Acts 27 - Outline of Acts (MENU page)
"I would go to the ends of the earth for you! There is nothing that I would not do for you!" Such words are often on the lips of star-struck young lovers... and they really mean what they say... at the moment... but will they follow through, when the stars are hidden by storm clouds, and the journey becomes more difficult than they ever could have imagined?
 
As we have seen, in the latter half of the book of Acts, the apostle Paul did not falter from following hard after his Lord. He was moved by love for the One "who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20). At the very beginning of his walk with the Lord, Paul's course had been mapped out before him, by the Lord: "...for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake." (Acts 9:15,16; See also 2Corinthians 4:1-18.)
 
During his ministry among the Gentiles, "Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome" (Acts 19:21). Though he knew that terrible trials awaited him in Jerusalem, he pressed on... "for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13). Paul had come close to dying there, for the opportunity to give his testimony to his own Jewish people, and to tell them that Jesus is their long awaited Messiah. But the Lord had protected him from his enemies, through the secular military and judicial systems. He was, indeed, bound in Jerusalem... and then kept in prison in Caesarea for more than two years. After Festus became governor, and re-opened his case, Paul seeing that justice was about to be perverted in a way that would threaten his life, had appealed to the highest court, that of Caesar in Rome. His appeal opened opportunities to proclaim the Gospel to king Herod Agrippa and to other high government officials, as they prepared the charging documents that would accompany the prisoner.
 
During his imprisonment in Caesarea, Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, which opens with Paul's desire to visit them (Rom 1:8-10). His journey to Rome is the subject of Acts ch. 27-28 (to which we come today). It is the account of a terrifying storm, and shipwreck. Some question how this could have been "a prosperous journey by the will of God." Yet, that is how Paul regarded it. The will of God is not always the easy path. But it is the path that prospers unto eternal life. Late in his life, while imprisoned in Rome awaiting execution, he wrote to Timothy: "...I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound" (2Tim 2:9). In another letter, also written from prison in Rome, Paul wrote: "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel..." (Php 1:12)
 
1. And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy,
they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto [one] named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band.
2 And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia;
[one] Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.
Paul is on his way to Rome.
The orders determined by government officials, were in fulfilment of the Lord's prior promise, that Paul must bear witness in Rome (Acts 23:11). Nothing can change what God has determined.
"We," in v.1, indicates that Luke, the author of the book of Acts, is on board.
Paul is one of several prisoners, under the guard of the soldiers of "Augustus' band," a select group on direct assignment from the emperor. The other prisoners were, no doubt, charged with serious crimes of murder and sedition. Their fates were already sealed. They were men without hope. For they knew they would soon be feeding the lions for the emperor's entertainment. Although not mentioned in the record, it is possible that during this journey, many of these hopeless men responded, in faith, to the Gospel of Christ, to receive remission of sins, the new birth, and a "lively {ie., living} hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1Pet 1:3). It is certain that Paul would not have withheld the Gospel from them.
The ship, based in Adramyttium (about 50 miles east-southeast of Troas) was headed back home.
Although this ship was not going to Italy, it would suffice for the first leg of their journey.
     Aristarchus, one of Paul's traveling companions, lived in the nearby region of Macedonia. Perhaps, he was intending to visit his family. Aristarchus is mentioned in Acts 19:29; Col 4:10; Phm 1:24.
3 And the next [day] we touched at Sidon.
And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave [him] liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.
At Sidon, the favor which Julius showed to Paul may suggest that he, too, had become a believer. At the very least, he recognized that Paul was very different from other prisoners.
4 And when we had launched from thence,
we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.
5 And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia,
we came to Myra, [a city] of Lycia.
6 And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.
The prevailing winds in the Mediterranean Sea, are from west to east, making travel toward the west a challenge. The ship followed the coastline of Asia Minor (Cilicia and Pamphylia are regions along the southern coast). At Myra, they boarded another ship, this one based in Alexandria (Egypt), was enroute to Italy. It was probably carrying grain, from Egypt.
7 And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus,
the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone;
8 And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens;
nigh whereunto was the city [of] Lasea.
9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous,
because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished [them],
10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage,
not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.
11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship,
more than those things which were spoken by Paul.
12. And because the haven was not commodious to winter in,
the more part advised to depart thence also,
if by any means they might attain to Phenice, [and there] to winter;
[which is] an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.
13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained [their] purpose,
loosing [thence], they sailed close by Crete.
Passing Cnidus (a city on the southwestern coast of Turkey), they sailed by the island of Crete. (v.7,8)
Salmone, Lasea, Fair Havens and Phenice are cities on the island of Crete. Salmone is on the eastern tip. Fair Havens, and Lasea are near the midpoint of the island, on the southern coast, about 80 miles west of Salmone. Phenice, also on the island's southern coast, was about 40 miles west of Fair Havens.
The contrary winds made sailing difficult.
The lateness of the season, after "the fast" (ie., the Day of Atonement, Lev 23:27-29), in late September or early October, made sailing dangerous because of winter storms. Paul's warning, though prompted by the Holy Spirit, may have been discounted (by the centurion) as the anxious fears of a land lubber. The captain was aware of the dangers. At this late date, he would not think of pressing the trip to Italy. He just wanted to get to a more comfortable port in which to spend the winter. Phenice (Phoenix) was an easy 40 miles away. They could follow the island coast the whole way.
     But the wisdom from God proved correct. The wisdom of man's experience "supposed" they had obtained their purpose when the south wind blew softly. God knows and controls the future. Men can only guess at what will happen from what the present situation appears to be.
14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.
15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let [her] drive.
16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:
17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship;
and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.
18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next [day] they lightened the ship;
19 And the third [day] we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
20 And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on [us],
all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
"But not long after..."
What should have been an easy day's journey, turned into two weeks of terror. The account is filled with sailing terms and techniques, which are not found elsewhere in the NT. Paul refers (in 2Cor 11:25,26) to suffering "perils in the sea" including three shipwrecks and a night and a day in the deep. Yet, 2Corinthians was written at the close of his third missionary journey, two years prior to the experience described in Acts 27. This is the only account of his seafaring dangers.
     Without warning, the soft south wind (v.13) quickly became a tremendous hurricane like storm. "Euroclydon" is a composite of two GK words: 'euro,' meaning from the northeast; and 'kludon,' a raging. This was a tempestuous {GK=tuphonikos, typhonic, whirlwind} wind {GK=anemos, violently agitated air}.
     The ship's course was uncontrollable (v.15). When they passed near the island of Clauda (also called Cauda, or Gaudos), the ship's boat (GK=skaphe, skiff, lifeboat, or landing craft), was in danger of being lost. It was secured in place only with great difficulty. Perhaps it had been lowered in the process of "undergirding" the ship with "helps" (ie., ropes, which were pulled under and around the hull to brace the timbers against the violent waves, and to draw them more tightly together to minimize the many leaks).
     Clauda is 25 miles due south of Phenice. They had traveled the intended distance from Fair Havens, but the fierce winds had blown them off course.
     They became alarmed that the storm was carrying them rapidly away from the islands toward the southwest, which raised fears of falling into the quicksands {GK=surtis, The Greater and Lesser Syrtis are regions of shallow water and sand bars off the northern coast of Africa, in which many ships had been lost before}. They raised the sail in hope of being blown in a different direction. So much for an easy day's journey to a better port.
     Over the next few days, they lightened the ship. They could not bail fast enough to stay ahead of the inflow of water, whether over the deck or through the seams in the hull. Cargo and rigging were easier to grab and cast overboard. But they knew they were fighting a losing battle. If the storm did not let up, they would be lost.
21. But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them,
and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me,
and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.
22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer:
for there shall be no loss of [any man's] life among you, but of the ship.
23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar:
and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.
"After long abstinence [ie., from food]..."-
Since the storm began, there was nothing normal about life on this ship. There had been nothing resembling a regular meal.
Paul stood forth, taking his stand based on the authority of God.
"You should have listened to me..." (v.21 with v.9-11) - Paul was not saying "I told you so."
Rather, he was reminding them that God's word of warning (delivered through Paul)... the word which they had received, but ignored... was true.
Then, based upon a new message from his God, he encouraged them that not one of them would lose their lives.
  • "Be of good cheer..." - Really? We have lost all hope that any of us should be saved. Why should we take heart?
  • "For an angel of the God, whose I am, and whom I serve..." has given me a message.
    Does God's Word comfort you in the midst of impossible reverses? If not, perhaps it is because you do not truly know the God who stands behind His Word. Paul could confidently say: 'I truly belong to Him! I truly serve Him!' ...Can you?
  • "Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar..."
    God's purposes had not changed: "...as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome" (Acts 23:11). Nothing would interfere with God's fore-ordained purpose for His servant.
    'But Paul, we are heathen sailors and prisoners, we do not know your God.'
  • Listen to the rest of the angel's message: "and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee."
    That the lives of these men were "given" to Paul, suggests that he had been asking for them, in prayer. Here is one of the areas where we fail. For there are lost men and women, for whom we are not asking. "Ye have not because ye ask not..." and when we do ask, it is often for things that have no eternal value (James 4:2,3).
  • "Wherefore, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it will be even as it was told me."
    Paul knew what God had said. He knew that God always keeps His word. Notice that Paul did not say "I believe in God" (ie., that he exists somewhere), but rather "I believe God." 'I trust Him completely. He will keep His Word.'
  • "Howbeit, we must be cast upon a certain island."
    God had appointed a specific place of refuge. They "must" necessarily land there.
    That they would be "cast upon" that island did not imply a gentle landing.
27 But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria,
about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country;
28 And sounded, and found [it] twenty fathoms:
and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again,
and found [it] fifteen fathoms.
29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks,
they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.
30 And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship,
when they had let down the boat into the sea,
under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,
31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers,
Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.
Driven up and down through the Mediterranean Sea (in the region joining the Adriatic Sea), the sailors had no idea where they were, when they sensed that land was near. The sailors, under pretense of tending to anchors, were about to make their escape in the skiff. But the promise which God had given Paul was that "all that sail with thee" would be saved (v.24). They all needed to stay together. Could God have saved Paul and the others without the sailors? Yes. But God usually accomplishes His purposes by supernatural oversight of human instrumentality. As He had used the Roman soldiers to protect Paul in Jerusalem, He would use the skill of the sailors in the process of bringing everyone safe to shore.
33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought [them] all to take meat, saying,
This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.
34 Wherefore I pray you to take [some] meat: for this is for your health:
for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.
35 And when he had thus spoken, he took bread,
and gave thanks to God in presence of them all:
and when he had broken [it], he began to eat.
36 Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took [some] meat.
37 And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.
38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.
The men had been fasting... some perhaps for religious reasons, asking their gods to intervene...
others, engaged in the continual battle with the sea, had taken only a bite here and there. Why eat when we are all about to perish?
     Paul encouraged them with the assurance that he had received from God: "no one will lose their lives, no one will lose even a hair of their head."
     His prayer of thanksgiving, and his example of partaking of food, conveyed assurance to the others. "Then were they all of good cheer..." One man's faith in his God, gave hope to others who did not know Him.
39 And when it was day, they knew not the land:
but they discovered a certain creek with a shore,
into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.
40 And when they had taken up the anchors,
they committed [themselves] unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands,
and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground;
and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable,
but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.
42 And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
43 But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from [their] purpose;
and commanded that they which could swim should cast [themselves] first [into the sea], and get to land:
44 And the rest, some on boards, and some on [broken pieces] of the ship.
And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
The sailors attempted to guide the ship into "a certain creek {or, bay} with a shore {or, beach}."
They failed. But God succeeded in bringing all 276 men safely to the land.
The sea was not the only hazard which had to be overcome.
The soldiers would have killed all of the prisoners, to save themselves, because the penalty for allowing prisoners to escape was death. But through the favor which the centurion had toward Paul, the prisoners were spared.

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