Acts 28:1-10 (Pastor Heo)
1 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.
The distance from Fair Havens to Malta = 720 km.
Malta became a British colony in 1815 – played a very important role in WWII. Got independence in 1964, joined the European Union later as well.
I say this things to emphasize that the Bible is not just a story, but all facts. Today’s story is “what happened during their stay at Malta”. They stayed there for three months.
Can you picture this? They survived but became beggars, losing all their things. The people of Malta were very kind and generous, showing hospitality to the shipwrecked survivors. It was raining and cold, but they were already wet. They were probably trembling with cold, so they needed heat.
The islanders built a fire for heat. Paul gathered a bundle of wood. We know he was a very good man, he was like a savior or hero to the survivors – but no task is too small for the man of God. Paul was not ashamed to be useful in the smallest thing – like Jesus.
Phil 2 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. In humility… our attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ.”
Paul gathered the bundle of wood – a very practical action. As he put it on the fire, a viper jumped from the bundle and bit him on his hand. Maybe that snake was hibernating.
The islanders knew how dangerous a viper bite was, so they thought he must have been a murderer – believing “karma” would not let him live. They thought something bad must happen to him – but nothing bad happened to him. So they changed their minds and called him “god.”
We remember in Lystra in chp 14, a similar thing happened. Paul and Barnabas healed a crippled man and the people called them gods. Paul tore his clothes and stopped them saying, “We too are men like you.” Then he preached the gospel of salvation in Christ.
In this way Paul became outstanding among them. Publius, the leader welcomed Paul and his team and entertained them. But his father was sick with fever and dysentery. Paul prayed for him and healed him – and immediately the whole island came to him for healing.
We know that Luke is a medical doctor. In this situation, Luke could use his medical skill and expertise – so they could work together in this ministry. In church history, this job is the first Medical Mission (Paul + Luke).
So, what was the problem with these people of Malta? Humanly speaking, they were very kind, warm, generous. They had morality, they were nice, but didn’t know who God was. They didn’t know how to be saved.
- They first called Paul “murderer.”
- Then they called Paul “god.”
From murderer to god – both were wrong. So, today, we also must be careful to not only understand who people are from their outward appearance.
They were nice, but they didn’t know who God was. Many people in this world don’t know who God is, nor how to be saved, rescued.
So, let me make clear:
- Who God is
- What God is like
- How to be saved
Are you clear on these matters?
If so, our mission / ministry is to help / serve / tell others.
Not only that time, but since the creation of the world, there are SO many wrong beliefs and opinions about God. This is one of the biggest problems in human history. There are 8-9 beliefs about God and they are all wrong – except ONE.
We must know that in your study and theory, there may be many opinions, but the “right” one is only one. Also in this matter, there is only one “right” one.
Let us make it very clear in this limited time and then help and serve others with this information. God bless you.
Wrong beliefs about God
1. Atheism – denies the existence of God.
“There is no god.”
But they are cheating their own spiritual conscience. “A fool says in his heart, ‘There is no god.'”
Heb 3:4 “All buildings have a builder. Like this, all creation has a creator.” Imagine someone looking at a building and saying, “Look at this amazing building with no builder!” How foolish! How can what has been made have been made by chance? This is foolish.
2. Agnosticism – Does not deny God, but denies the possibility of the knowledge of God.
“There may be a god, but we cannot know him.”
“I don’t know. How can we know?”
This is a comfortable refuge for intellectuals – but it means they escape / hide from any responsibility about God. Sooner or later, a seeker will FIND God. “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities have been made known, so that no one is without excuse.” (Romans 1)
3. Materialism – denies the existence of the spirit – all reality is only physical matter
Practical question: Is money god? NO. But practically, money can be a small god.
“You cannot serve both God and money” (Jesus) – money cannot be served / worshiped. (The love of money) is a root of all kinds of evil.
Our spirit knows this visible world is only preparation for eternity.
“A man is destined to die once and after that to face the judgment.” We must remember this crucial word of God.
4. Pantheism – (many / all gods) – “pan” (all) “theism” (god) – all is god, god is all
This is Hinduism (among other beliefs). Its highest hope is Nirvana (to desire less). But this is impossible because we are created to seek something, to fill ourselves with something. So the Bible says, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit”
5. Polytheism – “poly” (many) “theism” (god)
Many gods. Kitchen god, rain god, computer god, passion god. In Japan there are 8 million gods.
The Bible condemns this paganism as idolatry. The FIRST commandment of the 10 commandments = “You shall have no other gods before me.”
6. Deism (“dios”) God – believes in a transcendent but absent God.
He created the universe and LEFT it to sustain it by itself according to the natural laws.
They say with their mouths, “There is god”, but they live like there is no god. So, practically, they are like atheists.
7. Dualism – belief of 2 opposite gods who are fighting each other.
One god is god of spirit and light and life. The other is god of matter and darkness and death.
Some people may think this is true.
Yes, God is God, and Satan is the opposite god of God. He is called “god of this Age.”
The problem? The two gods are EQUAL in power and authority – so the conflict is neverending. This is totally unbiblical. Satan is a CREATED being who is limited in his power. He will be cast out by God and punished in hell. Satan has ZERO authority because Jesus proclaimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations.”
He has temporary, limited power.
8. Monotheism – ONE God
One and only one God. We believe in God only – only one God who created the universe and is sustaining all things with his power and word. He is a person, with a personality, so it is possible to have a relationship with him. He is compassionate, but righteous and just.
“I’m a monotheist. I believe in monotheism.”
This is good. Up to now, no problem. But there is a practical problem. We must be very careful from this point in helping others.
Even Judaism believes in only one God. In a sense they are stronger than us in believing in only God.
Muslims also say they are monotheists – there is only one God.
Christians, Muslims, Jews, believe in only one God. The problem? The difference? Jesus.
What is the biblical belief about God.
Biblical monotheism = Triune monotheism (Trinity Monotheism)
Yes, there is only ONE God (in three persons):
- Father God
- Son Jesus Christ
- Holy Spirit
There is ONE God – one essence – one purpose – in three persons.
This is a big mystery, so here is a small illustration to help understand this.
I (pastor) am one person in three elements:
- soul (body, soul, spirit)
I am one intelligence in three areas:
But this is NOT ENOUGH to explain the mystery of mysteries of the Trinity God, but it helps to shed SOME light on this complex problem.
God’s thought is higher than our thoughts, and his ways are higher than our ways. He is infinite / limitless in his power, wisdom, authority. But we are very limited in our understanding and wisdom.
So, if EVERYTHING is understandable to us, he is not God. If we understand ALL things about God, then he is not higher than us, and he is not God.
How can we apply these mysteries of God?
The second person God became man: John 1:14 “God became man; the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Nobody has ever seen God.
Jesus is full God and became full man. 1 Tim 2:5 “There is only one God and one mediator between God and man.”
“Jesus is full God and full man.”
Jesus is full God and full man = left hand (God), right hand (man) – as full God Jesus is the representation of the Trinity God facing man – so how we treat Jesus is exactly the same way we treat the Father God.
“To accept me is the accept the one who sent me. To hate me is to hate the one who sent me.”
- Jesus (as God) is the representation of the Trinity God facing man.
- Jesus (as man) is the representative of all human beings in approaching God.
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life – no one comes to the father except through me.”
The Bible encourages us, “Fix your eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfector of our faith.”
- “Fix my eyes on Jesus Christ;
- Focus my thought on Jesus Christ.”