As I get through the Book of Acts, I see Romans on the horizon. The letter to the Roman Church is probably authored to some of the very people Paul is greeted by when he gets to mainland Italy. A letter that I am anxious to read and study, knowing the power that is in its words.
This last chapter of Acts is filled with more miracles, fellowship and encouragement. The ship Paul is on comes to Malta, an island that Luke tells us is filled with kind natives. Though these natives are firm in their pagan beliefs. As Paul is gathering sticks and laying them on a fire, he is bitten on the hand by a viper. The pagans think this is an omen and that Paul must be a murderer. But after he is miraculously unharmed by the venomous snake, they believe him to be a god.
I found this very interesting in my study. That this is a gift of the Spirit that is normally overlooked yet is a fulfillment of prophecy. In Luke 10:18-20 and Mark 16:17-18 we see this as one of the many gifts of the Spirit promised to believers. It is mentioned along with immunity to poison, speaking in languages, healing and casting out of demons. I find this particularly interesting among those that believe the gifts of the Spirit did not fade after the apostolic period. I have never seen anyone display the gift of walking on snakes and scorpions, or drinking poison. Charismatics will often babble and chant in an unbiblical version of tongues, heal in a manner that is unconfirmed, make contrary prophecies, but never have I seen any drink poison or get bitten by a snake.
Moving on now. The crew is taken in by a man named Publius. He is a kind but ill man. The Bible says that Publius has dysentery and that Paul then heals him. After this miracle, Paul heals the rest of the people on the island that are diseased. I learned in the study that a church was started in Malta and if we know Paul, he surely had something to do with it.
In Acts 28:14-15 I see again how important fellowship is. Even to Paul, an apostle, he finds courage and comfort by others in Christ. The fact that these brothers came to meet Paul on his way to Rome meant so much to him. Often in todays church we are so anxious to meet for an hour on Sundays and get back home. As Christians it is necessary to make time for each other in teaching, fellowship and comfort.
Another part that I love in this chapter is its abrupt closing. Where we hear about Paul spending the rest of his time in Rome receiving all who came to him. That he was, "preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concerned the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him." (Acts 28:31) Paul is the kind of man we need to be. The kind of person who preaches the gospel to all that will listen and that no one forbid us. That it is one of the first and foremost priorities in our lives.