“Once safely on shore, we found out that the islandwas called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.” Acts 28.1-6
Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was able to do amazing things in the name of Jesus. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and as we see in this passage, avoided the venom of a very poisonous snake. God had greater uses for Paul then having him die on an obscure island of Malta.
And speaking of Malta, this was their claim to fame. They had been visited by the apostle Paul. On a cruise in the Mediterranean several years ago we stopped at the island and went into a chapel where they were said to have had a relic of Paul, specifically one of his wrist bones (for more visit www.atlasobscura.com.) You will see this on the the island as well as a statue of Paul and two cathedrals in his name.
However, when Paul did not die by the snake which bit him, they “changed their minds and said he was a god.” First, because of the snakes attachment to his hand, they said he was a murderer. Aren’t people fickle? From murdered to god in just a matter of minutes! But the point is, Paul was so filled by the Holy Spirit that he was doing things that gave him a god-like appearance. He had rejected this claim earlier in his ministry in Acts 14.12.
But in truth, we are to take on God’s qualities while not being gods ourselves. C.S. Lewis said in “Mere Christianity”, “Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.” It is our goal in life to become like Jesus, like God, in word and deed. Lewis claims this is the whole purpose of becoming a Christian. Consider that for a moment, our purpose on this earth is to be like Christ and to be with Christ. It’s all about relationships. God is a relational God. He models this for us in the trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The relational aspect of the divine must spur us to relate to God and encourage others to do the same.
We are not gods and never will be. But we do belong to God and we have his very image. Angels are not designed in God’s image, neither are animals. Only humans, male and female, are made in the likeness of our God. It is our goal in life to imitate Him by affirming the words written by Paul himself, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma,” (Ephesians 5.1-2).
“O Lord God, people crave worship of many things. We see how our society worship entertainers, athletes, politicians and those who are famous just for being famous. But as we know, beauty fades, but your Word remains the same. You are our God, you are our Lord. You live in purity, holiness and love. Help us know you better by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Open the eyes of the blind so all might see your goodness and grace. I love you Lord and praise your name. Thank you for being my healer and sustainer. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen