Chapter twenty-eight concludes Luke’s account of Paul’s journey to Rome. Because it does not contain the details of what happened after Paul’s two-year imprisonment, and because Acts was already part two of Luke’s work, some think that he intended to write a third volume, but that is only speculation. There is nothing in Acts or Church history to confirm it as fact.
All the people on board safely reached the shore of an island called Malta (Acts 28:1-6). The locals saw them come ashore (276 of them, Acts 27:37) and built fires to dry them out and warm them. Famously, a viper bit Paul’s arm, but he shook it off into the fire. When he did not drop dead as they expected, they began to believe that Paul was a god rather than a criminal.
Some people use this example in conjunction with Mark 16:18 to prove that Christians can handle poisonous snakes without being hurt. Paul, though, was not “handling” the snake, and God did the miracle so Paul could gain a hearing with the local official. It was not like the self-serving “snake handling” events we see today.
When Paul learned that the official’s father was very sick, he prayed over him and laid his hands on him, and the man was healed (Acts 28:7-10). After this, many others were brought to Paul and were healed as well. Although Luke does not specifically mention it, Paul certainly took the opportunity to preach the gospel while he was there.
They remained on Malta for three months before being picked up by another ship (vs. 11-16). After a few more weeks they made it to Rome. Because of Paul’s situation, he was not taken to the prison, but “WAS ALLOWED TO LIVE BY HIMSELF, WITH THE SOLDIER WHO WAS GUARDING HIM.” Because he could not make it to the synagogue, Paul asked the Jewish leaders to come to him, and he told them his story in defense of his accusations (Acts 28:17-22). They were surprised because they had heard nothing about his case, but they were very interested in hearing his message.
On the appointed day a large group came to hear him teach and discuss the gospel with him, which lasted all day long (Acts 28:23-28). As was normal, the response among the Jews was mixed. As they left, Paul declared that the Gentiles would certainly accept the gospel, even if the Jews would not.
Luke closed this volume with a note that Paul remained in that situation in Rome for two whole years, teaching everyone who would come to him. The final words in the NET translation state that he taught “WITHOUT RESTRICTION,” an accurate translation of Luke’s Greek. Acts ends Paul preaching the gospel, unhindered and with full Roman protection, from the capital of the known world.