Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #8

Sunday, July 25, 2021

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. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

Following Paul’s surviving the snakebite, his ministry amongst the Gentiles resumes: “[7] 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. [8] And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux [dysentery]: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. [9] So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: [10] Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.”

Paul heals the father of Publius, Melita’s most prominent Gentile, who suffers a fever and a bloody flux. Moreover, Paul performs healing miracles on other diseased Gentiles there. These are additional signs to Israel that God the Holy Spirit is working her miracles amongst Gentiles, further confirming the prophetic program has been temporarily set aside while the mystery program runs. As with the case of the people of Melita initially receiving Paul by showing him no little kindness, they, unlike unbelieving Israel, continue to bless him with material comforts.

The snakebite not harming Paul in no way sanctions us to go around handling snakes. It was a unique encounter, a dispensational miracle, for Doctor Luke to write about as one of the final summaries of Acts. Remember, Acts is the record of how the Lord was just in pausing the prophetic program and initiating our mystery program. Let us not be so denominationally-minded that we believe God will protect us from snakebites as He did Paul. To see it as a pattern for our ministry is to miss the significance entirely!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “What is the ‘bloody flux’ of Acts 28:8?

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #7

Saturday, July 24, 2021

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. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

Doubtless, Satan is always determined to use whomever and whatever he can to undo God’s work. Since unbelieving Israel was in bondage to the Devil, they disliked Paul’s ministry and message reaching the Gentiles. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had once been a Christ-hater too; he was a strict observer of the Law of Moses, a self-righteous religious fanatic and teacher. Consequently, apostate Israel considered him a renegade or traitor. The very Jesus he had so passionately hated during early Acts (like them) was now the God-Man he had been faithfully serving in ministry for the last 30 years! Growing jealous of him, they retaliated by recurrently harming him and harassing his Gentile converts with false teaching (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15,22-28). With the Lord Jesus Christ personally absent from Earth, they proceeded to relentlessly attack Paul, His apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13).

The miracle of Paul surviving the snakebite in today’s Scripture is not apocryphal folklore or fantasy. It illustrates most graphically how unbelieving Israel unsuccessfully sought to damage and even destroy Christ’s heavenly ministry, His spokesman of this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. As hard as sinful man tried, as much as Satan attempted, God ensured Paul would remain on Earth until he had finished his course. Instead of the viper harming Paul, Paul kills it! Verse 5 again: “And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.” Once more, here is apostate Israel, being cast off into judgment! Her fall occurring back in chapter 7, her diminishing now complete as Acts closes (chapter 28). With Paul’s provoking ministry ending in conjunction with Acts ending, the Dispensation of Grace continues alone….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #6

Friday, July 23, 2021

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. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

In Scripture, fire represents wrath. When fire drove the snake out to bite Paul, it parallels unbelieving Israel responding negatively to God’s judgment against them. Instead of converting to Christ under Paul’s ministry, they continued opposing the Lord’s will. Furthermore, they militantly resisted Paul’s apostleship—that Gospel of Grace being the very present truth that delayed Christ’s Second Coming wrath from falling on them!

Paul wrote during Acts: “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath [Israel’s fall] is come upon them to the uttermost(1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Not only was national Israel content in being dead in her trespasses and sins—refusing to be God’s channel of salvation and blessing to the Gentiles—her extensive unbelief caused her to outright hate and persecute Paul because Christ had sent him to preach to the nations without her!

In today’s Scripture, Paul is preaching amongst pagan idolaters—the very people to which redeemed Israel would have ministered had they accepted their King decades prior. The heathen citizens of Melita are taking care of Paul, but the viper (Israel) strikes to kill! Gentiles are surprised. Undergoing that much destructive hostility for 30 years, Paul should have been long dead. The Gospel of Grace should have disappeared decades earlier. Yet, it has endured, and Paul has survived….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #5

Thursday, July 22, 2021

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. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

The LORD God dealt with the world through Israel from Genesis chapter 12 (Abraham) into the early Acts period. Whether the 20 centuries prior to Christ’s earthly ministry, or Matthew through John, or the opening of Acts, Israel overwhelmingly refused to believe God’s words to her. Her people did not want to be His kingdom of priests in the Earth: they declined their privilege to go to the Gentiles. Eventually, they killed their King (Jesus Christ) and remained in unbelief into Acts. Having blasphemed (spoken) against God the Son in Matthew through John, they were forgiven; however, they were not forgiven when they blasphemed (spoke) against God the Holy Ghost in Acts chapters 1–7 (cf. Matthew 12:31,32). In Acts 7:55,56, as they are about to stone Stephen to death, he sees Christ standing—no longer sitting—at the Father’s right hand. Second Coming wrath, which should have occurred here (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:34-36), was delayed!

“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Romans 11:11-14). Israel stumbled at Calvary, but did not fall. She stumbled and fell in Acts chapter 7, and she diminished for the remainder of Acts. Paul’s ministry began in chapter 9, but Israel refused to believe his Gospel message too….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #4

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

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. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

It is wintertime at Melita (verse 11). Furthermore, a storm out in the Mediterranean Sea has brought rain and chilly, violent winds (verse 2). The island’s foreigners, considerate of Paul and his fellow shipwrecked travelers, start a fire to warm them. As Paul collects wood and throws it onto the fire….

Firstly, the heat forces a snake out into the open. Secondly, it strikes Paul’s hand, biting and firmly latching on. Thirdly, the inhabitants of Melita observe the subsequent strange incident as utter pagans—Gentiles under Satan’s control. Their superstitions cause them to surmise Paul is a murderer that “bad karma” is punishing. He survived the shipwreck, but he will definitely perish with that toxic snakebite! Fourthly, Paul is uninjured, merely shaking the snake off into the fire! Read verse 6, immediately following today’s Scripture: “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.”

The events and imagery are stunning; the symbolism is even more remarkable. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7; cf. Luke 3:7). “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33). Could the Scriptures be plainer? Unbelieving Israel is that viper that attacked Paul!

Yet, there is more, much more, to see here….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #3

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

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. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

Throughout Acts, national Israel obstinately remained in unbelief. Only a remnant trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether increasingly persecuting the Apostle Peter and the other 11 Apostles during the opening chapters, or constantly mistreating the Apostle Paul for the remainder of the Book, corporate Israel was undeniably hostile toward Christ’s representatives. Contrary to what denominationalism has taught us, Acts is not a Book of doctrine. Instead, it is the progressive record of how God was just or fair in transitioning from Israel to us Gentiles, from Peter’s ministry to Paul’s ministry, from Little Flock to Body of Christ, from Prophecy to Mystery, from Law to Grace. Chapter 28—the context of today’s Scripture—is the Holy Spirit’s final commentary on Israel’s status during the Dispensation of Grace.

Remember, unbelieving Jews did everything they possibly could to hinder, discredit, or kill Paul (Acts 9:23; Acts 13:45,50; Acts 14:2,5,19; Acts 17:5,13; Acts 18:12; Acts 20:3,19; Acts 21:11,21; Acts 22:30; Acts 23:12,27,30; Acts 25:7,15,24; Acts 26:2,21). Hence, the Holy Spirit also places into the record of Acts interspersed accounts of pagan Gentiles (non-Jews) accepting him and believing the Gospel of Grace. Today’s Scripture is one such example, especially as Luke has begun concluding Acts. Chapter 28 opens: “And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous people [foreigners ignorant of Greek language and culture—namely, Phoenicians or Punics] 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.” The negative—“shewed us no little kindness”—means these Gentiles were extremely friendly or hospitable to Paul and his companions. This was certainly in contrast to apostate Israel’s behavior toward him….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #2

Monday, July 19, 2021

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. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

After hearing Paul deliver his testimony-sermon in Jerusalem, unbelieving Israel is convicted and seeks to take his life in a riot (chapter 22). However, the Roman chief captain intervenes and arrests him. Paul subsequently stands before the Sanhedrin—the Jewish supreme court—in chapter 23. (The Sanhedrin is largely apostate, having sentenced Jesus to death 30 years earlier.) A bitter conflict breaks out in the proceedings, and Paul is rescued from the mob. By chapter’s end, he has been secretly sent away to a prison in Caesarea, for the unbelieving Jews had yet again conspired to kill him in Jerusalem. Chapter 24 documents how he stood before Judaean Roman Governor Felix. Unbelieving Israel falsely accuses him in the courtroom. He is ultimately incarcerated for two years.

In chapter 25, Paul stands before the new Governor of Judaea, Porcius Festus. Unbelieving Israel again falsely accuses Paul. As a Roman citizen, Paul takes advantage of his legal right to appeal directly to the Roman Emperor in Rome. King Herod Agrippa II—great-grandson of Herod the Great (Matthew chapter 2)—also gets involved in these legal proceedings. Paul shares his testimony with Agrippa, intimately communing with him (chapter 26). Having already voiced his wish to personally stand before the Emperor in Rome, Paul is placed on a ship bound for Italy, commencing his fourth and final apostolic journey of Acts (chapter 27). By chapter’s end, a storm in the Mediterranean Sea results in a shipwreck. He, his companions, and all the prisoners and military officials aboard, are now stranded at sea. They wash ashore on the tiny island of “Melita” (present Malta, south of Sicily). The final chapter of Acts, the context of today’s Scripture, opens….

Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #1

Sunday, July 18, 2021

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. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

Today’s Scripture in context: “[1] And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. [2] 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. [3] 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. [4] 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. [5] And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. [6] 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.

“[7] 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. [8] 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. [9] So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: [10] Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary. [11] And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.”

Now, we expound….

Christ Liveth in Me

Sunday, April 4, 2021

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 KJV).

“He is risen” is not a simple blasé cliché!

When Jesus’ disciples came to His tomb on that glorious Sunday morning nearly 2,000 years ago, they were startled to find it empty! Angels inform them that He has resurrected, but they are still in shock (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8). Jesus Christ Himself must later explain the Scriptures to them regarding what happened those last few days (Luke 24:44-46).

However, until Paul’s ministry, Christ’s finished crosswork is not preached as good news for salvation. Peter and Israel’s other apostles simply preach that Jesus Christ is now resurrected to “sit on [David’s] throne” (Acts 2:30)—that is bad news for much of Israel, for they still reject Him, weeks and months after His resurrection and ascension. Throughout early Acts, Israel’s apostles warn her that Jesus Christ is coming back to judge them.

When we come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, we learn that we Gentiles can benefit from Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. Israel’s rejected Messiah is now our way to heaven! Yes, Israel hated Him, and demanded that He experience the most awful method of execution devised, but God allowed it in order to accomplish His will. Satan attempted to hinder God’s will by having Christ killed, but all that did was provide the method whereby God could save us pagan Gentiles. Calvary’s finished crosswork frees us from Satan’s evil system and gives us a chance to be God’s people (Acts 26:17,18)!

As people who have trusted Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins, that crucifixion is our death to self and sin, and that resurrection is our raising to walk in newness of life—His life (today’s Scripture; cf. Romans 6:1-11)!

Indeed, Jesus Christ is alive, and He lives in and through those who walk by faith in God’s Word to them, Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon! 🙂

HAPPY EASTER!

*Adapted from a larger Bible study by the same name. That study can be read here or watched here.

Knowledge of Your Apostle

Thursday, January 7, 2021

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office (Romans 11:13 KJV).

Friend, would you like to have knowledge of your apostle?

John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 adds, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us….” The triune Godhead is composed of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is the Son, however, who functions as the Spokesman, the “Word,” the Communicator. He is Jesus Christ, the God-Man.

In Acts 26:16-18, Jesus Christ told Saul of Tarsus: “[16] But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; [17] Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, [18] To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

The word “apostle,” from the Greek, means “sent one” (cf. verse 17 above). Consequently, Paul wrote of his special ministry in Romans 11:13: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:….” Christ commissioned Paul as His spokesman to us non-Jews. Ephesians chapter 3 amplifies: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:….” God’s instructions to us are “the Dispensation of Grace,” Paul’s writings of Romans through Philemon.

We study the entire Bible, since all the Bible is for us, for our learning (Romans 15:4). However, not all the Bible is to us or about us. All 66 Books of the Bible are inspired of God (2 Timothy 3:16), but, if we are to understand His present dealings with man, we must especially heed the inspired words the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul.