Acts 28

Acts 28:1 the island was called Melita

Melita is modern-day Malta (see map 13 of 1999 Bible Map and Photographs).

Acts 28:2 the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness

Cheiko Okazaki

"If you've ever been cold and wet clear through, in shock from having escaped with your life after being in danger, then you will know how Paul felt. These people's kindly intentions must have warmed his heart as much as the fire warmed his body. And surely the irony hadn't escaped him that the Romans, who represented the most civilized nation on earth, were suggesting wholesale executions (Acts 27:42) while the 'barbarians' were showing kindness. The memory of their kindness has endured in the Bible for nearly two thousand years.

"Perhaps Paul had this incident in mind when he wrote to the Hebrews, 'Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares' (Heb. 13:2)." (Disciples, 199 - 200.)

Acts 28:5 he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm

Paul's ministry is marked by miracle after miracle. This rather unusual miracle demonstrates the protection from serpents which is promised to believers in Mark 16:17. The DC also records the following, 'And these signs shall follow them that believe...the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them. But a commandment I give unto them, that they shall not boast themselves of these things, neither speak them before the world; for these things are given unto you for your profit and for salvation' (DC 84:65-73). Contrary to this command, some misguided preachers have taken up snake handling during their services. Unknowingly, they tempt the Lord, seeking for signs 'that they may consume it upon their lusts' (DC 46:9).

"The practice is believed to have started with George Hensley in the hills of Tennessee (Melton 1996, 636). As church lore has it, snake handling started sometime in the later part of the first decade of the twentieth century while Hensley was preaching at the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee. During Hensley's sermon about Mark 16 some men dumped out a box full of rattlesnakes in front of him. Without missing a beat Hensley reached down and picked up the snakes, preaching the entire time. By 1914 the practice had spread throughout the Church of God, however, the actual act of snake handling was only practiced by a small portion of the members (Melton 1996, 636).

"Hensley then settled to preaching in the Grasshopper Valley region of Tennessee a few miles away from Cleveland. He stayed here for a number of years. When 'a member almost died from a snake bite [Hensley] moved to Pine Mountain, Kentucky.' By the Late 1920s the support for snake handling vanished...In the 1940s snake handling saw a resurgence led by Raymond Harris and Tom Harden. These men went on to start the Dolly Pond Church of God with Signs Following in Grasshopper Valley. Lewis Ford a member of the Dolly Pond congregation died from snake handling in 1945. His death led to the official banning of snake handling in Tennessee in 1947 (Burton 1993, 81)." (Colin Smith, "New Religious Movements," University of Virginia, 05/16/01)

Orson Pratt

"'They shall take up serpents, or if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them.' This promise of our Great Redeemer was also made to every creature in all the world who should believe the gospel. The use of this miraculous gift was to preserve life, in case any believer should accidentally be bitten by a poisonous serpent as Paul was (see Acts 28); or should unintentionally swallow a deadly poison, as the sons of the prophets did (see II Kings 4). Jesus promised that it should not hurt them. When the Israelites were bitten by poisonous serpents, they were healed by simply looking at a brazen serpent which the Lord commanded Moses to raise up in the wilderness; so the believers in Christ can prevail against deadly poisons by simply looking to Him in faith; for Jesus cannot fail to fulfill His promise to the believer." (Orson Pratt's Works [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1945], 85.)

Acts 28:17 Why are there Jews in Rome?

The reader might be surprised to find reference to a well-developed Jewish community in the Imperial capital. But according to Old Testament prophecies the blood of Israel had been spread throughout the entire world (Deu 28:25).

"In Rome itself the Jewish community was organized as in other places...Even where as yet records of their early settlements have not been discovered, we still infer their presence, as we remember the almost incredible extent of Roman commerce, which led to such large settlements in in Spain (where St. Paul hoped to preach, no doubt, also to his own countrymen), throughout Gaul, and even in the remotest parts of Germany." (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 48)

Acts 28:17 Paul called the chief of the Jews together

Previously, Paul was disgusted with the Jewish rejection of his preaching, even writing them off warning, 'Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles' (Acts 18:6). Now, Paul calls upon the Jews again. He knows, at least, they will be interested-if only to be critical. He knows that the way to foster discussions about Christianity in Rome is to get the Jews arguing about it. He knows that the only way he is going to get Romans to visit him is if they are seeking the source of the uproar. And he still harbors the optimistic hope of finding some Jews without hearts of steel and necks of brass.

Acts 28:20 for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain

For commentary on the term, "hope of Israel," see discussion for Acts 26:6-8.

Acts 28:22 as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against

LeGrand Richards

"Sometime ago, Brother Clifford Young gave a [radio] address. He told me following that of some of the letters he had received commenting on his address. And one was from a minister of the gospel, in which he said something like this: 'It pleases me greatly to know that the Mormons believe in the Christ.' I have thought a great deal about that statement since, and I have thought of the feeling the world has toward our people. I have compared it to the time when Paul stood at Rome to be judged, and they said unto him, ' . . . we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.' (Acts 28:22.)

"...That is just like the world. They don't understand, and so they malign us, and they tell all manner of things that are not true, and they do not have the right conception...

"A short time ago I sent one of our Church books to a distant relative on my mother's side, back in Massachusetts. My cousin, Merlin Steed, had been there and had visited him. He wrote Merlin a letter and said he had spent three weeks reading the book. He said, 'It is a great eye opener to me. It is the first book I have ever read in favor of the Mormons.' And then he added this statement, 'I doubt if you have any idea of the fantastic yarns that are current in New England concerning the Mormon Church. Some of them are so wild that I doubt if the persons who tell them really believe what they are saying themselves.'

"That is what we have to meet in the world. If the Lord would but take that prejudice out of their hearts!...I had an experience in Oregon after my first mission. I had spent some time with a prominent businessman. He didn't know I was a Mormon, and he painted the Mormons and the Mormon missionaries so black it almost made my blood run cold. When he was through, I said, 'My friend, now don't you feel embarrassed, because,' I said, 'you are sitting right here at the side of a Mormon missionary.' He went red in the face, and I said, 'I forgive you,' because I had qualified him before. I said, 'Have you ever read a Mormon book?' He said, 'No.' I said, 'Have you ever met a Mormon?' And he said, 'No.' I said, 'I forgive you because you are not supposed to know any better. Where did you get your information from?' 'Oh,' he said, 'you hear it on the streets, and you read it in the magazines and in the newspapers; everybody knows what the Mormons are.'" (Conference Report, April 1953, Second Day-Morning Meeting 72.)

LeGrand Richards

"Why was the truth everywhere spoken against? Well, you see, there was a war in heaven...Isaiah speaks of him who has deceived the nations and destroyed the world and the inhabitants thereof, and all we need to do is to look at the history of the world, and realize the power that is bringing about such destruction, when, if we would heed the light of truth and inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord, all men might live in harmony and in peace, and the nations of the earth might walk in the light of the Lord their God...

"So these great persecutions we find in our own work. As the Church was evil-spoken of in that day, it is evil-spoken of in our day. We have found this as we have labored among the people. If it were not for that power that deceiveth the nations, there would be hundreds of thousands of honest people in this world join this Church because it literally is the Church of Jesus Christ restored again to the earth in this day." (Conference Report, April 1957, First Day-Morning Meeting 15-17.)

Acts 28:23 he expounded and testified the kingdom of God...from morning till evening

What might it have been like to listen to Paul's preaching? Could he really preach and teach all day long? What power would his speech have carried in his native tongue? Joseph Smith knew. He gives us a brief, prophetic glimpse into the power of Paul's preaching.

Joseph Smith

"He is about five feet high; very dark hair; dark complexion; dark skin; large Roman nose; sharp face; small black eyes, penetrating as eternity; round shoulders; a whining voice, except when elevated, and then it almost resembled the roaring of a lion. He was a good orator, active and diligent, always employing himself in doing good to his fellow man." (Teachings, 180)

Acts 28:23 persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets

"After Paul was converted, he became painfully aware that he had not understood the Old Testament. Like most Jews at the time, he had been 'looking beyond the mark.' (Jacob 4:14.) Instead of using laws and rituals as a means to find Jesus, they had looked beyond Christ and had focused on the laws and rituals themselves.

"Paul declared that Israel was afflicted by the Lord with a blindness of spirit that would persist until the time of the 'fulness of the Gentiles' had arrived (Rom. 11:25.)...

"When Paul was under house arrest in Rome, awaiting his trial, he called for the prominent Jews of the city to visit him. When they came, 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.' (Acts 28:23.) Paul thus indicated his understanding that without seeing Jesus everywhere in the Old Testament, there is no understanding of the Old Testament at all.

"The Book of Mormon can serve as the Lord's great opener of eyes and ears to an understanding of the Old Testament. And isn't that what Isaiah said in his great prophecy of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon? After telling about the coming forth of the sealed book and its miraculous translation, he said, 'In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.' (Isa. 29:18-19.)" (Glenn L. Pearson, "The Book of Mormon As a Witness of the Old Testament," Ensign, June 1986, 14)

Acts 28:27 the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed

Neal A. Maxwell

"Life, or any particular situation, if viewed only through the peephole of pessimism, presents a puzzling or discouraging picture indeed. Instead of wonder, awe, and pattern, which the Christian sees, the disciples of despair disclaim any knowledge of a 'big picture' of life in which 'all things denote there is a God . . . yea, . . . and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.' The degree of divine disclosure-from peephole to a picture window view of things-is up to us, for so many today are like the Romans to whom Paul preached and whom he described as follows:

'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. . . .' (Acts 28:27.)" (Smallest Part, 12)

Acts 28:30-31 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him

Cheiko Okazaki

"When Paul was in Rome, the scriptures tell us that he lived under house arrest in a rented house for two years and welcomed all of the people who came to visit him. He was a prisoner. He had nothing. What kind of hospitality could he offer? And what must his attitude have been? Was he angry and resentful? No, he was filled with kindness. Probably some came out of compassion, while others came out of curiosity, or maybe even with a cruel desire to taunt him in his captivity. Paul saw each encounter as an opportunity to give the one thing that his captors could not take away-his testimony of Jesus Christ. Whoever walked in the door-Christian, Jew, Roman, pagan-was someone upon whom he thirsted to bestow the great gift of eternal life-he, a prisoner, with nothing, as we would think." (Disciples, 200.)

Acts 28 What happened to Paul?

Luke concludes his record with Paul under Roman guard in the greatest Gentile city. This was an important time for letter writing. It is thought that the books of Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews were written during this two year period. Imprisoned from about AD 61-63, Paul was released and later wrote his epistles to Titus and Timothy (Understanding Paul, 396-7). So his ministry is far from over as the narrative ends. What we really want to know is what happened to Paul in the closing moments of his life. Tradition states that he was beheaded in Rome by the order of Nero. But we wish we knew more.

"Paul's arrival in Rome brings the reader to the end of the book of Acts, but not necessarily to the end of the life of the apostle. Luke concludes: 'And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him.' (Acts 28:30.)

"Why doesn't the account continue? If Paul had lost his case-and his life-before the emperor, an account of his martyrdom would have been a most appropriate seal for his testimony and ministry. However, he [must] not have died at this time. Neither Felix, nor Festus, nor Agrippa deemed Paul guilty of crime, let alone worthy of death. Furthermore, Paul is rather optimistic about his own future in the so-called 'prison epistles' written during this time from Rome. (See Philip. 1:21-26; Philip. 2:23-24; Philem. 1:22.)

"A number of other evidences hint that Paul was acquitted and traveled for some time before another imprisonment and death. Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus do not fit into the chronology of Acts, and therefore must have been written later. From these epistles one notes that Paul visited Ephesus (see 1 Tim. 1:3; 1 Tim. 3:14-15), Miletus (see 2 Tim. 4:20), Troas (see 2 Tim. 4:13), Corinth (see 2 Tim. 4:20), Nicopolis (see Titus 3:12), and Crete (see Titus 1:5). The prison epistles show that Paul also intended to travel to Philippi (see Philip. 1:26; Philip. 2:24) and Colossae (see Philem. 1:22) if he was acquitted. In Romans 15:24, 28, Paul writes of a planned trip to Spain; and Clement, bishop of Rome at the end of the first century A.D., spoke of Paul traveling 'to the limits of the west,' which would certainly refer to Spain. [Rom. 15:24, 28] (See 1 Clement 5:7.) Tradition is substantially uniform, however, in stating that some time in the later part of Nero's reign Paul was executed in Rome. Behind him he left the rich treasures of his epistles and the record of his faithful friend Luke, which portrays an example of devoted service and missionary zeal that 20 centuries of time have only burnished brighter." (C. Wilfred Griggs, "Paul: The Long Road from Damascus," Ensign, Sept. 1975, 57)

Acts 28 A tribute to the great Apostle of the Gentiles

As the narrative of Paul's ministry comes to an end, we are struck by his unparalleled diligence. Perhaps the best epilogue to the book of Acts was written by Paul himself:

'Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.' (2 Cor 11:24-27)
'For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day' (2 Tim 4:6-8).

May those of us who have been asked to endure so much less, be inspired by Paul to do more-so that in our final moments, we may also confidently declare, 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.'

Spencer W. Kimball

"I have a great admiration and affection for our brother Paul, our fellow apostle. He was so dedicated, so humble, so straightforward. He was so eager, so interested, so consecrated. He must have been personable in spite of his problems, for the people hung onto him with great affection when he was about to leave them. I love Paul, for he spoke the truth. He leveled with people. He was interested in them. I love Paul for his steadfastness, even unto death and martyrdom. I am always fascinated with his recounting of the perils through which he passed to teach the gospel to member and nonmember." (Conference Report, April 1969, Afternoon Meeting 29 - 30.)