1. HISTORY TO BE REPEATED
a. How is Paul’s experience soon to be repeated? Matthew 10:31–33.
“Once more the hatred born of Jewish bigotry and self-righteousness had driven the servant of God to turn for protection to a heathen ruler [Caesar]. . . . It is the same spirit that the people of God in this age have yet to meet. In the great crisis through which they are soon to pass, they will become better acquainted with the experience of Paul. Among the professed followers of Christ, there is the same pride, formalism, vainglory, selfishness, and oppression that existed in the Jewish nation. Before the warfare shall be ended and the victory won, we as a people are to experience trials similar to those of Paul. We shall encounter the same hardness of heart, the same cruel determination, the same unyielding hatred.
“Men professing to be representatives of Christ will take a course similar to that taken by priests and rulers in their treatment of Paul. All who would fearlessly serve God according to the dictates of their own conscience will need moral courage, firmness, and a knowledge of God and His word, to stand in that evil day. . . .
“God would have His people prepared for the soon-coming crisis. Prepared or unprepared, we must all meet it. Only those whose characters are thoroughly disciplined to meet the divine standard will be able to stand firm in that testing time.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 250-252.
2. THE APOSTLE: A VALUABLE ASSET
a. What favor did Paul receive from Julius, the centurion who had heard the apostle’s testimony before Agrippa, and to whom he was chained? Acts 27:1–3.
“The journey, which would be difficult and dangerous to the ordinary traveler, would be doubly trying to the apostle as a prisoner. Roman soldiers were held responsible with their own lives for the security of their prisoners, and this had led to the custom of chaining prisoners by the right wrist to the left wrist of soldiers, who relieved each other in turn. Thus not only could the apostle have no movement free, but he was placed in close and constant connection with men of the most uncongenial and absolutely repulsive character; men who were not only uneducated and unrefined, but who, from the demoralizing influence of their surroundings, had become brutal and degraded. This custom, however, was less rigidly observed on shipboard than when prisoners were ashore. One circumstance greatly lightened the hardships of his lot. He was permitted to enjoy the companionship of his brethren, Luke and Aristarchus. In his letter to the Colossians, he speaks of the latter as his ‘fellowprisoner’ (Colossians 4:10). But it was as an act of choice, because of his affection for Paul, that Aristarchus shared his bondage, and ministered to him in his afflictions.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 262.
b. As the Jewish season of safe navigation was now past, what did Paul advise the sailors aboard the ship on which he was a prisoner? Acts 27:4–10. What did the centurion choose to do instead—and why should they all have listened to Paul’s advice? Acts 27:11–20.
c. Despite the wrong decision they had made, how was God nonetheless merciful to the sailors, bringing them comfort through Paul? Acts 27:21–26. In what difficult situation did the sailors find themselves, even after fourteen days of fasting while fiercely battling the tempest? Acts 27:27–29.
“Paul had no fears for himself; he felt assured that he would not be swallowed up by the hungry waters. God would preserve his life, that he might witness for the truth at Rome. But his human heart yearned with pity for the poor souls around him.”—Ibid., p.266.
3. A SAVING INFLUENCE
a. What selfish intention did the sailors have, and how did Paul perceptively challenge the evil of their plan? Acts 27:30, 31.
“At last through rain and tempest the gray light fell upon their haggard and ghastly faces. The outlines of the stormy coast could be dimly seen, but not a single familiar landmark was visible. The selfish heathen sailors determined to abandon the ship and crew, and save themselves in the boat which they had with so much difficulty hoisted on board. Pretending that they could do something more to secure the safety of the ship, they unloosed the boat and began to lower it into the sea. Had they succeeded, they would have been dashed in pieces upon the rocks, while all on board would have perished from their inability to handle the sinking vessel.
“At this moment, Paul perceived the base design and averted the danger. With his usual prompt energy and courage he said to the centurion and soldiers, ‘Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved’ (Acts 27:31).”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 267, 268.
b. What act of resignation soon followed? Acts 27:32.
“The apostle's faith in God did not waver; he had no doubt concerning his own preservation, but the promise of safety to the crew had been conditional upon their performance of duty. The soldiers, on hearing Paul's words, immediately cut off the ropes of the boat, letting her fall off into the sea.”—Ibid., p.268.
c. How did the apostle bring even more comfort to the suffering men? Acts 27:33–38.
“That worn, drenched, discouraged throng of two hundred and seventy-six souls, who but for Paul would have become despairing and desperate, now took fresh courage, and joined with the apostle in their first meal for fourteen days. After this, knowing that it would be impossible to save their cargo, they righted up the ship by throwing overboard the wheat with which she was laden.”—Ibid., p.269.
4. STRANDED AT MELITA
a. What finally happened to the ship full of prisoners—and why? Acts 27:39–44.
“If any of the prisoners were missing, the lives of those who had them in charge would be forfeited. Hence the soldiers desired to put all the prisoners to death. The Roman law sanctioned this cruel policy, and the proposal would have been executed at once but for him to whom soldiers and prisoners alike owed their preservation. Julius the centurion knew that Paul had been instrumental in saving the lives of all on board, and he felt that it would be the basest ingratitude to allow him to be put to death; and more, he felt convinced that the Lord was with Paul, and he feared to do him harm. He therefore gave orders to spare the lives of the prisoners and directed that all who could swim should cast themselves into the sea and get to land. The rest seized hold of planks and other fragments of the wreck and were carried landward by the waves.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 269, 270.
b. What did the shipwrecked passengers find on the island? Acts 28:1, 2.
c. What happened to Paul in front of the native barbarians, and what did these people immediately assume about the apostle? Acts 28:3, 4. How did they soon afterwards react to the miracle the Lord performed in His servant’s behalf? Acts 28:5, 6.
“Paul was among the most active in collecting fuel. As he was placing a bundle of sticks upon the fire, a viper that had been suddenly revived from its torpor by the heat, darted from the fagots and fastened upon his hand. The bystanders were horror-struck, and seeing by his chain that Paul was a prisoner, they said to one another, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live’ (Acts 28:4). But Paul shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. Knowing its venomous nature, they watched him closely for some time, expecting every moment to see him fall down, writhing in terrible agony. But as no unpleasant results followed, they changed their minds, and, like the people of Lystra, said that he was a god. By this circumstance Paul gained a strong influence over the islanders, and he sought faithfully to employ it in leading them to accept the truths of the gospel.”—Ibid., pp.270, 271.
5. ONWARD TOWARD ROME
a. How long were Paul and his fellow prisoners stranded at Melita, and why could their forced stay in that island be seen as a success? Acts 28:8–11.
“During the three months that the ship's company remained at Melita, Paul and his fellow laborers improved many opportunities to preach the gospel. In a remarkable manner the Lord wrought through them. For Paul's sake the entire shipwrecked company were treated with great kindness; all their wants were supplied, and upon leaving Melita they were liberally provided with everything needful for their voyage.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 446.
b. Where was the apostle finally able to find fellowship again with the brethren? Acts 28:12–14.
“With the opening of navigation, the centurion and his prisoners set out on their journey to Rome. An Alexandrian ship, the ‘Castor and Pollux,’ had wintered at Melita on her way westward, and in this the travelers embarked. Though somewhat delayed by contrary winds, the voyage was safely accomplished, and the ship cast anchor in the beautiful harbor of Puteoli, on the coast of Italy.
“In this place there were a few Christians, and they entreated the apostle to remain with them for seven days, a privilege kindly granted by the centurion. Since receiving Paul's epistle to the Romans, the Christians of Italy had eagerly looked forward to a visit from the apostle. They had not thought to see him come as a prisoner, but his sufferings only endeared him to them the more.”—Ibid., p.447.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How are we to prepare for the soon-coming crisis?
2. What reveals the influence Paul had on those around him?
3. What was Paul’s main concern during the hour of perilous shipwreck?
4. Describe Paul’s experience on the isle of Melita.
5. How can we be inspired by the way the Christians in Italy received Paul?