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Paul's Perilous Journey


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 27:1-28:1

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

Paul finally begins his journey to Rome, only to run into a deadly storm on the Mediterranean Sea that threatens to kill him and the 267 other people on board. But amid the chaos and terror, Paul emerges as a leader filled with Christlike faith and an example for us to emulate.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

We're going to be in Acts 27 today. Paul has been under house arrest in the governor's mansion in Caesarea Maritima for two years. A new governor, Festus, has arrived and begun weighing Paul's case. Sensing Festus may hand him over to the Jewish leaders who want to murder him, Paul has invoked his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the emperor, meaning Paul will be transported to Rome, where Nero will hear and rule on his case. We read in verse one when it was decided that we were to sail to Italy, they handed over Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion named Julius of the imperial regiment.

When we had boarded a ship of Adrametium. Sorry, that was the name of the ship's home port. That's what that word means. It's where the ship had sailed. From Adramyttium, we put to sea, intending to sail to ports along the coast of Asia.

Let's put our first map up on the screen. You can see Caesarea in the bottom right corner and Rome in the upper left corner. And so the plan was to travel north up the coast and then west, following the coastline of Asia, before switching ships to cross the Aegean Sea at the southwest corner of Turkey, then known as the province of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us. We know from the narrator's use of the pronoun we that Luke made this journey with Paul, as did another believer named Aristarchus.

Aristarchus was a traveling companion of Paul, whom we met back in Acts 19 when he was seized by the mob in Ephesus and dragged into the amphitheater. He was one of the delegates who traveled to Jerusalem with Paul to hand over financial offerings from the churches in Asia. Luke, who we know well, was a beloved friend of Paul and a physician and traveling companion. And while we have no record of what Luke was doing during the two years Paul was under house arrest in Caesarea, Maritima, it seems most likely that Luke stayed nearby, possibly in Caesarea, and traveled down to Jerusalem in that time to gather research for what would become the gospel of Luke. It appears Aristarchus did something similar, possibly lodging with Luke.

We can be sure that both visited Paul frequently during those two years because we know that when the order was given for Paul to be sent to Rome, Luke and Aristarchus were close enough to pack up and make the journey with him. They were evidently ready to go whenever the news came. And so the brothers in Jerusalem may not have shown up for Paul when it mattered, but it seems Luke and Aristarchus did. Verse three. The next day we put in at Sidon.

Next map on the screen, please. And Julius treated Paul kindly and allowed him to go to his friends and receive their care. It's clear Julius almost immediately trusted Paul and therefore permitted him to go into town and visit with some believers he knew in the church there. The church in that town in Sedon had likely been started by Christians from Jerusalem when they were fleeing the persecution led by Paul before his conversion. While Julius would have sent a soldier or two with Paul, this was a big deal because it was a serious offense for a soldier to lose a prisoner.

Bad things could happen to that soldier. But Paul's word that he would not attempt to escape was apparently satisfactory for Julius, which causes me to wonder what in the world Paul could have done in such a short time to gain Julius'trust. I suspect the answer is that in Paul, Julius found a man who was not concerned with his own welfare, but was always focused on others. He discovered a man who was not anxious, who displayed none of the signs of a man trying to outrun his fate. And more than anything, I suspect Julius found in Paul a man who radiated the love of Christ more than any other man ever has.

After studying the Book of Acts, I am convinced that spending time with Paul at this stage of his life would have been the closest thing any man or woman could experience to spending time with Jesus himself. And that affected Julius profoundly. And what a blessing it would have been for Paul, after two years of house arrest, to visit with some dear friends in this local church. The care that Paul received from them was likely in the form of provisions for his journey to Rome. Let's put the next map up on the screen.

Verse four. When we had put out to sea, from there, we sailed along the northern coast of Cyprus because the winds were against us. After sailing through the open sea off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we reached Myra in Lycia, and there the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. Alexandria was, of course, in Egypt, and so they've been on a smaller boat that needed to stay closer to the coast. It couldn't really go out into the open waters of the Mediterranean.

But in Mura, Julius finds a much larger cargo ship that has sailed from Alexandria and is headed for Rome. It's transporting grain. And so to save time, and because the time of year made sailing increasingly dangerous for smaller vessels, Julius transferred his soldiers and prisoners onto the bigger boat. As we shall soon see it made little difference. Let's put the next map up there.

Sailing slowly for many days with difficulty, we arrived off Knidos. Since the wind did not allow us to approach it, we sailed along the south side of Crete off Salmone. With still more difficulty, we sailed along the coast and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. This place was a small bay that was sheltered enough to provide some immediate relief. By now, much time had passed, and the voyage was already dangerous.

So they apparently wait in fair havens for a considerable amount of time, hoping for the winds to change. They don't, and as time passes, they just get deeper and deeper into the dangerous storm season. Since the day of atonement was already over, Paul gave his advice. It was known among the Jews that you did not sail the Mediterranean after the day of atonement. As the day of atonement took place in late September to early October, when the storm season would be underway, and told them, men, I can see that this voyage is headed toward disaster and heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.

In other words, guys, the seasons have already turned. We should hunker down for the winter here in Fairhavens and make the best of it. If we keep going, a storm is going to take us out. This wasn't spiritual advice from Paul. This wasn't a prophetic word given him by the Holy Spirit.

It was just common sense learned from traveling frequently by boat for decades and observing the increasingly negative trends in the weather they had encountered thus far. Paul was actually uniquely qualified to offer an opinion on this situation. We know this because, in his second letter to the Corinthians, he reveals that by this time in his life, he's already been shipwrecked three times. No wonder he was not excited about the prospect of shipwreck number four. And so he's like, I kind of have some experience with this whole thing.

Trust me, we should stay put. Verse eleven. But the centurion paid attention to the captain and the owner of the ship, rather than to what Paul said. Next map, please. Since the harbor was unsuitable in winter, since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided to set sail from there, hoping somehow to reach Phoenix, a harbor on Crete facing the southwest and northwest, and to winter there.

So the captain makes an understandable counterargument. The Bay of Fairhavens is not protected enough to see the ship through winter. There's a good chance it's going to take some damage. Neither is the town by Fair Havens, Lasea, large enough to host the number of people who are on the boat, which we will learn later is 276. Instead, the captain reasons they should sail just 40 miles further along the southern coast of Crete to the town of Phoenix at the western point of the island.

It's a bigger town with a stronger harbor and a good place to ride out the winter. Julius agrees, and so they push on. Verse 13. When a gentle south wind sprang up, they thought they had achieved their purpose. They weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.

Before long, a fierce wind called the northeaster rushed down from the island. Since the ship was caught and unable to head into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. The wind is blowing too strongly for them to sail against it. If they took down their sail, they wouldn't be able to steer the boat at all. They wouldn't be able to steer it into the waves, meaning it would be battered and ultimately broken apart from taking the impact of large waves side on.

And so their only option is to put up enough sail to direct the boat into the waves and try their best to stay on course without fighting the winds too hard, lest their ship be pulled apart. They're in trouble. They're no longer in full control of their destination and direction. They're fighting to prevent the wind from pulling them south and are maintaining a westerly heading into the open waters of the Mediterranean. Next map, please.

After running under the shelter of a little island called Kauda, we were barely able to get control of the skiff. The skiff was the rowboat used to get to land when the ship would have to anchor a short distance from the coast, like in a bay where there's no harbor or docks, and it would be lowered from the stern, the back of the ship, and would normally hang there on ropes that would be used to lower it. And in this weather, the skiff is just being thrown around and smashed into the back of the ship over and over again, damaging both the skiff and the ship. And so the sailors frantically pulled the skiff up on deck. After hoisting it up, they used ropes and tackle and girded the ship.

So what they're doing is they're feeding ropes under the boat and out the other side, likely by throwing them out in front of the boat, from one side across the front of the boat, so that the ship would travel over the rope, and then somebody on the other side would use some sort of a long pole with a hook to fetch the rope. They'd pull it up and then they'd actually tie it around the boat and winch it tight to actually help hold the ship together from the pounding it was taking from the waves. Fearing they would run aground on the Syrtis, the Syrtis were sandbars off the coast of northern Africa that were infamous for sinking ships. And the wind and the storm was pushing them in that direction. And at this time, their boat was about 400 nautical miles away from those sandbars off the north coast of Africa, which tells you something about the ferocity of the storm.

They're worried that it's going to drive them that far and they're going to die on the Syrtis. They lowered the drift anchor, and in this way, they were driven along. And I'm not going to bore you with the original Greek, but the gist of what's being described verse is most likely that they had to lower the main sail to avoid it being torn to shreds by the winds, while also releasing a drift anchor, which was a kind of anchor that would be pulled behind the ship and slow it down. And so what that would do is it would ease some of the trauma as the ship would go up on the swell and then slam down again. This drift anchor would help slow that motion down and stop the ship from taking too much abuse.

Because they were being severely battered by the storm, they began to jettison the cargo. The next day, they start throwing the cargo overboard to make the ship lighter and harder to sink. On the third day. So this storm has been going on now for three straight days unabated, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. That's the ship's rigging.

Anything that was not absolutely essential was beginning to be thrown overboard. For many days, neither sun nor stars appeared. There were only storm clouds day and night. And remember, they used the sun and the stars to navigate. So when they haven't seen them for three days, they have no idea where they are, which must have been terrifying.

And the severe storm kept raging. Finally, all hope was fading that we would be saved. Everyone on the ship except Paul is starting to believe they're going to die in this storm, since they had been without food for a long time, not because they were fasting or anything like that, you just cannot prepare a meal on a boat that's doing this, and you sure don't want to eat anything on a boat that's doing this. You're just nauseous the whole time. Paul then stood up among them and said, you men should have followed my advice not to sail from Crete and sustain this damage and loss.

I'm not saying I told you so, but I told you so. Now, in reality, Paul's not being petty. He was establishing his credibility to speak at this moment. He had given them good advice earlier and it had gone unheeded. He was about to offer counsel once again.

And he's reminding them they would be wise to listen to him. He says, now I urge you to take courage. Underline. I urge you to take courage. Because there will be no loss of any lives, but only of the ship.

None of you are going to die. Only the ship's going to go down. For last night, an angel of. And then I love this phrase. So underline it.

The God I belong to and serve. Last night, an angel of the God I belong to and serve. Stood by me and said, don't be afraid, Paul. It is necessary for you to appear before Caesar. Remember what the Lord Jesus had told Paul in Caesarea more than two years earlier.

Jesus had told him, as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so it is necessary for you to testify in Rome. That meant Paul couldn't perish in this storm. Because that would be contrary to a word spoken by God. And so all this angel did was remind Paul of what God had already promised him. And that's part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to all believers.

It's on your outlines. Jesus told his disciples, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. The Holy Spirit would remind the disciples of Jesus what he had told them. They heard Jesus speak those words. How do we hear Jesus' words today?

We read them in his word. And here's what we must understand about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The ministry of reminding us of the words of Jesus. We cannot be reminded of something we've never heard or read. If you're hearing or reading it for the first time, it can't be a reminder.

This is just one reason we need to be taking in the word of God every day. Because as we do, we store it up in our spirits. And you might think, I don't remember most of what I read in the Bible. But wait. When we need to remember something specific, the Holy Spirit will remind us of what Jesus has said.

When it's stored up in us, the Holy Spirit is able to say, remember that verse? Remember that promise. If we don't have it stored up in us, it's like talking to someone who wasn't there with us at the time and saying, hey, remember the time when they're like, no, I wasn't there. If the Holy Spirit says, hey, remember that verse? And we've never heard it or read it, we're just going to be like, no, I've literally never heard what you're talking about.

But the Holy Spirit can remind us of what we've taken in, even if we think we've forgotten it. So take in the word so the Holy Spirit can remind you of it in your time of need. The news this angel brought was not only a timely reminder for Paul, but good news for those who had the fortune of traveling with him. The angel continues, and indeed, God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you. The original Greek implies that the angel is telling Paul that his prayers have been answered.

Specifically, Paul has been praying for the safety of everyone on the ship. He's been interceding for them. And I believe that's because Paul knew he wasn't going to die. He knew, and he's praying for them because he doesn't want to be the only survivor. Non-believers have no idea how much mercy they receive because of the presence of righteous men and women among them.

The Lord listens to the prayers of his saints. He looks out for his saints. And if you don't believe me, go read the book of Revelation and get a preview of what happens when all the righteous men and women are removed from the earth. It's not good. It's not good.

There is much that is restrained by the presence of godly men and women on the earth. Write this down and then I'll unpack it. Faith enables us to be concerned with others even in the middle of a storm. Faith enables us to be concerned with others even in the middle of a storm. Paul is in this storm.

Yet his concern is not only his deliverance but the deliverance of all those with him. Faith produces that and makes it possible because faith assures us that our heavenly Father will provide what we need and Jesus is with us. Faith assures us that even in the storm, all our needs are met and will be met in Christ. In contrast, the man or woman lacking faith is overwhelmed with concern for their own welfare because they believe they're on their own. They believe they have no helper.

When you don't have faith, you're only concerned with others when everything is going well in your life. When you have faith, you trust and abide in Christ where all your needs are met and you continue to see others through the eyes of Jesus, even when you're in the storm, because you have the assurance of Christ. That's why Paul is able to say again in verse 25, so take courage, men. Underline this, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me. That's what faith sounds like.

God has spoken, therefore I believe him. It's not complicated because he never lies and he never fails. I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me. I believe God will do exactly what he said he would in his word. I believe all his promises will come to pass.

I am not somehow the one exception. He will be faithful. In verses 22 and here in verse 25, Paul tells the crew and passengers to take courage. Here's another aspect of faith Paul reveals through his actions. Write this down.

Faith enables us to encourage others, even in the middle of a storm. When we look to God in faith, we are comforted and encouraged by his word and his spirit. We're encouraged, enabling us to then encourage others, and not with blind optimism, but specifically with the same encouragement we have received. God is with us. God is for us.

He will never leave or forsake us. So take courage. And then, incredibly, Paul reveals this angel told him exactly how they are going to be saved. In verse 26, he says, but we have to run aground on some island. Next map, please.

When the 14th night came, 14 nights of this storm, we were drifting in the Adriatic Sea. Now, the Adriatic sea encompassed very different territory then than it does today. And about midnight, the sailors thought they were approaching land. Now, because it was midnight and there's no stars and moonlight, it means almost certainly that they must have heard waves crashing onto a coastline. I don't want us to miss this.

To take a look at the map on the screen, these guys had no idea where they were. They were somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean. They're a long, long way from the harbor of Phoenix. A long way. God in his providence in that huge Mediterranean Sea leads them to that small dot at the end of the leftmost arrow.

It's the island of Malta. Incredible. A needle in a haystack. Verse 28. They took soundings.

Now, a sounding is just a measurement of water depth. And so they would have this bell-shaped iron object connected to the end of a long rope and the rope would have markings on it. They'd throw this overboard and then check the marks on the rope to deduce how deep the water was there and found it to be 120ft deep. When they had sailed a little farther and sounded again. They found it to be 90ft deep.

We're trending in a shallower direction. The water is getting shallower then, fearing we might run aground on the rocks. Now, if they crashed into a beach, they would be fine, but what would be a death sentence would be crashing onto rocks some distance from shore in a storm, because the ship would go down, everyone would be thrown against the rocks, everyone would drown in the waves, and anyone surviving would be almost impossible. So to try and prevent that from happening, it says they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight to come. So they try to use anchors off the back of the boat to hold the ship in place until daylight when they'll be able to see the coastline and try and find somewhere advantageous to run ashore.

Some sailors tried to escape from the ship. They had let down the skiff into the sea, so some sailors were so panicked that they tried to make a run for it in the rowboat, taking their chances with the storm and the rocks. That would have been suicide. They had already let down the skiff and were pretending that they were going to put out anchors from the bow. In other words, oh, we're just going to go tie some anchors to the front of the ship too, so we can keep the ship pointed in the direction of the waves so it's not taking any impact broadside.

But apparently Paul noticed what they were doing. And Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved. Paul says, the angel who spoke to me was very clear. Everyone is going to be saved. You must not allow them to disobey God.

You'll be endangering everyone. We must trust God. Church when the Lord has given you an explicit command, a clear instruction or a specific promise, it doesn't matter what's going on around you. What matters is that you position yourself where God has called you to be and you concern yourself with doing the things God has called you to do. If you'll do that, you'll have peace.

When the disciples found themselves caught in that deadly storm on the sea of Galilee that we just heard about in story time with Uncle BJ, it didn't matter what was happening outside the boat. What mattered is that they were in the will of God, because he had told them to cross that lake. And being in the will of God allows us to pray in confidence. I don't know how the Lord is going to get me through this, but I know he will, because I know I'm where he called me. To be doing what he called me to do, and I know he's with me.

Husbands, future husbands, men of God, let me speak to you for a second here. The Lord has called us to lead our families in faith. That means drawing a line in the sand and saying, this family is going to honor and trust the Lord no matter what. And if someone doesn't want to get on board with that, someone tries to disobey the Lord. We are called to do everything in our power to prevent that from happening.

And we can't stop someone from just running and jumping overboard, but we can stop someone from using our ship's robo to disobey the Lord. Let me explain what I mean. If your teenager is using your car to drive places in sin, stop letting them use your car. If anyone in your household is looking at media, they shouldn't be looking at using your TV or your Internet service. Do whatever you need to do to stop it.

God put those resources under your care. You're not powerless. If your wife isn't on board with honoring the Lord in your finances, do it anyway. Why? Because you fear God and you're going to answer for it, not her.

What did Joshua say? As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord. And so I know we don't have control over anybody's will or anybody's desires. But men, heads of families, husbands, fathers, we often have more authority and power than we think. And we should, at a minimum, make sure that no one in our family is using the resources God has given us to sin against him and rebel against him.

I can't stop you jumping overboard, but you're not going to take my rowboat that's staying right here. There was something about Paul that Julius could recognize. He could tell that God was really with Paul. And so he listens. And we read in verses 32.

Then the soldiers cut the ropes holding the skiff and let it drop away. We're going to trust and obey God. End of discussion. I'm actually pretty sure that Paul just wanted the men stopped. I don't think he actually wanted the skiff to be cut off because he's like, we could have used that to get to shore in the morning, but love the enthusiasm.

Julius. I'm glad to know you're with me. Verse 33 when it was about daylight, Paul urged them all to take food, saying, today is the 14th day that you have been waiting and going without food, having eaten nothing. So I urge you to take some food, for this is for your survival. Since none of you will lose a hair from your head, a word that is more comforting to some than others.

They were now in a position where things were at least calm enough to eat and prepare some food, even though they were still, by all appearances, in grave danger. Verse 35. After he said these things and had taken some bread, underline this. He gave thanks to God in the presence of all of them. And this is powerful because Paul is giving God thanks in advance for their deliverance.

You see, that's what faith does. Write this down. Faith thanks and praises God for his past, present, and future faithfulness. That's what faith does. Faith praises God in the storm, not to try to make something happen, but because faith already knows God is going to come through.

The man or woman of faith gives thanks to God on their deathbed because they know that whether they live or die, God is going to take care of them. Always has, always will. And after he broke it, he began to eat. They were all encouraged and took food themselves. And I don't know about you, but I'll tell you this, if you ever want to encourage me, it's so powerful when that encouragement is immediately followed by food.

It's just an observation from the word. It's not my opinion, it's in the word. So exhort me to be strong in the lord and then give me some meat and bread. It's a powerful combination in ministry. The implication of Paul's actions and instructions were, get your strength up because you're going to need it, because God is going to get all of us safely to land.

In all, there were 276 of us on the ship. When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing the grain overboard into the sea. The less the ship weighed, the higher it would sit out of the water and the closer they could get to the shore before running aground. When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but sighted a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship ashore if they could, and this was the providence of God because Mediterranean islands have beautiful beaches, but most of their coastline is rocky cliffs, and so you can imagine the euphoria that swept over the ship's crew and passengers when daybreak revealed they were staring straight at a bay with a beach, the safest possible place to make landfall.

Verse 40 after cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and headed for the beach. Even more providentially, the lord had the wind blowing straight toward the beach. So they followed his lead, cut loose and let the wind take them. But they struck a sandbar and ran the ship aground.

The bow jammed fast and remained immovable while the stern began to break up by the pounding of the waves. But what happens here is actually pretty amazing. So the ship runs aground on a sandbar a little offshore. The waves of the open ocean are all pounding onto this sandbar. The sandbar is acting as a breaker, causing the waves to be much smaller and calmer.

Between the sandbar and the beach, the ground they need to cover. So you got to picture it in your mind. The ship runs aground, the stern, the back of the ship is getting beaten by the waves. But the passengers can all get into the water near the front of the boat, protected from the dangerous waves by the boat and the sandbar. The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners so that no one could swim away and escape.

But the centurion kept them from carrying out their plan because he wanted to save Paul. And so he ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. It's really hard for me to not suspect that Julius became a Christian. Not only did he almost immediately trust Paul and connect with Christ in him, but he was willing to risk some of his prisoners escaping if it meant saving Paul. Julius was ready to endanger himself, his life, and his career if it meant saving Paul.

The rest were to follow, some on planks and some on debris from the ship. In this way, everyone safely reached the shore. Those who couldn't swim were given something from the ship that floated, and then they kick-paddled their way to the shore with the help of the waves. And it wouldn't surprise me if God made sure that the tide was coming in at this time as well. Surely enough, just as the angel had told Paul and as Paul had told the passengers, everyone safely reached the shore.

God keeps his promises, always. And we'll end with verse one of chapter 28. Once safely ashore, we then learn that the island was called Malta. If you do not know God, but you are in a storm and it's making you open to him like never before. I want you to know that if you will place your faith and trust in him, you will find the same thing the passengers of the boat found.

Grace, hope, help, and deliverance.

Faith is not a switch we flick or a pill we take when the storm hits. Faith is a muscle that we work. By using it and straining it over and over again. You grow in faith by exercising faith wherever you are right now. Because when the storm hits, the faith you have is the faith you have.

You can't go get more of it when you need it. When the storm hits, the faith you have is the faith you have. So are you trusting God with the things and in the things that are in your life right now? Are you trusting him with what your life is right now? Because if not, don't fool yourself.

When the storm hits, you're not going to suddenly turn into a mighty man or woman of faith. That's not how it works. Oh, I'm not working out, but I'll get serious about fitness when I need to do a 500-pound deadlift. You're just going to hurt yourself. That's all that's going to happen because you're not prepared for that moment, because you're not exercising the muscle that's going to be needed when the time comes.

But if you will make trusting God your everyday practice, then whatever storm shows up will simply be the next thing that you trust God with. And it might be huge and overwhelming to some people, but for you it'll just be the next thing. This is just the next thing I'm trusting God with. I've trusted him through many, many storms. I'm not new to this, so trust him wholeheartedly right now because every day, that is the question the Lord is asking us, do you trust me?

Do you trust me? And he finds a million different ways to ask that same question every single day. Do you trust Me? Do you trust Me in this? Do you trust Me with that?

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