The New Level of the Spirit: Acts 28:1-6
“1) When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. 2) The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. 3) 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 itself on his hand. 4) When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” 5) However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6) But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.” Acts‬ ‭28‬:‭1‬-‭6‬
They had survived the shipwreck, now they faced both rain and cold. Hypothermia was a real danger. The natives of the island received them kindly and stepped up to help. The island was called Malta.
Paul, being a prisoner was most likely forced to work and gather wood for the fire. Then it happened. As Paul approached the fire, the heat warmed a dormant viper that was hidden in his bundle and it suddenly fastened on his hand. It was deadly poisonous, and it was clinging to Paul for some time.
When the natives saw the viper clinging to his hand, they started saying to one another; “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.”
Shortly, Paul was able to shake it into the fire, but suffered no harm. They were expecting immediate death. It was deadly poisonous. As Paul continued on with no affect, they changed their minds and concluded he was a god. The miracle became a huge open door for the gospel.
This event lines up exactly with Mark 16:15-18. Let me quote the text; “15) And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16) He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17) These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18) they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”” Mark‬ ‭16‬:‭15‬-‭18‬
The more I study miracles among believers in the early church, I am discovering their faith transformed them into a new life in Christ through His Spirit. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set them free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
At first it sounds radical, but they seemed to be transformed from living by the laws that govern the physical body by faith and were entering into new life in the Spirit. It affected everything about them, including their mortal bodies. (See Romans 8:9-11)
This study of the book of Acts has prompted some sincere questions in me. For example; were the early Christian’s literally operating by the laws of the Spirit rather than the laws flesh? By faith, had they actually enter into new life in the Spirit as spoken of in texts like Romans 6:8-14, Romans 8:5-14, 1 Corinthians 5:17, 2 Corinthians 3:4-9, Galatians 5:16-25, Galatians 6:7-8, Ephesians 4:22-24 and 1 Peter 1:2-3.
Could it be that what the modern church interprets as figurative… the early church understood as literal? Did they actually step into “new life in Christ” rather than the old life governed by the flesh and death?
In the same way, could it be that what the modern church views as future tense they started experiencing in the present tense? Were they experiencing life on a new and higher level through the Spirit that was above the usual laws of sin and of death? Were they living according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh? To what extent did they enter into “Zoe life” versus regular “bios life”?
Let me ask it another way, can snake bites and poison kill the spirit or merely the flesh? Was Paul living on a higher level “in Christ” through the Spirit and therefore the viper bite did not kill him? Take a moment to ponder that question!
Does this help explain the difference between the signs, wonders, miracles, healings and deliverances in the early church compared to the modern church? Did they take their position and authority “in Christ” more literally and therefore by faith actually live a higher level of life in the Spirit? More important, is the same level of life available for us today if we understand it and step into the full benefits of our “new life in Christ” by faith?
I confess, this study of the book of Acts is opening my eyes to an understanding of Scripture I have previously not seriously pondered. There is no doubt that the modern western church views God and Scripture through the lens of naturalism and interprets the Bible figuratively. But the early church viewed God and Scripture through the lens of supernaturalism and by faith entered into the new life “in Christ” literally. Did it happened for them just as Jesus taught?
I believe that God has not changed. He still works the same way today through His Spirit. But the western church has radically changed and become Christian agnostics that question and deny the power and promises of God.
However, God is doing the same signs and wonders in many 3rd world churches today as He did in the book of Acts. My doubts are being exposed and my faith is being stretched.
I am seeing new and refreshing insights in Scripture. I don’t want to miss anything God has for me through faith “in Christ” and His indwelling Holy Spirit.
I am seeing that this “New Life Principle” is taught throughout the entire New Testament. We are called to live on the new level of the Spirit and not on the old level of the flesh.
Let’s return to the story. Compared to themselves, the crowd that witnessed the viper bite concluded that Paul was living on a divine level. He survived what would have killed them. Did their observation have merit? (See 2 Peter 1:3-4)
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global