Peace in the Midst of the Storm – Acts 27:1-44

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Sermon Study Sheets

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

November 26, 2006

Peace in the Midst of the Storm

Acts 27:1-44

In Matthew 13:18-23 Jesus explained the parable of the sower that he had given to his disciples saying, 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil [one] comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no [firm] root in himself, but is [only] temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

There are many who hear the gospel, but only a few respond and continue on to bear fruit. The narrow way is difficult and so many turn back to the ease of the broad path oblivious that it is taking them to destruction. This is a tragedy seen all too often in our own time and land because too many people hear only a distortion of the gospel. They then believe that if they become a Christian that God will never let anything bad happen to them. Some churches even teach that if bad things happen to you like health problems and such, then it is because you lack faith. How tragic because it is so far from the truth and leaves people devastated and hopeless when bad things do happen.

Throughout our study of the book of Acts we have seen that evil people are often doing bad things to Christians. Persecution rose quickly against the apostles soon after they began preaching (Acts 4) and then escalated as the church continued to grow. As the church spread from Jerusalem, to Judea, Samaria and then to the gentiles in distant lands, persecution followed. In the last few weeks we have been examining Paul’s faithfulness to live in godliness and proclaim the gospel even to those that were treating him unjustly.

I can add here that the trouble that Christians face are not just those caused by evil people around us. We also have to wrestle with the evil we cause ourselves when we do not live as God has commanded. And we have to face the common troubles of living in a fallen world. The second law of thermodynamics affects us as much as all other people. We suffer from things wearing out or breaking including our bodies. We have medical maladies caused by a host of various sources including germs, parasites, chemicals, accidents and nature.

If becoming a Christian is based on the idea of being able to live a life without trouble and trials, then it is a bad deal. No wonder so many that have Jesus Christ marketed to them in such a manner turn away when troubles come. But true Christianity is not based on the avoidance of problems in this life. It is based on the truth of the nature and work of God and our responsibilities and response to Him.

God is holy and just. He created the world in perfection, but man disobeyed His commands and brought upon himself God’s wrath. Yet God loved man and provided a way for man to be redeemed from his sin and adopted back into God’s family. Jesus Christ, the Messiah promised by the Prophets, paid for man’s sin by His death on the cross and then rose from the grave promising eternal life to all who believe in Him. That is the gospel message that Paul proclaimed to Jew and Gentile alike on all his missionary journeys. The result was many people turning to Jesus Christ in faith even while others rejected the message and turn against Paul.

We pick up our study of Paul this morning in Acts 27. Paul has been unjustly imprisoned in Caesarea for two years. He should have been freed by Felix when he first arrived, but the governor wanted a bribe. When Festus became governor he quickly addressed the issue of Paul and brought him to trial, but he did not understand the region, the religion or the rascals that were falsely accusing Paul. Even though Paul had not broken any Roman laws, Festus sought to have Paul go to Jerusalem and stand trial before him there as a means of trying to understand the charges being made against him. Seeing that he would not receive justice while he remained in Judea, Paul appealed to Caesar. Festus honored Paul’s appeal, but he did not know what to tell Caesar about why Paul was being sent. Two weeks ago we examined Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa that helped Festus know what to write. Paul was being sent because he had appealed to Caesar, but they had found him to be innocent in a subsequent questioning.

This week we will trace Paul’s voyage to Rome. In the process we will see how Paul responds to yet another trial that comes upon him when his ship is caught in a terrible storm and then wrecked on the shoals of a distant island. Paul is not only able to remain calm himself because of God’s promises to him, but he is also able to calm the others on board and save the lives of many. God can use you for good and His glory regardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself.

 

From Caesarea to Fair Havens (27:1-8)

Acts 27:1 (NASB) And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius. 2 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.

(MAP) The journey begins in Caesarea, and Luke details who was in charge of the prisoners, the planned journey and who went with them. I mentioned several weeks ago that the only delay before Paul would be sent to Caesar was waiting for enough prisoners that needed to go to Rome to justify the use of a Centurion and his detail of soldiers and then booking passage on a ship. The various time markers in this chapter indicate this occurred sometime in mid-Summer. The centurion who would be in charge of the prisoners is a man named Julias who part of the Augustan cohort. At that time there was a regiment by that name stationed in the areas north and east of the Sea of Galilee. This centurion and his men were either part of that regiment that were making their way back to Italy or he served the emperor as a military courier with authority to escort prisoners.

The ship was a coastal freighter whose home port was Adramyttium (MAP) located in the province of Asia southeast of Troas. These freighters would work their way up and down the coast visiting ports from Greece to Egypt. Julias was booking passage on this ship in order to get to a major port such as Patara or Myra where he could get a ship going to Italy.

Going along with Paul are Luke, notice verses 1 & 2 use the term “we,” and Aristarchus from Thessalonica. We have met this man before. He was one of the men who was dragged into the theater during the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:29). He accompanied Paul through the remainder of the third missionary journey through Greece and Macedonia and then on the return trip to Jerusalem. Here we find him also going with Paul to Rome. Later, In Col. 4:10, Paul calls him “my fellow prisoner.” Paul had many people who were very loyal to him and they would have been used of the Lord to provide for his needs as well as encourage him while he was imprisoned. [Some have suggested they would have posed as Paul’s slaves in order to accompany Paul on the voyage, but these were men of integrity and it is more likely that they paid for their own passage].

 

(MAP) 3 And 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.

Their first stop was Sidon and Julias treats Paul with unusual kindness and trust. Remember that Paul is a prisoner going on appeal to Caesar. This indicates to me that Julias was aware of the conclusion by governor Festus and King Agrippa that Paul was innocent otherwise it would seem very improbable for the Centurion to give that level of trust to any prisoner, including Paul. Paul and his companions do go into Sidon and fellowship with his friends there.

(MAP) 4 And from there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary. 5 And when we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 And there the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it.

The coastal freighters would avoid the open sea as much as possible. In this case the contrary winds had them hug the eastern and northern shores of Cyprus. Paul had sailed along the southwestern shore on his return trip to Jerusalem following his third missionary trip. In Myra they disembarked from the Adramyttian ship and boarded a Alexandrian freighter what was sailing for Italy. These freighters hauled grain from Egypt to Italy and were very large by ancient standards measuring 180 feet long, 45 feet wide and had a draft of 43 feet. They could hold a large number of people. Josephus reports being on one that had 600 people on board. This particular ship only had 276. Depending on the winds they would sail from Alexandria north to Myra or along Phoenicia and then over to Myra or Patara. From there they would sail west across the Aegean and Adriatic seas to Italy.

(MAP) 7 And 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; 8 and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

The wind made it difficult to sail west, so they instead went southwest to get under the shelter of Crete and then progress west. They end up in Fair Havens on the southern shore of Crete.

From Fair Havens to Malta (27:9-44)

Paul’s Warning (9-13)

9 And when considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul [began] to admonish them,10 and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be [attended] with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship, than by what was being said by Paul. 12 And 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.] 13 And when a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had gained their purpose, they weighed anchor and [began] sailing along Crete, close [inshore.]

Paul’s advice here is not uninformed musings, but well reasoned from experience. The ship remained at anchor in Fair Havens for a “considerable time” waiting for good conditions. This delay put them into the period of time when sailing becomes increasingly dangerous from mid-September to mid-November after which all ships remain in port. The fast Paul speaks of is the Day of Atonement which in A.D. 59 fell on October 5. Paul also had experienced three shipwrecks before including “spending a night and a day in the deep” (2 Cor. 11:25). He then warned them of his perception of impending disaster, but the centurion was persuaded the pilot and captain of the ship who were professional sailors and wanted to push on to a better harbor. Fair Havens had exposure to winter storms so they wanted to make it about 40 miles farther west to Phoenix which had better harbors to spend the next four or five months. It certainly seemed like a reasonable decision, so when a proper wind arose they set out close to shore seeking to make it to Phoenix. But they did not make it.

The Storm Begins (14-20)

14 But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo;

The wind is a compound word from the Greek words for north wind and east wind and hence a northeast wind. Author and 19th century English yachtsman James Smith wrote that this sudden change from southernly winds to violent northeastern winds are a common occurrence in those seas. [The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul].

15 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. 16 And running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the [ship’s] boat under control. 17 And 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 so let themselves be driven along. 18 The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; 19 and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 And 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.

The storm was too strong to tack into it so they had no choice but to lower sails and drift with it. They pulled in the dinghy that was usually dragged behind the ship and secured it to the deck. They then ran cables around the ship and tightened them to keep the ship from being broken apart in the storm. They became concerned about being grounded on shallows of Syrtis located off the coast of Libya so they set out a sea anchor to increase drag and slow the ship down. The next day they started throwing cargo overboard to lighten the ship and decrease its draft. By the third day they started throwing any unnecessary equipment. But the storm was still strong and continued so that they were losing hope. Paul then stepped in to encourage them because he was still confident.

Paul’s Encouragement & Prophecy (21-26)

21 And 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. 22 “And [yet] now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there shall be no loss of life among you, but [only] of the ship. 23 “For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ 25 “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. 26 “But we must run aground on a certain island.”

Despair affects the mind and body. Emotion starts eroding rational thought and the appetite decreases. Paul stood up in the midst of this hopeless group to encourage them. Paul was confident because he had already been promised by God that he would witness for Him in Rome. Paul begins his speech to the them with a reminder about the warning he gave them when they were in Crete. This was not to scold them for not listening to him earlier, but rather to stress to them the wisdom of his advice, and they needed to listen to him now.

Paul is speaking to pagans and reveals that the God he served had revealed to him that not only would Paul stand before Caesar, but that He had also granted to Paul all the lives of those sailing with him. Paul was calm and confident because he believed what God told him. This was encouraging news to them. Paul had a God that was intervening to save them. The only negative was that they would first run aground on a island. You can be sure that after all of these things happened these pagans would listen to what Paul had to say about God.

The Shipwreck (27-44)

27 But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors [began] to surmise that they were approaching some land. 28 And 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. 29 And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak.

(Map) This was a long storm and they had traveled a long way across the Adriatic Sea (which at that time referred to that portion of the Mediterranean Sea from Malta to Crete). The distance from Clauda to Malta is about 550 miles (476 nautical miles / 880 Km). James Smith calculated the average drift of that type of ship in those conditions to be 41 miles per day (36 Nautical miles / 66 Km). It would have taken just over thirteen days to drift that distance.

Either changes in the swells or the sound of waves crashing on shore caused them to suspect they were near land, so they took soundings to confirm. This consisted of throwing out a measured line with a weight on the end. They found it was about 90 feet. They threw out their anchors to keep from running aground on the rocks and waited for daybreak. But not everyone was willing to wait.

Preventing the Flight of the Sailors (30-32)

30 And 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, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the [ship’s] boat, and let it fall away.

They are now following Paul’s instructions. The attempt of the sailors to escape with the ship’s dinghy put everyone at risk. However, the soldiers over react and cut the boat away instead of just guarding it. This would make it more difficult for them to reach shore safely.

 

Running Aground (33-42)

Acts 27:33 (NASB) And 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. 34 “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 shall perish.” 35 And having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all; and he broke it and began to eat. 36 And all of them were encouraged, and they themselves also took food. 37 And all of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. 38 And when they had eaten enough, they [began] to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea.

As daylight was approaching Paul encouraged them all to eat and repeated the promise God had given to him that none of them would perish. He then gave thanks to God before them all and they all ate. They then threw everything else they could overboard in order to make the draft as shallow as possible so the ship would run aground as close to shore as possible.

39 And when day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a certain bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. 40 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.

(Map) When it was light enough to see the land they did not recognize where they were, but they did see a bay where they needed to go. They made the preparations, cut the anchors, hoisted the sails and made for the beach. But there was one more obstacle to overcome.

41 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.]

(Map) They were now in a dangerous position. The ship was stuck and the back end of it was being broken up by the waves. They did not have the dinghy anymore so there was no safe way to make it to shore unless you were a good swimmer. This brought on a new danger to the prisoners.

42 And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, that none [of them] should swim away and escape;

Because the soldiers would not be able keep the prisoners under guard if they all had to swim to shore, they wanted to kill all the prisoners. This may seem harsh to us, but we must remember that a Roman soldier that let a prisoner escape would pay for his failure with his own life. The soldiers would rather kill the prisoners than risk losing their own lives because of an escaped prisoner

Every Life Preserved (42-44)

God had promised to Paul that everyone would be preserved. He would now have to intervene for that to occur, and He did in through the Centurion who had a plan for everyone to make it to shore safely.

43 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, 44 and the rest [should follow], some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And thus it happened that they all were brought safely to land.

The Centurion took on the responsibility himself and gave commands countering the intentions of his soldiers, then gave directions for how everyone could make it to shore safely. Those who could swim did, and those that could not would float to shore on pieces of ship.

Paul did not know what would occur before he could stand before Caesar, but he knew that God would fulfill that promise. The storm was horrible and it was terrifying to those that went through it. However, because Paul trusted God he was able to be calm in the midst of the storm. All 276 souls made it to shore safely.

We can also trust God for His promises but we must make sure we know what those promises are. God had not promised ease of life without tribulation or trial. He has not promised to keep you from getting sick, injured or suffering from the sin of other people. He said something quite the opposite in John 16:33 – in this world we will have tribulation, but we are to take courage because He has overcome the world. God has promised to forgive your sins, give you eternal life and adopt you into His family on the basis of your faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement (Eph. 1:4-7; 1 John 1:9; 5:11-13). Jesus has promised to return and take you to heaven (John 14:3) God has promised to meet your real needs as you seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Mt. 6:33). Jesus has promised to be with you and never leave you (Mt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). The Christian should expect storms in their life on this earth, but we, like Paul, can learn to be content regardless of the circumstances as we trust God to work in and through us for His glory (Phil. 4:11-12).

Sermon Study Sheets

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) How many times is the storm mentioned – what different words are used. 2) Talk with your parents about how to respond when circumstances in life become difficult.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What is the point of the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:18-23? Why do only a few bear fruit? Why do bad things happen to Christians? What is the basis of true Christianity? Why was Paul being sent to Rome? Who was traveling with Paul? Why couldn’t they travel by ship directly to Rome? Why did the Centurion let Paul go to his friends in Sidon? What does this indicate about his view of Paul? Map out Paul’s route of travel from Caesarea to Fair Havens. What time of year were they sailing? Why was it becoming dangerous to sail? Why didn’t they want to stay in Fair Havens? Why was Phoenix a better place? Was it reasonable to try to sail to there? Describe the nature of the storm that drove them all the way to Malta? What efforts were made to save the ship? Their lives? Why were they in despair? How do you respond when you are in despair? How did Paul encourage them? How did this glorify God? What helps you when you are discouraged? After they reach Malta, why does the Centurion follow Paul’s directions? How /why did the Centurion save Paul and the other prisoners from being executed? How were they able to make it so shore after the ship was grounded? How can you respond like Paul when you face discouraging circumstances? List the promises God has made that are especially important to you? Are they conditional or unconditional promises? What difference do they make in your daily life? How can you encourage others?

Sermon Notes – November 26, 2006

Shipwrecked – Acts 27:1-44

Introduction

Matthew 13:18-23

Background

From Caesarea to Fair Havens (27:1-8)

From Fair Havens to Malta (27:9-44)

Paul’s Warning (9-13)

The Storm Begins (14-20)

Paul’s Encouragement & Prophecy (21-26)

The Shipwreck (27-44)

Preventing the Sailors’ Flight (30-32)

Running Aground (33-42)

Every Life Preserved (42-44)

Conclusions


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