Monday, October 20, 2008

Acts: Journey to Rome (27:1-28:31)

This may just be a personal perspective, but of all the outstanding things that happen to Paul and co. on the way to Rome, the viper stands out the most. It may not be the most amazing thing to happen, (between angels and shipwrecks and healings) but it is the most remembered. It is even less remarkable when one considers that it is the least supernatural of all the things that happened on the journey. Poisonous snakes are quite capable of biting without delivering venom and frequently do, so Paul’s survival hardly required divine intervention. Also, Malta has four species of snakes, none of which are venomous. So while the natives of the day likely feared the snake, it was a groundless fear.

The inhabitants of Malta had two reactions to Paul’s encounter with the viper, both of which illustrate beliefs widely held today, even among Christians.

First, they assumed that Paul was guilty, and being judged by the goddess Justice. This belief persists today, even among Evangelicals. The idea is basically that if you live right nothing bad will happen to you. Ever catch yourself hearing about someone’s misfortune and wondering what they did to cause it? Not all bad things are preventable. The idea is to trust God in the bad times, not fool yourself into thinking that life is some sort of game, and if played right will always turn out well.

After Paul didn’t die, the people began to regard him as a God. This is similar to the trend today to see everything as a supernatural event. God certainly does intervene in the world at times, and there are supernatural forces at work in the world. That does not mean that every single little event in life was caused to occur supernaturally. Not every bad thing is caused by Satan or demons. People can be plenty evil on their own. By the same token, God uses a lot of natural events and ordinary people’s choices to accomplish His plans. He is in control, but that does not mean He has to overtly intervene to get His way.


  1. I don't know...I think if I had a viper hanging off my hand, I'd ask for divine intervention...immediately!! Ha!

  2. I find myself falling into both of these traps often. It must have been imprinted on my mind in sunday school! It also seems that people want to equate suffering and godliness, if you don't suffer, God is not using/teaching you and therefore you must be "lukewarm or non-threatening".


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