Paul in Malta: Page 4 of 6 (series: Lessons on Acts)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

7 In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.


“In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius.” “In the same quarters” means“in that place, or that part of the island which is near the place where the shipwreck occurred.”By design or chance they discovered they were close by lands belonging to the leading man of the island. The word “possessions” is used here to refer to his property, lands, his place of residence.

“Chief man of the island”is known from inscriptions to have been the official title of the governor of Melita; but he was also called “the first man of the island,” and “governor of Melita.” He was probably a Roman magistrate stationed there
“Whose name was Publius” (pronounced puhb lih uhs), or Poplius, as some copies, and the Syriac version read. Publius was a common name with Romans; with them it was a given name, by which they were called. This verse tells us that Publius owned an estate near where the shipwreck occurred. The island of Melita belonged to the province of the Sicilian 5Prætor, and Publius was probably his representative.

“Who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.” Publius was an outstanding host for he made them feel welcome, and entertained them courteously for three days. This means that he treated them as guests for three days.This was until arrangements could be made for a more permanent dwelling-place. Since they must remain on the island through the stormy weather of winter before they could start out again, it would be necessary to provide them with their own housing. They could not be guests for the whole three months.

Publius showed those poor (having only the clothing on their back) and needy souls (needing food and housing) considerable humanity and hospitality by receiving so many strangers at once into his houses; two hundred three score and sixteen to be exact and give them food and lodging, for three days, and all the time treating them in a way Paul called kind, friendly, and cheerful. Publius, though ignorant of it, entertained an apostle of Christ among those strangers; afterwards he was to receive the benefit of his kindness, which he enjoyed, and which was compensation for his liberality and charity.

The Lord turned the bonds of Paul to glory; he stayed for three months, and many were healed and converted to the Lord. The master was with his servant.

8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and hevealed him.

“And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux.” The combination of the two—“fever and of a bloody flux”(dysentery)—made his case all the more serious. The words are technical, such as a physician like Luke would be likely to use in describing the disease. The inference here is that Publius was not an old man, though he was privileged to have self-respect and wealth. Note that the Arabic version, contrary to all copies, and other versions, reads, "the son of Publius." There is no way to tell whether the father of Publius fell ill after Paul’s arrival, or if he was ill before.
“To whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.”Paul entered the room of this very sick man, no doubt with the consent, if not at the request of Publius. The Ethiopic version adds, “and he entreated him to put his hand upon him”; that is, either Publius asked this favor of the apostle for his father, having heard of the incident with the viper, from which he concluded there was something divine and extraordinary in him; or the father of Publius asked this for himself:
Observe the two things Paul did and what God did in return. When Paul had entered the room and found in what a bad condition the sick man was in, he either kneeled down and prayed by him, or stood and prayed over him, and for him, that God would restore his health. And he did this to let them know that he himself was not a god; and that the cure that would now take place would be from God, and not from him, and therefore all the glory should be given to God. That is the first thing he did. Next he laid his hands on him, which was a sign or symbol, or rite that was used in extraordinary cases, and was in accord with the direction and promise of Christ: “They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when

they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:18). And this was followed by a cure; both diseases left him at once, and he was restored to health.

The Apostle’s prayer was specific and on target; that God would exert his power; and he laid his hands on him, which was the means God ordinarily used to convey the energy of the Holy Spirit, and healed him. God conveyed the healing power by this means. In such a disorder as that mentioned here by Dr. Luke, where the bowels were in a state of inflammation, and a general fever aiding the dysentery in its work of death, nothing less than a miracle could have made an instantaneous cure in the patient. And even the heathens saw that it was the hand of God doing the miraculous.

9 So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:

“So (But) when this was done,” that is, after the father of the chief magistrate was healed by God at the touch of the Apostle Paul’s hands, news of this miracle spread like wildfire among the island’s citizens. Luke was a physician; yet we do not find him taking a part in these cures. As a medical man, he might have been of use to the father of Publius; but he is not even consulted on this occasion.

“Others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed.” “Others (the rest) alsocame to be cured. During the three months of their stay all the others who were sick and heard of what had been done for the father of the chief magistrate (and it was sure to be rapidly spread about the island) came to be cured of whatsoever diseases they were afflicted with. There were many who came during the three months of their stay, and they all were healed. How were they healed? They were doubtless healed in the same way Publius’ father was—Paul prayed for him, laid his hands on him, and he was healed. The other diseased persons who are mentioned in this verse were doubtless healed in the same way.

10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.

“Who also honoured us with many honours.” The response here is a natural one. Paul humbly declares, they “honoured us with many honours (marks of respect)”; not only Paul, but for his sake the rest of the party were honored by the people of the island.This may have taken the form of gifts; such things as would be needed by travelers who had lost everything in a shipwreck. Remember, Paul and his companions had lost everything they brought with them, and only escaped with the clothes on their backs. These very thoughtful gifts would once more increase their wardrobes and pocketbooks. We can assume that there were no divine honors or religious adorations involved, for these are not the kind of honors Paul would have accepted, or recorded for our information.

Please note: nothing is said about Paul charging people to be healed; rather this verse is speaking of gifts freely given as a token of their appreciation. The Greek word here for honored may also mean 6honorarium, however, the Apostle who prayed and laid his hands on the sick and healed them was not the sort of person to whom men would offer money as a fee.

“And when we departed (sailed), they laded us with such things as were necessary.”They had given them many presents before, and now “they laded us”; rather,they furnished us with things that were necessary for our journey. They supplied us with all we needed, including food and clothing. The bounty must have been large if we consider the number of those for whom it was given. But Publius would set the example, and others would not be slow to follow it. Yet, nothing is said about any of these people obeying the gospel. It could be though that once in Rome Paul would get the message out that someone needed to go to Melita and preach. On the other hand, it’s very likely that many of them were converted under the Apostle's ministry; for it can hardly be thought that the Apostle would be on this island three months, as he was, and fail to preach the Gospel to its inhabitants. His preaching was always met with success, more or less; and the great respect shown him at his departure seems to confirm this; though we have no account of any church, or churches, or preachers of the word in this place, in ecclesiastical history, until the "sixth" century, when mention is made of a bishop of the island of Melita..


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