Today the viper incident stood out to me. Paul was just going about daily life, not preaching, not teaching, not in prayer or in the Word or in fellowship or in worship. He was doing chores. Jesus said, “These signs will follow those who believe … they will take up serpents …” (Mar 16:17-18). Luke records that Paul said or did nothing other than to shake the snake off into the fire. He didn’t pray. He didn’t say, “In the name of Jesus, I rebuke viper poison!” He just shook the snake off, and went about his business unconcerned.
The Holy Spirit was still doing signs through Paul, because he was one of those who believe, even while he was going about his business doing chores. Because of the sign, again, a platform was given Paul, an open door, to preach the Word, and to lay hands on the sick and heal them.
When the same Spirit that raised Messiah from the dead dwells in us (Rom 8:11), and we are one of those who believe, He is not limited just because we are at work or taking care of children or doing chores. He is not limited just because we have daily obligations and daily work. He can work through us at any time, at any place, and in any situation. We just need to have “ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches (Rev 2:7);” the churches, of course, being made up of individual believers, each one having ears to hear in the midst of our daily work and daily chores.
This incident also stood out to me, because it doesn’t sound like what we have learned from the televangelists that we are supposed to do in order to prevent something bad from happening after getting bit by a snake.
Jesus said, “These signs will follow those who believe.” If the belief is there in the heart, then what else is necessary? Belief works. Paul knew that he knew that he knew that he believed, and therefore the snake bite had no effect. But for another person, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Rom 10:17). Speaking the Word outloud so that our ears can hear it, increases our own faith, so that we can get to the level of belief that we need in the Word of God, the level that Paul already had at the end of his life and ministry.
When Paul arrived in Rome, he met with the Jews first – never deviating from his pattern that he established at the very beginning of his ministry, of going to the Jews first. Then he lived in his own rented house, under house arrest. Someone under house arrest could live in relative freedom and comfort in their own house, but they did not have freedom of movement. They could not leave their house. A Roman soldier was with him there at all times, so that he was available to the emperor when his case finally came up to be heard.
So Paul’s friends and the people who cared for him had to come to him. His food and clothing and anything else he required was brought to him by Luke or anyone else who was with him and cared for him. I imagine the church at Rome came to regular meetings at his house.
Paul was tried before Nero at the end of two years. Nero was depraved, who hated the Christians because they had reproved him for his depravity. Paul was condemned. As a Roman citizen, he was beheaded on the Appian Way outside Rome (rather than crucified). The church at Rome took his body, and tradition says that it was buried in the sepulcher of a wealthy woman in the church. The Vatican recently ran tests on the traditional tomb of St Paul, and concluded that the remains inside were indeed those of the apostle.
The time of Paul’s death is traditionally placed at 64 AD. His life is an example to us, of the difference one man can make in the world, living a life completely submitted to God, and to unwavering belief in His Word.