“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius. 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. 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. From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary. When we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it. 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 place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea. 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 with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul. 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. When a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.”
Agrippa’s conclusion after the hearing before him and Festus was that Paul was innocent of all charges. However, because Paul had appealed to Rome he would not be set free. He would have to be transferred to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. All of this of course was God’s plan to get Paul to Rome where he should have already been all along. In Acts 27 and 28 we have the story of Paul’s sea voyage and his arrival in Rome to stand trial before Caesar.
The ship in which Paul was wrecked in Acts 27:37 carried 276 people. Ancient ships could not sail into the wind in a storm and make any headway. These were the type of boats that Paul and his companions travelled to Rome in. So what we will see in this story is the protection of God for Paul and those traveling with him to Rome. When it was decided means Festus made the decision when and how they would travel. The Greek word for decided is “krino,” which means to make a decision irrationally. Festus did not send them the easiest way to go to Rome, which was from Caesarea to Alexandria, but he sent them the other way, probably hoping Paul would die along the way in a shipwreck. But God can overrule the plans of men.
The centurion, Julius, was a man who was thoughtful of his prisoners which was good for Paul because he was able to meet with his friends, Luke and Aristarchus. The winds were said to be in opposition (contrary) to sailing any other way which tells us a storm was brewing. When they reached Myra, they boarded a ship bound for Rome that could sail in the open sea.
When we had sailed slowly is another indication that the wind was strong and a storm was on the way. This was the storm season and the fast was a reference to the Day of Atonement which occurred in Jerusalem on the 10 day of October. But they were past “the fast season,” but still in what was normally considered the end of sailing on the open sea. There were normally storms for the next five or six months and all sailing ceased in the Mediterranean. Sailing would not resume until about March.
Paul warned them of the hazards of sailing during this time but was ignored by the centurion, choosing to listen instead to the ship’s crew. The reason they decided to sail on is that winter was upon them and they wanted to find a more suitable place to stay. They sailed on and reached Crete and continued along the coastline where the winds were more favorable (they thought). The application of this is that sometimes in life we are called upon to make rational decisions based on the doctrine in our souls. However, in those same times we often get overruled by someone in authority who has no doctrine, so we respond as Paul did and trust God for a positive outcome.
“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. Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control.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 in this way let themselves be driven along. 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.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.”
Now the storm of the season hits with tremendous force. The Greek word for a violent wind is “tuphonikos,” which is a reference to a hurricane and from which we get our English word “typhoon.” This particular wind had a name, Euroclydon, which was a Latin name meaning a north-east wind or what we call today a “nor’easter.” Now we have a classic example of what is described by Paul in Ephesians 4:14 regarding the immature Christian. These sailors no longer had control of their ship, but were completely at the mercy of the wind over which they had no control. Every sailor’s “trick” they knew to gain control of the ship failed and they were left at the mercy of Mother Nature in what seemed a hopeless situation. By the third day the captain had apparently given up any hope of having a normal type trip and he threw away things that were absolutely necessary to survive.
For eleven days they had been confined to that ship in darkness. What followed was fear and loss of all hope. This is a perfect illustration of what often happens in the life of a believer who fails to take in doctrine consistently and fails to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. No amount of human viewpoint ideas (like throwing the anchor overboard), no amount of psychological solutions (like unloading the cargo or baggage [of the past]), or no amount of shoring up the ship (with suggestions from well-meaning friends) will solve the problem. The only solution to a believer’s problem is Bible doctrine resident in the soul and properly applied to the problem.
Ephesians 4:14, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” As a result refers to the context of Ephesians 4, which is to walk in a worthy manner consistent with your faith. A believer cannot walk in a worthy manner if he is constantly being tossed around by false doctrine (a sign of spiritual immaturity).
Children refers to believers who are childish in their thinking, no matter what their chronological age. Paul gives four illustrations of the spiritually immature believer: 1) Tossed here and there by waves. It refers to the pressures of self-induced misery and divine discipline to the reversionistic believer. The reversionistic believer will succumb to every wind and wave of false doctrine that comes along and cannot handle the storms of life. 2) Carried about by every wind of doctrine. The Greek word for carried about is “periphero,” which means to be picked up and taken away. In the case of the immature believer, he is being carried around by the influence of false doctrine and is no more spiritually mature than the last “preacher” he heard.
3) By the trickery of men. The Greek word for trickery is “kubeia,” which is a gambling term for someone who is cheating at dice and makes his living off others. The devil tricks or outsmarts many members of the Royal Family of God into neglecting and/or rejecting Bible doctrine. Without Bible doctrine we enter into this system of false doctrine and can think only human viewpoint, which is a life disaster. 4) By craftiness in deceitful scheming. The Greek word for craftiness means to cheat. The Greek word for deceitful scheming is “plane” meaning to lead astray or seduce. The reversionist cannot “hold his own” against satanic ideas and they infiltrate his soul with human viewpoint. Without Bible doctrine, no member of the Royal Family can cope with life properly.
“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. Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will 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.”
Our story continues with what happened to Paul and his companions on the ship to Rome. They find themselves in the middle of a hurricane with no human solution in sight. But Paul being filled with the Holy Spirit and doctrine had the solution to their problem - a promise of protection from God. Paul’s (God’s) solution was to remain onboard the ship. As a believer, when you fear the unknown and you are trying to discover the solution to it by your own power and human intelligence, you will fail. However, if you are a spiritually mature believer then you will do as Paul did and by faith rely solely on the guidance and power of the Lord. The reason that Paul was not afraid in the midst of the storm was the filling of the Spirit, the doctrine in his soul, the application of that doctrine and the grace of God. He received courage in this crisis on the basis of the doctrine in his soul. And during the hurricane Paul was expressing his faith in God. The angel of the Lord had appeared to Paul to deliver a message of deliverance from God. Though an angel will not appear to us to deliver a message from God, we have the completed Canon of Scripture which is our message from God. The message is the important issue, not the method of delivery. We can have the very same confidence in God’s Word as Paul had in the message from His angel.
Everyone is susceptible to fear, even the mature believer. However, Paul was back in fellowship with God and had no fear because God had revealed to him the outcome of this seeming disastrous situation. Fear is a mental attitude sin that shuts down thinking and makes application of Bible doctrine impossible. When fear catches us off guard, it is important to know the correct recovery procedure - the Faith-Rest Technique. Paul knew this technique which is clearly outlined in the Old Testament.
The Faith-Rest Technique involves claiming a Bible promise, applying a doctrinal rationale and reaching a doctrinal conclusion. This is the reason that it is so important that we all learn accurate Bible doctrine as Paul had. The nice stories and so-called “Christian principles” will not sustain us in time of extreme difficulty or disaster. We need applied Bible doctrine. We cannot apply what we do not know. Therefore, we need to be consistent in our intake of God’s Word for the purpose of spiritual growth. Growth means learning to use the Word of God to combat and to control our sin nature and the influences of Satan’s world system. Since fear of the unknown is a sin for a believer, the first step to recovery is the utilization of I John 1:9 (Rebound). By naming “fear” as our sin, we are forgiven, in fellowship with God and filled with the Holy Spirit. Now we are in a position to use the Faith-Rest Technique.
Paul had to establish his authority with these people because in this crisis it was Paul’s commands that saved the crew. Paul’s command was to have courage which meant “keep your nerve.” And it was going to take nerve to carry out Paul’s orders. Uncontrolled fear is the opposite of courage.
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 was his testimony with regard to his relationship to the one true God. The angel who stood before Paul and delivered God’s message was not a theophany of Jesus Christ. If it were, we would have the definite article “the” in front of angel. Nevertheless, the message was delivered and Paul understood it and believed it. Paul repeated his encouragement to have courage twice. If they failed to follow Paul’s commands, they would not have survived this storm.
“For I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.But we must run aground on a certain island.” There were no islands in the vicinity as far as they knew, the storm was still raging, the ship was in very serious trouble, and Paul had made this dogmatic statement in view of a hopeless situation. Obviously, this information regarding an island was revealed to him by the angel from God though we do not see it in the context of the passage.
“But when the fourteenth night came, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. 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.Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak.But 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. 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 will perish.”Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. All of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea. When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a 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. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none
of them would 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 so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.”
The soldiers owed their lives to Paul and his counsel, but with typical Roman cruelty they wanted to kill the prisoners. But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from harming him. Everyone aboard made it safely to shore as the ship broke into pieces on the reefs. They were off the island of Malta, as Paul had told them and all 276 persons on board were saved. It’s amazing what happens when we follow God’s instructions. God could have saved only Paul, Luke and Aristarchus but chose to save the entire crew and passengers. We are not told if any or all of those on board believed in Christ as their Savior, but I’m confident that Paul shared the Gospel with those who would listen.