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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 purpose.

Acts 27:1

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 Imperial Regiment.

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 regular legions.

Acts 27:2

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.

Acts 27:3

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.

Acts 27:4

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.

Acts 27:5

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.

Acts 27:6

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 lives also.'

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 well.

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 truth.

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 the island.

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).

Acts 27:17

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.

Acts 27:18

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 income.

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 storm.

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.

Acts 27:27-29

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 daylight.

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 resort.

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.

Acts 27:32

So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.

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 1:20).

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.

Acts 27:35-38

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 beach.

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.

Acts 27:41

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.

Acts 27:42-44

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.

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