Festus in the matter. He must be sent to Caesar. From the human standpoint this does appear foolish; but it has all been directed of God, to bring about that which He had purposed. Paul must go to Rome , and God is sending him at state expense. Though he will go under guard. that guard will be his protection.

Chapter 27

The first eight verses of this chapter give the account of a very uneventful voyage from Caesarea to Lasea. Paul, with other prisoners, was placed in the charge of a centurion of Agustus' band, a man named Julius. Luke and Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, went along as companions to Paul. Julius treated him very courteously, giving him liberty at Sidon to go and visit with friends. The winds were contrary all the way from Sidon to a place called "Fair Havens," not far from Lasea. Since the contrary winds had slowed down their sailing, it took longer than usual to make this much of the trip, and the season had arrived that was very dangerous for sailing.


(Verses 9 and 10) "Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, and said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading of the ship, but also of life."


Although Julius had been very kind to Paul, to him Paul was only a prisoner, and certainly not so knowledgeable of the sea and the seasons, as were the shipmaster and the owner of the ship. So he listened to them instead of Paul. They did not think Fair Havens a suitable place to winter, but preferred to go to Phenice, if at all possible. So this they attempted to do. Shortly there arose a gentle breeze from the south; and they, thinking that this would be just what they wanted, set sail. However this breeze only lasted long enough for them to pass Crete . Soon thereafter there arose a great wind, called "Euroclydon," which literally means "a wind that raises mighty waves," or "a wind that raises broad waves." From Luke's description of this storm, both meanings will apply. Since his description of the storm is clear enough to need no explanation, we shall pass over verses 15 through 20.


(Verses 21 through 26) "But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete , and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of this ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, Whose I am, and Whom I serve, saying, Fear not Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island."


We do not know how long Paul had been silent about this matter since they had sailed from Crete , but Luke said earlier, "_ _ _neither sun nor stars in many days appeared," signifying that it had been quite a long lasting storm. Now Paul stood up before the whole company, and told them the message he had received from God by the angel. How calm and peaceful must have been his heart as he declared, "for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me!" The storm was not over, and this apparently, was not even a lull in it; but Paul's mind was anchored to God's word, and his evidence was faith, not material things or appearances. We too have the word of God, which is just as sure as was this message to Paul, for it is of the same God. When we are given faith that we can stand forth, and calmly declare with him, "I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me," all fear is gone, though the storm is howling more fiercely than ever. Paul knew that they were still to have some suffering, and that even the ship itself would be destroyed, but through it all God had promised protection, and that was sure.


Luke's saying, "But when the fourteenth night was come," could mean another fourteen days passed after Paul's declaration to the people, but in view of other things he says, he seems to be counting from the time when the storm became so violent that everyone began fasting. At midnight on the fourteenth night the sailors began to take soundings, because they thought they must be nearing some land, though they had no idea where they were. When this proved to be the case, they cast four anchors out from the stern of the vessel, and hoping this would prevent their being blown aground on a rocky shore, they waited for daylight. At this point, the sailors, under pretense of putting out more anchors from the foreship, were actually trying to lower the lifeboats in an attempt to escape.


(Verses 31 and 32) "Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off."


The angel had told Paul that God had given him not only his own life, but also the lives of all those who sailed with him; but this was only with all remaining on board until the ship itself was destroyed. At this point it seems that Julius and his soldiers had become convinced that Paul spoke only the truth. They immediately took steps to insure that the sailors did not jump ship.


(Verses 33 through 36) "And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat."


They may have had "meat" as we commonly consider the word, or they may not, at this particular time, but the word here actually means "food," which, in this instance, may have been limited to bread. This does not at all affect the message and example Paul presented to them. They probably would have disregarded his message, had he not also set them the example, but when he did this, they all became more cheerful, and followed the example. From this we should all learn to "practice what we preach."


(Verses 37 through 41) "And we were all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea. And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into which they were minded, if possible, to thrust the ship. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves."


As will be remembered, it had been at least two weeks since those on this ship had seen either sun or stars, the very things by which they navigated. And all this time they had been driven by the storm, without their being able to keep up with either the direction, or the speed of their sailing, so they were at a total loss as to where they were, and the land they saw had no familiar landmarks. The sailors did see a creek "with a shore". Apparently the remainder of the area was either rocky or had steep banks along the edge. They hoped to be able to run the ship into this creek. Accordingly they weighed anchor, loosed the rudder, and hoisted the mainsail, and depended upon the force of the sea and the storm to drive them as far into the creek as possible. However, instead of gaining their goal, they ran aground on a shoal, and the ship was broken by the waves.


(Verses 42 through 44) "And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: and the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land."


The soldiers, who considered that the prisoners, at best, would only be an unwanted responsibility while they were trying to save themselves, and at worst, would comprise a threat to them, wanted to kill them. But Julius the centurion had apparently been very favorably impressed with Paul, and since he could not permit the killing of any prisoners without killing all, in order to save him, he would not agree with the soldiers. As Luke tells us, his plan for all to get ashore was successful. Thus did God fulfill His word to Paul, that all would be spared.

Chapter 28

(Verses 1 and 2) "And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. 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."


The island unto which they had been brought by the storm was Melita, or, as it is now called, Malta . The tempest had brought them all the way from Crete to Malta without their being able to do any thing about it, or even to know where they were. One must understand that when Luke says, "the barbarous people," this does not mean that they were backward, or uncivilized, or any of the other meanings we usually associate with the word. "Barbaroi," the Greek word here translated "barbarous people" simply means "foreigners" or "people whose language is hard to understand." And these people were very kind to the shipwreck victims. Luke says, "(They) received us every one." They received the prisoners as well as the free men, building up a fire by which they could dry out, and get warm, and showing them consideration in every way.


(Verses 3 through 6) "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. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 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."


We would think this description of the incident plain enough without further explanation, were it not for a very strange argument some have raised concerning it. So let us take a closer look at it. Luke's language here, of course, could mean that Paul gathered his sticks one by one until he had a bundle of them to put on the fire, but the overall incident seems to indicate that before he picked them up they were, more or less, in a bundle, and that this viper, a very poisonous snake, had taken refuge in this bundle because of the cold. Being a cold-blooded reptile, he was so sluggish that he did not move until warmed by the heat of the fire. Perhaps everyone would agree thus far, but at this point some have raised a very strange argument. Since Luke did not specifically say, "The viper bit Paul's hand," but instead, "It fastened on his hand," their argument is that the viper did not bite him, but only came out of the heat and coiled around his hand. There are two very strong witnesses against such an argument. First, the nature of a viper is such that he would not come to a man, and coil around his hand, but when his sensors detect the presence of a man, or any warm blooded creature, his nature is to strike it with his fangs. Second, had this snake come out and coiled himself around the hand of Paul without biting him, the natives, who were well acquainted with this kind of snake, would never have thought of Paul as a murderer or any other kind of evildoer. But they would have considered him a god from the beginning. When they saw the viper strike Paul's hand, and hang to it with his fangs until Paul shook him off into the fire, they, believing firmly in the ancient doctrine of retribution, were fully assured that Paul was a murderer who had escaped the sea, but could not escape vengeance. They waited for what they thought was the inevitable; and when it did not happen is when their minds changed, and they thought him a god.


Luke then tells of their stay on Melita for about three months, where they were very well treated by the people. The father of Publius, the chief man of the island, was sick, and Paul prayed, laid hands upon him, and healed him. After this he healed many others. Finally after three months, they found a ship that had wintered in the island's harbor, and booked passage on it for the remainder of their journey. They passed through Syracuse , making a three day stop there, then they went on by Rhegium to Puteoli. They stayed seven days in Puteoli, where they found and visited with some Christians. From there they went overland toward Rome . Apparently Paul had begun to be a little depressed, as Luke tells us.


(Verses 15 and 16) "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. And when we came to Rome , the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him."


The sight of the brethren who came to meet them raised Paul's spirits, so he thanked God, and cheered up somewhat. Then when they reached Rome , Paul was not treated as a common prisoner, but was again placed under house arrest, much as he had been at Caesarea .


(Verses 17 through 20) "And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had aught to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."


Just as had been Paul's manner heretofore, he called first on the Jews in Rome . To them he explained his situation, and the cause of his imprisonment, at the same time declaring that he had nothing of which to accuse his nation. One can only marvel at the love he had for Israel , even after the treatment he had consistently received at the hands of the Jews.


(Verses 21 through 24) "And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against. And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not."


We do not know whether the Jews at Jerusalem thought that Paul's being sent to Rome would effectively stop his preaching, or whether they may not yet have had time since Paul left Caesarea to get word concerning him to the Jews at Rome . Nevertheless, for one reason or another, the Jews at Rome had received no information concerning him; and apparently, they knew nothing about Christians, except that this sect was spoken against everywhere. So they wanted to hear Paul's opinion on the subject. They appointed a day, and came to Paul's house to hear him expound the matter, which he was not reluctant to do. He preached all day ("from morning till evening") proving from the writings of both Moses and the prophets that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah; but, as usual, some believed, and some did not.


(Verses 25 through 28) "And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive. For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it."


This is the third time in Paul's career that it is recorded that, he warned them that the gospel which they rejected, was to be sent to the Gentiles. Here he brings forth a quotation from the prophet Isaiah to show them that this is exactly according to what God said long ago. They are just fulfilling Isaiah's description. Now he says, "Be it known unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it." Not only was it to be sent to the Gentiles, but they would give heed to it; and indeed they did.


As one might expect, after this declaration, the Jews left Paul, but they were so divided among themselves over the matter that they had a great dispute about what they had heard.


(Verses 30 and 31) "And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God , and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him."


Although Paul was a prisoner, he was permitted to rent a house to his own liking; and there receive any visitors who might come to see him. There, for the whole two years of his stay, though he could not go to the disciples, they could, and did come to him, and he taught them the things, which concern the Lord Jesus the Christ, "no man forbidding him."


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