Acts 28 The Voice (VOICE)
28 We quickly learned that we were on the island of Malta. 2 The Maltese people found us and were extraordinarily kind to us. They kindled a bonfire and welcomed us around it, which we greatly appreciated because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul was gathering firewood and helping build the fire. A viper had been hiding in some of the wood, and as it tried to escape the heat, it bit Paul on the hand. It sank its fangs in and wouldn’t let go. 4 The natives saw it dangling from his hand.
Natives: This man must be a murderer. He escaped the sea, but now justice has caught up with him.
5 Paul simply shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 The natives knew what to expect—rapid swelling followed by death—but when they waited a long time and saw that Paul suffered no ill effects of the bite, they changed their minds and concluded that he was a god.
7 The leading man of the island, Publius, owned large amounts of land near this beach. Publius received us and hosted us for three days. 8 Publius’s father was sick, bedridden with fever and dysentery. Paul visited the invalid and prayed for him, placing his hands on Publius’s father. The man was cured. 9 Soon people from all over the island who had diseases came, and they were cured as well.
10-11 We stayed on Malta for the next three months and were treated with great honor. When spring arrived, we prepared to continue our journey on a ship that had wintered there—an Alexandrian vessel with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. The Maltese people showed us a final kindness as we departed: they came with all the provisions we needed for our journey and put them on board.
12 We set sail from Malta and stopped first at Syracuse. After three days, 13 we weighed anchor and came to Rhegium. We waited there a day, and then a south wind sprang up and sped us to Puteoli. 14 We found some believers there, and they invited us to stay with them for seven days. Then we reached Rome. 15 The believers from Rome heard we were coming, so they traveled out to meet us at the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns. Paul thanked God and felt encouraged to see them. 16 Once inside the city, Paul lived under house arrest by himself, with only one soldier to guard him.
17 Three days after his arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders.
Paul: Brothers, although I committed no wrong against our Jewish people or our ancestral customs, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 The Romans examined me and wanted to set me free because I had committed no capital offense. 19 But my Jewish opponents objected, so I had to appeal to the emperor—even though I had no charges against me and had filed no charges against my nation. 20 I wanted to gather you together and explain all this to you. I want you to understand that it is because of Israel’s hope that I am bound with this chain.
Luke’s account of the early church ends abruptly: one of the story’s heroes, Paul, is under house arrest in Rome awaiting trial. Other sources will recount how Paul is later martyred in Rome, a victim of Nero’s paranoia and cruelty. But Luke’s story isn’t a biography of Paul; it is a narration about “the Way” as it moved geographically and culturally from Jerusalem (at the edge of the empire) to Rome (the celebrated center of the world). Therefore, Luke’s story finishes once the message of Jesus is spreading without hindrance.
As it moves geographically, “the Way,” as Jesus’ followers preferred to call it, crosses cultural, linguistic, and religious boundaries. At each and every point, Luke assures, the Spirit is there demonstrating God’s blessing on and approval of the emissaries who walk in the footsteps of Jesus and in fulfillment of prophecies. Clearly what happened in those early decades was driven by the Spirit-wind of heaven; and God’s purposes are realized through the faithful obedience of disciples such as Peter, Stephen, Philip, and Paul.
Luke’s account has ended, but the story about the acts of God through the church continues into our day. We are the characters in the current volume of salvation history. Through our faithful obedience, also empowered by the Spirit-wind of heaven, our stories are part of the anthology of God’s new creation.
Jewish Leaders: 21 We haven’t received letters from Judea about you, and no visiting brother has reported anything or said anything negative about you. 22 So we are interested in hearing your viewpoint on the sect you represent. The only thing we know about it is that people everywhere speak against it.
23 They scheduled a day to meet again, and a large number came to his lodging. From morning until evening, he explained his message to them—giving his account of the kingdom of God, trying to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and the Prophets’ writings. 24 Some were convinced, but others refused to believe.
Paul (adding as they left in disagreement): 25 The Holy Spirit rightly spoke to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,
26 Go to this people and say,
28 So let it be known to you that God’s liberation, God’s healing, has been sent to the outsiders, and they will listen.
[29 Then the local Jewish leaders left Paul to discuss all he had told them.][b]
30 For two full years, he lived there in Rome, paying all his own expenses, receiving all who came to him. 31 With great confidence and with no hindrance, he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the ultimate authority—the Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed, the Liberating King.
Romans 1-3 The Voice (VOICE)
According to Paul, in and by itself, the gospel is power—God’s power. The simple message of Jesus brings healing and rescue to all people. It starts with God’s people, the Jews, but does not end until all people hear and respond to its call.
The gospel reveals how right and faithful God has been all along. It begins with God’s faithfulness to His creation and His covenant people. Then God acts, finally and decisively, in the cross of Jesus. For Paul the cross, more than any other event, displays Jesus’ faithfulness to God the Father. As the Gospels tell us, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus entrusts Himself completely to God’s will. As a result, this good news brings faith and hope to those who hear and respond to its elegant message. Because God is faithful, He acts in a most extraordinary way. Somehow in the scandal of the cross, He offers His own Son in order to redeem the fallen world.
1 Paul, a servant of Jesus the Anointed called by God to be His emissary[a] and appointed to tell the good news 2 of the things promised long ago by God, spoken by prophets, and recorded in the Holy Scriptures. 3 All of this good news is about His Son: who was (from a human perspective) born of David’s royal line 4 and ultimately designated to be the true Son of God with power upon His resurrection from the dead by the Spirit of holiness. I am speaking of Jesus, the Anointed One, our Lord.
The prophets express God’s mind and will in the world. Sometimes their messages are a word-on-target to the people and powers of their day; at other times, they see and speak about the future. Their words not only predict the future—they speak the word of the Lord, which creates reality and shapes the future.
Paul describes the gospel of Jesus by bringing in the good news on two levels: On a human level, the good news is about God’s Son, David’s descendant, entering the world to begin the task of restoring it from the damage sin and death have left behind. But the resurrection of Jesus from the dead takes Jesus’ sonship to a new level. Now He is the Son-of-God-in-Power, the One called Lord and Master.
5 And here’s what He’s done: He has graced us and sanctioned us as His emissaries[b] whose mission is to spread the one true and obedient faith to all people in the name of Jesus. 6 This includes you: you have been called by Jesus, God’s Anointed.
7 To all those who are God’s beloved saints in Rome:
May grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, surround you.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus the Anointed for all of you because we are joined by faith as family, and your faith is spreading across the world. 9-10 For I call God as my witness—whom I worship in my spirit and serve in making known the gospel—He alone knows how often I mention you in my prayers. I find myself constantly praying for you and hoping it’s in God’s will for me to be with you soon. 11 I desperately want to see you so that I can share some gift of the Spirit to strengthen you. 12 Plus I know that when we come together something beautiful will happen as we are encouraged by each other’s faith.
13 If, my brothers and sisters, you did not already know, my plans were set to meet you in Rome, but time and circumstances have forced every trip to be canceled until now. I have deeply desired to see some good fruit among you just as I have seen with so many non-Jewish believers. 14 You see, I am in tremendous debt to those of various nationalities, from non-Jews to barbarians, from the wisest of the wise to the idle wanderer. 15 So you can imagine how eager I am to join you and to teach the good news in the mighty and diverse city of Rome.
16 For I am not the least bit embarrassed about the gospel. I won’t shy away from it, because it is God’s power to save every person who believes: first the Jew, and then the non-Jew. 17 You see, in the good news, God’s restorative justice is revealed. And as we will see, it begins with and ends in faith. As the Scripture declares, “By faith the just will obtain life.”[c]
18 For the wrath of God is breaking through from heaven, opposing all manifestations of ungodliness and wickedness by the people who do wrong to keep God’s truth in check. 19 These people are not ignorant about what can be known of God, because He has shown it to them with great clarity. 20 From the beginning, creation in its magnificence enlightens us to His nature. Creation itself makes His undying power and divine identity clear, even though they are invisible; and it voids the excuses and ignorant claims of these people 21 because, despite the fact that they knew the one true God, they have failed to show the love, honor, and appreciation due to the One who created them! Instead, their lives are consumed by vain thoughts that poison their foolish hearts. 22 They claim to be wise; but they have been exposed as fools, frauds, and con artists— 23 only a fool would trade the splendor and beauty of the immortal God to worship images of the common man or woman, bird or reptile, or the next beast that tromps along.
24 So God gave them just what their lustful hearts desired. As a result, they violated their bodies and invited shame into their lives. 25 How? By choosing a foolish lie over God’s truth. They gave their lives and devotion to the creature rather than to the Creator Himself, who is blessed forever and ever. Amen. 26-27 This is why God released them to their own vile pursuits, and this is what happened: they chose sexual counterfeits—women had sexual relations with other women and men committed unnatural, shameful acts because they burned with lust for other men. This sin was rife, and they suffered painful consequences.
28 Since they had no mind to recognize God, He turned them loose to follow the unseemly designs of their depraved minds and to do things that should not be done. 29 Their days are filled with all sorts of godless living, wicked schemes, greed, hatred, endless desire for more, murder, violence, deceit, and spitefulness. And, as if that were not enough, they are gossiping, 30 slanderous, God-hating, rude, egotistical, smug people who are always coming up with even more dreadful ways to treat one another. They don’t listen to their parents; 31 they lack understanding and character. They are simple-minded, covenant-breaking, heartless, and unmerciful; they are not to be trusted. 32 Despite the fact that they are fully aware that God’s law says this way of life deserves death, they fail to stop. And worse—they applaud others on this destructive path.
Paul sounds a sober warning. God’s wrath is here; it is not some far-off future event. Paul says that God’s wrath is already at work in the world in what is effectively God’s “hands-off” policy. God, he says, steps aside and gives us over to idolatry, sexual sins, and depraved minds. Human sin and depravity are both its cause and effect. You see, we are not only punished for our sins, but we are punished by our sins. If God’s salvation consists essentially of His presence with us, then His wrath consists of His absence or separation from us. The bad news is this: God’s wrath is real. Without the good news of Jesus, no hope exists.
2 So you can see there are no excuses for any of us. If your eyes shift their focus from yourselves to others—to judge how they are doing—you have already condemned yourselves! You don’t realize that you are pointing your fingers at others for the exact things you do as well. 2 There’s no doubt that the judgment of God will justly fall upon hypocrites who practice such things. 3 Here’s what is happening: you attack and criticize others and then turn around to commit the same offenses yourselves! Do you think you will somehow dodge God’s judgment? 4 Do you take the kindness of God for granted? Do you see His patience and tolerance as signs that He is a pushover when it comes to sin? How could you not know that His kindness is guiding our hearts to turn away from distractions and habitual sin to walk a new path?[d]
5 But because your heart is obstinate and shameless, you’re storing up wrath that will count against you. On the day of His choosing, God’s wrath and judgment will be unleashed to make things right. 6 As it goes, everyone will receive what his actions in life have cultivated. 7 Whoever has labored diligently and patiently to do what is right—seeking glory, honor, and immortality—God will grant him endless joy in life eternal. 8 But selfish individuals who make trouble, resist the truth, or sell out to wickedness will meet a very different fate—they will find fury and indignation as the fruit of living in the wrong. 9 Suffering and pain await everyone whose life is marked by evil living (first for the Jew, and next for the non-Jew). 10 But if you do what is right, you will receive glory, admiration, and peace (again, first for the Jew, then for the non-Jew). 11 God has no favorites.
12 If one lives life without knowledge of the law—the teachings of the Torah—he will sin and die apart from the law. If someone else lives life under the law, his sin will be judged by what the law teaches. 13 Here’s my point: just because a person hears the law read or recited does not mean he is right before the one True God; it is following the law that makes one right, not just hearing it. 14-15 For instance, some outsiders who are not required to follow the law often live quite naturally by its teachings. Even though the law wasn’t given to them, in themselves they have the law. Here’s the thing: their lives demonstrate that God has inscribed the law’s teachings on their hearts. On judgment day, their consciences will testify for them, and their thoughts will both accuse and defend them. 16 This good news given to me declares that this affirmation and accusation will take place on that day when God, through Jesus, the Anointed One, judges every person’s life secrets.
17 Listen, if you claim to be a Jew, count on the law, and boast in your relationship with God; 18 if you know His will and can determine what is essential (because you have been instructed in the law); and 19 if you stand convinced that you are chosen to be a guide to the blind, a light to those who live in darkness, 20 a teacher of foolish wanderers and children, and have in the law what is essentially the form of knowledge and truth— 21 then tell me, why don’t you practice what you preach? If you are going to sermonize against stealing, then stop stealing. 22 If you are going to teach others not to commit adultery, then be completely faithful to your spouse. If you hate idolatry, then stop robbing the temples! 23 If you pride yourself in having God’s law, then stop dishonoring God by failing to keep its teaching. 24 Here’s what it says: “Because of you, God’s reputation is slandered by those outside the covenant.”[e]
25 You see, circumcision is of value only if you keep the law’s teachings. But if you keep breaking God’s rules, you are no different than those without the mark. 26 So if an uncircumcised man abides by God’s just precepts, doesn’t that make his standing before God the same as one who is circumcised? 27 The man who is physically uncircumcised but still keeps the law, he will stand in judgment over the person who is circumcised and yet continually breaks God’s law. 28 A mark that is evident doesn’t necessarily make one a Jew, and circumcision that is evident only in the flesh is not true. 29 But the true Jew is Jewish on the inside—in secret places no one but God can see—and true circumcision involves the heart; it comes from the Spirit, not from some written code. The praise and reputation of that kind of Jew come from God, not from man.
When God’s people—or people who claim to be God’s people—are hypocrites, then God is the one who gets the bad name. How often do we say one thing and do another? How often have we set a standard for others only to break it ourselves? The saying is true: we practice every day what we believe; all the rest is religious talk. There is a lot of religious talk out there, a lot of smugness and self-satisfaction. But every day people readily violate their consciences and the Lord’s reasonable teachings. For faith to matter, it has to get under your skin.
3 So then, do the Jews have an advantage over the other nations? Does circumcision do anything for you? 2 The answer is yes, in every way. To begin with, God spoke to and through the Jewish people. 3 But what if some Jews have been unfaithful? Does the fact that they abandoned their faith zero out God’s faithfulness? 4 Absolutely not! If every person on the planet were a liar and thief, God would still be true. It stands written:
Whenever You speak, You are in the right.
5 If our perpetual injustice and corruption merely accentuate the purity of God’s justice, what can we say? Is God unjust for unleashing His fury against us? (I am speaking from our limited human perspective.) 6 Again, absolutely not! If this were so, how could God stand as Judge over the world? 7 But if my lie serves only to point out God’s truth and bring Him glory, then why am I being judged for my sin? 8 There are slanderous charges out there that we are saying things like, “Let’s be as wicked as possible so that something good will come from it.” Those malicious gossips will get what they deserve.
9 So what then? Are we Jews better off? Not at all. We have made it clear that people everywhere, Jews and non-Jews, are living under the power of sin. 10 Here’s what Scripture says:
No one is righteous—not even one.
Sin is more than just wrong choices, bad decisions, and willful acts of disobedience that violate God’s Word and are contrary to His will. It is that and much more. Paul knows sin is missing the mark or deliberately stepping over the line, but he also knows that sin is a power at work in him and every child of Adam. As strange as it may sound, sin seems to have a will of its own. Like an addiction, sin takes hold of us and causes us to act in ways we never wanted. For Paul the cross of Jesus deals finally and definitively with the dual reality of sin. Not only are we forgiven of our sins—our willful acts of disobedience—but we are also liberated from the power of sin.
19 We want to be clear that whatever the law says, it says to everyone who is under its authority. Its purpose is to muzzle every mouth, to silence idle talk, and to bring the whole world under the standard of God’s justice. 20 Therefore, doing what the law prescribes will not make anyone right in the eyes of God—that’s not its purpose—but the law is capable of exposing the true nature of sin.
21 But now for the good news: God’s restorative justice has entered the world, independent of the law. Both the law and the prophets told us this day would come. 22 This redeeming justice comes through the faithfulness of Jesus,[m] the Anointed One, the Liberating King, who makes salvation a reality for all who believe—without the slightest partiality. 23 You see, all have sinned, and all their futile attempts to reach God in His glory fail. 24 Yet they are now saved and set right by His free gift of grace through the redemption available only in Jesus the Anointed. 25 When God set Him up to be the sacrifice—the seat of mercy where sins are atoned through faith—His blood became the demonstration of God’s own restorative justice. All of this confirms His faithfulness to the promise, for over the course of human history God patiently held back as He dealt with the sins being committed. 26 This expression of God’s restorative justice displays in the present that He is just and righteous and that He makes right those who trust and commit themselves to Jesus.
In the incarnation and sacrificial death of Jesus, God is at work to extend salvation to those who fall under sin’s addiction. They are liberated from its power, cleansed of its stain. By “God’s restorative justice,” Paul means first the justice that belongs to God and reflects His character. God is just, fair, or in a word, righteous. But character is dynamic, not static. This means that God’s justice must express itself in some way. So it is in the nature of God’s justice that He acts to restore and repair a world that is not the way it should be. Above all, it is God’s saving actions through Jesus that constitute the gift of God’s restorative justice.
27 So is there any place left for boasting? No. It’s been shut out completely. And how? By what sort of law? The law of works perhaps? No! By the law of faith. 28 We hold that people are justified, that is, made right with God through faith, which has nothing to do with the deeds the law prescribes.
29 Is God the God of the Jews only? If He created all things, then doesn’t that make Him the God of all people? Jews and non-Jews, insiders and outsiders alike? Yes, He is also the God of all the outsiders. 30 So since God is one, there is one way for Jews and outsiders, circumcised and uncircumcised, to be right with Him. That is the way of faith. 31 So are we trying to use faith to abolish the law? Absolutely not! In fact, we now are free to uphold the law as God intended.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to choose a monthly or yearly subscription, and then enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate, click the button below.
It looks like you’re already subscribed to Bible Gateway Plus! To manage your subscription, visit your Bible Gateway account settings.
Upgrade, and get the most out of your new account. An integrated digital Bible study library - including complete notes from the NIV Study Bible and the NKJV MacArthur Study Bible - is just a step away! Try it free for 30 days.
Three easy steps to start your free trial subscription to Bible Gateway Plus.