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A Profitable Winter


A Profitable Winter

Text: Acts 28:7-11.

Paul spent three months on Malta when the ship taking him as a prisoner to Rome was shipwrecked on one of those beautiful Maltese beaches.  It was a kindly and welcome respite, after the loneliness and confinement of imprisonment in Caesarea, after those legal trials, before the Sanhedrin, Felix, Festus, Agrippa, after the horrors of that long nightmarish sea journey, and the final wreckage of the ship.  A time, perhaps to recoup and be strengthened before the final trial at Rome; God being gracious to his servant, – a welcome break in a pleasant place among kindly people.

Let’s see…

1. The Home of the Governor. V7-8 

Somewhere close to the site of the shipwreck, was the palace of the most important man on the island. He has a Roman name, Publius, – which leads some commentators to conclude that ‘leading man’ was an official title for the Roman governor of the island. He welcomed ‘us’ – writes Luke, so we assume that he and Paul and Aristarchus were invited to come to the governor’s palace, and spend a few days being entertained there.  This is, in itself a wonderful example of Maltese hospitality.  I expect that the governor would have entertained the ship’s captain, and the owner of the ship, who also had been on board, and the centurion, – all those invites would have been completely understandable.  But to invite a PRISONER IN CHAINS to the palace, and treat him with such respect?  That would be an extraordinary act of geniality.   

When they arrived at the palace, they found that Publius’s father was ill, – an elderly man is very sick indeed.  It was an awful illness.  Paul simply went into the man, and prayed and he was healed. The text here tells us that Paul “Laid his hands on him and healed him.”  It was a miracle, God in his providence healing this man, the beloved father of the one who had been so kind to the Lord’s servants.

2. Ministry to the Sick9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.

The good news of the healing of Publius’s father very quickly spread across the island. Quickly others came to visit the palace, to see if they too could receive healing.  Paul and his friends turned no-one away. He threw himself into the work, and willingly ministered to all who came.  All who came were healed!  

  • God heals people, often in miraculous ways.  It can be tempting for Reformed believers to look at the fraudulent claims of the ‘healing evangelists’ and the excesses of the charismatic movement, and refuse to believe that God, should he will it can still miraculously heal people today.   But we can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!  God doesn’t often perform healing miracles, and we are not promised perfect health, and our ‘lack of faith’ doesn’t prevent our receipt of God’s healing power, as the charismatics claim, – but there are times when God does heal people, and when that happens, it usually leaves us speechless! 
  • Paul was an apostle.   Now, I’m only saying that to remind us that we do not live in apostolic days. Many of the apostles had a gift of healing. Look at Acts 3:6-7 So while we acknowledge that God in his mercy, and in accordance with his will, can and sometimes does heal people of diseases, we should not expect anyone to have ‘the gift of healing’ nowadays! We are NOT apostles!  
  • God uses conventional medicine to bring healing. Some evangelicals have problems with that. In the governor’s house, Luke was there too, and some of the commentators see his comment that ‘they honoured US’ as being important.  That Luke too was involved in ministering to the needs of the Maltese people.  He was a doctor, a medical practitioner of his day.  Just imagine, these sick people came to their governors home, and received both medical and spiritual ministry! One of the tragedies of the Covid pandemic has been that ministry visits to hospitals have practically stopped.  I always believed that these visits were an essential part of a patient’s journey to recovery.  
  • Such occurrences should bring glory to God.  Matthew Henry: “We have reason to think that Paul with these cures preached the gospel to them, and that, …  if so, never were any people so enriched by a shipwreck on their coasts as these Maltese were.”

So, the sick people who came to the palace were ALL healed – how different is that from a Benny Hinn crusade!

3. Generosity and Provision. V10

Paul’s stay at Malta lasted three months. It must have been a joyous time, a time of blessing and refreshment, and when it came to an end the people of the island demonstrated their love and thankfulness in a very practical way.  They were honoured… The word suggests an award of acclaim, – like receiving a knighthood, or – the GC, as the Maltese themselves later would.  And provisions for the journey.  And Paul accepted their kindness, not as a payment or a fee for their cures, but as the gift of God, given through them.  READ: 1 Corinthians 9:11 

Finally they sailed.  It has almost seemed as if Paul was back in his old life, preaching and teaching and ministering to the sick, – but he is still a prisoner, and he must go to Rome.  They found another ship from Egypt, on the grain run from Alexandra to Rome, one that had spent the winter at Malta, and they left Malta on that ship.  Luke even described the ships figurehead. In our next lesson, we find Paul in Italy. 

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