In Acts 27, Paul makes the journey to Rome onboard a prisoner ship, having been accused and subsequently arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27-36). This had been foretold by a prophet in Caesarea (21:10-14). Yet Paul, knowing what lay in store, continued faithfully on the journey that God had laid out for him.
When they reached a port called Fair Havens, Paul advised the ship’s captain and the centurion in charge of the prisoners that they should not set sail again so late in the year, but they did not pay attention; the harbour was not safe to stay in through the winter months, and they decided to take their chances.
The crew were relying on the assurance of a softly blowing wind, but the favourable weather did not hold out. A mighty wind, echoing the one that came upon Jonah, swept down upon them and exposed the foolishness of the ship’s crew in relying on human wisdom rather than the word of God, as delivered through Paul (Prov. 19:21).
The crew began to throw cargo overboard, which again is reminiscent of the mariners’ actions when the storm came upon Jonah’s ship; however, in this case, Paul becomes a comfort in the storm, rather than revealing himself to be the cause of God’s wrath. God had informed Paul that he would have to testify in Rome (Acts 23:11), so Paul knew that this would not be a fatal journey, and he found peace in God’s promises – a peace that he was able to share with others.
When the men on the ship finally lost hope, Paul revealed a vision in which he had been assured that those aboard the boat would be saved and not harmed. He again prompted the men to put their faith in God. In human eyes, all hope was lost, but Paul was able to give them peaceful assurance in God’s name. He distinguished himself from the 275 other people on board in his ability to provide comfort; similarly, we should look to separate ourselves from others in our own environments, so that we can show them the peace that God has brought to our lives through Christ.
Paul’s influence also extended to the centurion, who protected the prisoners from being killed when the ship ran aground. The centurion saw that there was good reason to respect Paul and the source from whom Paul received his guidance.
Paul’s journey highlights to us the importance of paying heed to God’s guidance in our lives and fully relying on him to provide the best outcome. Because Paul’s faith was in God rather than in men, he carried on in the face of a discouraging prophecy. Holding firm to God’s trustworthy word (Titus 1:9), he learned to rely not on himself or anyone else, but on ‘God who raises the dead’ (2 Cor. 1:8-9). His behaviour in these events also teaches us the importance of us setting ourselves apart in every environment and making God’s hope clear to those who witness our lives.
Amy Turner, The Church of God in Liverpool
‘The Shipwreck’ from The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Acts, via BibleGateway.com (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Acts/Shipwreck).
‘The Acts, Chap. XXVII’ from Matthew Henry Commentary, Vol. VI: Acts to Revelation, Virginia, 1706.