A Snake in the Fire

Text: Acts 28:1-10

After the shipwreck on the way to Rome, Paul and the others ended up on the island of Malta. They were there just three months, but Luke’s account of their stay provides us with some important lessons about miracles, assumptions, and the preaching of the gospel. All of this began with Paul being bitten by a snake and shaking it off into the fire. This sermon examines the lessons taught to us in Acts 28:1-10.

Jesus Said This Would Be a Sign

  • Part of the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-18) – while certain principles of the commission apply to us, it was specifically for the apostles
  • Not for us today – snake-handling churches misapply this passage
  • Reasons the instruction regarding serpents and poison is not for us – we’re not apostles and the signs are no longer necessary [more on this point later]

Events Are Often Misinterpreted

  • Misfortune is not always a sign of sin (cf. John 9:1-3) – sometimes bad things just happen (Ecclesiastes 9:11; Luke 13:1-5)
  • God’s will is found in His word (1 Corinthians 2:10-13) – to know if someone is right or wrong, do not look at their circumstances, but Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • Do not think of men more highly than you ought (1 Corinthians 4:6) – no one is to be regarded as equal with God

Paul Preached in Malta

  • Not explicitly stated, but we know he had to have preached – how do we know? … his imprisonment was directly tied to his preaching (Acts 28:20; 26:6); he took advantage of every opportunity to preach (Acts 26:27-29); miracles were performed for the purpose of confirming the word (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4 – if Paul wasn’t preaching, no miracles would have been done; they were done by God’s will, not the apostles’ will)
  • We must take advantage of every opportunity to preach – Paul preached even though his visit was unplanned, short, and these people were “barbarians

Not Everyone Will Believe

  • Tradition has it that this was the beginning of the Christian Church in Malta (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary)
  • However, it is strange that Luke would not mention converts if there were any (cf. Acts 28:24) – all Luke records was their appreciation for Paul’s working miracles among them (Acts 28:10), not that they obeyed the gospel the miracles were designed to confirm to them
  • Miracles do not produce faith (cf. John 11:47-48) – miracles were meant to confirm the word (Mark 16:20); the word produces faith (Romans 10:17)
  • Many simply will not believe (Romans 10:16-21; Matthew 7:13-14)

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