Shake Off The Snake Of Moral Goodness
After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live." He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. — Acts 28:1-6
So remember Paul has just shipwrecked. About 300 passengers are stranded on a small island called Malta. And they encounter a welcoming tribal people that take them in. As they are trying to warm up because it's winter and they are wet, Paul grabs a bundle of sticks to throw on the fire. A snake launches at Paul from the fire, biting him on his hand. And, of course, it's a viper. The viper family of snakes are the most deadly in the world, killing most in about 10-30 minutes.
But then nothing happens to Paul. He just shakes off the snake. And this messes with the theology and justice of the Maltan people. They believed that this was justice being handed down to Paul for wrongdoing. But when nothing happens to Paul, they decide that he is a god himself because this is the only wrong conclusion they can make from flawed theological assumptions.
This is a perfect illustration of the problem with bad theology. While an assumption may come from genuine reverence, if it is based on an untruth and makes the wrong connections, it will end up trying to reconcile itself with further wrong assumptions. So, for example, just consider the progress of their bad theology. Paul is a prisoner, so he is guilty of something. He doesn't drown at sea, but he is bitten. Viper bites are equivalent to justice. But the bite does not affect Paul. Therefore the only right conclusion is Paul is a god and morally good. He is pronounced not guilty by the Maltan people.
We all know that Paul is not a god and not morally good. But the Maltan people have the same issue all people have when it comes to understanding God — we want to make ourselves into gods. We want to believe that if we are good or moral enough, then nothing bad will happen to us. Because in our minds, morally good people do not deserve anything bad. But the truth is that bad things like shipwrecks, viper bites, tornadoes, and covid happen to everyone. These circumstances are signs. But they are more signs of fallen people living in a fallen world. They are not signs to elevate ourselves as gods. But signs to point us to the one God. They point us to the truth that we will all meet judgment one day, and that day it will come quickly like a viper bite in the night. And on that day, we should be prepared to meet with the God of perfect justice.
But do you know why Paul didn't die from the viper bite? There is only one reason. Jesus made a promise to him. Jesus promised Paul that he would make it to Rome. And Jesus makes good on his promises. And it was this promise that saved him and nothing else. Remember it was back in Acts 23:11 where Jesus made the promise:
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome." — Acts 23:11
Today trust in God's promises, not in your moral goodness. Shake off the snake of moral goodness and trust in the promise he made to you.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16
ASK THIS: How are you trusting in your morality over Jesus's promises? (Be honest.)
DO THIS: Find a promise in scripture, and trust in it. (Share it below.)
PRAY THIS: God, I put too much trust in my ingenuity. I put too much faith in my effort. I put too much trust in my moral goodness. I need to trust you in my present circumstance. Please show me your ways and let me trust only in you.
PLAY THIS: Anthony Brown – Trust In You.
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Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.