THE NEW TESTAMENT
Acts # 34
Paul in Rome - Acts 27 and 28
When it was time Paul and other prisoners set sail for Rome.
They were placed in the custody of an army officer named Julius,
a captain of the Imperial Regiment. As well as Paul there were
some of his companions who chose also to go with him to Rome.
Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with them,
as Luke wrote. they left on a boat whose home port was
Adramyttium; it was scheduled to make several stops at ports
along the coast of the province of Asia (verses 1-2).
The next day after setting sail they docked at Sidon. Julias
was very kind and let Paul go ashore to visit with his friends
and so they could provide for his needs. We are not told what
those needs were.
Putting out to sea from there they encountered head-winds
that made it very difficult to keep the ship on course, so they
sailed north of Cyprus between that Island and the mainland. They
passed along the coast of the Province of Cilicia and Pamphylia,
landing at Myra, in the Province of Lycia. There the officer
found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy
and he put Paul and his companions on board it.
There were several days of rough sailing and only after some
difficulty did they arrive near Cnidus. The wind was against them
so the ship sailed down to the leeward side of Crete, past the
cape of Salmone. They struggled along the coast with much effort
and difficulty but finally arrived at Fair Havens, near the city
of Lasea. They had lost a lot of time. Now the weather was
becoming out and out dangerous for long voyages by then,
for it was just after the FAST of the feast of Atonement (which
was usually either in September or October on the Roman
Paul spoke to the ship's captain, "Sir," he said, "I believe
there is trouble ahead if we continue on - it will be shipwreck,
loss of cargo, injuries, and danger to our very lives."
But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the
ship's captain and owner than to Paul. And since Fair Haven was
an exposed harbor - a poor place to spend the winter - most of
the crew wanted to go to Phonenix, which was farther up the coast
of Crete, and spend the winter there. Phonenix was a good harbor
with only a southwest and northwest exposure to the winter
elements (verses 3-12).
THE STORM AT SEA
When a light wind began to blow from the south, the sailors
thought they could make it with no trouble, so they pulled up
anchor and sailed along the coast shore. But then the weather
changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (a "northeaster"
they call it) caught the ship and blew it out to sea. They could
not turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run
before the storm. They sailed behind a small island named
Cauda, where with great difficulty they hauled aboard the life
boat they were towing behind the ship. Then they banded the ship
with ropes to strengthen the hull, like putting a bandage around
our ankle to strengthen our feet and legs. The sailors were
afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the
African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor and were by this
means driven before the wind.
The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the
ship, the crew began to throw overboard much of the cargo. The
day following they even threw out the ship's equipment of various
kinds and a lot of anything else they could lay their hands on.
The mighty storm raged unabated for many days, blotting out the
sight of the sun and the stars, until at last nearly everyone had
lost all hope of living through that storm.
No one had eaten for a long time, too anxious and scared
they were. Finally Paul called the crew together and said, "Men,
you should have listened to me in the first place and not left
Fair Haven. You would have avoided all this injury and loss. But
take courage, None of you will die, even though the ship will go
down. For last night an angel of the Lord to whom I belong and to
whom I serve, stood beside me, and he said, 'Don't be afraid
Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Ceasar. What's more,
God in His goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with
you.' So, take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He
said. But we will be ship-wrecked on an island" (verses 13-26).
About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as thy
were being driven across the Sea of Adria (in the central
Mediterranean, not to be confused with the Adriatic Sea), the
sailors sensed land was not near. They took soundings and found
the sea was about 120 feet deep. A little later they sounded
again and found the sea was 90 feet deep (Yes, they had some kind
of sounding equipment back then to discover the depth of the
sea - a lot more modern in those days than many would like to
think). At that rate of movement they were afraid they would be
soon driven onto the rocks near the shore, so they threw out four
anchors from the stern of the ship and prayed for daylight. Then
the sailors tried to abandon the ship, they lowered the life-boat
as though they were going to put out anchors. But Paul shouted
out to the commanding officer and the soldiers, "You will all die
unless the sailors stay aboard." By this time they were willing
to listen to Paul, so they cut the ropes and let the life-boat
fall off into the raging sea.
As the darkness gave way to the early morning light, Paul
begged everyone to eat. "You haven't touched food for two weeks,"
he said, "Please eat something now for the good of your health.
For not a hair of your head will perish."
Then he took bread and gave thanks to God, broke off a piece
and ate it. Everyone was then encouraged, and all 276 of the
people aboard the ship began eating. It is interesting how Luke
gives us the exact number of people on the ship, why he does
so is not told to us, then again a writer relating a story does
add fine details as times with no other reason than to make the
retelling of the story a little more personal and interesting.
After they had eaten the crew further lightened the ship by
throwing overboard the cargo of wheat. When morning dawned, they
did not recognize the coastline, but they did see a bay with a
beach and wondered if they could get between the rocks and get
the ship safely to shore. They cut off all the anchors and let
them drop into the sea. Then they lowered the rudders, raised the
foresail, and healed towards the shore. But the ship hit a shoal
and ran aground. The bow of the ship stuck fast, while the stern
was repeatedly smashed by the force of the waves and so began to
The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they
did not swim ashore and escape, but the commanding officer wanted
to spare the life of Paul so he did not allow them to carry out
their plan. Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard
first and head for land. He told the others who could not swim to
try and head for land on planks of wood or other debris from the
It was as Paul had told them, all made it safely to land,
not one person lost their life (verses 27-44).
PAUL ON THE ISLAND OF MALTA
Once all were safe on shore, they learned they were on the
island of Malta. The people of the island were very kind to them.
It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to
welcome them and to warm them.
As Paul was gathering an armful of sticks for the fire, a
poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, took hold of Paul's
hand. The people of the island saw it hanging there and said to
each other, "He must be a murderer no doubt, though he escaped
the sea, justice will not permit him to live." But Paul shook off
the snake into the fire and was completely unharmed. The people
all waited for him to swell up or drop dead, but when after a
long time he did neither, and was not harmed in any way, they
changed their minds and decided Paul must be a god (verses 1-6).
Jesus you will remember in the Gospels had said that
sometimes His followers would be miraculously saved from death if
bitten by poisonous snakes. This does not mean you deliberately
go out and seek poisonous snakes and have them bite you. You
will also remember Jesus said to Satan the Devil when Satan tried
to tempt Jesus to throw Himself off the Temple pinnacle (the
Devil quoting Scripture that God would send an angel "lest you
dash your foot against a stone"), that "you shall not tempt the
Lord your God." We should never put ourselves deliberately in
harms way just to try to prove God will save us. If we
deliberately do this it could very well be that God will NOT step
in and save us. We should not tempt God, as Jesus said. But in
this particular case with Paul, he was not trying to tempt God,
it was an unexpected snake bite that Paul encountered, and God
did intervene and worked a miracle, so Paul was not harmed in
Luke does not tell us about what Paul did about the
situation of the natives of the island now thinking Paul was a
god. But from other accounts in the book of Acts we can be
assured Paul would have told them he was in no way "a god" but
that he was in fact a servant of the one true God. I'm sure this
incident would have given Paul an opportunity to have preached
the Gospel of Christ and the Kingdom of God to them all.
Near the shore where they landed was an estate belonging to
Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed them very
courteously and gave them food for three days. As it happened
Publius' father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in
and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he was healed.
Then it was not long before all the sick on the island came to
Paul and they were indeed all healed. As a result they were all
showered with great honors, and when it came time to sail away
from there, all the people put on board the ship many things they
needed for the onward trip (verses 7-10).
PAUL ARRIVES IN ROME
It was three months after the ship-wreck that they sailed
away on another ship that had wintered in the island - an
Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead (those gods
were the Roman gods "Castor" and "Pollux").
The first stop was at Syracuse (on the island of Sicily) and
they stayed for three days. From there they sailed across to
Rhegium (on the southern tip of Italy). A day later a south wind
began to blow, the day after that they sailed up the coast to
Puteoli. There they found some Christian believers, who invited
them to stay with them for seven days. Then after that they
arrived in Rome (verses 11-14).
The believers in Rome had heard they were coming and so came
to meet them at the Forum (which was about 43 miles from the city
of Rome) on the Appian Way. Others joined them at The Three
Taverns (about 35 miles from Rome). When Paul saw all the
believers he thanked God and took courage.
When Paul and his companions arrived in Rome, Paul was
permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was still
guarded by a soldier (verses 15-16).
PAUL PREACHES AT ROME
Three days after Paul's arrival in Rome, he called together
the local Jewish leaders. He said to them, "Brothers, I was
arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman Government,
even though I have done nothing against our people or the customs
of our ancestors. The Romans tried me and wanted to release me,
for they found I had done nothing worthy of death. But when the
Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it was necessary to
appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges
against my own people. I asked you to come here today so we could
get acquainted, and to tell you that I am bound with this chain
because I believe that the hope of Israel - the Messiah - has
The Jewish leaders replied, "We have heard nothing against
you. We have had no letters from Judea or any report from anyone
who has arrived here. So we do want to hear what you have to say
and what you believe. Yet, we do know that this sect of
Christians is everywhere denounced by many."
So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people
came to Paul's house. He told them about the Kingdom of God and
taught them about Jesus from the Scriptures - from the five books
of Moses and the books of the prophets. He began
lecturing and teaching in the morning and went on into the
evening. Some indeed came to believe and some did not. But after
they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with
this final word from Paul:
"The Holy Spirit was right when he said to our ancestors
through Isaiah the prophet:
'Go and say to my people, You will hear my words, but you
will not understand; you will see what I do, but will not
perceive its meaning.
For the hearts of this people are waxed hard, and their ears
cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes, and cannot
Their ears cannot hear and their hearts cannot understand.
They cannot turn to me and let me heal them ' (Isaiah 28:
So I want you to realize that this salvation from God is
also available to the Gentiles, and they indeed will accept
Some manuscripts add after these words from Paul to the
Jewish people, "And when he had said these words, the Jews
departed, greatly disagreeing with each other."
For the next two years, Paul lived in his own rented house
at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, teaching and
proclaiming the Kingdom of God with all boldness and teaching all
about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no person tried to stop him
SO ENDS THE BOOK OF ACTS
It many seem strange to us that Luke abruptly closes his
writing of the book of Acts. There are probably good reasons why
God inspired him to write no more. But whatever questions we have
on the matter will have to wait until our Lord Jesus returns,
then they will all be answered.
The remaining books and epistles that Paul wrote are
believed to have been written while he was in the city of Rome,
at this juncture of his life.
We shall look at those remaining books next, then the other
letters of James, Peter and John. We shall give you some
interesting history that shows where the twelve apostles
travelled to in presenting the Gospel to the lost sheep of the
House of Israel, as Jesus told them to do, before He returned to
the Father in heaven.
Lastly, I will expound to you the truths of the great
prophetic book of Revelation.
So, onto the books of Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians,
Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews.
Written November 2004