Thursday, November 15, 2012

Helping One Another

Unit III. - Where Does Faith Take Us? In our lesson review last week (Acts 27:1-2; 32-44) we found Paul was delivered by Festus to Julian, the centurion, to set sail with other prisoners, seamen, and soldiers on their way to Rome. Paul and the prisoners were to go before Caesar. It was believed they would be at their destination before the time of dangerous weather or in time to enjoy the Day of Atonement annual fast. However, they ran into a tempestuous, terrible storm and slowly lightened the ship of cargo and tackling. After fourteen days of fasting due to fear, Paul stood and advised them of an angelic vision from the God he served and believed. All two hundred seventy-six aboard would be saved, but the ship would be lost. God promised Paul would witness in Rome. He convinced them to eat in order that they would have strength to be saved. As they witnessed him eat, they were in good cheer. As the chapter ends, two hundred seventy-five were saved for the sake of the promise given by God to one, Paul. ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’ Rom 8:28 They were shipwrecked on an unfamiliar land. Today we shall study Paul’s ongoing ministry even though he is a prisoner. The lesson text is recorded at Acts 28:1-10. The devotional reading is recorded at Ezekiel 34:11-16.

‘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.’ Acts 28:1-2 When Paul and his fellow prisoners, the seamen, and soldiers escaped the terror of the two week storm and shipwreck they had endured, they found themselves on an island that was not familiar to them at first. The Scripture does not explain how they came to know it was the island of Melita (Malta). It states “…they knew not the land…” (Acts 27:39) prior to the shipwreck, but after they were on shore “…they knew…” The islanders (foreigners) were considered barbaric because their language or culture was not understood. There was still a means of communication. We never know from whom to expect assistance when most needed. The islanders witnessed the shipwreck and the survival of each of the two hundred seventy-six passengers. They were very gracious and hospitable to these shipwrecked voyagers who were cold and drenched from the storm and sea. The islanders began to prepare a fire to warm them.

‘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’ Acts 28:3-4 The ministry of hospitality is one of the most critical ministries within the local church. When it was presented most graciously by the islanders to Paul and his fellow voyagers, Paul felt a duty to assist. As he picked up a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, he apparently uncovered a poisonous snake. The snake, having been disturbed from its hiding place, bit Paul on the hand. The islanders were very superstitious. In observing the snake bite and its hanging on Paul’s hand, they agreed justice was obviously catching up with him. He must have done a horrible crime, such as murder. They believed he was not meant to die in the shipwreck but would die from the venom of the snake bite.

‘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.’ Acts 28:5-6 Paul shook the poisonous snake off his hand. It appears the snake did not have the power to injure him. He felt no harm. After a period of time Paul’s hand did not swell, there was no after effects, nor death. The islanders, with their superstitious minds, believed he was a god.

‘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. 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.’ Acts 28:7-8 In that same area of the island was property owned by Publius, the Chief or Governor. The Scripture does not define “us”. It is assumed Publius’ estate was large enough to shelter Paul and each of his fellow voyagers for three days comfortably. They must have stayed elsewhere until it was time to board another ship. The reason for the shipwreck was due to sailing during the oncoming winter weather. Acts 27:8-12 During their stay with Publius, his father contracted a fever and dysentery (cholera) which oftentimes proved to be fatal. Although Luke, the medical doctor, was on the island, Paul went to Publius’ father as an apostle and prayed to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When he laid his hands on Publius’ father, he was healed.

‘So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.’ Acts 28:9-10 Telephones, televisions, computers, newspapers, etc. did not exist. Word of mouth was powerful. A healing had taken place. It was not done as a fee for the hospitality graciously provided by the islanders. Paul always sought for ways to be of service on the mission field. Christ had called him to preach to the Jew first, then the Gentile. Now we see him opening the door through miracles to be able to minister to the islanders. There is no Scriptural proof that Luke, the medical doctor, assisted him in healing all other islanders who came forward. Because Paul’s name is mentioned in the prior verse, I shall assume it is Paul who is healing them physically through prayer in order to minister spiritually. Although it is not recorded here, Paul always found a way to witness about Christ and the road to salvation. I can only imagine their joy. They are healed and a seed has been planted. Paul and the voyagers were given much hospitality and gifts during their stay. After three months, they were to board another ship out of Alexandria that had wintered on the coast of Malta. Acts 28:11 In order to depart, the islanders gave them necessary provisions for the trip destined for Rome, Italy.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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