Acts Chapter Twenty Seven,
Paul's Fourth Missionary Journey
In our study of Acts chapter twenty seven, we look at what is
Paul's fourth missionary journey which is his trip to Rome to share the gospel. Although
most scholars do not label this trip as one of "Paul's missionary journeys", we shall
see that, although it was not an ordinary missions trip, it still had the same
When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some
other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the
We remember that Luke was the writer of the book of Acts and so is
included in the "we" here. So, Paul is placed in the custody of a centurion who was in
the Imperial Regiment. This Roman regiment was an elite corps of soldiers that were
created to be the emperor's personal guards. They received double pay and special
privileges and every soldier in the regiment had the same rank as a centurion in the
We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along
the coast of the province of Asia and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from
Thessalonica, was with us.
They boarded a ship that was ready to sail from a port city called
Adramyttium which was located just a little north of Pergamum in Asia Minor. The "we"
also included Ariatarchus who had been a fellow worker with Paul. It is interesting to
note that he, as well as Luke, were not prisoners and so were not required to go but
they went to be with their brother in Christ.
The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul,
allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.
The first stop on this trip was the city of Sidon which is in what
we call Lebanon today. We see, here, that the soldier granted Paul a very unusual
liberty in letting him go to see his friends. This is just another example of how God
takes care of his people especially when they are about doing His business.
From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus
because the winds were against us.
So they wanted to head straight to Rome but the winds were against
them and so they passed southeast of Cyprus following the coast of Asia Minor.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in circumstances where it seems that things (the wind) is
against us and we wonder why it is happening if we are in the will of God. Paul was
right smack in the will of God and yet it did not seem like smooth easy sailing for
them. We can take heart in that and remember that Jesus said that it was going to be
difficult to follow Him especially in the last days.
When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and
Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia.
Myra in Lycia is in the southern part of what is now Turkey.
Although it is not there today, it was a thriving port city at this time. Near the city
was a fertile plain and grain was sent from there to Rome.
There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and
put us on board.
In this thriving port city, the centurion was able to find a ship
headed for Italy. It was a ship from Egypt as there were many ships from Egypt that
stopped there on their way to Italy with grain.
Acts 27:7 & 8
We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off
Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of
Crete, opposite of Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place
called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.
Once again, the winds did not allow the ship to take the course
that they wanted. They ended up landing in a port located on Crete which was a good
place to wait out the weather. Even today, this port is used as a shipping and storage
depot. Many point to these struggles with the winds and say that God was intervening to
try to stop Paul from going to Rome but that is not so. As we shall see, these winds had
brought them to a safe spot where they could rest and wait on God. It is a reminder to
us that we can trust God in all things even with winds that seem to be against us.
Acts 27:9 & 10
Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous
because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 'Men, I can see that our
voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own
Paul could see the hand of God at work in bringing them to this
safe port. The Fast is talking about the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and it was the
first part of the year with winter beginning (not a good time for sailing across the
ocean). He knew that God had brought them here to wait out the weather and protect them.
If we are His children doing His will, then, that same God will guide and protect us as
Acts 27:11 & 12
But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed
the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to
winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and
winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.
Those in charge did not listen to Paul but instead decided that
they should move on. They were hoping to make it to Phoenix which was a sheltered port
where they could spend the winter in safety. Like Paul, we may try to tell people of
what God is doing but only the Holy Spirit can tell their hearts that it is the
Acts 27:13 & 14
When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had
obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.
Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the 'northeaster', swept down from
They thought that they were right as they left with a nice wind to
send them on their way but it changed very quickly and they were trapped in bad weather.
This is what can easily happen when you do not listen and follow what God tells you to
do. Satan and our own hearts can lead us in another direction and, before we know what
hit us, we are in a mess.
Acts 27:15 & 16
The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind;
so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island
called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure.
Once inside the storm, they no longer had control of where they
were going and their focus shifted to survival as they tried to hold onto the lifeboat.
This is the very picture of what can happen, even in the life of a Christian, once you
take a wrong turn and get caught up in a storm. The good news is that we do not have to
worry about losing our lifeboat (Jesus Christ).
When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the
ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of
Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along.
On the first day of the storm, they were so scared that they tried
to hold the ship together with ropes and set the anchor to try and slow themselves down.
This is a picture of what can happen when we do not accept the correction of the Holy
Spirit and get back into the will of God. If these people would have listened to Paul
(through the power of the Spirit), they would not be in this mess. Instead, God is going
to turn up the heat to get their attention. He will do the same for us (if we are His
children) because of His knowledge of what is best for us and His love that wants us to
have the best.
We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day
they began to throw the cargo overboard.
The second day is worse as the men throw their only way of making a
living overboard. You see, this was a cargo ship and the crew received a part of the
profits when the cargo was delivered. In this case, no delivery means no profits and no
Acts 27:19 & 20
On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their
own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued
raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
Finally, they gave up all hope and realized that they were at the
mercy of others. It is much the same for us as we often try all kinds of things on our
own instead of simply trusting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. When we
finally are at the end of our abilities and still have no hope, that is when we can see
the true hope which can only be found in Jesus.
Acts 27:21 & 22
After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up
before them and said: 'Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then
you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up
your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.'
At the darkest point when the crew thought that they were even
going to lose their lives, Paul encourages them. First, he reminds them that, if they
had listened to God speaking through him, they would not be in their current mess. Then,
he encourages them by telling them that not a single man would lose his life in this
Acts 27:23 & 24
Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood
beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God
has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.'
Paul explains to the men that, since they are on the ship with him,
God has granted them safety and they will not lose their lives. This is a picture of our
lives and Christ. If we are with Him, then we, too, have been granted eternal life. It
is also what happened in the days of Noah and the ark. In all of these cases, it is
simply because of the grace of God that lives are spared.
Acts 27:25 & 26
'So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will
happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.'
Paul encourages the men by his faith but reminds them that their
choice has consequences and therefore they must run aground somewhere. This passage
reminds us that, when we get out of the will of God for our lives, things happen. This
is not God punishing us but simply the fact that our choices have consequences. Even in
our bad choices, we are still God's children and He is behind the scenes looking out for
our best interests.
On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the
Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. They
took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time
later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. Fearing that we would
be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for
So, after fourteen days they were approaching land. They measured
the depth of the water and found that it was getting shallower (they were approaching
land). They did everything they could to slow the ship down and then prayed for morning
so that they could see. It is interesting to note that they prayed after they had done
everything else they could think of. Instead of resting in the promise that God had
given Paul, they still trusted in their own hands. It seems that many of us (Christians)
actually do the same thing, instead of turning to God first, many times it is our last
Acts 27:30 & 31
In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat
down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then
Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, 'Unless these men stay with the ship, you
cannot be saved.'
So the sailors were terrified and tried to escape into the
lifeboat. Paul informed the soldiers that they must stay with the ship for God promised
that, if they did, their lives would be spared. The soldiers were supposed to get the
prisoners to Rome safely and, if they escaped, the soldiers could lose their life. This,
too, is a picture of how many times during the storms of life we forget about what God
has told us and how He will protect us and we try to do things on our own. Like the
sailors here, we must stay in God's will (the ship) and we can be assured that God is
going to take care of us.
So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it
In order to keep them safe, the soldiers had to get rid of the
lifeboat. The sailors would have thought that this was cruel because they did not have
faith in God and His words. The same type of thing happens even today when you try to
help some people that do not know the Lord. We have heard the expression "tough love"
and sometimes that is necessary to get people to the low point in their lives where they
can look up and see the Lord. This is the same type of thing that Paul was talking about
in his letter to Timothy when he talked of handing two men over to Satan (see 1 Timothy
Acts 27:33 & 34
Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. 'For the last fourteen
days,' he said, 'you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food - you
haven't eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not
one of you will lose a single hair from his head.'
Paul continues to minister to the sailors as he urges them to eat.
He reminds them of God's promise that they will be spared. Sometimes, we all need to be
reminded of the promises that God has made and the fact that He keeps His promises.
After he had said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God
in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and
ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten
as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.
Paul once again points to the provision of God as he gives thanks
for the food. The sailors are lifted up as they watch this great man of faith and they
eat as well. This is a good reminder that those who do not know Jesus are constantly
observing us and even more so during difficult times. Our reaction to the struggles can
be a big witness to them of God's care for His people.
Acts 27:39 & 40
When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a
bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could.
Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the
ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the
In the dark of the night, they trusted in the Lord but when morning
came they trusted in their eyes. When they saw land, they immediately went into action
to get there on their own. That is how many people try to walk with the Lord as they
turn to Him in the difficult times when they cannot see any other option. But, like the
sailors and the land in the morning, when the tough time is past, they go back to doing
things based on their own wisdom and what they see.
But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast
and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.
Their wisdom and actions came to nothing as the ship was grounded
and broken to pieces. We do not know why God did not allow them to just sail on into the
harbor but we know that He is in control. This type of thing happens to Christians as
well many times. We can get to following our own wisdom instead of listening and
following the Holy Spirit which will often leave us hung up on a sandbar and feeling
alone. But, we can take comfort in the fact that God is in control and waiting for us to
just trust and listen to His ways and not our own.
The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them
from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul's life and kept
them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard
first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In
this way everyone reached land in safety.
Now, we see an unscheduled stop on Paul's mission trip but we also
see God's favor on him. The soldiers wanted to kill all of them so they would not escape
but God caused the centurion to show mercy to Paul and through that all of the others
were saved as well. If we are in Christ, then, God's favor is on us as well. Like those
who were with Paul, those around us can witness that favor in action and that provides
us with an opportunity to tell them about God.