ACTS CHAPTER 27
This narrative of Paul's journey gives us a glimpse of what travel was
like in the first century. Sea travel, at least, was usually sharply curtailed
in the winter. The boats were shallow and not made to hold up in strong
storms. The Mediterranean Sea could be stormy in the winter time. It was
therefore the practice of most to put in on the coast when Winter set in.
Luke will go into detail concerning those who will accompany Paul, the
places where they stopped, the difficulties they encountered.
Verses 1-6 And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy,
they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion
of the Augustan Regiment. 2 So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put
to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian
of Thessalonica, was with us. 3 And the next day we landed at Sidon. And
Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and
receive care. 4 When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the
shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 And when we had sailed
over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city
of Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy,
and he put us on board.
A. And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they
delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion
of the Augustan Regiment.
1. Festus finally quit putting off the inevitable and took
care of the paperwork that was necessary to send Paul to Rome.
2. He was entrusted to an officer from the Augustan Regiment.
The name would suggest that this was an elite force, perhaps Festus' personal
guard, since it carried and imperial name. From this man's later character
we can see that he was no ordinary man.
B. "So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea..."
1. Adramyttium was a seaport on the northwest coast of modern
Turkey in Roman province of Asia.
2. This ship was evidently making a return run from Egypt or
some other seaport with supplies for their home port. It was hardly the
accommodations suitable for transporting an important prisoner to Rome,
but such was the desire of the centurion to transport Paul before Winter
set it that he would book passage of this "freighter" with hopes of finding
more suitable transportation on the way.
C."Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us."
1. Commentators are uncertain whether Aristarchus was also
a prisoner or not. It was likely that he was traveling with Paul, just
as Luke. He is mentioned in Colossians 4:10 and Philippians 1:24.
D. "And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated
Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care."
1. Their merchant ship stopped at Sidon to load/unload supplies.
This was approximately 65 miles distance traveled on the first day. The
centurion showed a remarkable measure of confidence in Paul to allow him
to go visit with his friends there. He must have been sure that Paul had
no intention of escaping. Paul had evidently made a very good impression
on this man.
2. There is little doubt that one of the things Paul would
do is to visit brethren there. Some commentators suggest that Paul might
have gotten sick during the brief voyage and that he was needing care.
This seems to be a matter of speculation.
E. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to
Italy, and he put us on board.
1. The Alexandrian ship here was probably one of the great
fleet of grain ships which regularly made it's run to Rome. Egypt had become
the breadbasket of Rome long before.
Acts 27:7 - "When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty
off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the
shelter of Crete off Salmone. Passing it with difficulty, we came to a
place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. Now when much time had
been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already
over, Paul advised them, saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will
end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also
our lives." Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman
and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. And because
the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail
from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of
Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there."
2. These boats were under the direct supervision of the Roman
government, so it would have bee a simple matter for the centurion to secure
passage on this ship for him and his prisoner and companions.
A. "When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty
1. Instead of being able to skirt Asia Minor and pass by Crete
on it's northern side, they were forced to sail by the southeast coast
of it. This would make the journey even more dangerous.
2. It seems that they held a conference to decide whether to
go on or not.
B. "Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now
dangerous because the Fast was already over..."
1. The fast described here was the Feast of Atonement. That
would put the date at sometime in the middle of October. It was getting
late in the season for travel, the Mediterranean being too dangerous for
safe traffic between October and the end of February.
2. It seems quite likely that Paul's input was probably asked
for, since he had a great deal of worldly experience and displayed a great
deal of wisdom. His advice was to stay put for the winter, because it would
dangerous to both cargo and passengers.
C. "Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman
and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul."
1. Because this was a government chartered ship, the centurion
seemed to be the highest ranking official aboard and would make the final
2. In the end he was swayed to go on for three reasons.
a. There was better facilities to winter further on, it Phoenix.
Coffman makes the observation that people will often risk severe danger
in the name of having a little more comfort. Their destination was just
a scant 30 miles away.
b. The helmsman and captain were in favor of traveling on.
c. The majority of those participating in this brief conference
were also in favor of going on.
Acts 27:13-19 "When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they
had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete.
15 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon.
15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let
her drive. 16- And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda,
we secured the skiff with difficulty. 17- When they had taken it on board,
they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run
aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. 18 And
because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened
the ship. 19 On the third day we threw the ship's tackle overboard with
our own hands."
3. A more suitable port was only a few more hours away, so
they decided to go on a little further.
A. "When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had
obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete."
1. Sure enough, almost as if an answer to pagan prayer, the
wind became favorable for their continued travel. It would now be useless
to remind the sailors that the weather was dangerously changeable during
this time of year. They were sure that this was the answer that they wanted.
2. This is much like us. We will grasp at "signs" if they are
reinforce what we want to do in the first place. And how many times have
people become lulled into making mistakes that affect them the rest of
their lives by the soft winds of enticement.
B. "But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called
1. It wasn't long, however, until Paul's warning were borne
out. The gentle wind turned tempestuous.
2. Sailors of ever age have names that they call certain winds
that happen regularly. This one was called Euroclydon, or literally "east,
a. When they reached the cape there came from 7,000 foot high
Mt. Ida a sudden typhonic squall. The winds come down from those mountains
fit to blow the ship out of the water, said a skipper to Sir William Ramsey,
in Ramsey's great work on Paul's travels .
3. It would soon be a matter of survival, not arriving at Rome
that would dominate all on board.
C. "So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the
wind, we let her drive."
1. The sailors quit trying to steer in their desired direction.
They simply let the wind take the ship where it desired.
D. "And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda..."
1. They were able to make the temporary shelter of a small
island called Clauda.
2. There they began to make preparations for rough seas travel.
a. The secured the skiff, lifeboat, which usually traveled
b. They undergird the ship with cables, to make it more secure
Verses 20-26 "Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days,
and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally
given up. 21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the
midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have
sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 "And now I urge
you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only
of the ship. 23 "For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to
whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 "saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you
must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those
who sail with you.' 25 "Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that
it will be just as it was told me. 26 "However, we must run aground on
a certain island."
c. They struck their sail. This was a precaution against being
driven toward the Syrtis sands, a huge sand bar that was constantly changing
position off the north African coast.
A. "Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days..."
1. Reese determines this a eleven days that they had been in
2. We can see how they had lost all hope of escape from the
storm. They had done everything that sailor of their day could do to ride
out the store and navigate in it.
B. But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in
the midst of them and said..."
1. One can imagine the scene in the little boat. They were
probably all huddled in the hold. They were swaying back and forth, wondering
if the next wind would break up the ship. The last thing on their minds
was food. There was also likely sea sickness on the part of some because
of the storm.
2. Paul begins by reminding them that they might have been
safe in the harbor now, albeit a desolate one, if they had only listened
to his advice.
3. But this is more that an, "I told you so", speech. He had
encouraging words for the men.
a. An angel had delivered a message to him that very night.
In it the angel told him that God, for Paul's sake, had granted the life
of all those on the ship. There would be the loss of the ship and cargo,
but not a man would lose his live. They would, however, have to run aground
on another island.
b. This would not be the first time when God would save sinners
for the sake of His elect. He would have done so for Lot.
Verses 27-32 "Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven
up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that
they were drawing near some land. 28 And they took soundings and found
it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they
took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29 Then, fearing
lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from
the stern, and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking
to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea,
under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, 31 Paul said to the
centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot
be saved." 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let
it fall off.
4. The phrase "I believe God" has been the beginning point
of many sermons. It shows that Paul trusted God and His Word, no matter
how bad things looked. It was a sign of Paul's faith.
A. "Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven
up and down in the Adriatic Sea..."
1. This was fourteen day since they had left Fair Haven, their
last safe port.
2. The "Adriatic Sea" is likely the gulf Adria, which would
include more that the present day Adriatic Sea and include the large area
south of the mouth of the Adriatic.
B. "about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing
near some land."
1. It is likely that the watchmen, who were on duty for such
emergencies, were able to hear breakers, thus convincing them that they
were nearing some kind of land.
2. Sure enough, when they started taking soundings, they were
first 20 fathoms, then 15 fathoms.
a. A fathom is about six feet. Notice that they would have
fairly quickly moved from 120 feet to 90 feet in depth. This was proof
positive that they were nearing land.
b. Soundings were taken bay dropping a rope with a heavy weight
on the end overboard and measuring the depth to the bottom. It was likely
that there were knots tied for each fathom, thus making it relatively easy
to determine depth.
3. It was this point that the sailors lost their nerve. Fourteen
days fighting a terrible storm had taken their toll. They were likely exposed
to the full fury of the storm most of the fourteen day, due to the nature
of their work. Their plight would have been far worse that the passengers.
a. Knowing that the sure must surely be close by, they make
preparations to abandon their passengers and make their escape in the lifeboat.
b. This would have been disastrous to Paul and the rest of
the passengers. They were not experienced seamen. It would have been impossible
for them to guide the boat for what was going to be absolutely, running
the boat aground.
c. They made an excuse for letting down the lifeboat. But instead
of doing some necessary action, they intended to leave the boat and not
4. Somehow Paul became aware of their plan. He approached the
Centurion and told him of it. He also reminded the Centurion that they
would need the sailors if they were to come out of this voyage alive.
Verses 33-38 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to
take food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued
without food, and eaten nothing. 34 "Therefore I urge you to take nourishment,
for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head
of any of you." 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and
gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken
it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food
themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on
the ship. 38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and
threw out the wheat into the sea.
a. The Centurion took immediate, drastic action. He ordered
the soldiers on board to cut the ropes and let the lifeboat drop into the
sea. No all, sailors and passengers alike would be "in the same boat."
There would be no escape, short of working together on the ship.
A. "And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to
take food, saying..."
1. Paul had earlier urged them to take some food, but they
had not. He now tells them that they will need the nourishment for the
coming ordeal that they must now face.
2. They will all be saved, but it also means that they will
need nourishment for the coming time.
B. "And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave
thanks to God in the presence of them all..."
1. Paul's example of calm and courage would encourage them
all. After giving thanks to the Lord for the food he gave it to all, and
2. Their courage was renewed at the example of Paul and they
were now prepared for whatever needed to be done.
3. We are told how many were on board. There were 276, including
passengers and crew.
Verses 39-44 When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they
observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if
possible. 40 And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile
loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and
made for shore. 41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the
ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern
was being broken up by the violence of the waves. 42 And the soldiers'
plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape.
43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose,
and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and
get to land, 44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship.
And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.
4. After eating they threw overboard the last remaining cargo,
so they would be able to guide the ship toward the shore.
A. When it was day, they did recognize the land..."
1. What they had surmised was correct. They were close to land
2. When it grew light they were able to see a small inlet with
a beech. Here would be the best place to run the ship aground. This would
give the best chance for survival to most.
B. Now the began to make preparations to run the ship aground.
1. They cut themselves loose from the anchors.
2. Then they hoisted the sails and began to sail for the shore.
C. But all did not go well for them.
1. Instead of coming aground in the sandy beach, they hit a
rock or mud bar at the mouth of the bay.
2. They were now stuck and it became obvious that they would
go no farther.
D. It was at this point that the ship began to break up.
1. It seems likely that they soldiers met for a quick conference
at the bow of the boat and decided that the prisoners needed to be killed,
so the soldier could avoid having to die for allowing some of them to escape.
This would, of course, include Paul.
2. But the Centurion gave orders that no such thing be contemplated.
3. He ordered the swimmers ashore first. Likely the soldiers
would go first, then wait for the prisoners to come ashore so they could
make sure that none escape.
4. Then, all the rest could follow, grabbing pieces of drift
wood or anything that would float.
Copyright 1999 by Grady Scott
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5. The result was just as Paul had predicted, not a single
man had been lost.