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Acts 27-28 Listen
Paul sails for Rome (Acts 27:1-12)
1 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.
2 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.
3 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.
4 And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.
5 And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
6 And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.
7 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;
8 And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.
9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,
10 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.
11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.
12 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 Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.
You will recall that Paul was arrested on his trip to Jerusalem in Acts 21 (see notes) while at the temple there. Actually, the temple police rescued him from an angry mob that wanted to execute him right there and then. Paul then appeared before the Sanhedrin to make his case for Christ as the logical continuation of Judaism in Acts 23 (see notes). Likewise, they were determined that Paul must be put to death before he left Jerusalem.
The Romans subsequently moved Paul to Caesarea for safekeeping and another trial which took place before Felix (Acts 24, see notes) after the Sanhedrin sends their crack team of prosecutors to Caesarea. Even though he is not found guilty, Paul was kept in custody for two years in Caesarea. When Festus replaced Felix as Roman procurator of Judea, Paul was once again tried in the presence of his Jewish accusers who came in from Jerusalem in Acts 25 (see notes). Since Festus seemed to be favoring letting them take Paul back to Jerusalem for another trial (undoubtedly a mock trial), Paul instead invoked his Roman citizenship and appealed to Caesar in Rome. That's where we are here in Acts 27.
It's a tough boat ride to Rome...and it's over 2,100 miles. What's more, we see that the wind was not very cooperative. After about a thousand miles of travel, Paul warned that the rest of the trip would be treacherous if they did not wait for better weather. What does a Pharisee-turned-Christian-preacher know about the weather? Luke doesn't report that Paul's warning came as a result of prophetic insight, but rather states that Paul said in verse 10, "I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage." The Greek word used there for "perceive" is "theoreo," which simply indicates information obtained by observation. Good observational skills, Paul! However, he was ignored, and they proceeded on - bad move!
It is interesting to note that Julius, the centurion in charge of Paul's transport, was very kind to Paul in verse 3 - gave him liberty to go see some friends while docked there. It would certainly appear that the Romans were not sympathetic with the mission of the Jewish leaders to see Paul put to death. Nevertheless, a soldier's job is a soldier's job.
The "fast" of verse 9 must be a reference to the one prescribed by the law for Day of Atonement found in Leviticus 16:29-34 (see notes).
Paul gets an opportunity to preach (Acts 27:13-26)
13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.
14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.
15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.
16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:
17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.
18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;
19 And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
20 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.
21 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.
22 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.
23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.
Well, Paul had warned them. The storm comes and they start throwing stuff overboard. The wind had a name, Euroclydon (remember that name for Bible Trivia). Today it is called Levanter, an Easterly wind blowing off the Straits of Gibraltar. Finally, after several days of fighting the storm (and losing), and when the situation seemed hopeless (verse 20), Paul stands up to address the crew; he begins with an I-told-you-so statement in verse 21. That establishes his credibility for the statement he is about to make. He tells them that an angel appeared before him (that very night) to tell him that all lives would be spared; he must appear in Rome. They must have conjectured, if he was right about the storm, he must be right about this, their safety. Paul concludes his remarks in verses 25-26 with some good news and some bad news: The good news - I believe God (no loss of life); the bad news - gonna be shipwrecked on an island.
Who made Paul the sailing expert? (Acts 27:27-38)
27 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;
28 And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.
29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.
30 And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,
31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.
33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.
34 Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.
35 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.
36 Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.
37 And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.
38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.
What a picture! Paul, the prisoner, is calling the shots. Here's a ship about to wreck with 276 people on board. Hey! This storm has lasted 14 days so far. That's when the crew members of the ship decide to make a run for it on the lifeboats. Paul declares to the centurion that all who stay with the ship will be safe. The centurion, in turn, has his soldiers cut the lifeboats loose (no wonder the Army doesn't like the Navy). Paul tells them to eat; they eat. Who's in charge around here anyway? Then it's time to dump the wheat.
Boom - no more ship! (Acts 27:39-44)
39 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.
40 And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.
42 And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
43 But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land:
44 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.
Finally...the inevitable - the ship crashes into a reef and breaks up. The soldiers wanted to execute the prisoners to keep them from escaping, but the centurion, wanting to keep Paul alive, forbade this action. All were safely brought to shore floating on pieces of the broken ship, etc. So, just as Paul had said, all were safely brought to shore alive, but what a ride!
Stranded on Malta (Acts 28:1-15)
1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
2 And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
7 In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
9 So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
12 And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.
13 And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:
14 Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.
15 And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
Of course, when you're floating ashore on pieces of the boat, you're happy to be stranded anywhere. The island called Melita is probably modern-day Malta south of Italy. And the natives were really friendly - prepared a fire and a meal. As they were eating, however, a snake jumped up and chomped down on Paul's hand. If you're superstitious, that's a bad sign. They figured an act of God like that must mean you're a bad person...real bad! But when Paul went on about his business with no ill effects, these superstitious people change their opinions about Paul and decide that he must be a really good person - perhaps even a god. Well, from that night Paul was regarded as very special by the natives. He prayed for a prominent resident of the island who was healed and subsequently prayed for a number of locals who were likewise healed. Then...after a three-month stay on the island, it's time to resume the journey to Rome. It has been a long, very treacherous trip, but Paul finally arrives in Rome.
Prison isn't so bad (Acts 28:16-31)
16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
20 For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
When they arrive in Rome, Paul discovers from the Jewish leadership there that no accusers nor letters from accusers have preceded him. Paul takes matters into his own hands and calls for the Jewish leaders in Rome to come hear him. Paul quotes to them Isaiah 6:9-10 (see notes), "And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." Of the local Jews, some reject the message of Christ while others accept.
Being so far away from Rome, these Jews don't stir up trouble like the ones in Jerusalem. Therefore, Paul lives in his own house and teaches in Rome for two years...under Roman protection, during which time he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. This is a little different as far as prison ministries go; the prisoner here is doing the preaching and ministry to non prisoners - what a concept!
What about Paul's death?
Here we are - finished up in Acts and Paul seems to be doing well.
Following is the entry found in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia which sums up what is known and what is guessed about Paul's last years before his death:
Last Imprisonment and Death, 68 (or 67) AD:
When Paul writes again to Timothy he has had a winter in prison, and has suffered greatly from the cold and does not wish to spend another winter in the Mamertine (probably) prison (2 Tim 4:13,21). We do not know what the charges now are. They may have been connected with the burning of Rome. There were plenty of informers eager to win favor with Nero. Proof was not now necessary. Christianity is no longer a religio licita under the shelter of Judaism. It is now a crime to be a Christian. It is dangerous to be seen with Paul now, and he feels the desertion keenly (2 Tim 1:15 ff; 4:10). Only Luke, the beloved physician, is with Paul (2 Tim 4:11), and such faithful ones as live in Rome still in hiding (2 Tim 4:21). Paul hopes that Timothy may come and bring Mark also (2 Tim 4:11). Apparently Timothy did come and was put into prison (He 13:23). Paul is not afraid. He knows that he will die. He has escaped the mouth of the lion (2 Tim 4:17), but he will die (2 Tim 4:18). The Lord Jesus stood by him, perhaps in visible presence (2 Tim 4:17). The tradition is, for now Paul fails us, that Paul, as a Roman citizen, was beheaded on the Ostian Road just outside of Rome. Nero died June, 68 AD, so that Paul was executed before that date, perhaps in the late spring of that year (or 67). Perhaps Luke and Timothy were with him. It is fitting, as Findlay suggests, to let Pauls words in 2 Tim 4:6-8 serve for his own epitaph. He was ready to go to be with Jesus, as he had long wished to be (Phil 1:23).