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Paul's Shipwreck (Acts 27)

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Paul's Shipwreck 




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Acts 27

Paul’s journey to Rome
And when it was determined that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan Regiment. 2 And embarking in a ship from Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the places on the coast of Asia, we put to sea; Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. 3 And the next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him leave to go to his friends and refresh himself. 4 And putting to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 And when we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
   6 And there the centurion found a ship from Alexandria sailing for Italy; and he put us onboard. 7 And when we had sailed slowly many days and had come with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.
   9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them 10 and said to them: Gentlemen, 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. 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 And because the harbour was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbour of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and to winter there. 13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close inshore.

The shipwreck
14 But after a short time there beat down a tempestuous wind, which is called Euraquilo. 15 And when the ship was caught, and could not face the wind, we gave way to it, and were driven along. 16 And running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we were able, with difficulty, to secure the skiff. 17 And when they had hoisted it up, they used supports to undergird the ship; and fearing that they would be cast upon the Syrtis sandbar, they lowered the sail and so were driven by the wind. 18 The next day as we were being violently tossed by the storm, they began to jettison the cargo. 19 And the third day with their own hands they threw overboard the tackle of the ship. 20 And when neither sun nor stars shone upon us for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was now taken away.
   21 And after they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood in the midst of them and said: Gentlemen, you should have listened to me, and not have set sail from Crete and gained this injury and loss. 22 And now I encourage you to be of good courage. For there shall be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this night there stood by me an angel of the God whose I am, whom also I serve, 24 saying: Fear not Paul. You must stand before Caesar; and God has granted you the lives of all those who sail with you. 25 Therefore gentlemen, be of good courage. For I believe God, that it shall be even as it has been spoken to me. 26 But we must be cast upon a certain island.
   27 But when the fourteenth night had arrived, as we were driven to and fro in the sea of Adria, about midnight, the sailors sensed that they were drawing near to some land. 28 And they sounded and found thirty meters; and after a little space, they sounded again and found twenty five meters. 29 And fearing that we should run aground on the rocks, they let go four anchors from the stern and wished for daylight. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to abandon the ship and had lowered the skiff into the sea, under pretence that they would lay out anchors from the foreship, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers: Except these stay in the ship, you cannot be saved. 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.
   33 And while the day was dawning, Paul pleaded with them all to take some food, saying: This day is the fourteenth day that you wait and continue fasting, having eaten nothing. 34 Therefore, I beg you to take some food. For this is for your health; for not a hair shall perish from the head of any of you. 35 And when he had said this and had taken bread, he gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy six persons on the ship. 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.
   39 And when it was day, they did not recognise the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, and they took counsel whether they could drive the ship upon it. 40 And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time loosing the bands of the rudders; and hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. 41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves. 42 And the soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that they who could swim should throw themselves overboard first and get to land; 44 and then the rest, some on planks and some on other things from the ship. And so it came to pass, that they all escaped safely to land.


27:2 “Adramyttium" means 'the house of death'. The whole journey can be understood as an allegory of our journey in Christ until the daybreak of God’s Kingdom.

27:24 It often happens that those associated with us are blessed because of us, even if they are unbelievers. Especially is this true of our children and partners (1 Cor. 7:14).

27:31 The legalists in the early church taught that unless believers kept the circumcision laws, “you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). The very same Greek phrase is used by Paul when he calls out in urgency during the storm: “Except these stay in the ship, you cannot be saved”. Surely Luke’s record is making a connection; the legalists taught that it was time to quit the rest of the community unless they got their way, for the sake of their eternal future; and Paul responds by teaching that our salvation depends upon us pulling together against the desperate situation we find ourselves in. We should never walk out on our brethren or the body of Christ. Severed from Him, we can do and be “nothing” (Jn. 15:5); and He is His body, the church.

27:34 Paul is quoting here from Christ’s words of encouragement to the disciples that in the tribulation of the last days, they would survive (Lk. 21:18). The storm can therefore be seen as an allegory of our passing through the latter day tribulation.

27:35 The way Paul broke bread in v.35 is an echo of the way Christ did it. We get the impression that Paul was slowly, deliberately copying the example of how Jesus broke bread in the upper room. So it is as if Paul is seeing himself as typical of Christ, and those in the ship with him as typical of Christ's followers. Paul twice encouraged them "be of good cheer" (vv.22,25) as they huddled together breaking bread -also quoting the very words of the Lord Jesus, in the same context (Jn. 16:33); and remember that Jesus also said those words when the disciples were struggling in another great storm (Mk. 6:50). The way the Angel appeared to Paul at night to strengthen him (v.23) also echoes the experience of Christ in the Garden. If Jesus is a living reality for us, if we are constantly reflecting upon His words, actions and experiences as they are recorded in the Gospels, then we will start to act in the same way. His Spirit will become ours; He will live in us and we in Him.