Summary: Exposition of Acts 28:1-6 regarding four biblical misconceptions found in this text
Text: Acts 28:1-6, Title: Biblical Misconceptions, Date/Place: NRBC, 9/27/09, AM
A. Opening illustration: Stanford Research Institute was studying the differences in vocational perceptions. They devised a short but succinct test. The first to be tested was an engineer. The researchers asked him: “ What does two plus two make?” The engineer simply said, “In absolute terms: four.” After making their notes and dismissing him, they called an architect. To the same question, he responded, “Well, there are several possibilities: two and two make four, but so does three and one -- or two point five and one point five -- they also make four. So, it is all a matter of choosing the right option.” The researchers thanked him and made their notes. Finally, they called an attorney. When he heard the question, he looked around slyly, asked if he could close the door for privacy, and then came over close, leaned toward them and said, “Well, tell me, what would you like it to be?”
B. Background to passage: Recount the travel from Caesarea to Malta with the shipwreck. And now they are cold, wet, tired, and hungry, but alive, just as Paul had predicted. And their first few hours on Malta provide for some interested reading, and for some clearing up of misconceptions about the faith.
C. Main thought: in this mornings text, we will clear up four common misconceptions of biblical teaching
A. Regarding Unbelievers (v. 1-2)
1. Luke uses a term here to describe the inhabitants of Malta, “barbarians.” It is translated a bunch of different ways, but it means those who didn’t know Greek or Latin. They were uncultured in the eyes of the world (the Roman world). Explain origin of the word. But these barbarians showed unusual kindness. Usually captured or killed or sold shipwreck victims. The common misconception about unbelievers is two-fold, and covers both extremes. First, sometimes it is thought that unbelievers are miserable without Jesus. These foreigners may not speak Greek, but they show extreme kindness and hospitality, not normal for miserable people. Secondly, unbelievers are sometimes thought to be completely happy.
3. Illustration: Augustine said this, “You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless, until it rest in Thee.”
4. Sometimes we just forget what it is like to be lost. Our lives and culture for a long time revolves around the church, Christians, prayer, the bible, and so hopefully our worldview, thought processes, values, and priorities come from these sources. And constantly at funerals I wonder, “how do people do this that don’t know Jesus.” And we think they must be miserable, but most of the time they are not. Remember contentedness nor lack thereof is a good indication of genuine belief. Our churches are full of people who think they are OK. Their hearts deceive them and they breathe God-ignoring air, and most are content to be that way. They are blind, but they think they see, deaf, but they think they hear. And one who is about to drive off a cliff in the fog is just jamming to the radio until the end comes. But somewhere in their thoughts at night, when they’re alone, in crisis, questions, convictions, doubts, and worries bother them at some level because of general revelation. This is why we must be consistent with our lives, but not obnoxious with biblical truth, and be ready for the opportunities that present themselves in the lives of others.
B. Regarding Snakes (v. 3)
1. I’ve always wanted to preach on snake handling. Very early in the bible snakes are curse as always being at enmity with man, although this probably has more to do with Satan and Man more so than the snake. I know not everyone loves snakes as much as I do, so I didn’t bring my box of serpents for the worship service today. But you know as well as I do, there are churches around here that have this practice. Turn to Mark 16, and make the case for its inclusion. These are simply signs. This doesn’t mean that everyone who takes up serpents is a believer, nor that every believer must take up serpents. They don’t even do that in these churches. So now, the interpretation. We should all take up serpents! JK! Acts 28 is the interpretation. Notice that Paul didn’t play with it, or have a worship service, he just shook it off into the fire. Symbolic of Satan’s end into the lake of fire?
2. Illustration: Ophidiophobia: fear of snakes. Hudson Taylor said that a man is immortal until God is done with him. Tell about Chris having the snake in my seminary room for a few days…picture of me,
3. If you are serving the Lord, and you happen to get bitten by a snake, God may preserve your life so that you can be a witness to His power. Remember the bible doesn’t say that the serpent must be poisonous. In fact, the Greek work used for snake here is not the one for venomous snake (could mean that, but there is a better word, found in Acts 28. Bible also doesn’t say that they won’t bite. Many of these handlers concede this. It also doesn’t say that you won’t die if you take up a snake that bites you. The general principle is that God can and does protect His servants, not that we should handle snakes.