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Bible Study: Acts, Chapter Twenty-Seven

  • Bible Study, Acts Chapter 27 from Refreshing Hope Ministries on Vimeo.

    Transcript: Today we are going to study Acts chapter 27 in depth. You can follow along in your own Bible if you like. I will be reading from the World English Bible because it is the only modern English translation that is copyright free, and I can read the entire Bible on video without any legal drama or breaking anyone’s rules. After the meeting today, or sometime this week, please take the matching quiz that I have prepared for you on the website. Thanks to everyone who has participated so far. Let’s get started:

    First, let’s set our location and do a brief catchup. Previously in Acts, Paul had completed his third mission trip, but when he visited the temple at Jerusalem, a mob of angry Jews attacked him and tried to kill him. Roman soldiers intervened, arrested Paul, and after discovering an assassination plot against him, they took him to Caesarea, which was the Roman headquarters of the province.

    Though Paul was innocent, he stayed imprisoned in Caesarea for two years with no clear charges against him. When the Roman Governor wanted to send Paul back to Jerusalem to stand trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, which would have certainly ended in a death sentence, Paul appealed to Caesar in Rome. It was Paul’s right to do this because he was born a Roman citizen. So we begin Acts chapter 27 today with Paul boarding a ship and beginning his journey to Rome.

    Acts Chapter 27 beginning in verse 1, reading from the World English Bible: When it was determined that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan band. 2 Embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to places on the coast of Asia, we put to sea, Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.

    Roman soldiers escorted prisoners when traveling, so Paul was handed over to the centurion Julius. He apparently gave Paul favor and allowed him to bring his friends Aristarchus and Luke with him. We know that Luke was there because he wrote the book of Acts, and he wrote that Aristarchus was with “us”.

    3 The next day, we touched at Sidon. Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him permission to go to his friends and refresh himself.

    When they landed at Sidon, Julius allowed Paul to go visit his Christian friends there. The Roman commander probably gave Paul a lot of liberty, partly because he wasn’t a condemned man yet, because he was just waiting for trial before Caesar. Also Paul’s godly character and display of Christian love would have helped him gain favor as well. The other prisoners were probably all condemned criminals being sent to Rome to die in the arena.

    4 Putting to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 When we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. 6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and he put us on board.

    They arrived in Lycia and changed ships. The Alexandrian ship they board was probably an Egyptian grain freighter that would have been transporting grain that was grown in Egypt to Italy. The typical grain freighter of that period was 140 feet long and 36 feet wide. It had one mast with a big square sail, and instead of what we think of as a rudder, it steered with two paddles on the back part of the ship. They were sturdy, but because of its design, it couldn’t sail directly into the wind.

    7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and had come with difficulty opposite Cnidus, the wind not allowing us further, we sailed under the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 With difficulty sailing along it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.

    It was a difficult journey because the wind was against them, so they sailed slowly, gradually making their way west, eventually coming to the port called Fair Havens on the south side of the island of Crete.

    9 When much time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, because the Fast had now already gone by, Paul admonished them 10 and said to them, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”

    The Fast mentioned here was probably the Day of Atonement, which in A.D. 59 would have been on October 5th. The idea is that as winter approached, the weather grew more and more dangerous for sailing. It was considered dangerous to sail from about September 14 until November 11 then completely stopped after that. Travel by ship on the open sea came to an end until winter was over.

    Paul was an experienced traveler and had already logged about 3,500 miles at sea on his mission trips. According to 2 Corinthians 11:25, by this time, Paul had already been shipwrecked three times and spent a day and night floating in the sea. He, like most everyone else, knew that sailing in this season would be dangerous so he warned them that they should stay where they were until the winter was over.

    11 But the centurion gave more heed to the master and to the owner of the ship than to those things which were spoken by Paul. 12 Because the haven was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised going to sea from there, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, and winter there, which is a port of Crete, looking southwest and northwest.

    The name Fair Havens (Acts 27:8) was not entirely accurate—at least in the winter. The position of the bay made it vulnerable to winter winds and storms, so it was not an ideal place to wait out the coming season. It was probably the local Chamber of Commerce that named the place “Fair Havens.”

    Most important for the sailors was that it was not a fun place to spend all winter, and the crew of the ship didn’t look forward to spending the winter months in a small town. The majority of the crew wanted to sail to Phoenix, a much nicer port that was only about forty miles away. If they could make it there, they would be spared a miserable winter at Fair Havens.

    13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to shore.

    The winds began to look favorable, so they set sail from Fair Haven and headed to Phoenix. Just beyond Crete, the wind turned dangerous and began to blow them out to sea, away from the land.

    14 But before long, a stormy wind beat down from shore, which is called Euroclydon.

    This wind was feared among ancient sailors for its destructive power and they named it Euroclydon. It was a cyclone that was common in the Mediterranean sea in the fall and winter months. The sailors believed that the wind originated from the abode of Zeus, from the top from the top of Mount Ida and had come to destroy them. They were helpless to navigate with this wind in their face, all they could do is let it drive them along with it.

    15 When the ship was caught and couldn’t face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we were able, with difficulty, to secure the boat.

    There was a small skiff that was normally towed behind the boat, but it was taken aboard at bad weather, so they brought it in. It was an “all hands on deck” moment and it appears Doctor Luke was helping them pull the ropes because he wrote “we” were able to secure the boat “with difficulty”.

    17 After they had hoisted it up, they used cables to help reinforce the ship.

    This was an emergency measure to keep the ship from breaking apart in the crashing waves, called “frapping”. They passed ropes underneath the ship and pulled them tight to help keep the timbers in place.

    Fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis sand bars, they lowered the sea anchor, and so were driven along. 

    The Syrtis sand bars that the sailors were afraid of are two bodies of water in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of North Africa. The sandbars were an infamous wrecking area of ships. Sailors feared its shallow water, which was full of treacherous rocks and sandbanks, though they were still about four hundred miles away.

    Even with “good luck”, the sailors on the Alexandrian grain ship that carried the Apostle Paul and Dr. Luke were terrified because they knew they were doomed if they hit the Syrtis Sands. The grain ship that they were on was the largest ship traveling the Mediterranean Sea at that time. It was slow and had a deep draft, and would easily have gotten grounded on a sandbar in the middle of nowhere and many miles from any shoreline.

    There is an old sailor’s saying that sums it up best: “Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!” They would have had plenty of grain to eat on the ship, but not a drop of water to go with it. So they may have been afraid of dying a slow and painful death by dehydration.

    18 As we labored exceedingly with the storm, the next day they began to throw things overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw out the ship’s tackle with their own hands.

    They began to lighten the ship by throwing what was probably the deck cargo into the sea (Acts 27:38; Jonah 1:5). Then the following day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard, ropes, pulleys, blocks, — along with probably anything movable lying on the decks. They probably tossed items that were provided for the passengers’ comfort, such as beds, tables, eating utensils, and the like overboard as well.

    20 When neither sun nor stars shone on us for many days, and no small storm pressed on us, all hope that we would be saved was now taken away.

    At the time, on the open sea, they could only navigate by knowing the position of the sun or the stars. Being driven ahead of this storm in the dark for so many days, drove the crew to desperation. The wild tempest drove them blindly westward across the Mediterranean Sea, and all hope that they would be saved was finally given up. Acts 27:37 tells us that there were 276 people on board, both passengers and crew. It seems that they no longer had any hope of survival.

    21 When they had been long without food, Paul stood up in the middle of them, and said, “Sirs, you should have listened to me, and not have set sail from Crete and have gotten this injury and loss.

    They had been without food for a long time, not because they were fasting to God, but more likely because of seasickness, spoiled food, or they were unable to cook it with the ship slamming up and down so violently in the waves.

    Paul stood up and basically said: “Told ya so.”  It is human nature to want to be proven right, and Luke is faithful to show us the man inside the Apostle. Paul continued on:

    22 Now I exhort you to cheer up, 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, belonging to the God whose I am and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. Behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore, sirs, cheer up! For I believe God, that it will be just as it has been spoken to me. 26 But we must run aground on a certain island.”

    An angel appeared to Paul and confirmed what Jesus had told him, that he would go to Rome, and that God had spared the lives of all who sailed with him. Perhaps Paul had prayed for them and God granted his request? Paul also supernaturally knew about the island they were going to run aground on in the future.

    I love the words of Paul when he said: “The God whose I am.” When you think about it, that is the reverse of: “My God.” It tells us that God didn’t belong to him, but instead he belonged to God. In those days there were many household gods, some that you could carry around in your pocket, but you owned them instead of them owning you. Paul saw himself as God’s property.

    27 But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven back and forth in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors surmised that they were drawing near to some land. 28 They took soundings, and found twenty fathoms. After a little while, they took soundings again, and found fifteen fathoms.

    They spent two entire weeks in the misery and terror of the storm. The sailors probably heard waves breaking on distant rocks, so they took a sounding, measuring the depth of the water. A fathom is 6 feet, so 20 fathoms was 120 feet deep, then later they found it was 90 feet, so they knew they were approaching land.

    29 Fearing that we would run aground on rocky ground, they let go four anchors from the stern, and wished for daylight.

    Crashing into giant rocks in the middle of the night in a wooden ship would have been disastrous, so they lowered four anchors from the rear of the ship. The anchors were not as heavy as we have today, so they needed more of them. Also they would have usually thrown the anchors from the bow of the ship, but may be they were unsure how far they were from land, and they certainly wanted the bow facing the beach. They prayed for daylight to come.

    30 As the sailors were trying to flee out of the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, pretending that they would lay out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these stay in the ship, you can’t be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it fall off.

    We have two groups here, the experienced sailors were the ones that drove the boat, while the Roman soldiers were only passengers guarding the prisoners. These sailors didn’t care about the passengers onboard. They saw a chance to make it to the beach during the night, so they lowered the life boat and planned to abandon the ship, leaving the rest behind to survive however they could.

    The ship’s passengers desperately needed the crew’s expertise, and it would be fatal if the crew abandoned the passengers. Paul saw what was happening and told the centurion that unless the sailors stayed to help navigate the ship, they would be lost. The Roman soldiers carried the swords, and you didn’t want to challenge them, so they cut away the ropes holding the life boat and let it go.

    33 While the day was coming on, Paul begged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you wait and continue fasting, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I beg you to take some food; for this is for your safety; for not a hair will perish from any of your heads.” 35 When he had said this, and had taken bread, he gave thanks to God in the presence of all, then he broke it and began to eat.

    Paul was at peace, which must have been quite a sight to those who were in terror. There are hints that Paul regarded this meal as communion at the Lord’s Table for the Christians present, for it is the same pattern that he used in other places. Either way, they were all encouraged, cheered up, and ate some food.

    36 Then they all cheered up, and they also took food. 37 In all, we were two hundred seventy-six souls on the ship. 38 When they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.

    The last remaining cargo on the ship was the wheat they were transporting. Wheat was always at a premium in Rome and they may have used it as a ballast to level the ship as well, so they kept it as long as they could. Now in order to make the ship lighter, so they could get as close to the beach as possible, they threw the wheat overboard as well.

    39 When it was day, they didn’t recognize the land, but they noticed a certain bay with a beach, and they decided to try to drive the ship onto it.

    The sun finally came up, and they didn’t recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach and decided to run the the ship aground there. This area is now called “Saint Paul’s Bay” on the Isle of Malta. Paul made such an impact on the island that is a statue of him there.

    If they would have missed the Isle of Malta, there would have no land for another 200 miles until they struck the North African coast, and the ship may not have held together that long. It was a divine appointment for Paul.

    40 Casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time untying the rudder ropes. Hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach.

    They cut loose the anchors they had dropped during the night. The long rudders, two large paddles, located on the back of the ship would have been tied up during the storm, so they were lowered into the water to steer it. Then they raised the sail on the front of the ship and aimed for the beach.

    41 But coming to a place where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground. The bow struck and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up by the violence of the waves.

    The ship ran aground and stuck fast on the shore, while the stormy sea pounded the weakened vessel and started breaking it apart. Everyone on board had to jump ship, or be broken up with it.

    42 The soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim out and escape. 43 But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should throw themselves overboard first to go toward the land; 44 and the rest should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship. So they all escaped safely to the land.

    To the Roman soldiers, it made sense to kill the prisoners, because according to Roman military law, a guard who allowed his prisoner to escape was subject to the same penalty that the escaped prisoner would have suffered. In the case of most of these prisoners, that meant death.

    Julius the centurion wanted to save Paul, and he was their commander. God gave Paul favor in the eyes of this Roman centurion, and that favor kept Paul and all the other prisoners alive.

    The centurion ordered the swimmers overboard first, and then those who needed to use planks from the ship as floats, and those who would hang onto the backs of others. God fulfilled the word spoken to Paul, and no one perished in the ship wreck (Acts 27:24). Everyone made it ashore. God’s word never fails.

    Though the storm’s wind drove them across the sea and they were helpless to steer the ship, God controlled the direction of the wind. Paul just took a side trip and brought Christianity to a remote island while on his way to Rome.

    The Isle of Malta has never been the same since Paul swam ashore that morning. He spent about three months there teaching the gospel and healing the sick nearly 2000 years ago and because of it, there are now more than 360 churches there, many of them dedicated to the Apostle Paul. Malta is still considered to be the most religious country in Europe.

    That concludes our Bible study on Acts Chapter 27. Thank you for watching and for being a part of Refreshing Hope!

    Take the Acts 27 quiz, or scroll down for the text version! 

     

    Quiz Questions on Acts Chapter 27:

    1. When it was determined that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to a centurion named __________, of the Augustan band.
    2. Embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to places on the coast of Asia, we put to sea, Aristarchus, a Macedonian of __________, being with us.
    3. The next day, we touched at __________. Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him permission to go to his friends and refresh himself.
    4. When we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of __________ sailing for Italy, and he put us on board.
    5. When we had sailed slowly many days, and had come with difficulty opposite Cnidus, the wind not allowing us further, we sailed under the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. With difficulty sailing along it we came to a certain place called ____________________, near the city of Lasea.
    6. When much time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, because the __________ had now already gone by, Paul admonished them and said to them, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
    7. But the centurion gave more heed to the master and to the __________ of the ship than to those things which were spoken by Paul.
    8. Because the haven was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised going to sea from there, if by any means they could reach __________, and winter there, which is a port of Crete, looking southwest and northwest.
    9. When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along __________, close to shore.
    10. But before long, a stormy wind beat down from shore, which is called __________. When the ship was caught and couldn’t face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.
    11. Running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we were able, with difficulty, to secure the __________. After they had hoisted it up, they used cables to help reinforce the ship.
    12. Fearing that they would run aground on the __________ sand bars, they lowered the sea anchor, and so were driven along.
    13. As we labored exceedingly with the storm, the next day they began to throw things overboard. On the third day, they threw out the ship’s __________ with their own hands.
    14. When neither __________ nor stars shone on us for many days, and no small storm pressed on us, all hope that we would be saved was now taken away.
    15. Now I exhort you to cheer up, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel, belonging to the God whose I am and whom I serve, saying, Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before __________.
    16. But when the __________ night had come, as we were driven back and forth in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors surmised that they were drawing near to some land.
    17. They took soundings, and found twenty fathoms. After a little while, they took soundings again, and found __________ fathoms.
    18. Fearing that we would run aground on rocky ground, they let go __________ anchors from the stern, and wished for daylight.
    19. As the sailors were trying to flee out of the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, pretending that they would lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the __________ and to the soldiers, “Unless these stay in the ship, you can’t be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it fall off.
    20. Then they all cheered up, and they also took food. In all, we were __________ souls on the ship.

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Joseph Adams, Jr.
Joseph Adams, Jr.

Excellent

Mar 10