May 1, 2022
“As Paul gathered a bundle of brushwood and put it on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself to his hand. When the local people saw the creature...”
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“As Paul gathered a bundle of brushwood and put it on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself to his hand. When the local people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, ‘This man is probably a murderer, and though he has escaped the sea, Justice does not allow him to live.’ However, he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. They expected that he would swell up, or suddenly drop dead. But while they waited a long time and saw nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.” Acts 28:3-6
There is an old saying: If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Perhaps, the theme of today’s chapter should be: If you don’t stand on the foundation of God’s Word, you’ll fall for anything. (Although, I prefer the title: “Snakes on a Paul”)
Apart from God’s Word, people filter life experiences through their traditions and feelings. Neither one of those measures is reliable because their origins are from man. Consider the people of Malta’s response to Paul’s snakebite. 1) He is a murderer, and fate has caught up with him, 2) He is a god! Both their omens and feeling-based observations led them to the wrong conclusions. Apart from the Bible, we have no reliable lens through which to view life experience correctly. 2 Timothy 3:16
We can learn three things from Paul’s experience: The viper bite deliverance confirms justice, refutes superstition, and fulfills Jesus’ promise that believers can expect miracles.
“Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you. However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:19-20
Back in Acts 14, the people of Lystra had proclaimed that Paul & Barnabas were gods. This was a notion that Paul and Barnabas categorically rejected. Perhaps, Jesus’ exhortation to His disciples in Luke 10:20 was intended to warn them against the pride that can develop within the ego of His servants, through whom His Spirit does great works.
As long as we remain focused that our salvation is by God’s grace alone and that any good work we accomplish is actually the Spirit working in and through us, we will better withstand the temptation to exalt ourselves. Remaining humble and thankful to God allows us to resist Pride’s attempts to steal credit for the Spirit’s work.