Paul Went To Rome

INTRODUCTION: After being held prisoner by the Roman authorities at Caesarea for two years, the Apostle Paul began his journey to Rome still in custody pending his hearing as a Roman citizen before Caesar. The first Roman governor held a hearing, but delayed any final action to settle the case for Paul because he hoped for a bribe from Paul, and he wanted to maintain good relations with the Jews under his authority. When Festus replaced Felix as governor, the hearing he held jointly with King Agrippa of the Jews found no guilt in Paul. Festus decided to let the case go to the next level because Paul had appealed his case to Caesar. Paul had done this because his enemies wanted Festus to grant a trial in Jerusalem, but this was really for them to have an opportunity to kill Paul.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


A - THE JOURNEY TO ROME BEGAN

Acts 27 "1 When it was determined that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan band. 2 Embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to places on the coast of Asia, we put to sea; Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. 3 The next day, we touched at Sidon. Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him permission to go to his friends and refresh himself."

COMMENTS: The opening of this chapter has some specific details that are very interesting about that time period in history. A centurion named Julius of an elite military group under Caesar was given charge of Paul and other prisoners to transport them to Rome. There was no official Roman vessel used, but rather commercial shipping was employed to make the journey, beginning with a ship of Adramyttium that was to sale up the coast of Asia. The writer of this passage does not identify himself, but he does name Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, as one who was with them. That man was likely the same one mentioned in other passages related to Paul's earlier missionary journeys. The means that allowed Paul's companions to accompany him on this journey are not given, but it was a commercial vessel. After just one day, the ship made port at Sidon, and the centurion "treated Paul kindly, and gave him permission to go to his friends and refresh himself." We are not told if he was accompanied by a soldier, but the wording implies a certain level of respect afforded to Paul by the Centurion.


B - THE LONG JOURNEY BY SEA BECAME DIFFICULT

Acts 27 "4 Putting to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 When we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. 6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and he put us on board. 7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and had come with difficulty opposite Cnidus, the wind not allowing us further, we sailed under the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 With difficulty sailing along it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. 9 When much time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, because the Fast had now already gone by, Paul admonished them, 10 and said to them, "Sirs, 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."

COMMENTS: When they left Sidon, they sailed on the side of the island of Cyprus that provided a break from the wind that opposed their progress. The first ship they had boarded was not heading for Rome, because it was destined for commercial ports along the coast of Asia. A long voyage apparently could require changing ships at times, and as the right ship could be found for the desired destination. When the ship docked on the mainland at a city named Myra, the centurion found a ship of Alexandria among the commercial vessels there, with Italy as its destination, and the prisoners and Paul's companions went on board. After sailing many days with little progress due to lack of favorable wind, the ship sailed on the side of the island of Crete that provided a break from the wind that had been unfavorable for their intended course. The season of the year could increase the potential danger of sailing, and the text states that such a dangerous season was upon them. Paul gave warning that as he had observed the conditions, he was sure there would be great loss of goods and possibly even loss of their lives if they continued the voyage at that time. The centurion apparently had the ability to make the final decision because the text states that he followed the advice of the owner and the captain of the ship rather than that of Paul. Paul made no claim at this time that his expectations had been revealed to him by God.


C - THE VOYAGE BECAME EXTREMELY DANGEROUS

Acts 27 "12 Because the haven was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised going to sea from there, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, and winter there, which is a port of Crete, looking northeast and southeast. 13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to shore. 14 But before long, a stormy wind beat down from shore, which is called Euroclydon. 15 When the ship was caught, and couldn't face the wind, we gave way to it, and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we were able, with difficulty, to secure the boat. 17 After they had hoisted it up, they used cables to help reinforce the ship. Fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis sand bars, they lowered the sea anchor, and so were driven along. 18 As we laboured exceedingly with the storm, the next day they began to throw things overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw out the ship's tackle with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars shone on us for many days, and no small storm pressed on us, all hope that we would be saved was now taken away."

COMMENTS: Apparently despite the name of Fair Havens, that harbor was not the preferred one to spend the winter for unspecified reasons. Though there was not complete agreement about heading out, the majority of those involved in the decision wanted to sail on to a better port farther east on Crete. When they left port with what appeared to be a favorable wind, they sailed close to the shore. That did not protect them from the stormy wind that drove the ship off the south shore of Crete and along the leeward side of a small island called Clauda. Apparently the waters in that area were known to be shallow with sandbars that could be destructive to ships. Over a three day period in desperation they threw cargo overboard, and even some of the equipment or furnishings to lighten the ship in hope of keeping it from sinking in the violent storm. . The storm was so intense for many days to the point that they did not see the sun by day or the stars at night. They seemed to be in a completely hopeless situation through which they would not survive.


D - THE LORD GAVE PAUL A MESSAGE OF HOPE FOR ALL ON THE SHIP

Acts 27 "21 When they had been long without food, Paul stood up in the middle of them, and said, "Sirs, you should have listened to me, and not have set sail from Crete, and have gotten this injury and loss. 22 Now I exhort you to cheer up, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel, belonging to the God whose I am and whom I serve, 24 saying, 'Don't be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. Behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.' 25 Therefore, sirs, cheer up! For I believe God, that it will be just as it has been spoken to me. 26 But we must run aground on a certain island." 27 But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven back and forth in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors surmised that they were drawing near to some land. 28 They took soundings, and found twenty fathoms. After a little while, they took soundings again, and found fifteen fathoms. 29 Fearing that we would run aground on rocky ground, they let go four anchors from the stern, and wished for daylight. 30 As the sailors were trying to flee out of the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, pretending that they would lay out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, "Unless these stay in the ship, you can't be saved." 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it fall off."

COMMENTS: They had been without sufficient food for many days when Paul stood up in their midst, and first said they should have listened to him and not left the harbor on Crete. If they would have decided to follow his advice earlier it would have been the same opinion held by others who were in the minority, and a change in plans would not have seemed very unusual because of common previous experience on the sea. They knew it was a risk when they left Fair Havens, and that is why they had planned only a short trip to another port. When Paul continued by saying that an angel of the God to whom he belonged and served had told him that he would indeed stand before Caesar; and not one life of those on the ship would be lost. This presented a glimmer of hope after they had thought all hope was gone. There is no indication in the text that anyone else on the ship had witnessed the visit by the angel, including Paul's personal companions. Paul then encouraged them to cheer up, and predicted that they would run the ship aground on some island.

They had been in these perilous conditions for two full weeks, as the author writes that on the fourteenth night around midnight, as they were being driven back and forth, the sailors on the ship had some sense that land was near. By taking two successive soundings they verified that the water was becoming shallower, so they dropped some anchors off the stern to prevent the ship from violently crashing into rocks that might be along the shore and unseen in the darkness. While waiting for daylight, some of the sailors let down a boat into the water to escape under the pretense of deploying anchors at the bow. Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, "Unless these stay in the ship, you can't be saved." The immediate reaction to this gives indication that Paul's word had now gained the trust of the centurion and his soldiers as they cut the ropes to the boat so it would fall away.


E - PAUL GAVE FURTHER ENCOURAGEMENT

Acts 27 "33 While the day was coming on, Paul begged them all to take some food, saying, "This day is the fourteenth day that you wait and continue fasting, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I beg you to take some food, for this is for your safety; for not a hair will perish from any of your heads." 35 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 cheered up, and they also took food. 37 In all, we were two hundred seventy-six souls on the ship. 38 When they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea."

COMMENTS: With the many days of violent weather and long periods of darkness day and night, apparently the eating and sleeping patterns on the ship had been much disrupted. As a new day (in more than one sense) was dawning, Paul encouraged all to fortify themselves with food for their needed strength (safety) and told them no one would suffer injury. Then Paul took some bread in plain view of everyone, gave thanks to God and then began to eat. This was a very open demonstration of his faith in the Lord. There is no mention of anything special about Paul's companions, but the text states that all were encouraged and began to eat. We are only given the total number of people on the ship as 276, without detailing the number of soldiers, prisoners, crew, or any other passengers. After everyone had eaten enough, the remainder of the wheat was thrown overboard to further lighten the ship.


F - ALL WAS LOST ON THE SHIP, BUT ALL LIVES WERE SAVED ON THE SHORE

Acts 27 "39 When it was day, they didn't recognize the land, but they noticed a certain bay with a beach, and they decided to try to drive the ship onto it. 40 Casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time untying the rudder ropes. Hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. 41 But coming to a place where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground. The bow struck and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up by the violence of the waves. 42 The soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim out and escape. 43 But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should throw themselves overboard first to go toward the land; 44 and the rest should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship. So it happened that they all escaped safely to the land."

COMMENTS: In the full light of day, they didn't recognize the land, but they prepared to make a final effort to enter a bay they saw, where they intended to beach the ship. They didn't bother to draw up the anchors, they just cut them loose and left them in the sea. They untied the rudder ropes so they could navigate, and they hoisted up the foresail to the wind. The ship didn't make it all the way to the beach before it ran aground, and the force of the waves began to break up the stern. Because a Roman soldier could lose his life in exchange for an escaped prisoner, the soldiers thought to kill the prisoners rather than have any swim away and escape. The centurion wanted to save Paul from that end, so he stopped the soldier's plans for all of the prisoners. The centurion then commanded that anyone who could swim was to jump overboard and head for the land. All the others were to follow using any wooden planks or other things from the ship to make it to shore, and all of the 276 people on board the ship made it safely. The ship and cargo were lost to the sea, but all on board had survived just as Paul had been told by the angel of God.

This was another of the very difficult circumstances in Paul's life as a fully dedicated servant of the Lord. This had been set out to be his course from the beginning of his conversion. When a man named Ananias hesitated to go to Paul as directed by the Lord to restore his sight, the Lord said this to him. Acts 9 "15 But the Lord said to him, "Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake."" There are some of those many extreme difficulties recorded in Acts, but this is the only shipwreck that is described. In the second letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians he warned them of false apostles that he called deceitful workers who apparently made many boasts to gain followers. In part of what he wrote he revealed many sufferings that he had endured in his ministry. 2 Corinthians 11 "22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I am more so; in labours more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. 24 Five times from the Jews I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. I have been a night and a day in the deep. 26 I have been in travels often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils from my countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brothers; 27 in labour and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness. 28 Besides those things that are outside, there is that which presses on me daily, anxiety for all the assemblies." All of the severe physical trials were external in Paul's thoughts, and the thing closest to his heart was not for himself, but for the assemblies of believers who needed to remain faithful to Christ. Paul wanted his readers at Corinth to know that despite all external circumstances, he would rest in the grace of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 12 "9 He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong."" Paul remained true to this conviction through yet another shipwreck as he was on his way to Rome as a prisoner.


--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I am humbled as I consider the firm stand for you that Paul maintained through such extreme physical difficulties over many years of his life. I need to reconsider the way you can use difficult situations in my own life to bring more glory to your name. May I remember as Paul said, that I belong to you, and I am called to serve you as long as I remain in the body. I want to have the attitude of Paul that all the physical trials are external, and your Word is an inexhaustible comfort to the internal soul with an eternal promise to those who believe. Help me, Lord, to remember how important it is for others to learn of the grace you offer, so that I will be your witness in those times you present to me. Help me also to be ready to comfort other Christians in their trials as I remember how your Word has comforted me, and directs me to comfort others. I understand that as in Paul's day, I will have many around me who have followed their own theoretical or philosophical reasoning apart from God to establish their own set of beliefs. I accept by a most coherent faith based on your perfect Word, the grace that has been given to me because of the great love Christ has shown in his sacrifice in my behalf. Hallelujah! Amen.

Published 21 February 2014