Acts 27:1-44

A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds

December 10, 2009 


The Captivity of Paul – Part 3: <썴˲>Rome

Acts 27:1-44


In this session we are beginning the last section of the book of Acts.  Acts 27 and 28 tell of Paul’s journey to Rome to have his case heard by Caesar.  F.F. Bruce calls the account of this journey “a small classic in its own right.”  The account is written from the standpoint of an eyewitness.  You will notice the constant use of the first person personal pronouns “we” and “us” throughout this narrative.

The journey began in the early fall of 60 A.D. and ended in the spring of 61 A.D. Because of the unpredictable weather and winds, it was considered dangerous to sail the Mediterranean after mid-September.  From around mid-November until March navigation on the Mediterranean was normally completed halted.  The journey ultimately required three different ships—Caesarea (27:2), Myra (27:5-6), and Malta (28:11).

Luke tells of the journey in five stages:

·        Stage 1 – Caesarea to Myra (27:1-5)

·        Stage 2 – Myra to Fair Havens (27:6-8)

·        Stage 3 – Fair Havens to Malta (27:9-44)

·        Stage 4 – Malta to Rome (28:1-15)

·        Stage 5 – Events in Rome (28:16-31)

Stage 1 – Caesarea to Myra (27:2-5)

Verse 1 – Once it was decided that Paul would be sent to Rome, he was handed over with some other prisoners to a centurion named “Julius.”  He was part of a special military unit known as “the Augustan cohort” (battalion).  This battalion probably served as a liaison between the emperor in Rome and the various provinces.  If so, Julius would have been a seasoned officer with an excellent military record to have been selected for this special assignment.  This may explain his good treatment of Paul throughout this journey.  As one writer put it, “…when Paul and Julius stood face to face, one brave man recognized another.” [Barclay]


Verse 2

“Adramyttian ship” – The Gulf of Adramyttian is located in northwest Asia Minor just southeast of Troas.  Apparently a ship going directly to Rome was not available and Julius was planning to find a ship bound for Rome in another port along the way.

“accompanied by Aristarchus” – Paul had two traveling companions—Luke who wrote the account of the journey and Aristrachus mentioned in this verse.  They probably were able to accompany Paul only by going as his slaves.  Aristarchus is mentioned in Acts 20:4 where we are told he was from Thessalonica and that he accompanied Paul on the journey to Jerusalem.  Paul describes him as “my fellow prisoner” in Colossians 4:10 and as a “fellow worker” in Philemon 24.


Verse 3

Sidon – About 70 miles north of Caesarea.  Paul was allowed to receive friends there who ministered to him.


Verse 4 – Sailed along the coast because the winds were not favorable.


Verse 5 – Landed in Myra which was located in the province of Lycia.


Stage 2 – Myra to Fair Havens (27:6-8)

Verse 6

“Alexandrian ship” – Alexandria was in Egypt and Egypt was a main source of grain for Italy.  This was a grain ship (see 27:38).  These ships were very large and this one carried, in addition to the cargo, 276 people (see Acts 27:37).

Verses 7-8 – The conditions for sailing were poor and they made slow progress along the coast.  Since they were unable to continue westward, they opted to sail south to Crete hoping to get some protection from the winds from the island.  With great difficulty made it to “Fair Havens” which is on the south side of Crete about an equal distance from each end.


Stage 3 – Fair Havens to Malta (27:9-28:10)


Verse 9

“the fast was already over” – The is a reference to the Day of Atonement which normally occurred in early October.  It was approaching the time where travel on the Mediterranean was extremely dangerous.


Verses 10-13 – A council was held to determine whether to winter in Fair Havens or to attempt to reach Phoenix, a more suitable winter harbor on southwest Crete.  It is interesting that Paul, a prisoner, was given the privilege of participating in the council.  Perhaps it was because he was recognized as an experienced traveler.  Julius, the centurion, who had the final authority to make the decision, was more convinced by the “pilot” (captain) and “captain” (owner) than he was by Paul.


Verse 14

“Euraquilo” – The Greek word means a strong northeast wind.


Verses 15-16 list three immediate dangers caused by this northeaster:

  • The loss of the small boat being towed behind them
  • The breaking up of the larger ship
  • The running aground on the “Syrtis” which was an area of two large sand bars off the coast of Africa which had caused the destruction of many ships

Verses 17-19 tells what they did to counter these dangers:

  • They hoisted the small boat onto the larger ship
  • They used supporting cables to undergird the larger ship
  • They jettisoned cargo and tackle in hopes of lightening the ship and missing the sandbars

Verse 20 speaks of the apparent hopelessness of their situation.  They had no way of navigating and the storm continue incessantly. 


Verses 21-26 – Paul addresses the people to encourage them.  These verses show Paul’s natural leadership ability.  How ironic it is that a prisoner became the person others looked to for encouragement!

  • He begins by reminding them that he advised against this journey.  His purpose in doing that was not to say “I told you so!” but to underscore his credibility.  He was right in what he said then and he is right in what he is about to say.
  • He tells them not to despair because they would all be saved.
  • He shares with them how he knows that they would be saved.
  • He confesses his confidence in God.
  • He tells them what is going to happen.

Verses 27-44 described the events leading up to and including the shipwreck

  • After two weeks, they began to near land.  The sailors, afraid the ship would break up on a rocky shore, attempted to escape in the small boat.  Paul alerted the centurion who cut the boat away.  It seems that by this time Paul had become the real commander of the ship!
  • Paul encouraged the people to take some nourishment and he set the example for them.  There was a practical reason for this.  They would need strength to make it to the shore.
  • Before reaching a beach the ship got caught on a reef and began to break apart.  The soldiers began to make plans to kill all the prisoners.  There was a good reason for this seemingly drastic action.  If a soldier allowed a prisoner under his guard to escape, he would be required to serve the sentence the prisoner would have gotten.  However, Julius, had had gained much respect for Paul, did not allow the soldiers to carry out their plan.  He literally put his life on the line for Paul.
  • All of the passengers made it safely to shore.


Practical Lesson from Acts 27:1-44:

1.      What will be remembered most about us is the way we treat others.  The legacy of Julius, the Roman centurion, is that he was kind to Paul.

2.   Few things in life are as precious and valuable as true friends.  Luke and Aristarchus must have been great encouragers to Paul.

3.   The most useful people in times of crisis are those who have a calm confidence in God and who have the ability to bolster and strengthen others.

4.   It times of difficulty, it is helpful to remember that God has a plan for His people.  He does not abandon us!

Here in the maddening maze of things, when tossed by storm and flood,

To one fixed ground my spirit clings; I know that God is good!

And if my heart and flesh are weak to bear an untried pain,

The bruised reed he will not break, but strengthen and sustain.

(John Greeleaf Whittier 1907-1992)