Key Verse: 28:20b
“It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
1. Review the Lord's leading in Paul's life that gave him assurance
that he would go to Rome to testify to Jesus. (19:21; 22:21; 23:11;
2. Read verses 1-12. Trace their journey to Fair Havens. What advice
did Paul give the centurion? Read verses 13-20. How were they
deceived by a gentle wind? Why did they give up hope?
3. Read verses 21-26. Why was Paul not afraid? How did he encourage
others? Read verses 27-32. What crisis occurred? How did Paul deal
with it? Contrast his attitude with that of the officers in
4. Read verses 33-34. How did Paul show himself to be the leader? Why
was this important? How did they all get ashore? (33-44)
5. Read 28:1-10. What happened on Malta? How did God turn an adverse
situation into an opportunity for fruitful ministry? (See Mark
16:18) Read 28:11-16. Describe the last leg of the journey.
6. Read 28:17-20. What was Paul's initial testimony to the Jews in
Rome? What did he mean by "because of the hope of Israel"? (Ex
19:4-6) What were the key points of his Bible teaching? (21-23)
7. Read 28:24-31. How did the Jews respond to his teaching? How did
Paul view their rejection? (Isa 6:9-10) How did God use it to open
a wider door? Describe Paul's ministry in Rome.
Paul, after meeting the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, was
converted from Judaism to Christianity. Next he spent three years in
Arabia preparing himself to be a servant of God. Then he spent six
years at Tarsus. He was at Antioch intermittently for two or three
years. Then he traveled over Asia Minor and Greece for about 15 years.
And he spent three years in prison in Caesarea before going to Rome.
Paul had experienced many vicissitudes in his short pilgrimage.
Today's passage deals with Paul's voyage to Rome and his grassroots
work in Rome. Why did Paul go to Rome? As we have studied, it was out
of his obedience to his Lord Jesus. Initially, Paul had no idea to go
to Rome. But after seeing the vision of the Macedonian begging him to
come to help him, Paul realized that God was leading him to work in
European countries, and finally, to Rome. So he said in 19:21b, "After
I have been there, I must visit Rome also." But Paul's way of going to
Rome was not easy. When he visited Jerusalem to report about the great
work of God among the Gentiles, the Jews stirred up people, seized him,
and beat him up simply because Paul preached the gospel of Jesus to the
Gentiles whom they did not like. Then the commander of the Roman army
arrested him to prevent a possible riot. Thus he was imprisoned for
three long years in Caesarea before going to Rome. Paul was fearful
from time to time. But the Lord Jesus visited him and renewed his
Paul was very obedient to his Lord Jesus because of God's grace to
him. So he knew what his Lord Jesus wanted him to do (22:21; 23:11) and
he was always willing to do whatever the Lord wanted to be done.
Whenever the name "Jesus" came across his mind, he was greatly
strengthened and overjoyed. Paul was happy to fulfill his Lord Jesus'
will. When he stayed at Corinth for three months, he wrote Romans, the
most important book in the New Testament next to the Gospels. Paul
really wanted to go to Rome to impart the secrets of the gospel.
Romans 1:10,11 says, "...in my prayers at all times; and I pray that
now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to
make you strong...." Finally, Paul was able to go to Rome as a
missionary in chains.
I. Paul's voyage to Rome (27:1-44)
It was decided that Paul stand trial before Caesar. So Paul and
some other prisoners who were to be sent to Rome were handed over to a
centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. At last
Paul embarked on his final journey. His voyage to Rome required three
ships: one from Caesarea to Myra (27:1-5); another from Myra to Malta
(27:6-28:10); another from Malta to Puteoli (28:11-13). Paul boarded a
ship with other prisoners. They say that it was a cargo ship carrying
corn. The ship put out to sea; it dropped by Sidon and passed to the
lee of Cyprus and landed at Myra. There the centurion found an
Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put the people on board. But the
voyage was not smooth. Let's see how Paul helped others when the
voyage became dangerous.
First, Paul's advice was ignored (27:9-20). Paul had much experience in
sea travel. He knew that it was late in the year to travel because it
was after the Fast. The Fast was the Day of Atonement, about the middle
of September. From that time on, navigation on the Mediterranean Sea
was dangerous. So Paul warned them: "Men, I can see that our voyage is
going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to
our own lives also" (10). What was the response of the centurion in
charge of the ship? Instead of listening to what Paul said, he followed
the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship (11). It was
natural for him to listen to the advice of the pilot, who was a skilled
professional. But the centurion had no insight to see why they wanted
to sail on; he did not figure out their motive in wanting to leave Fair
Havens; the sailors thought it was too small a town to winter in,
because there they could not enjoy wild pleasures as sailors.
When they put out to sea, a gentle south wind began to blow, and
they thought they had obtained what they wanted. So they sailed along,
expecting that they could winter in a larger city where they could
enjoy the wild life of sailors. Before long, a wind of hurricane force
began to strike the ship. The ship was caught by the storm and could
not head into the wind; so they gave way to it and were driven along
(27:15). They took such a violent battering from the storm that the
next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day,
they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When
neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued
raging, they finally gave up all hope of being saved (27:18-20).
Second, Paul said, "Do not be afraid" (27:21-26). After the men had
gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said:
"Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you
would have spared yourselves this damage and loss." After saying this,
Paul urged them to keep up their courage, because not one of them would
be lost; only the ship would be destroyed. How could Paul say this? It
was because he knew well about winter weather through many journeys;
moreover, Paul knew why they were in for a disaster. Paul saw the
nature of the sailors who had ventured out so as to spend a
pleasure-seeking winter in a bigger city. Most of all, Paul had the
word of his Lord Jesus. So he encouraged the crew and prisoners and
all others in the ship. Look at verses 23-25. "Last night an angel of
the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not
be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has
graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' So keep up
your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as
he told me."
How easy it is for us to be deceived by a gentle wind, ignoring the
fact that at any time a wind storm can arise in our voyage of life! We
are accustomed to listen to the advice of a skilled man and
unconditionally reject the advice of a spiritual man like Paul. But it
is foolish for us to depend on science only, for it has a great
limitation. Science cannot go beyond science. Therefore, though it may
seem stupid, we must listen to the advice of a spiritual man, who can
be a true help in the storms of life! Spiritual men are those who have
the word of God, and who are courageous during storms; only they can
help those troubled by storms.
Third, Paul said, "Eat" (27:27-38). On the fourteenth night the sailors
sensed they were approaching land. They were afraid that the ship would
be dashed against the rocks. So the sailors attempted to escape by
lifeboats, abandoning the passengers. Paul said, "Unless these men stay
with the ship, you cannot be saved" (31b). So the soldiers cut the
ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away. What did Paul do
next? "Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. 'For the last
fourteen days,' he said, 'you have been in constant suspense and have
gone without food--you haven't eaten anything. Now I urge you to take
some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single
hair from his head.' After he said this, he took some bread and gave
thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.
They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves." Paul had faith
that overcomes the situation because he had God's word in his heart.
Fourth, God spared Paul's life (27:39-44). When daylight came, they
were getting ready to run the ship aground. So they cut loose the
anchors. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the
beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck
fast and would not move. "The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to
prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping" (42). What
happened next? The centurion wanted to spare Paul's life and kept them
from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump
overboard first and get to land. They did so. The rest got on planks or
on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely
(43-44). Here we learn God was with Paul even in the shipwreck.
II. Paul on the island of Malta (28:1-10)
First, Paul, a practical man. Generally great men try hard to look
dignified and austere. They want to say to others, "Do this and do
that." But Paul was different; he was a great man, but he was really a
practical man. Look at 28:1. "Once safely on shore, we found out that
the island was called Malta." The islanders showed them unusual
kindness. They built a fire and welcomed them. It was lucky for them
that the islanders were not savage people. After being in command
during the shipwreck, Paul could have taken a rest. But he did not.
Though he was such a great man, he was always ready to be useful in the
smallest thing; he was diligently gathering a pile of brushwood for the
campfire so that others could warm themselves. Only little men turn up
their noses at little tasks. Great men are faithful in small tasks.
Paul was indeed a great man who could gather a pile of brushwood. We
remember the words of our Lord Jesus, "Well done, good and faithful
servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in
charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness" (Mt
Paul was also a cool man. When Paul put a pile of brushwood on the
fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.
Paul could have been shocked and cried out for help. But he did not. He
was cool and unexcited. "When the islanders saw the snake hanging from
his hand, they said to each other, 'This man must be a murderer; for
though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.'"
At this embarrassing moment, what did Paul do? Look at verse 5. "But
Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects."
What was the people's response? The people expected him to swell up or
suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing
unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god
(6). If Paul had died on account of the viper, his hope to go to Rome
would have been stopped. If Paul had not been able to go to Rome, he
would not have been able to write his prison Epistles--Ephesians,
Philippians, Colossians and Philemon--which are still living in the
hearts of Jesus' people. But God was with him. And Paul also believed
that God was with him. So he could be a "cool man." Through this event
we remember Mark 16:18, which says, "...they will pick up snakes with
their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them
at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get
Second, Paul, a healer. Paul's people were 276 in number (27:37). How
they would supply their needs while waiting for another ship going to
Rome was a question. In this situation God helped Paul to heal the
father of the chief official of the island. When Paul healed him, they
honored Paul's people in many ways. They supplied all their needs for a
long three month's time. In addition, when they were ready to sail,
they furnished them with all the supplies they needed.
III. Finally Paul arrived at Rome (28:11-31)
After three months Paul and his people put out to sea and boarded a
ship of Alexandria with a figurehead of the twin gods, Castor and
Pollux. They arrived first at Rhegium, next at Puteoli. There Paul met
the brothers who came to Puteoli to greet him. At the sight of these
men, Paul thanked God and was encouraged, realizing that God was with
him as he had promised. Finally Paul arrived at Rome. When they got to
Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him
(16). What did Paul do when he arrived at Rome?
First, Paul said, "It is because of the hope of Israel" (28:17-22).
Three days later they called together the leaders of the Jews. "When
they had assembled, Paul said to them: 'My brothers, although I have
done nothing against our people or against the customs of our
ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.
They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of
any crime deserving death. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled
to appeal to Caesar--not that I had any charge to bring against my own
people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It
is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain'"
(17-20). Paul did his best to explain to his people why he came to Rome
in chains. It was because of the hope of Israel. The hope of Israel is
well explained in Exodus 19:5,6: "Now if you obey me fully and keep my
covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.
Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of
priests and a holy nation." Peter also knew the hope of Israel well and
said in 1 Peter 2:9, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the
praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful
light." The hope of Israel was the hope of God for his chosen people
Israel. God wanted to make his people a priestly nation and a light for
the Gentiles. Humanly speaking, Romans had security and peace. But from
God's point of view, they were living under the rule of Satan. God sent
Paul to bring them from darkness to the marvelous light of Jesus; God
wanted to give them true security and true peace. What was the response
of the Jewish brothers to Paul? They said they had not heard anything
about him and that they wanted to hear his views, for they knew that
people everywhere were talking against the sect of the Nazarene Jesus.
Second, Paul taught them the Bible (28:23-31). Many people made
appointments to study the Bible at the place where Paul stayed. From
morning until evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of
God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and
from the Prophets. Here we learn the key points of Paul's Bible
teaching were the kingdom of God and that Jesus is the Son of God.
How did they respond? Some believed, but most of them rejected his
teaching. Paul was greatly discouraged. But he was comforted by the
words of prophecy of Isaiah 6:9,10. The people heard the good news of
Jesus. But they intentionally rejected it and remained in sin. Because
of the rejection of the Jews in Rome, the word of God began to spread
to the Gentiles (Ro 11:11).
It was indeed a discouraging situation to Paul. But Paul overcame
discouragement in the realization of the characteristics of God's work
and history. In God's work it always seems that there are only a few
who believe the gospel of Jesus, and among these few, some give up the
life of faith and defect, and many reject the gospel of Jesus
intentionally and publicly. But as history attests, though it is indeed
unbelievable, the church of Jesus has conquered the whole world. Paul,
who had a sense of God's work and history, said in 28:28, "Therefore I
want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles,
and they will listen!" So many people rejected his teaching. But Paul
believed that, in the end, they would listen and the whole world would
be saved. Because of his faith in God's work and history, Paul kept on
teaching the Bible to people in his own rented house. Most likely, Paul
worked part time as a tentmaker and supported himself. Even though his
teaching seemed to be in vain, Paul was full of spirit. Verse 31 says,
"Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught
about the Lord Jesus Christ."
In this passage we learn that one person Paul's faith was very
important. Because of his faith 276 members were saved in the
shipwreck. Because of one person Paul's faith, the work of God at Rome
was going on. Most importantly, God could conquer the Roman world
because there was Paul who had faith in his word. Sometimes we are
discouraged because the work of God does not grow as we expect it to.
But visible work is not so important. The visible work of God is always
discouraging, but God is fulfilling the work of world salvation
according to his own time schedule. It was possible for Paul to keep on
doing God's work when he remembered God's grace and God's great purpose
for him. Most importantly, Paul was willing to fulfill God's will, that
through Roman roads the whole world might be evangelized by the gospel
of Jesus. Paul was happy to see God's salvation work fulfilled through
him if God was willing. Because of the hope of Israel Paul came to Rome
as a missionary in chains.
St. Luke did not record how Paul died, for though he died, the work
he did is still going on through those who know God's grace through our
Lord Jesus. May God help us realize that God has a great hope in each