BY CHARLES WOODRUFF
Even Paul did not go everywhere he expected to go in this life. As far as we know, he never made it to Spain, though he had said he was going there. “Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.” (Romans 15:24) This was his plan, to visit Rome on the way to Spain. Instead he is taken to Rome as a prisoner, who had appealed, as a Roman citizen, to Caesar regarding the questions that were raised by Paul’s ministry. He was heard two times by Nero, and was executed in Rome. There is a fascinating story of his last journey to Rome on the ship. We can look at it and see many things that the Lord will teach us.
In Acts 27:1- 13 we are told about how it started. Paul was at Caesarea where he was interviewed by Agrippa, and later by Festus. They were going to take him back to Jerusalem to answer the Jew’s charges, but could not do that when they found that Paul, a Roman citizen, had appealed unto Caesar. Perhaps the narrator here was Luke, as well as Paul. It seems that when Paul was writing from Rome, he said to Timothy “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11) Remember, this is history, but it has a spiritual application for us. The geographic setting is interesting, but more so is He that rules the waves and wind. It was said seven times ‘The winds were contrary’, ‘How dangerous they were’ ‘Not suffering us’, ‘There was a tempest’, etc. This was not happenstance that Paul was where he was, but it was God’s Providence.
On the journey across the Mediterranean, we are told of several stops and a change to a ship of Alexandria, which was bound for Italy. We are told of several places they went. Then in verse 10, Paul was speaking from much spiritual insight, but not full revelation yet, when he gave forth a warning regarding the voyage. But, the centurion believed the helmsman (or captain) instead of Paul. We see that Paul was not exempt from life’s storms and tribulation, but had to bear them with the unsaved. They were not at a good place for winter, so they continued sailing toward Crete. So far, so good.
“But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.” (Acts 27:14) To get the entire picture, I would urge you to read over this chapter on your own to really grasp it. Actually, you should slowly read chapter 27, and chapter 28 to get the entire story. I cannot cover all that in one message, so I will continue the story here. In spite of the warning Paul had given, things remained calm. There was a south wind, which verse 13 said ‘blew softly’. They thought all was okay. But in verse 14 we are told that a tempestuous wind called Euroclydon blew. This is the name of a particular type of Mediterranean hurricane called a levanter (a strong northeast wind). They couldn’t hold it, so they let her drive. It was evidently very fierce. Passing Claudia, they were fearful of being blown into the sandbar of Syrtis (which is now the Gulf of Sidra, once Quddaffi’s ‘line of death’). So they lightened the ship as much as possible. Note: when life’s storms hit, it is time to lighten the ship.
Then things got dark. “And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.” (Acts 27:20) But they did know the song that we know. “When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” God’s sovereign plan to encourage and care for His own is found and clearly shown as Paul said in verse 22. “And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship.” (Acts 27:22) But God sends angels sometimes when we know it least, for the angel had said to Paul “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” (Acts 27:23, 24) So Paul told them “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.” (Acts 27:25-26)
ARRIVING AT OUR HAVEN SAFELY
Paul’s continual testimony was “I believe God”. He believed that God was going to see them all through the storm. This is what we must believe in life’s storms; God will provide. The story goes on, that after 14 nights Paul persuades the men to take food. They had been evidently fasting. They ran aground on an island which we are later told was Melita. I’d like to tell you all that happened there, but I must make several points here. The men were so scared they were about to flee the ship. “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31) Here we can see the sovereignty of God, as Paul had already said, but we also see the responsibility of man. They must abide in the ship. Look at Matthew 24:13, Colossians 1:23, and Hebrews 10:39 to focus on this truth; God is sovereign, but man is responsible. Keep that in mind.
When they were going to run the ship aground, the word was 'kill the prisoners, lest they escape’.
“But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land.” (Acts 27:43) So all they aboard were saved. This was God’s purpose. But remember, our last step home may be with violence. Some were on boards, some on broken pieces, some swimming, but all made it safely. Not only on that island, but they were later put on another ship going to Italy. It was God’s purpose. I’ll say little about the island. I will say more next week, because several important things took place.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:28-31)