ACTS - CHAPTER 27 - THE STORM
ACTS CHAPTER 27 – THE STORM
Tuesday Morning Bible Study August 9, 2022, the Year of Our Lord
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
Luke’s narrative of the hazardous journey to Rome, is one of the masterpieces of ship-wreck literature. It reads like a great novel, but we are concerned, not so much with the dramatic incidents, as with the witness of an apostle who was in the counsels of God just as much in the perils of the sea as when he received revelations to write the powerful epistles.
Paul’s journey to Rome begins in early fall of about 60AD and ended the following spring of about 61 AD. It would seem that governor Festus delayed sending Paul to Rome until there were enough prisoners to justify a detachment of guards to escort them; or the delay may have been due to the lateness of the season. Time was running out for navigation on the Mediterranean. The ancients considered it risky to sail the Mediterranean after mid-September by then the equinoctial storms had begun. All navigation was suspended from mid-November until February.
The “we” narrative is resumed. It has been over two years since we last heard from Luke in the first-person pronoun (Acts 21:18). 27:1-3: 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. 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. The next day we landed at Sidon.
Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care. It was determined by the council of God, before it was determined by the council of Festus that Paul should go to Rome, for God had work for him to do there. The Augustan Regiment is identified with the title Augustus. This would be an “imperial regiment.” This was an elite group of soldiers which numbered no more than 600 in the entire Roman army. Festus no doubt chose this man, Julius, because he belonged to this select regiment. The prisoners with the exception of Paul, were undoubtedly condemned men and on their way to battle to the death in the Roman arena. Convicted prisoners were often disposed of in this manner.
Adramyttium is an Asian Port in modern day Turkey. “a ship of Adramyttium” implies the ship was built there. Aristarchus and Luke were allowed to accompany Paul on this ship. I am sure they were paying passengers. This is the same Aristarchus who was seized by the crowd in Ephesus and who accompanied Paul with the offering to Jerusalem. The captain sailed close to the coasts to hug the Syrian shoreline. The vessel moved along very well. They reached Sidon, some 70 miles from Caesarea, the next day. The Centurion Julius showed Paul a great courtesy by permitting him to go ashore and visit the Christians of that city. A church had been formed here during the persecutions that arose after the stoning of Stephen (Acts 11:19).
27: 4-8: "When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. When we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. There the Centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board. 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."
Luke loves the sea. He goes into great detail when it comes to ports and nautical matters. At this time of the year, the prevailing winds were out of the northwest. A ship headed for Italy from the Palestine coast would encounter headwinds all the way.
1. Paul of Tarsus from Cilicia; Paul started a church in Cilicia (Acts 6:9; 15:41).
2. His missionary journey took him to Pamphylia.
3. Myra, a city of Lycia (modern Turkey/most southern tip of the province of Asia Minor. The harbor was one of the chief ports for the government grain fleet that sailed between Alexandria in Egypt and the Italian peninsula. The Alexandrian was a grain vessel.
4. Cnidus was 130 miles west. Because of the severe winds it took many days.
5. At last, they came to a small bay called Fair Havens, Crete. 27:9-12: So much time had now passed that 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. 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. The “Fast” referred to is the day of Atonement and had gone by. It was probably mid-October. To try and reach Italy before mid-November when all sailing ended on the Mediterranean, was terribly risky. The question then was just where to spend the winter and ride out the great storms.
While Paul was not an experienced seaman, he had been through three shipwrecks and was familiar with the Mediterranean. However, we know, he was prophesying by the Holy Spirit. 2 Co. 11:25: Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters… (55 or 56 AD).
As the emperor’s representative, the centurion was the ranking officer on board. The decision was his to make. Phoenix was some 60 miles to the west of Fair Havens. This was a very well protected harbor. Some days later, the wind began to blow softly out of the south. 9: 13-15: When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. So, when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive.
Suddenly, just when everything seemed to be going so well, the weather made an abrupt change and a furious “northeaster” came blasting down off the high mountains of Crete (7000’). Euroclydon is not to be confused is the term “nor’easter, which is a separate storm system that forms in the northeastern portion of the United States. The work Luke uses in Greek can be translated “typhoon.” The sailors knew it was their old enemy “Euraquilo!” This expression is compounded from two words. The Greek word euros, meaning east wind, and the Latin word aquilo, meaning north wind. Hence the word, “northeaster.” The ship was driven at the mercy of the tempest.
27: 16-19: "Running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 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. Because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. On the third day, we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands."
Clauda is a Greek island. The storm has carried them into what was then called the Adriatic Sea; but identified on this map as the Ionian Sea. The Syrtis Sands are quick-sands. This was now a life and death struggle. It was a test for Paul to be involved in such a struggle when God had already promised to send him to Rome. We know Paul is on his knees in prayer, praying through the storm to find God’s will and purpose. This is again an instance of God’s providential care. Even though Paul’s captors had refused the Word of the Lord, the Lord prevails over storm, stubbornness, and all attacks to keep the Word of God from coming to past. Let us walk and live in that Faith.
27:20-26:" 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. 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. Now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul, you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore, take heart men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island.”
It is no problem for the Lord to send His angel through a storm to minister to his servants. “Fear not Paul!” Let not the saints be afraid, no, not at sea or in a storm; but the Lord of heaven is with us. Paul is assured that he shall come safely to Rome. The rage of the stormiest sea cannot prevail against God’s witnesses till they have finished their testimony. So long as God has any work for us to do, our lives shall be prolonged. For his sake all that were in the ship with him should be delivered too. Another divine appointment has been added to Paul’s schedule. 27:27-29: 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. 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. Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. Note Luke identifies the Adriatic Sea. The wind has been carrying them straight toward the coast of Italy. Malta is a small island about 60 miles from the coast. To be pounded against those rocks could mean death for all hands. The hand of God was indeed with them. They dropped four anchors over the stern of the ship. 27: 30-32: 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, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off. The ship’s crew understood the ship could break up at any moment. They set about to save themselves. However, by this time, Paul had enough respect that they did listen to him. 27: 33-38: As day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today if the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 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.” 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. Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. In all, we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. So, when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea. Paul’s leadership has surfaced. He is on top of the situation. He’s aware of weakness of the men due to the tension suffered as well as lack of food. They now throw the cargo of grain overboard. Remember, Paul told them the ship and cargo would be lost (27:10). Through Paul’s prayers, all their lives will be saved. 27: 39-41: 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. They let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile losing the rudder ropes, and the hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground, the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves. “Where two seas met” is interesting. I haven’t been able to reconcile the two seas. This map shows the I-on-ian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea as two separate bodies of water. The I-on-ian Sea is one of the most seis-mi-cally active areas in the world. It is understood that another inlet brought currents from another direction. That current carried bits of rock and sand which had been deposited to form a sandbar between the entrance to the bay and the beach. Today both seas are considered to be the Mediterranean. The Tyr-rhen-ian Sea also appears to overlap with the Mediterranean near Malta. 27: 42-44: The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. 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, and the rest, some on boards, and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land. After passing through such a desperate voyage together, it is strange that the soldiers would want to kill the prisoners. Yet, here they are planning the cold-blooded murder of those who had done them no harm and had experienced the same dangerous perils at sea as them. This was a new threat to Paul. Satan couldn’t kill him in the sea, so he stirs up the soldiers to kill him. The centurion was too grateful to Paul to let anything like that happen to him. Besides, according to Festus’ letter to Caesar, he wasn’t really guilty of anything. He was an un-condemned political/religious prisoner with dubious charges. Julius gave orders that all of them, prisoners included, were to get ashore. The prisoners’ lives are saved because of Paul. They all made it to shore safely. Because of Paul’s intercession, no lives were lost, only the ship. His Word to Paul was fulfilled on the shores of the island of Mata. These people endured hunger, cold, exhaustion, and the loss of their possessions in the wreck. God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. Next week, Paul on the island of Malta, then on to Rome. Carolyn Sissom, Pastor Eastgate Ministries Church www.eastgateministries.com Scripture from N.K.J.V. I entered into the labors of C. S. Lovett’s Lights on Acts. Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of Dr. Lovett. >