Acts 27:1-44

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 8, 1998


Paul was arrested on his visit to Jerusalem and ended up sitting in jail in Caesarea for two years, awaiting a fair trial. Finally he used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Rome, so off he goes to Rome.

:1 certain other prisoners

Paul isn’t the only prisoner taking the ship to Rome. Some of the prisoners may have been others appealing to Caesar like Paul, but others may have simply been condemned criminals destined as public amusement in the gladiator games.

:1 a centurion of Augustus' band

An officer over 100 soldiers. The Augustan band was an elite set of troops.

:2 a ship of Adramyttium

Adramyttium was a port city south of Troas in northwest Asia Minor. This was probably a smaller vessel, one that would hop and skip along the coast.

:2 Aristarchus

One of Paul’s traveling companions (Acts 19:29; 20:4). Luke is apparently also along for this trip. It has been suggested that Luke and Aristarchus may have been allowed to accompany Paul on the condition that they were his slaves.

:3 … at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul

Sidon – 67 miles north of Caesarea. The ship is most likely stopping to trade its cargo. Though this is Paul’s first visit to Sidon, he apparently has some friends there.

courteouslyphilanthropos ("philanthropic") – humanely, kindly. We’re going to see that Julius treats Paul with great respect and kindness throughout the voyage.

:4 the winds were contrary.

the winds were contrary – the winds would have been blowing from the northwest, so they couldn’t go from Sidon straight to Cyprus.

:5 we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.

Myra – one of the major harbors of the area, this was a place to find the large ships, the 747’s to cross the sea with.

:6 the centurion found a ship of Alexandria

Julius finds a large Egyptian grain ship heading for Rome and transfers his prisoners. Egypt was a major supplier of grain to Rome.

:7 sailed slowly many days

The wind is against them, they are possibly tacking back and forth to make progress.

:8 a place which is called The fair havens

Fair Havens = "goodly ports"; a bay of Crete, near the small city of Lasaea

:9 the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,

the fastnesteia – a fasting, fast. Luke is referring to the main Jewish fast, the Day of Atonement. In AD 59, it fell on October 5. Sailing in the Mediterranean was considered dangerous from early October to mid March because of the weather. It is probable that Julius had expected to be in Rome by this time, but the bad winds have made the trip last longer than expected.

admonishedparaineo – to exhort; from aineo – to praise, to recommend

:10 this voyage will be with hurt and much damage

hurthubris – insolence, impudence, pride; injury inflicted by the violence of a tempest

Paul may not be the most experienced sailor on board, but he’s had quite a bit of experience for a land lubber. He’s already been through three shipwrecks:

2Cor 11:25 …thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;


Sometimes we need to give a warning.

Not everyone wants to hear a warning. I know that sometimes I get defensive and try to justify myself rather than listen to others’ concerns.

But even if they don’t want to listen, there comes a time that we still need to lovingly, carefully warn others. We can only pray that they will understand that:

(Prov 27:6 KJV) Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

:11 the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship

masterkubernetes – steersman, helmsman

ownernaukleros – a ship owner, the captain

believedpeitho – persuade; to trust, have confidence

Apparently the centurion Julius was the one making the decisions on the ship. I hate to pick on this poor centurion, but we can see in him an example of how we often make decisions. He bases his decision to sail solely upon the advice of the experts. Though this would be an appropriate way to decide much of the time, there are going to be times when it’s the wrong decision.

Lesson #1

Experts aren’t always right.

It’s good to ask the experts and collect all the facts.

When Israel got close to the Promised Land (Num.13), it was God’s idea for the people to send spies into the land so they would know what they were getting themselves into. But what happened is that the people took the facts that the spies supplied and mixed it with their own lack of faith, and as a result, they didn’t go in. God doesn’t want you making decisions blindly, but He also doesn’t want you making decisions without faith.

Sometimes the right decision is the one contrary to the experts or the majority.

Though Paul had spent some time on ships, there’s a good chance that he wasn’t as schooled in good sailing as the helmsman and the ship owner. Yet Paul was actually the one correct.

Sometimes the experts, or our perception of them, are wrong.


A senior gas company training supervisor and a young trainee were out checking meters in a suburban neighborhood. They parked their truck at the end of the alley and worked their way to the other end. At the last house, a woman in her kitchen window watched the two men as they checked her gas meter. Having finished the meter checks, the supervisor challenged his younger co-worker to a foot race down the alley back to the truck -- just to prove that an older guy could outrun a younger one. As they at last came running up to the truck, they forgot to check who had won since they both realized the lady from that last house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped immediately and asked her what was wrong. Gasping for breath, she replied, "When I saw two men from the gas company running away from my house as hard as you two were, I figured I'd better run too!"

Lesson #2

Leave room for faith.

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The "word of faith" teachers would like to have us believe that faith is some sort of substance that you can pump up and twist God’s arm with. But faith is simply trusting in something that you don’t see.

(Heb 11:1 NLT) What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Faith is a vital part of our relationship with God. It is not optional. God is going to be looking for our trust in Him. He will reward our trust in Him.

Heb 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Was it a rational thing for Noah to build a huge boat? In hindsight we look back and say, "of course it was rational!" but in Noah’s day, when it had never rained before, it showed that Noah believed in something he didn’t see.

Heb 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Was it a rational thing for Abraham to leave the comforts of the family homestead when he didn’t even know where he was going, or what it was going to be like? It may not have been rational, but in Abraham’s case it was a decision he made based on his faith in what God had told him.

:12 the haven was not commodious to winter in

not commodiousaneuthetos – not convenient, not fit, "not" + "well" + "placed"

:12 Phenice

Phenice – "Phoenix". Only 35 miles west of "Fair Havens"

:13 the south wind blew softly

blew softlyhupopneo – to blow underneath; to blow softly. It started out looking as if they made the right decision, but the test of a good decision isn’t whether things start off well, it’s how they finish.

:14 a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon

tempestuoustuphonikos ("typhoon") – like a whirlwind

EuroclydonEurokludon – "a violent agitation". The winds start up in the Cretan mountains, 7,000 feet high, and come swooping down onto the sea.

:15 the ship was caught

caughtsunarpazo – to seize by force and carry away. Seized as if by a giant monster.

:16 we had much work to come by the boat:

boatskaphe ("skiff") – anything dug out, hollow vessel, trough, tray, tub; of a boat. This is a different vessel from the larger ship. This was a small boat that was used for various tasks around the larger ship. Luke writes as if he was pressed into service to help bring up the small boat.

:17 undergirding the ship

undergirdinghupozonnumi – to undergird; to bind a ship together laterally in bad conditions like this to help hold it together.

:17 into the quicksands

quicksandssurtis – Syrtis, well known sandbars where a boat could be caught and destroyed.

:18 the next day they lightened the ship;

To keep from getting caught on the sandbars, they lighten the load so the ship rides higher. They did it to save their lives, though I’m sure the merchants weren’t thrilled that they did it. Could you imagine the UPS man tossing all the boxes out of his truck every time he got in a traffic jam? Dave can.

:19 we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship

tacklingskeue – any apparatus, equipment of a ship. Luke apparently helped too.

:21 But after long abstinence

They stopped eating.

:21 Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me

A polite way of saying, "I told you so".

:22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer

exhortparaineo – to exhort, admonish (same word used of Paul’s original advice, "admonished", vs.9). Let’s see if they listen this time.

:23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

servelatreuo – to serve for hire; used of the priests offering worship through sacrifice and ritual.


He’s with you in the storm.

Sometimes it’s not until we’re in the fire that we see the fourth one like the Son of God with us (Dan.3:25). Sometimes it looks as if He’s asleep at the back of the boat during the storm, but He’s with you (Mark 4:38). Sometimes it looks as if He’s going to pass you by in the storm, but He’s with you (Mark 6:48).

:24 God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

givencharizomai – to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to; to give graciously, give freely, bestow

If God has promised to give Paul the lives of all those with him, it seems to me that Paul must have been asking for them, praying for them. Jesus said,

(Mat 7:7 KJV) Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:


Pray for those in your boat.

This wasn’t a small little boat, it had 276 people on board (Acts 27:37), yet Paul had apparently been praying for each one of them.

I think that too often we talk far more about prayer than we actually pray.

:25 be of good cheer: for I believe God

be of good cheereuthumeo – to put in good spirits, gladden, make cheerful. Paul told them to be encouraged because HE believed in God. Can you say this to your friends?

:28 And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms …

soundedbolizo – to heave lead, to measure the depth of the sea with a line and a sinker.

fathomorguia – fathom, 5 to 6 feet (2 m). 20 fathoms = 120 feet. 15 fathoms = 90 feet. They’re going to run aground if they aren’t careful.

:30 under colour as though they would have cast anchors out

The story they gave was that they were going to put more anchors out. They weren’t.

:31 Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.

I don’t take this as some kind of super spiritual advice. It’s plain common sense. Paul knows that these guys are going to abandon ship, and they won’t make it without the sailors on board. The prisoners and the soldiers need the sailors in order to survive.


Don’t abandon ship.

As I was studying, I couldn’t help but thinking that there might be some who would look at this chapter as some kind of omen against the church moving to a new building. "We’re headed for a shipwreck!" they might be tempted to cry.

I can’t refute that as a legitimate possibility. But the truth is we won’t know until it happens. You could probably also argue that we’ve already been in a shipwreck, considering how things break down around here at the Y. But no matter which way you look at it, there’s still a lesson here.

Don’t abandon ship. We need each other. We belong to each other.

Abandoning ship is no way to go through life, but sadly, this is how many people operate. Every time things get difficult, they bail. Their marriage gets difficult, they’re gone. For some, every time they find a fault in a church, they leave and look for a better church. If you are here looking for the perfect church, I’ll save you some time and let you know that you won’t find it here. You’re going to find real people here. People who make mistakes. People who say things they wish they had never said. People who unintentionally hurt other people’s feelings.

Growing up in life is all about learning to be gracious towards one another and forgive one another.

(Eph 4:32 KJV) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Growing up is all about learning that we need each other and we need to be encouraging each other.

(Eph 4:15-16 KJV) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: {16} From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

:32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat

Who does it sound like is in charge? Paul!

:33 Paul besought them all to take meat

besoughtparakaleo – to call to one's side, to ENCOURAGE.

meattrophe – food, nourishment

:34 Wherefore I pray you …

I prayparakaleo – to call to one's side, to ENCOURAGE.

:35 he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all

Though it doesn’t seem that Paul led the passengers in communion, I can’t help but wonder if Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus were thinking of it.

Paul got things going by setting the example.


Encourage others by your example.

People watching, but what do they see?

"Small boys learn to be large men in the presence of large men who care about small boys." – Phyllis Therous

"You can impress people at a distance but you can impact them only up close. – Howard Hendricks

:37 two hundred threescore and sixteen souls

276 people.

:38 when they had eaten enough

eaten enoughkorennumi – to satiate, sate, satisfy.

:42 And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners

The rule for a Roman guard was that if your prisoner escaped, you would be punished with their punishment. It seemed better to just kill them now.

:44 they escaped all safe to land.

God answered Paul’s prayers.