Acts 23:12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.
Paul was facing opposition in Jerusalem, and was taken into custody. During this time, more than forty men plotted to take his life. They sought help from religious leaders saying, We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul (Acts 23:14).
In the providence of God, however, Paul’s nephew heard about this plot. We are not told his age, but he seems to have been around twelve (Acts 23:19). First he told Paul; then he told an officer; then the officer transferred Paul to another city where he would be safe. This is how God preserved the life of his servant.
God did not use an angel to save Paul, or a miracle, but worked providentially. Divine providence may seem like coincidence, but is directed by God who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11), wrote Paul. We do not live in a world of chance, but in a world that is governed by God, down to every detail (Luke 12:7). We can trust God in every situation because nothing is outside his control.
This was also the view of king David who wrote, . . . all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). We will not die before our time, and will not be shot if we’re supposed to be hung. Our lives are not in the hands of fate, chance or the devil, but in the hands of our heavenly Father who loves us.
Acts 27:20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
Paul was under arrest for preaching the gospel, and was on his way to Rome to stand trial. But the ship encountered a storm that was so severe, no one hoped to survive. The passengers, sailors, and even Paul gave up all hope of being saved.
The storm was not a judgment from God, as it was for Jonah (Jonah 1:4). Nor was it from Satan, as it was for Job’s children (Job 1:12 with 1:19). It was simply a natural storm that Paul encountered on his way to Rome. Everyone has to die, and Paul assumed this was his time. Thankfully, he was wrong.
If Paul died on his way to Rome, we would not have his letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians or Philemon. God still had work for Paul to do, and God was preserving his life. As long as God preserves our lives, he has something for us to do.
Acts 27:22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.
An angel assured Paul that, even though the ship would be lost, everyone on board would be saved. The loss of a ship was bad enough, but not so bad as the loss of life. Loss is never easy, but we can always be thankful we did not lose more.
If we lose our wealth, we can be thankful we did not lose our health. If we lose our health, we can be thankful we did not lose our family. If we lose our family, we can be thankful we did not lose our faith. As long as we have faith, we are assured of all good things in the age to come. This should give us courage through all the storms of life.
Acts 27:40 Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.
Land was spotted the following morning, and they wasted no time getting there. But the ship got stuck in a sandbar, and was broken apart by crashing waves. Those who could swim made it to land first. The rest got there on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely (Acts 27:44), wrote Luke.
God promised to preserve the lives of everyone on board, and that is what he did. How much more will he preserve his own until we reach heaven’s shore. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:28-29), said Jesus.
Life has many adventures, but none that are fatal for the children of God. We may go through fire and flood, but God will never abandon us (Isaiah 43:2). Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come. God’s grace has brought us safe this far, and grace will lead us home (Amazing Grace, John Newton, slightly revised).
Acts 28:1 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.
The day was rainy and cold, but the islanders built a fire to welcome their guests. Paul helped out by gathering brushwood, but when he put it on the fire, a viper bit his hand. The islanders thought he must be a murderer, since though he survived the shipwreck, justice would not let him live. But when Paul did not suffer any symptoms, they changed their minds and said he was a god (Acts 28:6).
Here we see that apart from God’s word, there is no reliable way to understand the world in which we live. Left to our imaginations we will conclude there are many gods, no God, or that everything is God. We can imagine a spirit behind every tree, and a demon under every bed. That is why God gave us his word. After thousands of years, the Bible remains the best explanation of reality, because the Bible is entirely true. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130), wrote the Psalmist.
Acts 28:11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island.
Paul finally made it to Rome, where he was placed under house arrest. For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:30-31), wrote Luke.
This is how the book of Acts ends. It was around AD 62, and Paul was about the same age. We have no record of his trial, but he was likely released for a few more years. Then he was imprisoned again, and put to death around AD 67.
Apart from Jesus Christ, Paul would likely be lost to history. But because of Jesus Christ, Paul is known and read by millions. Paul was so captured by the gospel that he had to proclaim it far and wide. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16), he wrote. We should thank God for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for sending Paul to proclaim it.
Reflection and Review
Why is it helpful to know that God is in control?
Has God ever preserved your life through danger?
How does the Bible help us understand the world?