It was only upon reaching the shore that the survivors learned they were in Malta, a small island in the center of the Mediterranean, just south of Sicily. In the two weeks they had been adrift in the sea, yielded to the force of the wind, they had covered about four hundred seventy-five miles since Fair Havens, in Crete. Now they would have to wait out the three months of winter before continuing their journey (Acts 28:11).
Read Acts 28:1-10. What happened to Paul on the island of Malta, and how was God able to use him?
The people of Malta were very friendly and hospitable, and their first action toward Paul and his group, who were all wet and cold, was to light a fire to warm them up; the temperature in Malta at this time of the year would not be higher than about 50°F or 10°C.
The incident of the snake drew the people’s attention to Paul. At first, the local pagans viewed the fact that he was bitten as an act of divine retribution. They thought Paul was a murderer who had managed to escape from death by drowning but was still caught by the gods, or perhaps the Greek goddess Dike, the personification of justice and vengeance. Because the apostle did not die, he was hailed as a god, as had happened in Lystra several years before (Acts 14:8-18). Though Luke does not dwell on the episode, it is probably safe to assume that Paul took advantage of this situation to bear witness of the God he served.
Publius was either the Roman procurator of Malta or just a local dignitary, but he welcomed Paul and his companions for three days until they found a more permanent place to stay. At any rate, the healing of this man’s father gave Paul the opportunity to engage in a sort of healing ministry among the Maltese people.
In Luke’s account, there is no mention of a single convert or of any congregation Paul left behind when he departed from Malta. Such omission might be entirely coincidental, but it illustrates the fact that our mission in the world goes beyond baptisms or church planting; it also involves concern for people and their needs. This is the practical aspect of the gospel (Acts 20:35; compare with Titus 3:14).
|How fascinating that these islanders, who were ignorant about God’s law, had a sense of divine justice. Where, ultimately, did that come from? See Rom. 1:18-20.|