1. ON THE ISLAND OF MELITA
a. How were the shipwrecked men received on the island of Melita—and what enabled Paul to reveal God’s power right away? Acts 28:1–6.
“[Paul’s] hands brought the wood to kindle the fire for the benefit of the chilled, shipwrecked passengers. When they saw the deadly viper fasten upon his hand, they were filled with terror; but Paul calmly shook it into the fire, knowing it could not harm him; for he implicitly trusted in God.”—My Life Today, p. 334.
b. Explain the ways by which the Lord provided opportunities for Paul to minister to the islanders. Acts 28:7–10.
“During the three months that the ship’s company remained at Melita, Paul and his fellow laborers improved many opportunities to preach the gospel. In a remarkable manner the Lord wrought through them. For Paul’s sake the entire shipwrecked company were treated with great kindness.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 446.
2. MEMORABLE MOMENTS
a. As the journey resumed, what blessing was at Puteoli? Acts 28:11–14.
“In this place there were a few Christians, and they entreated the apostle to remain with them for seven days, a privilege kindly granted by the centurion.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 447.
b. Describe the amazing arrival of Paul in Rome. Acts 28:15, 16.
“Julius willingly granted the apostle every favor which it was in his power to bestow; but he could not change his condition as a prisoner, or release him from the chain that bound him to his soldier guard. It was with a heavy heart that Paul went forward to his long-expected visit to the world’s metropolis. How different the circumstances from those he had anticipated! How was he, fettered and stigmatized, to proclaim the gospel? His hopes of winning many souls to the truth in Rome, seemed destined to disappointment.
“At last the travelers reach Appii Forum, forty miles from Rome. As they make their way through the crowds that throng the great thoroughfare, the gray-haired old man, chained with a group of hardened-
looking criminals, receives many a glance of scorn and is made the subject of many a rude, mocking jest.
“Suddenly a cry of joy is heard, and a man springs from the passing throng and falls upon the prisoner’s neck, embracing him with tears and rejoicing, as a son would welcome a long-absent father. Again and again is the scene repeated. . . .
“As the warmhearted disciples eagerly flock around their father in the gospel, the whole company is brought to a standstill. The soldiers are impatient of delay, yet they have not the heart to interrupt this happy meeting; for they, too, have learned to respect and esteem their prisoner. In that worn, pain-stricken face, the disciples see reflected the image of Christ. They assure Paul that they have not forgotten him nor ceased to love him; that they are indebted to him for the joyful hope which animates their lives and gives them peace toward God. In the ardor of their love they would bear him upon their shoulders the whole way to the city, could they but have the privilege.
“Few realize the significance of those words of Luke, that when Paul saw his brethren, ‘he thanked God, and took courage.’ ”—Ibid., pp.448, 449.
3. STRENGTHENED FOR THE TASK
a. How was Paul later to express how comforted he was by the way he was received at Rome? 2 Timothy 1:16, 17.
“In the midst of the weeping, sympathizing company of believers, who were not ashamed of his bonds, the apostle praised God aloud. The cloud of sadness that had rested upon his spirit was swept away. His Christian life had been a succession of trials, sufferings, and disappointments, but in that hour he felt abundantly repaid. With firmer step and joyful heart he continued on his way. He would not complain of the past, nor fear for the future. Bonds and afflictions awaited him, he knew; but he knew also that it had been his to deliver souls from a bondage infinitely more terrible, and he rejoiced in his sufferings for Christ’s sake.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 449.
b. Although it could have put his life at risk once again, within three days, what did Paul promptly do in Rome? Acts 28:17–20.
“At Rome the centurion Julius delivered up his prisoners to the captain of the emperor’s guard. The good account which he gave of Paul, together with the letter from Festus, caused the apostle to be favorably regarded by the chief captain, and, instead of being thrown into prison, he was permitted to live in his own hired house. Although still constantly chained to a soldier, he was at liberty to receive his friends and to labor for the advancement of the cause of Christ.
“Many of the Jews who had been banished from Rome some years previously, had been allowed to return, so that large numbers were now to be found there. To these, first of all, Paul determined to present the facts concerning himself and his work, before his enemies should have opportunity to embitter them against him. Three days after his arrival in Rome, therefore, he called together their leading men and in a simple, direct manner stated why he had come to Rome as a prisoner. . . .
“He said nothing of the abuse which he had suffered at the hands of the Jews, or of their repeated plots to assassinate him. His words were marked with caution and kindness. He was not seeking to win personal attention or sympathy, but to defend the truth and to maintain the honor of the gospel.”—Ibid., pp.449, 450.
4. TESTIFYING AGAIN
a. How did the Jews respond to Paul’s introduction? Acts 28:21–23.
“Since [the Jews] themselves desired it, Paul bade them set a day when he could present to them the truths of the gospel. At the time appointed, many came together, ‘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.’ He related his own experience, and presented arguments from the Old Testament Scriptures with simplicity, sincerity, and power.
“The apostle showed that religion does not consist in rites and ceremonies, creeds and theories. If it did, the natural man could understand it by investigation, as he understands worldly things. Paul taught that religion is a practical, saving energy, a principle wholly from God, a personal experience of God’s renewing power upon the soul.
“He showed how Moses had pointed Israel forward to Christ as that Prophet whom they were to hear; how all the prophets had testified of Him as God’s great remedy for sin, the guiltless One who was to bear the sins of the guilty. He did not find fault with their observance of forms and ceremonies, but showed that while they maintained the ritual service with great exactness, they were rejecting Him who was the antitype of all that system.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 451, 452.
b. How did the meeting conclude for Paul’s benefit? Acts 28:24–29.
“Many months passed by after Paul’s arrival in Rome, before the Jews of Jerusalem appeared in person to present their accusations against the prisoner. They had been repeatedly thwarted in their designs; and now that Paul was to be tried before the highest tribunal of the Roman Empire, they had no desire to risk another defeat. Lysias, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa had all declared their belief in his innocence. His enemies could hope for success only in seeking by intrigue to influence the emperor in their favor. Delay would further their object, as it would afford them time to perfect and execute their plans, and so they waited for a while before preferring their charges in person against the apostle.”—Ibid., p.453.
5. GOD’S TRUTH VINDICATED
a. Before Paul was later martyred, what was he able to do—and what could he declare? Acts 28:30, 31; 2 Timothy 4:6–8.
“While apparently cut off from active labor, Paul exerted a wider and more lasting influence than if he had been free to travel among the churches as in former years.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 454.
b. What is to fortify us in the days to come? Psalms 76:10; 119:126.
“God has always wrought for His people in their greatest extremity, when there seemed the least hope that ruin could be averted. The designs of wicked men, the enemies of the church, are subject to His power and overruling providence. He can move upon the hearts of statesmen; the wrath of the turbulent and disaffected, the haters of God, His truth, and His people can be turned aside, even as the rivers of water are turned, if He orders it thus. Prayer moves the arm of Omnipotence. He who marshals the stars in order in the heavens, whose word controls the waves of the great deep, the same infinite Creator will work in behalf of His people if they call upon Him in faith. He will restrain the forces of darkness until the warning is given to the world and all who will heed it are prepared for the conflict.
“[Psalm 76:10 quoted.] God means that testing truth shall be brought to the front and become a subject of examination and discussion, even if it is through the contempt placed upon it. The minds of the people must be agitated. Every controversy, every reproach, every slander, will be God’s means of provoking inquiry and awakening minds that otherwise would slumber.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 452, 453.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How might situations like being stranded provide opportunities?
2. What reveals the power that Paul’s epistles had on believers?
3. How does God use events like Paul’s arrival in Rome to uplift us?
4. What experience of Paul reminds us that God’s timing is perfect?
5. How can God use me to spread the truth in hard circumstances?