FAITH IN GOD’S PROVIDENCE CAN SPILL OVER TO IMPACT UNBELIEVERS AROUND US
Raging storms and fearful shipwrecks are common metaphors for the difficult times that we can experience in life. What is our demeanor during these crisis moments? What type of faith in God and leadership traits do we portray? How strong is our confidence in the Providence of God and His presence with us and loving care for us during those times that seem hopeless from a natural perspective?
Sometimes our demeanor and faith in God during such times of crisis can prove to be a blessing to non-believers as well. Such was the case with Paul’s experience as he was being transported by sea to Rome under centurion guard along with a group of other prisoners.
Frank Allen: It was evidently the latter part of the summer when Festus had completed arrangements to send Paul to Rome. He was committed, with certain other prisoners, to the care of a centurion named Julius who was in charge of a band of Roman soldiers. The first ship in which they sailed was bound for the north-east part of the Aegean Sea, to a place called Adramyttium. Two of Paul’s friends were with him, Luke, the writer of this narrative, and Aristarchus of Thessalonica. It seems to have taken about two months to complete the voyage.
Brian Bell: The last 2 chapters are an extensive travel narrative, which include: the route followed, landmarks passed, heavy use of technical seafaring terminology, & ancient sailing techniques; but most importantly some great practical wisdom during life’s crisis!
Dr. Liam Goligher: I don’t think there’s anything more terrifying than a wreck, whether it’s a car wreck or a plane crash, or a shipwreck. Perhaps the shipwreck is the most terrifying of all because of the prolonged agony that the passengers and the crew endure. Here in Acts 27, we have the best account from the ancient world of a shipwreck. It’s a one-of-a-kind thing. It’s one of the best told stories in ancient history. It’s also the product of an eyewitness. Luke, who writes it, was there. He is accurate in terms of the route the ship took, ancient navigating skills which he refers to, even the details of the ship’s physical construction and the way in which the sailors tried to cope with the storm.
FAITH IN GOD’S PROVIDENCE CAN SPILL OVER TO IMPACT UNBELIEVERS AROUND US
I. (:1-8) DIFFICULT JOURNEY BY SEA TOWARDS FINAL DESTINATION –
DIVINE PROVIDENCE SETS OUR COURSE (WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL)
A. (:1) Prisoners (Including Paul) Escorted by Centurion Named Julius
“And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius.”
Luke accompanying Paul on this journey so this is a firsthand account of what took place
Jack Arnold: Paul was probably the only prisoner on the voyage who was a Roman citizen. The others were criminals who were sent to Rome for execution. Many of them would become gladiators and would be fed to the wild beasts. These prisoners would be men whose future was one of despair and hopelessness. Yet this gave Paul an excellent opportunity to share Christ with these men so as to give them an eternal hope. Paul and the prisoners were delivered to Julius who apparently was a very kind- hearted man who treated Paul with courtesy and respect throughout the whole voyage. Julius was a very important soldier; he belonged to the Augustan Cohort of the Roman military establishment which was a very prestigious outfit, a hand-picked body of soldiers responsible directly to the emperor himself. We have every reason to believe that Paul shared Christ with Julius on a personal level many times.
William Barclay: Paul has embarked upon his last journey. Two things must have lifted up his heart. One was the kindness of a stranger, for all through the voyage Julius, the Roman centurion, treated Paul with kindness and consideration which were more than mere courtesy. He is said to have belonged to the Augustan Cohort. That may have been a special corps acting as liaison officers between the Emperor and the provinces. If so, Julius must have been a man of long experience and with an excellent military record. It may well be that when Paul and Julius stood face to face one brave man recognized another. The other uplifting thing was the devotion of Aristarchus. It has been suggested that there was only one way in which Aristarchus could have accompanied Paul on this last journey and that was by enrolling himself as Paul’s slave. It is probable that Aristarchus chose to act as the slave of Paul rather than be separated from him–and loyalty can go no further than that.
B. (:2-3) First Leg of the Journey – Arriving at Sidon
1. (:2) Setting Sail Along Coast of Asia with Aristarchus
“And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica.”
Aristarchus – Col. 4:10; Philemon 24
Bruce: The port of embarkation is not specified; probably it was Caesarea.
2. (:3) Harboring at Sidon with Special Benefits
“And the next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care.”
What type of care did Paul receive? Was he suffering from some type of physical ailment? Certainly he could use additional supplies for the next leg of his journey. Paul had very close friendships that had been forged in some of his previous missionary journies.
C. (:4-5) Second Leg of the Journey – Arriving at Myra in Lycia
“And from there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia.”
Things are progressing nicely at this point … despite some challenges from contrary winds
D. (:6-8) Third Leg of the Journey – Arriving at Fair Havens near Lasea
“And there the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it. And when we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.”
Frank Allen: They sailed slowly westward about one hundred miles, in the face of adverse winds, almost to Cnidus; but as the wind was so strongly against them they turned southward toward the island of Crete. They sailed around Cape Salmone, at the eastern point of the island, and anchored at a place then known, and still known, as Fair Havens. It is a harbor at the south-central portion of the island.
Boice: Fair Havens was not a “fair” place. It must have been named by the Chamber of Commerce to try to get people to visit it, which they normally tried to avoid doing. It was now late in the sailing season. The sailors knew they would not be able to reach Rome before winter. They would have to winter somewhere. “But not Fair Havens,” they must have said. “Anywhere but Fair Havens. There is nothing to do here at all. If we get stuck in Fair Havens, it’s going to be a long, hard winter.” They knew there was a nicer port further along the coast, a place called Phoenix. So when a gentle south wind began to blow they decided to take a chance and go for it.
II. (:9-20) DESPERATE SITUATION DUE TO HUGE STORM AT SEA –
DIVINE PROVIDENCE CAN THROW US A CURVE THAT POINTS TOWARDS HOPELESSNESS
A. (:9-12) Warning of Paul Ignored
1. (:9-10) Warning Delivered
“And when considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, and said to them, ‘Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be attended with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.’”
Albert Barnes: It is evident that, when they started, they had hoped to reach Italy before the dangerous time of navigating the Mediterranean should arrive. But they had been detained and embarrassed contrary to their expectation, so that they were now sailing in the most dangerous and tempestuous time of the year.
2. (:11-12) Warning Ignored
“But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship, than by what was being said by Paul. And because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.”
Dr. Liam Goligher: The shipowner, probably thinking of the bottom line and the profit margin, favored pushing on as quickly as possible but Paul, who was no sailor, was nonetheless a seasoned traveler and he warned against going. One of the things that we know about Paul is that by this stage we know from an earlier letter he wrote he had already experienced in his life three shipwrecks so he may not have been a seasoned sailor but he did have some experience of heavy weather and so he warns.
B. (:13-20) Wind Storm Leads to Despair
1. (:13) False Confidence
“And when a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had gained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.”
2. (:14-17) Forced Conduct
“But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; and when the ship was caught in it, and could not face the wind, we gave way to it, and let ourselves be driven along. And running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. And after they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor, and so let themselves be driven along.”
Albert Barnes: Called Euroclydon. Interpreters have been much perplexed about the meaning of this word, which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The most probable supposition is, that it denotes a wind not blowing steadily from any quarter, but a hurricane, or wind veering about to different quarters. Such hurricanes are known to abound in the Mediterranean, and are now called Levanters, deriving their name from blowing chiefly in the Levant, or eastern part of the Mediterranean. The name Euroclydon is derived probably from two Greek words, \~eurov\~, wind, and \~kludwn\~, a wave; so called from its agitating and exciting the waves. It thus answers to the usual effects hurricane, or of a wind rapidly changing its points of compass.
Frank Allen: They found a temporary shelter to the leeward of a little island called Clauda, which is about twenty-three miles from the Fair Havens, and with great difficulty under-girded, or frapped, the ship, that is, wound great cables around the hull. This is only done in the greatest extremity. It is done to prevent the ship from springing a leak and foundering, owing to the great strain upon the mast in a terrible storm. The old single-masted ships were more apt to spring a leak in a storm because the strain all came in one place and was not distributed over the ship as in modern vessels. This was no small ship. It would be small in comparison with our largest ocean liners, but it was not small when, in addition to its cargo of grain, it could carry two hundred and seventy-six passengers.
Jack Arnold: As they drifted by an island, there was a brief letup in the fierceness of the wind because the island provided a degree of protection. They took advantage of this lull to draw on board the dinghy, a small lifeboat, which was normally towed behind the ship. The sea was so choppy that they barely were able to get the lifeboat in the ship.
Blaiklock: The storm was now heavy upon the lumbering vessel, as it came roaring out of the north-east. Far to the south, off the African coast, lay the notorious Syrtes (17), the graveyard of many ships, as underwater archaeology has vividly revealed in recent years. Hence the battle to maintain a westerly course, aided, it appears, by a veering of the wind to the east, as the cyclonic disturbance shifted its centre.
3. (:18-20) Failing Confidence
“The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. And since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.”
Bruce: Eleven dreary nights and days followed. The storm blotted out the sun by day and stars by night, and thus they had no means of keeping a reckoning. The ship was no doubt leaking badly, and they “could not tell which way to make for the nearest land, in order to run their ship ashore, the only resource for a sinking ship; but unless they did make the land, they must founder at sea” (Voyage, p. 117). No wonder, then, that they began to lose all hope of ever reaching safety.
III. (:21-44) DANGEROUS ORDEAL BUT SAFE ON LAND AT LAST –
DIVINE PROVIDENCE VALIDATES OUR CALM AND COURAGEOUS FAITH
A. (:21-26) Divine Assurance
“And when they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, ‘Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete, and incurred this damage and loss. And yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there shall be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you. Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island.’”
Frank Arnold: Paul had the same crisis as these other men on the ship. The storm and danger was no less severe for Paul than anyone else. He had the same set of circumstances that these pagans had but he approached them differently. Under pressure, Paul had the loving Christ with him and he had the assurance of victory in death and the promise that all would work out for good. Their pagan gods of Zeus and Jupiter could not help them, but Christ gave Paul the power to be calm and encourage these pagans. They must have been impressed with this man Paul, for they saw he was different.
Albert Barnes: None of their lives shall be lost. It does not mean that they should be converted; but that their lives should be preserved. It is implied here that it was for the sake of Paul, or that the leading purpose of the Divine interposition to rescue them from danger was to save his life. The wicked often derive important benefits from being connected with Christians; and God often confers important favours on them in his general purposes to benefit his own people. The lives of impenitent men are often spared because God interposes to save his own people.
Kent: Paul had a fresh message from God assuring him that he would live to stand before Caesar, and that all of his fellow passengers would be spared as well. Paul appears in this narrative as a most unusual prisoner – advising, encouraging, and receiving divine enlightenment. God’s remarkable dealings with him on this voyage are doubtless one of the important reasons why Luke has recorded this sea voyage in such detail.
Brian Bell: 4 ANCHORS TO DROP IN ANY STORM:
1. The Anchor of GOD’S PRESENCE.
23a “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve.”
2. The Anchor of GOD’S PEACE.
24a “Do not be afraid, Paul.”
3. The Anchor of GOD’S PLAN.
24b “you must be brought before Caesar.”
4. The Anchor of GOD’S PROTECTION.
24c “and indeed, God has granted you, all those who sail with you.”
B. (:27-32) Desertion Aborted
1. (:27-29) Anchoring Near Land
“But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. And they took soundings, and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak.”
William Arnot: While they waited in this position for the dawn, they were exposed to two dangers, known to the seamen, but of which the landsmen on board would not be aware. On one hand, the anchors might drag; — in point o fact they held fast, but this could not be known till experience proved it. It is worthy of note that in the English sailing directions you learn that the ground in St Paul’s Bay is so good that “while the cables hold there is no danger, as the anchors will never start.” But, on the other hand, the ship might founder at anchor. The risk of this was greater now than when she was drifting.
2. (:30-32) Attempted Escape Thwarted by Paul
“And as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship, and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, ‘Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat, and let it fall away.”
Frank Allen: During the darkness the sailors were planning to escape in the little boat and leave the soldiers and passengers to their fate. Paul’s eagle eye caught their movements and discerned their intentions although they were pretending to cast anchors out of the foreship. He told the centurion and the soldiers, who drew their short swords and cut the ropes, allowing the boat to fall off into the sea.
C. (:33-38) Dining Appropriately
“And until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation; for not a hair from the head of any of you shall perish.’ And having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all; and he broke it and began to eat. And all of them were encouraged, and they themselves also took food. And all of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. And when they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea.
Bruce: We have seen Paul in many roles, but here he stands out as the practical man in a critical emergency.
Stott: Here then are aspects of Paul’s character which endear him to us as an integrated Christian, who combined spirituality with sanity, and faith with works. He believed that God would keep his promises and had the courage to say grace in the presence of a crowd of hard-bitten pagans. But his trust and godliness did not stop him seeing either that the ship should not take risks with the onset of winter, or that the sailors must not be allowed to escape, or that the hungry crew and passengers had to eat to survive, or (later) that he needed to gather wood to keep the beach fire burning. What a man! He was a man of God and of action, a man of the Spirit and of common sense.
Albert Barnes: It cannot mean that they had lived entirely without food; but that they had been so much in danger, so constantly engaged, and so anxious about their safety, that they had taken no regular meal; and that what they had taken had been at irregular intervals, and had been a scanty allowance.
William Barclay: As we read the narrative, into the tempest there seems to come a strange calm. The man of God has somehow made others sure that God is in charge of things. The most useful people in the world are those who, being themselves calm, bring to others the secret of confidence. Paul was like that; and every follower of Jesus ought to be steadfast when others are in turmoil.
D. (:39-44) Deliverance Accomplished
1. (:39-41) Running Aground
“And when day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a certain bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders, and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves.”
Frank Allen: A very difficult task was still before them; to run the ship aground in such a way as to allow them to escape to land in a quiet bay where they could swim to shore. In order to lighten the ship so that it would draw as little water as possible and make the best speed when they let her run ashore, they threw out the wheat into the sea. They discovered a creek with a sandy beach, in what is now known as Saint Paul’s bay, where they planned to ground the ship. They cut off the anchors and hoisted up the foresail. They loosed the ropes which held up the rudder paddles so that they could steer the ship. With rapidly increasing speed the ship began to turn. She swung around clear of the rocky precipice and toward the creek. The wind and the waves roaring behind her drove her into the bay and the sailors guided her as they had intended so as to drive her into the sand and mud of the beach. Inexperienced men could not have done this. This was why Paul had warned the centurion that the sailors must remain in the ship if they were to be saved. A little island, which from the distance had looked like the mainland, so directed the sea that it ran through and met the waves from the opposite direction. The waves beat upon the hinder part of the ships so violently that they soon broke it to pieces. The forepart had been driven into the sand and mud so deeply that it held fast, and in the comparative calm of the bay they were all able to swim or float on the wreckage of the ship to the shore. This was a very remarkable fact since there were two hundred and seventy-six people on board.
Brian Bell: Debris from every kind of shipwreck is floating all around us: broken marriages, ruined relationships, shattered dreams, mangled morals, twisted guilt, damaged hearts. And the need is great for courageous Christians like Paul who will stand faithfully in life’s uncertainty & proclaim the spiritual anchors that can hold people fast to Christ.
2. (:42-44) Swimming/Floating Ashore
“And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, that none of them should swim away and escape; but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And thus it happened that they all were brought safely to land.”
Frank Arnold: The Roman soldiers decided to kill all the prisoners before they could leave the ship. This was understandable because the Roman law said that any soldier who allowed a prisoner to escape was himself subject to the same penalty the prisoner would have received–death!