The Acts of the Apostles
Introduction – In this Session, we will cover all of chapter 27. We will move quickly through the shipwreck narrative because it is an exciting account and I would not want to hold us in suspense and divide this chapter into two Sessions. As we travel through the narrative in chapter 27, I would like us to consider the following:
1 – The spiritual warfare against Paul shifts from religious and political persecution, to a massive storm being manifested on the Mediterranean that almost takes the lives of Paul and the 276 passengers on the ship.
2 – Godly character in our lives gives us favor with unbelievers.
3 – Faith in God’s word is a powerful dynamic that not only strengthens us, but strengthens those who hear it.
4 – The Lord will always accomplish His word and we can trust Him in every situation.
For the sake of time, let’s jump right into the text.
a) At this point, Paul begins what many call his Fourth Missionary Journey. Although this was not a planned Missionary Journey like the previous three, Paul is a walking open heaven, and signs, wonders, encounters, healings and salvations happen because he is present. Paul walks in a naturally supernatural lifestyle, so everywhere he is, so is the Kingdom of God.
b) Paul was travelling with other prisoners on their way to Rome. This would have been a mix of some on trial like Paul, and some condemned to die in the Circus Maximus in Rome. It was common for Roman troops to accompany merchant ships, providing security from pirates, and transporting prisoners. Paul was travelling under the covering of the Augustan Cohort, led by Julius.
c) Aristarchus is mentioned specifically in verse 2. He was a representative of the Thessalonian Church’s gifts to the Jerusalem Church and apparently stayed with Paul through his incarceration. Aristarchus is mentioned in Colossians and Philemon, and at some point, was taken into custody and jailed with Paul in Rome. Thank God for faithful friends and partners who are faithful to us in the worst of times. Paul was probably travelling with Timothy, Aristarchus, and Luke.
d) Julius showed Paul kindness. Godly character releases favor on our lives. Colossians 4:5 – Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Proverbs 4:6 – Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
e) Paul meets the Church in Sidon and most likely ministers to them and takes an offering to support himself on the journey. They change ships and continue their way. The ship was probably full of grain and goods from Egypt on its way to Rome.
a) Verse 9 gives us a time stamp of Fall of AD59. The day of Atonement is Yom Kippur, which would have been October 5 that year. Maritime historians said that the window of navigating the Mediterranean Sea would be best in Spring through Summer. Beginning in September to November it was very risky to sail. In winter, it was a death sentence.
b) By this time, Paul had already been in 3 shipwrecks. 2 Corinthians 11:25 – Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. Paul was speaking from experience when he warned Julius the Centurion. At this point, Paul had travelled approximately 3,500 miles on the sea if wencount his 3 Missionary Journeys. The ship owner and the pilot won the decision to travel.
a) The captain saw a gentle wind and decided to sail. The type of storm that they encounter was not called a Northeaster. That is an English idiom to describe a terrible storm. The storm in the Greek was an EURAKYLŌN (violent storm from the European Continent). This type of storm is so violent that they were unable to navigate. All they could do is yield to it and be pressed along by the storm.
b) We learn about ancient sailing and life-saving protocol from the account of the storm. 1 – Cables were used to keep the hull of the boat from leaking and from breaking apart from the repetitive crashing of the waves. 2- The life boat was towed behind the ship. Notice Luke’s reference to “we”. They were probably all forced into labor to survive and secure the lifeboat. 3 – The Syrtis sandbars were located off Northern Africa. This area is one of the most dangerous sailing areas of the whole Mediterranean. They lowered the sails so that they would not be driven into that area by the direction of the wind. 4 – Throwing cargo overboard would have lightened the ship so that it would have a higher draft in the water. It would minimize the water that the ship was taking on. 5 – No sun, moon or stars meant that there was no way to navigate.
c) “Gave up all hope” – There are times in our lives where there is no other place to turn, except to Jesus.
a) The text mentions they had gone a long time without food. This was due to the motion sickness.
b) Paul gives the crew a good preacher, “I told you so”.
c) We should note that Paul received revelation because he pressed in and strengthened himself in God in a time of trouble. We know from Acts 19:21 and Acts 23:11 that God promised him he would appear before Caesar. We can rightly assume that during the storm, Paul pressed into the promises of God and the Lord sent an angel to confirm His words. Words from God break fear in our lives.
d) The crew is saved because of Paul. The favor on Paul’s life extended to those around him.
e) Paul believed God. Faith is an anchor and the unmovable confidence in what
God says is true. Faith promoted Paul from prisoner to leader, because of his faith and hope in God’s words. Paul gets a word of knowledge that would be shipwrecked on an island.
a) This was a 14-day storm and these men were aware that land was near because of the sound of crashing waves. Their response was dropping anchors and praying. Without daylight, there would be no way to steer the ship in order to ground it.
b) Some of the crew tried to escape via the lifeboat. Notice that Paul is leading the ship. Paul’s demonstration of faith, and his words of hope positioned him to be heard and respected.
a) They would have needed to eat, so that they would have the energy to swim ashore and survive.
b) Notice that we have an indirect reference to the Lord’s Supper in the text. Most scholars see Paul celebrating Communion and extending the grace of God to the others.
a) Paul’s word of knowledge about the ship running aground on an island comes just as he prophesied it.
b) As the boat begins to break up, 276 people were in the hands of God for their survival. God’s word to Paul and his faith in the Lord was the catalyst for the intervention of God.
c) The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners because it was customary for a Roman soldier who lost a prisoner, to suffer the same penalty as the lost prisoner. The favor of God on Paul’s life delivered all of them.
d) They all reached shore just as God said to Paul. Proverbs 30:5 – Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.