Lesson 51: Paul's Voyage to Rome

Acts 27:1-44

Acts, Lesson #51. Beginning in Chapter 27, lefs hit it! V.l-3. Let's read: 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. 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. 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." O.K., v.2 said: "we launched." Luke was with Paul! Did you catch it? Surely you have wondered as we covered chapters 22-23-24-25-26; what happened to Luke and the other seven men who accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, two years before? Aristarchus and Luke were with Paul when they launched for that big capital city, Rome. It would appear, Luke and Aristarchus stayed with Paul at Caesarea and even at Rome. In the N.T. book called Philemon, written from Rome, Paul listed Luke and Aristarchus as his fellow laborers. In the Colossian letter 4:14, also written from Rome, Paul indicated the beloved physician (Luke) was with him. Many years later in the book of II Timothy (4:11) Paul told Timothy, "Only Luke is with me." Thus, we may infer Luke stayed with Paul during the trial and even beyond. And, it must have been during that time Luke was with Paul, this book of Acts was written.
Paul was delivered to Julius, a centurion in the Roman army. I would assume Paul's passage to Italy was paid for by the Roman government. But, most likely Luke and Aristarchus simply paid their fare as a regular passenger. Paul was not the only prisoner under Julias' charge. Can't you just see that Roman officer, along with his prisoners and soldier helpers boarding the ship at Caesarea? The anchor was cranked up and launch ropes unhooked as the pressure of the wind in those sails caused a gentle movement of the ship away from the dock That big word "Adramyttium" in v.2 is not the name of the ship. It was the name of the ship's home port. Adramyttium is a seaport about 30 miles southeast of Troas, not far from Assos. It must have been refreshing to Paul to feel the breeze again after two years in confinement. Luke pens a little glimpse of Julias' personality in v.3. He courteously entreated Paul. Then Paul refreshed himself with brethren at Sidon, less than 100 miles up the coast from Caesarea. Sidon is on your map. We are not told how long Paul went ashore. Bro. McGarvey theorizes Paul may have been sea-sick. And, nearly 2000 miles of water stretched out between Sidon and Rome. Would Nero release Paul? Or, would he waste away in some dark, dingy jail cell in an unfamiliar city? That question must have haunted Paul, Luke, Aristatchus, the brethren at Caesarea, Sidon, Jerusalem and all that were aware of Paul's plight. So, Paul's fourth voyage must be classified primarily as a prisoner, not a missionary, although Paul (no doubt) took advantage of every opportunity.
Lefs read v.4-6. "And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein." O.K. From Sidon the ship sailed to Myra, city #43, on the southern tip of Asia Minor, something like 25 miles east of Patara. Patara was the city where Paul and his company had sailed from two years before when they discovered Cyprus on the left hand, you will remember. Lycia was a small Roman province bordering the Mediterranean, between the provinces of Pamphylia on the east and Asia on the west. This time, the winds were contrary according to v.4, i.e., the winds were from the south so they sailed north of the island Cyprus. The sea of Cilicia and sea of Pamphylia, of course, are sections of the Mediterranean that border those provinces. At Myra, they changed ships, i.e., they left the ship from Adramyttium and boarded a sailing vessel who's home port was Alexandria. I would assume Alexandria, Egypt, although Troas was sometimes referred to as Alexandria, also. But since Luke calls Troas "Troas," I think it is safe to assume this Alexandria was Egypt.
Now, let's read v.7-12. Ready? "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; and, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called the Fair Havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea. Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, 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. Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. 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 Phoenix, and there to winter; which is a haven of Crete, and lieth toward the southwest and northwest." O.K., by looking at your map you can see that when the Alexandrian ship left Myra the general direction was west. Conditions were very unfavorable to sailing. The season of the year best suited to navigating a wind powered vessel was past. "The winds did not suffer us" (v.7). Most of the time was spent in waiting for the right conditions or contending with unfavorable wind and climatic conditions. Thus, their voyage had slowed to a snail's pace. Whiter was coming on. "Sailing was now dangerous" (v..9). The master of the ship (i.e., the captain) had decided to tie it up for the whiter, but his goal was to reach Phoenix which is on the southwest end of the island of Crete. They located Crete and the most northeastern city, Salmone ( city #44). They then sailed along the southern shore of the island. Lasea and Fair Havens are cities close together, on the southern shore of Crete near the middle of the island (City #45). Thus, at that time, Phoenix, city #46, was actually northwest of their location. Thus, at the end of v. 12 the city of Phoenix is described from two vantage points. The "southwest" describes where Phoenix was located on Crete and "northwest" description is from the vantage point of the ship, the "fast (that was already past), Luke mentions in v.9; according to the commentators, has reference to a national day of celebration on the Jewish calendar, about October on our calendar. Thus, it is Luke's way of dating the event. Paul's conversation recorded hi v.10 with the captain, the ship owner and the centurion gives us Paul's assessment of the situation at that time. One is tempted to assign Paul's words to inspiration, i.e., Spirit directed, but after close examination of chapter 27 as a whole and v.23 in particular, the most likely conclusion is that Paul was speaking from experience and not Spirit directed. And, I think it's natural the centurion listened to the captain instead of a prisoner. The value of v.ll is in the fact that Luke is setting the stage for future event. O.K., have you got the picture? They ran into extreme weather conditions, finally anchored at Fair Haven, and waited for a break in the turbulence so they could sail on to Phenice which was a more advantageous place to spend the whiter.
Now, let's latch onto v. 13. "And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete." So, the crew thought that their opportunity had arrived for that last 50 miles of travel to Port Phoenix. They took up the anchor and cut loose. They cautiously stayed close to the land, just in case the wind should suddenly change. And it did!

Let's read v.14-17. "But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive. And running under a certain island which is called Caluda, we had much work to come by the boat: which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, struck sail, and so were driven." Alright, that sudden tempestuous wind, called "Euroclydon" was from the northeast, judging from the location of the island they struck Clauda is an island, #47 on your map. Crete is a little less than 200 miles long but mountain ranges run from one end to the other. One mountain, Mt Ida, goes up to over 8,000 feet. Undoubtedly, when they loosed from Crete they were shielded from the wind by the mountains somewhat; but, when they encountered the right deflection of air from those mountains, that sailing vessel was pushed out to sea at a pronominal rate. Naturally, the captain steered in the direction of the island mentioned in v.16, some 30 or 40 miles from the mainland When they came close to the island they ran into shallow waters, struck bottom and got into a mess. Apparently they lifted some sails, to get out of that predicament and again were swept out to sea, contrary to their intentions. Now look at your map. About 200 miles to the south is the rocky coast of North Africa. But, if the wind continued from the northeast thek general direction would most likely be somewhat correspondingly southwest. Can you see on the map, that could mean a thousand miles of wide open tempestuous sea? What a frightening lot that must have been. Thek only hope was a change in atmospheric conditions to more favorable sailing weather. And the season of the year (winter coming on) meant that hope was statistically very small.

Let's see what happened! V. 18-20, let's read: "And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; and the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. 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." O.K. Day after day there was no improvement. The overcast conditions cut off the sun and stars. Thus, their navigational course and position became more and more obscure. Fearing they would drift in the direction of that North African coast, they lightened the ship by throwing overboard everything they could spare - cargo, equipment, everything but their food and water supply most likely, "...no small tempest". Then v.20 said: "many days." Talk about sea-sick! It makes me sick to think about it. Wash, splash, rain, wave-lift! Then sudden descent...over and over. Those muscles in the pit of your stomach get so sore they won't even work The hours never seem to end! Two-hundred and seventy six people; what a mess! Luke says: "all hope that we should be saved was taken away." And surely, no one could get more despondent than a bunch of hardened sailors who had lost all hope. Even Paul could not resist the temptation to say, I told you so, but he likely didn't have strength enough to say it.
And then sweet assurance came. In the middle of the night v.21-26, let's read it. "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. 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. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee al them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island." Isn't it amazing how a little hope can muster a man's courage. Suddenly Paul had it, "Sirs, be of good cheer!: We're gonna make it! There shall be no loss of any man's life," God said. I believe it! Paul explained the prophetic message: the ship would be lost, but they would be cast upon a certain island. Now, that's a little vague. But it's better to be on an unknown island with no ship than to be headed for that fate in the deep. "Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar..." Paul had received this message more than two years before in Acts. 23:11. I wonder how Julius the centurion and the shipmaster reacted to that prophecy? Undoubtedly, they had gained more respect for Paul's predictions since those in v.10 had come close to being fulfilled and he did not even claim divine authority for that. Now, Paul emphasized this message was from God.
O.K. Let's get some more details - v.27-32, ready? "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; and sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stem, and wished for the day. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under color as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of die boat, and let her fall off." O.K., let's re-hash that. Get your eyes back up to v.27. I would assume the 14th night has reference to the total time since being swept away from Crete. Two weeks of churning up and down in that foggy, murky ocean. In the middle of the night the seamen sensed they were approaching land. Perhaps the first clue was the sound of great waves breaking on the rocky shoreline. Then they dropped a line to the bottom of the ocean and found the depth to be decreasing fast. So fast, they became alarmed they were headed into rocks, v. 29 indicates. They dropped four anchors out of the back end of the ship and decided to wait for daylight. Some of the sailors must have lowered a small emergency boat in an attempt to get to land in the darkness. Paul rebuked them for such a hazardous attempt and they gave it up. But, can you imagine the anxiety (as they were anchored there) waiting for daybreak?
Here we go, with both eyeballs, starting in v.33: "And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that we have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat; for this is for your health: for there shall not a hair fall from the head of any of you. 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. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. And we were in all hi the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea." Nothing will change the mood and disposition of a tired and weary man like a little food. Paul knew that and whereas it says they had eaten nothing, that probably means practically nothing, for two weeks. He encouraged them to eat and build their strength for the landing. After all, they were not likely headed for a developed harbor. Disembarkment was not going to be easy. V.36 makes it clear Paul was very successful in his persuasion - "they were all of good cheer," 276 souls just waiting for daylight.

Let's finish the chapter, beginning hi v.39...ready? "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. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. And falling into a place where two seas meet, they ran the ship aground; and the fore part stuck fast, and remained immovable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. But die centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded them they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: 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." So, it happened exactly as prophesied. The ship captain saw a narrow inlet he thought he could put the ship into, bringing them much closer to shore. But it didn't work. When they hoisted up that mainsail and lifted the anchors; the ship drifted into shallow water and the front of the ship got stuck Then a big wave hit the back end and "did it in." A lot of momentary confusion took place while the pressure of those big waves were disintegrating the ship, timber by timber. The guards wanted to kill the prisoners, but die centurion gave the command to let mem swim to shore. Everyone made it! Prisoners and all 276 people climbed ashore saturated, dripping cold and shivering as the old ship crumbled up and cluttered up the water surface. What a ship wreck! And what a way to get to Rome! More exciting than a wild and wooly western. Three preachers, a lot of prisoners, several Roman troops, and who knows who else? Twenty-seven chapters, three missionary journeys, imprisonment, a sobering sermon to king Agrippa, lost at sea in a great storm. 31 verses to go...what a book! "Who shall lay anything to die charge of God's elect" (Rom.8:33)? The wise man said: "Boast not diy self of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (Prov.27:l).

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