A living testimony

The encouragement Paul received from the Lord gave him confidence in spite of overwhelming circumstances during his voyage to Rome. The angel of God said, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you” (Acts 27:24, NKJV). After 14 days of being driven up and down the Adriatic Sea by a typhoon like east-northeast wind, the ship Paul was sailing in drew near to land. It says in Acts 27:29-31:

Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” (NKJV)

Paul believed that God was going to keep him alive, but he was apparently under the impression that everyone in the ship had to stay together in order for them to be delivered from their adverse circumstances. In a similar fashion to Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, Paul “took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat” (Acts 27:35). At this point in his journey to Rome, Paul became a living testimony to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t preach a sermon to the men he was sailing with; he intended to show them that God would preserve their lives if they believed what he told them.

Paul and his sailing companions became shipwrecked on an island called Melita, also known as Malta (Acts 28:1 and note). Luke’s account of the situation showed that the local people considered Paul and the other prisoners to be dangerous criminals, and yet they showed them kindness by starting a fire for them because of the rain and cold (Acts 28:2). Luke stated:

But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:3-6, NKJV)

Paul didn’t correct the natives viewpoint of him, but rather went on to further demonstrate his superhuman power by healing the father of the chief man of the island (Acts 28:8). Although there is no record of anyone on Malta being converted during Paul’s three month stay there, it seems likely that the people that lived on the island were greatly impacted by Paul’s living testimony. According to wikipedia, “Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Archdiocese is claimed to be an apostolic see (an apostolic see is an episcopal see whose foundation is attributed to one or more of the apostles of Jesus or to one of his close associates) because Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on “Melita.”