God's Grace in the Storm

by LA UBF   12/04/2010     0 reads




Acts 27:1-44

Key Verse: 27:24

“...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.’”

Read verses 1-8. What was their destination? Who was on board with Paul? Who was in command?

Read verses 9-12. What did Paul warn? Why did Julius not follow Paul’s advice? Why didn’t the majority want to stay in Fair Havens?

Read verses 13-20. Describe the favorable beginning of the voyage toward Phoenix. What happened as they sailed along the shore of Crete? How did the storm grow in intensity? What measures did the seamen take?  Why do you think they gave up all hope?

Read verses 21-26. Explain how their situation continued to deteriorate. What did Paul then do? How could he overcome fear? What promises did God give to Paul? What hope did Paul plant in their hearts? Why was it important for them to overcome their fear?

Read verses 27-38. What happened on the 14th night? What did the sailors try to do?  Why?  How did Paul demonstrate his shepherd’s heart for all on board? How did he encourage them?

Read verses 39-44. What happened to the ship? How did Julius co-work and protect Paul? How did they all get ashore?  How was Paul used to fulfill God’s promise and reveal His grace?




Acts 27:1-44

Key Verse: 27:24

“...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.’”

We are almost at the end of the book of Acts.  Many times through the book of Acts we saw how God promised Apostle Paul that he would testify about Jesus in Rome.  Finally, in today’s passage Paul is beginning that journey.  But before he arrives in Rome, Paul experiences the most terrifying event thus far, a storm and a shipwreck.  Through these events God was preparing Paul for when he got to Rome.  In Rome, Paul and the church was going to face the worst persecution that had been seen; the persecution of Nero, where Christians would be fed to the lions and many more unspeakable events were going to take place.  Within a few years both Paul and Peter, the two pillars of the church would be dead at Nero’s hands and the Church would have to somehow survive.  God was training Paul to stand firm through terrible events like these and to help God’s flock to listen to God’s Word, to see God’s grace through all these storms.  God’s grace was with Paul during these events and it was God’s grace that saw Paul through to the end, even though those under his care did not listen at first.  May God help us to hold onto God’s grace and vision for our lives to serve His purpose to the very end.

Part I – Paul’s advice ignored (1-12)

Look at verses 1-2.  1 When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. 2 We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.”  Here we see that on this journey Paul was in the care of a centurion named Julius.  Along with Paul there were some other prisoners, as well as Luke and Aristarchus, who Paul called a fellow prisoner and fellow coworker of Christ.  They set sail from Adramyttium and sailed along the coast of the province of Asia.

Look at verses 3-8.  3 The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. 4 From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5 When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.”  The next day they arrived at Sidon.  While there the centurion, Julius, allowed Paul to go and visit his friends who provided for his needs.  Even though Paul was a prisoner under Julius’ care; Julius treated Paul with kindness.

They soon set sail again and landed at Myra in Lycia.  From there they boarded an Egyptian grain ship bound for Italy.  But along the way the weather worsened and only with much difficulty did they arrive off Cnidus. From there, they wanted to sail due west to the Greek peninsula, but the wind would not allow them to. They were forced almost due south and ended up on Crete in a place called Fair Havens.

Until now the journey had been difficult and the weather had not been with them.  It was winter time and the seas were treacherous to sail during this time of year.  It was here that Paul gave them his warning.  Look at verse 10, “10Men, 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.”  Paul was not a sailor, he was a prisoner.  Because of this Julius, the centurion, did not heed his warning.  Instead, he listened to the pilot and to the owner of the vessel.  The pilot had traveled on these seas for a long time.  He was an expert.  And the owner had a vested interest in getting his cargo safely and quickly to Italy so he could get his grain to market. Also the harbor at Fair Havens was not a suitable harbor to winter in.  The sailors did not want to stay in such a boring port of call for the whole of winter time.  So Julius ignored Paul’s warning and decided to push on.

It looks understandable that Julius wouldn’t listen to Paul and instead listen to the ‘experts’ and those who had a vested interest in arriving in Italy.  Also it was only a short 34 miles away.  It was only a short distance to travel.  What could possibly happen on such a short distance, it wouldn’t even take them more than a day to get there.  Yet, even though Paul was a prisoner he was God’s servant.  Paul was no sailor, he made tents.  Paul did not know how to navigate the ocean or how to weather a storm.  But he was God’s servant and his advice was not his own; in reality his advice was the advice of God.  God did not want them to suffer great loss.  God did not want them to lose their lives.  In reality Paul’s advice was God’s grace to them.  But we see that God’s servant was ignored, while worldly wisdom was heeded and listened to.  The decision that was made was popular with most of the crew; but even still it was a wrong decision.  Here we can learn that it is more important to listen to one man who is on God’s side, than to the majority who are caught in their sin; who follow their own natural instincts.

Part II - “We finally gave up all hope of being saved” (13-20).

Look at verse 13.  13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.”  At first it appeared as though the majority had made the correct decision.  Everything looked to be smooth sailing.  But looks are sometimes deceiving.  Most people follow a favorable situation only.  They lack the spiritual insight and moral courage to follow the truth.  They trust their senses. However, the situation can change suddenly.

Look at verses 14-15.  14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.”  This hurricane ripped apart the false illusion that men control their own destiny and live however they choose.  The truth is that the sailors had to ‘give way’ to the storm and ‘were driven along’ wherever it led them.  They were not the captains of their boat, the storm was.  They couldn’t even travel the small distance of 34 miles from Fair Havens to Phoenix.  Not only that the storm grew in intensity and threatened to rip apart their ship and everyone drown.  But the crew did not give up hope.  They continued to try their best in order to save themselves.  They secured the lifeboat; tied ropes around the hull of the ship; they put their anchor into the sea to slow them down; they even threw the cargo overboard, when their lives were in great jeopardy, they got rid of even the valuable cargo if it could have helped them to save their lives; but nothing worked.  

Look at verse 20. “20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”  They finally gave up all hope of being saved.  The pilot and owner and overconfident sailors reached their human limits. After doing everything they could, they finally gave up all hope. This is the destiny of man without God.

Because they had not listened to Paul, they now found themselves in the very position that Paul told them would happen.  They stubbornly refused to listen to Paul and then when the storm came they stubbornly tried to cling to their ship as though it would see them through to the end.  But finally they gave up all hope, they finally realized that they had made a big mistake and all was lost.

I don’t know that we truly understand the condition that these men found themselves in.  They were battling against forces that they had no control over.  The waves were massive and the winds and cold and dark clouds overhead were matters they had no control over.  All of Paul’s difficulties and challenges and persecutions up till now had been by men.  But now even nature was trying to kill him.  How do you resist that?  

Many people try to follow their own way at their own peril, thinking nothing will go wrong.  But God says, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.”  He tells us to “Leave our life of sin.”  He says, “Follow Me.”  God tells us, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  

I know one man who clings to worthless idols, video games to his own detriment.  Many people have told him again and again, that it is an idol in his life, but he stubbornly refused to listen.  It is dragging his life down.  He sometimes spends all night playing video games.  He has no job and yet, even though he has no money he continues to spend what little money he has on buying the next new game.  He spends more time playing video games than he does looking for a job.  He is miserable and fearful.  So what does he do?  He continues to try to cling on to the worthless idols to comfort and rescue him.  But it wont help him.  He is losing all hope for his life.

Part III – God’s angel visit’s Paul. (21-26)

Look at verse 21. “21 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.”  The crew did not eat for a long time because their fear caused them to lose their appetite.  Finally, Paul stood before them and told them that they should have listened to him.  Paul told them this out of a shepherd’s heart for them; he rebuked them so that they would realize that they should have listened to him the first time, because he was giving them God’s direction.  Paul wanted them to listen to what God had told him.

Look at verses 22-26.  22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24 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.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”  Even Paul was afraid that because of this storm, he would end up as fish food.  

God did not send His angel to Paul UNTIL everyone had “finally gave up all hope of being saved.”  It was only AFTER they FINALLY gave up all hope that He visited them.  God had allowed them to try everything humanly possible to try and save themselves, but nothing had worked.  God did not even say one Word to them during this long torturous time.  It wasn’t until all of them had given up complete hope to be saved, that God then visited Paul.

This was really the grace of God upon them.  Until now they had stubbornly went their own way and would not listen to His Word’s through His servant Apostle Paul.  And even after they were in the storm they tried their very best to save themselves, but nothing worked.  They refused to turn to God or to listen to Him.  So God waited and waited, until their hearts were finally ready, when they had lost all hope.

Sometimes I give some good advice to my sons, but often times they think they know better and they disregard what I say.  So what do I do?  I often try to force them to listen to me, because I have the power and authority to force them to listen; but they really don’t like it and they never appreciate what I say when I do force them.  But I learn from this passage that God never forced them to listen to Him, even when it was for their own good.  Instead God waited and waited patiently until they had lost all hope to be saved and then He sent His angel to Paul to again encourage and give them hope and to heed His Word.

God’s angel also reminded Paul of God’s plan for him to stand trial before Caesar. God had given Paul the vision to go to Rome. God had promised him that he must testify in Rome (Ac 23:11). God had not changed his plan. God reminded Paul of his unchanging purpose for him. In the midst of storms, God reminds us of our purpose of life. Many young people struggle with desires of the flesh. Sometimes these desires are so strong that they seem to be the driving force of life. But this is not so. God’s calling and God’s purpose is the driving force of one’s life. We must listen to God’s Word.  We did not choose God, but God chose us as members of a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  Even when the struggle seems to be futile, we must remember God’s purpose for choosing us. God who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Php 1:6).

Then the angel said to Paul, “...and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”  This was God’s great grace upon these men. These men did not deserve to be saved from the storm.  They had ignored the word of God’s servant.  They were bent on pursuing their own sinful pleasure. They were proud.  They should have died in the storm, as Paul had foretold.  But God wanted to spare Paul.  And in His grace, God also decided to spare the men sailing with him. Because of Paul’s life of mission, the grace of God came to these undeserving men.

Look at verse 25. “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” Here we see that Paul combined the angel’s message with faith. Paul took hold of God’s promise and said, “Amen.” When God gives us His Word of promise, we must accept it and begin to act on it. Paul’s faith in God’s promise was the power source that made him strong and courageous. During storms we must listen to God’s Word and combine it with faith.

Fourth, Paul’s good influence and spiritual leadership (27-44).

Paul’s words of faith and courage brought hope to all on board.  Probably, they didn’t mind his rebuking because they tasted hope in his words.  Shortly, they sensed that land was near.  But then the sailors construed a plot. They pretended to be lowering an anchor, but in reality they were lowering the lifeboat in order to get away.  They planned to jump into it, abandoning the ship.  It was a selfish and irresponsible plan.  Paul was alert to the problem. So he warned the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”  This was in reality the chance for the centurion to repent of his earlier sin of not listening to God’s Word through Paul.  This time, the centurion listened to Paul.  The soldiers cut the ropes and let the lifeboat fall into the sea.  

To ‘cut’ the ropes was a very practical way in order to remove their sin of disobedience and lack of trust in God.  Repentance is a very practical matter.  It means to ‘cut’ off; to die to oneself.  A good example of this was Joseph who fled from the adulterous wife of Potiphor.  For the young man I know, it means to cut off video games completely.

Though a prisoner in chains, Paul was the true leader in the time of crisis.  It was because of his faith.  Paul saw what needed to be done.  Paul also had a shepherd’s heart to think about the men. They had not eaten for a long time. They needed strength to swim ashore.  So Paul encouraged them to eat and promised, “Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” This was an absolute promise. It was the expression of Paul’s faith in God.  Actually, it is an incredible promise. Even when we take a shower, we lose many hairs from our heads.  But Paul promised that even though they had to go through the waters not one hair from their heads would be lost.  His faith in God’s promise was absolute.

Until now all of the sufferings that Paul suffered were personal; they were directed against him.  But now he was being trained by God to have a true shepherd’s heart for the flock of God, especially those in Rome, who were going to suffer greatly under Nero’s persecutions.  He needed to teach them to have faith in God.  To listen to God’s Word and put their hope and faith in Him; to ‘cut’ off all their false hopes and flesh desires, so that they could stand firm to the end and be saved.

Look at verse 35. “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’s act of thanksgiving to God was another expression of his faith. Paul gave thanks to God in front of all the other travelers. He was thankful for God’s word. He was thankful for God’s world salvation work. He was thankful because he loved God. He made it very clear to everyone that it was God who would deliver them from the storm. Verse 36 says, “They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.” After being encouraged, they could eat well for the first time in many days.

When daylight came, they saw a bay with a sandy beach.  Finally, when they listened to Paul, daylight came.  No longer did the terrors of the storm hold them.  They cut loose the anchors and made a run for it.  But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground.  It was broken to pieces, just as Paul had foretold.  The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent their escape.  Otherwise they had to forfeit their own lives. But the centurion stopped them in order to spare Paul.  He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard and get to land.  The rest used planks and pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.  As Paul promised, they were all saved.

In this passage we learn that God was with Paul.  God made Paul’s words come true, both words of warning and words of salvation.  Finally, even a Roman centurion was obedient to him.  This encouraged Paul as he approached Rome. Whatever might happen, Paul knew that God is the sovereign Ruler of the world. Paul knew that God was fulfilling His world mission purpose. This event also encouraged the Christian church.  Persecution was about to come upon them.  But God would be with them as He had been with Paul.  Paul was their shepherd and would give them a good example to follow; his personal faith would be good influence on them.  The storms of life are times of God’s mysterious good work.  God uses them for His world salvation plans.  God is gracious in the storms of life. Times are becoming increasingly more difficult; especially as our Lord’s return gets ever nearer.  May God help each one of us to listen to His Word, put our faith in His promises, and experience His grace.

One Word: God’s grace in the storm’s that we bring upon ourselves.