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Acts 28 Commentaries

Study Guide for Acts 28 - Paul Arrives In Rome

A. Paul's ministry on the island of Malta.

  1. (Acts 28:1-6) Islanders of Malta are impressed when Paul is miraculously unharmed by a snake-bite.

  2. (Acts 28:7-10) Paul heals the father of Publius, and many others.

B. Paul at Rome.

  1. (Acts 28:11-15) The final leg on Paul's journey to Rome.


  1. (Acts 28:16) Paul's status as a prisoner in Rome.

16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.

  1. When we came to Rome: When Paul came to Rome, the city had existed for almost 800 years. The famous Coliseum had not yet been built but the prominent buildings were the temple of Jupiter, the palaces of Caesar, and a temple to Mars, the god of war. At the time, Rome had a population of about two million - one million slave, one million free. Society was divided into roughly three classes: A small upper class, a large class of the poor, and slaves.

  2. The soldier who guarded him: "To this soldier he would be lightly chained by the wrist ... the soldier would be relieved every four hours or so, but for Paul there was no comparable relief." (Bruce)

    1. In Philippians 1:13, written from this Roman custody, Paul speaks of how his message is getting through to the palace guards of Rome. Though he was the prisoner, he had a truly captive audience!

3. (Acts 28:17-22) Paul appeals to the Jewish community of Rome.

17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, "Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar-though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain." 21 And they said to him, "We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against."

  1. Paul called the leaders of the Jews together: Paul followed his consistent practice of going to the Jews first in every city he came to as an evangelist.

  2. We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you: Paul wanted to know what they had heard from Jerusalem about him. All these Jews in Rome were willing to say they knew about Christianity was that it was spoken against everywhere.

    1. We neither received letters shows that the religious leaders who accused Paul in Jerusalem and Caesarea knew their case was hopeless. They made no effort to send ahead documents confirming their case against him.

  3. Paul said he was there as a prisoner for the hope of Israel. As the year 70 A.D. approached, time was running out before an unparalleled national calamity struck a Jesus-rejecting Israel.

4. (Acts 28:23-24) The Jewish community of Rome hears the gospel from Paul.

23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.

  1. He explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening: This would be a great Bible study to have a tape of! Paul spoke of the kingdom of God, and gave an exhaustive study of how the Old Testament spoke of Jesus - from morning till evening.
  2. What did Paul teach regarding the kingdom of God? Undoubtedly, Paul taught exactly what Jesus taught: That now, God was bringing a spiritual kingdom that would take root in men's hearts before it took over the governments of this world. The Jews of Jesus' day and of Paul's day were looking for a political kingdom, not a spiritual kingdom.

5. (Acts 28:25-29) The Jews reject the gospel again.

25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: "The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 26 "'Go to this people, and say, "You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive." 27 For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.' 28 Therefore let it be known to you hat this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen."[a] [Acts 28:28 Some manuscripts add verse 29: And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, having much dispute among themselves]

  1. When they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers." Paul understood that Isaiah prophesied of the hardness of heart these people would have. Certainly, Paul was gratified that some received the gospel, but he would undoubtedly have been distressed if even one of them rejected Jesus!

    1. Essentially, Isaiah is saying: "If you reject Jesus, you can hear, but never understand; you can see but never perceive. You heart is, and will be, hard, your ears closed, and your eyes shut - because you really don't want to turn to God and be healed of your sin." This is a message just as true today as it was when Isaiah first said it - or when Paul quoted it.

  2. Paul will plead for men to receive Jesus, but not as a beggar might plead. Paul aches not for himself, but for those who reject - and solemnly must warn those who reject of the consequences.

  3. The preacher of the gospel really is preaching two messages. To those who respond to the gospel with faith, he is a messenger of life. But to those who reject Jesus, the preacher adds to their condemnation. To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:16)

  4. When he had said these words, the Jews departed: In just a few years after Paul's rebuke of this Jewish rejection of Jesus, the Jewish people of Judea would be slaughtered wholesale and Jerusalem destroyed. God's judgment was coming, and part of Paul's frustration was that he sensed this.


2. God accomplishes His Great Commission through His servants who obediently proclaim the gospel to all people (28:17-31).

It seems odd that Luke never reports that Paul preached the gospel on Malta, nor does he report any conversions. Other than the fact that Luke is pressing quickly toward his conclusion in Rome, I do not know why he omits these important details. But I think we can assume that Paul, who never missed an opportunity to tell others about Christ, was not silent for these three months.

When he finally got to Rome, Paul quickly summoned the Jewish leaders to explain why he was a prisoner there. It seems strange that they had not heard anything about Paul, and their knowledge of Christianity, while negative, seems somewhat secondhand and distant (28:22). Perhaps since Claudius had expelled all the Jews from Rome just a few years before, they were being diplomatic and cautious about saying too much. But they were open to hearing Paul's views, and so a time was set.

Paul spent the entire day testifying about the kingdom of God, which refers not only to Christ's future reign on earth, but also to the gospel that brings people under His rule. There was probably a lot of interaction both ways, as Paul tried to persuade them concerning Jesus, that He is God's promised Messiah. Paul's source of authority was the Law of Moses and the Prophets (= Old Testament). He probably took them to the texts in Moses that describe the Jewish sacrificial system, showing that these sacrifices pointed ahead to Jesus. He would have taken them to Psalm 16, which both Peter and Paul used to show the truth of the resurrection (Acts 2:25-28; 13:34-37). He no doubt took them to Psalm 22, which describes death by crucifixion centuries before this was known as a means of execution. He would have taken them to Isaiah 53, which describes the death of Jesus with amazing detail.

The outcome was, as in many of Paul's previous experiences, some were being persuaded, but others would not believe, leading to a dispute between the two groups (28:25). Before they left, Paul gave his parting shot, quoting Isaiah 6:9-10. Just after Isaiah's rare vision of God, exalted on His throne, and Isaiah's commission to preach, the Lord spoke these words to Isaiah, warning him of the hardness of heart of the people of Israel.

This important text is quoted six times in the New Testament (Matt. 13:14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Rom. 11:8; & here). Three of those times are in reference to the parable of the sower in the synoptic gospels, where Jesus explained why He spoke in parables, to conceal truth from scoffers, but to reveal truth to seekers. Another time John cited it and then commented, "These things Isaiah said because he saw [Jesus'] glory, and he spoke of Him." The main idea of these verses is that if people close up their hearts to God's Word through His messengers, the Lord will confirm their rejection by hardening them even further. Israel had a sad history of rejecting and even killing the prophets that God sent to turn them back to Him. Finally, and most tragically, they killed God's Son. God's judgment would shortly fall on Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and the Jews would be scattered for 19 centuries.

Paul uses the quote to support his calling to take the gospel to the Gentiles, adding, "they also will listen" (28:28). God's purpose is to be glorified through the preaching of the gospel to all peoples. He accomplishes that purpose through His servants' willing obedience to the Great Commission. Israel should have been a light to the nations, but their idolatry and sin caused them to fail.

Hardness of heart prevents sinners from responding in faith to the gospel, but it never thwarts God's ultimate purpose. There is a mystery here, in that sinners are always responsible for their stubbornness and unbelief, but if they turn in repentance and faith to the Lord, it is not their doing, but only because He has granted it to them (Acts 11:18). In other words, we are solely responsible for our unbelief, but if we come to faith in Christ, it is solely from God, so that none can boast.

While Israel was cut off because of unbelief and the Gentiles were grafted in, God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew (Rom. 11:2). One day Israel will again be grafted back in, "for God is able to graft them in again" (Rom. 11:23). As Paul explains, "a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." But after this, "all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:25-26). There will be a future time of great blessing for the nation Israel, when God will pour out on them "the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on [Him] whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son" (Zech. 12:10). Israel will turn en masse to their Messiah Jesus Christ.

But, meanwhile, like Paul, we should commit ourselves fully to God's purpose in the Great Commission. Just as the Lord told Paul that He had many people in the city of Corinth, and thus Paul should go on speaking so that these would come to faith, so we know that He has some from every people group who are His elect (Rev. 5:9). Whatever the hardships, we should commit ourselves to get the gospel to all who have not yet heard.

Though Paul was in chains in Rome, the gospel was not chained. Luke's final word in the Greek text (as in the NASB) is, "unhindered." As he later wrote to Timothy, even though he was imprisoned as a criminal, the word of God is not imprisoned. For that reason, Paul endured "all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10).

Luke never tells us the final outcome of Paul's trial or anything about his subsequent life. Probably Paul stayed in custody for about two years (until 62), during which time he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. When his accusers did not show up, he was released on default. Some think that he eventually made his way to Spain, as he hoped (Rom. 15:24, 28). He probably visited again some of the churches, perhaps even seeing the Ephesian elders once more, contrary to his earlier prediction. He sent Timothy there to help correct some problems. He visited Crete and left Titus there to minister. During these free years, he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus. Perhaps he was betrayed by someone such as Alexander the coppersmith and arrested again. He was taken to Rome, where he anticipated that things would not go well. From prison, he wrote 2 Timothy. About 67 or 68, Nero executed the great apostle who had fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:7). Paul accomplished his mission.


Each of us needs to ask, "What about me? Am I as committed to the Great Commission of my Lord as I ought to be? Since God has protected and provided for me, am I relying on His power to do all that I can to see as many people reached for Christ, both locally and worldwide, as I am able?" I close with seven action points that will help you move in the right direction:


Put it on your prayer list. If we are apathetic about those who are perishing, we are not like Jesus, who had compassion on the lost (Matt. 9:36) and who wept over the unbelieving city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41).


We are offering an Evangelism Explosion class this summer and again in the fall. There are many books that teach you how to share your faith. Memorize the verses you need to know to lead another person to faith in Jesus Christ.


Take the Perspectives Course if it is offered again in town. Subscribe to Mission Frontiers (U.S. Center for World Mission, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104, 626-398-2249; web: It will teach you about the unreached people groups around the world and what efforts are underway to reach them. Also, Operation World is an excellent informative book to help you learn about and pray for the nations of the world. Global Prayer Digest (available in our narthex or through the U.S. Center for World Mission) is a daily prayer guide for the unreached peoples. Become a "world" Christian (not to be confused with a worldly Christian)!