Acts 27 Shipwreck

Tod Kennedy, November 18, 2001

Main points of application or “So what?” from Acts 27

  1. The foundation for living the normal Christian life, including biblical leadership, is knowledge of the word of God plus spirituality or walking by the Holy Spirit plus faith in God and his word.
  2. Acts 27 teaches that believers who know Bible doctrine and apply that doctrine by faith are able to handle enormous pressures of life. In spite of the pressures the growing believer can exhibit courage, humility, self-control, inner peace, and inner strength.
  3. Furthermore, believers who know and apply Bible doctrine by faith are able to take leadership for people in times of crisis.
  4. Believe God’s inerrant word. It is the absolute truth. His word will not fail.
  5. Do not be afraid to mention God and his control of history to people—even unbelievers—in times of crisis. You will encourage others and witness for Christ.

Summary Outline

  1. Acts 27.1-5. Paul and other prisoners boarded a west bound Adramyttian ship; Adramyttium was an Aegean seaport near the island of Lesbos. Julius, a centurion of the Augustan cohort, was the military commander in charge of the prisoners. “Julius, at any rate, appears from the duties assigned to him to have been a legionary centurion, possibly seconded for service at this time with the cohort of officer-couriers; he had a body of soldiers under his command on the voyage to Rome” (Acts, The International Commentary on the New Testament, F.F. Bruce, 1980 reprint, Eerdmans, 500-501). Because Paul was a Roman citizen and had appealed to the Caesar, he was treated much better than the average prisoner. When the ship put into Sidon, Julius allowed Paul to visit with his friends. The band of prisoners stayed with the ship as far as Myra in Lycia. Paul, as a believer in Jesus Christ and as a Roman citizen was in a position to be a leader. His spiritual gifting and spiritual growth combined with his daily faith application of doctrine prepared him to give leadership during this coming period of danger and testing.
  2. Acts 27.6-8. At Myra, the centurion, with his prisoners, transferred to a grain ship that was based in Alexandria, Egypt, and bound for Italy. Egypt provided much of the grain for Rome, and this was a private grain ship in the service of Rome. They sailed to Cnidus, about 130 miles west of Myra. There, due to headwinds, they turned southwest to Fair Havens, a town near Lasea on the south central coast of Crete and about 200 straight-line miles from Cnidus.
  3. Acts 27. 9-12. The ship arrived in Fair Havens around the fall fast (the Great Day of Atonement) which in AD 59 was October 5. Ancient sea travel in the Mediterranean was very dangerous after mid-September and essentially stopped from early November until March due to the terrible storms. Luke mentions this fact to give historical context to Paul’s warnings against further travel. Paul, who had been shipwrecked at least twice before (2 Corinthians 11.25), again stepped forward and warned them all, but the centurion, who had authority to decide, sided with the ship owner and the captain to push ahead. The ship captain set out for Phoenix, some sixty miles to the west of Fair Havens.
  4. Acts 27.13-26. Just as Paul had warned, the ship was engulfed in a violent Mediterranean storm. They were tossed in the storm for two weeks. Luke recorded that the ship was caught in a Euraquilo—a feared northeasterly wind known for its treachery. From here on the sailors tried every trick to hold the ship together and survive the storm. Paul remained calm and provided encouragement and leadership to those on board. God had again revealed to him, as he had that night in the Antonio barracks prison in Jerusalem (Acts 23.11), that he would survive and he would indeed stand before Caesar; and, not only he, but that all who would stay with the ship would also survive (27.21-26). Paul based his complete confidence in God’s revelation to him and we ought to have complete confidence in God’s written word.
  5. Acts 27.27-37. The storm continued to rage and to drive them west for two weeks. The Adriatic (also called the Hadriatic ) Sea (27.27) was actually the central Mediterranean. As they neared what they thought was land they checked the depths of the sea and put out drag anchors to brake their speed. They did not know where they were, but land was welcome. In actual fact, they were approaching what was later named St Paul’s Bay at the island of Malta. Malta was about 560 miles west of Fair Havens. An argument now arose about staying with the ship. Paul said that all must stay with the ship in order to survive. Some sailors tried to leave in a lifeboat, but because of Paul’s warning, the centurion prevented them. Paul encouraged them all to eat and told them that God would deliver each one of them. That said, Paul took his food and publicly thanked God for it and ate. The crew, soldiers, and prisoners took great encouragement from Paul and then ate as Paul suggested they do. Luke noted that there were 276 people on board.
  6. Acts 27.38-41. Now they felt better and began trying to lighten the ship by throwing wheat overboard. At daybreak they saw land and a bay, now known as St Paul’s Bay, but at the time did not know where they were. They attempted to drag anchors and beach themselves, but the ship hit a reef and began breaking up.
  7. Acts 27.42-44. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to prevent escape. The centurion wanted to save Paul, so he prevented the killing. He ordered those who could to swim to land; the others could hold to planks and other things that would float and try to get to shore. All arrived safely just as God had promised Paul and Paul had relayed to those on board.

Dictionary of Bible Doctrine

  1. Biblical leadership illustrated by Paul in Acts 27.
  2. Knowledge of the Word of God.
  3. Faith Rest.
  4. Faith application of the Word of God.
  5. Spiritual courage.