1. CHAINED ABOARD SHIP
a. What was the scene of Paul’s next ordeal—yet, besides Luke, who else was a comfort? Acts 27:1, 2; Colossians 4:10 (first part).
“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.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 262.
“Mariners directed their course largely by the position of the sun and stars; and when these did not appear, and there were indications of storm, the owners of vessels were fearful of venturing into the open sea. During a portion of the year, safe navigation was almost impossible.
“The apostle Paul was now called upon to endure the trying experiences that would fall to his lot as a prisoner in chains during the long and tedious voyage to Italy. . . . It was from choice that Aristarchus shared Paul’s bondage, that he might minister to him in his afflictions.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 439, 440.
2. A TREACHEROUS VOYAGE
a. What reveals the well-deserved confidence Paul soon earned from Julius, who held him in custody on the voyage to Rome? Acts 27:3.
“This permission [to go to his friends] was greatly appreciated by the apostle, who was in feeble health.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 440.
b. How did the voyage go—and what did Paul warn? Acts 27:4–10.
“The winds were still contrary, and the ship’s progress was difficult. . . .
“At Fair Havens they were compelled to remain for some time, waiting for favoring winds. Winter was approaching rapidly; ‘sailing was now dangerous;’ and those in charge of the vessel had to give up hope of reaching their destination before the season for travel by sea should be closed for the year. The only question now to be decided was, whether to remain at Fair Havens, or attempt to reach a more favorable place in which to winter.
“This question was earnestly discussed, and was finally referred by the centurion to Paul, who had won the respect of both sailors and soldiers. The apostle unhesitatingly advised remaining where they were.”—Ibid., pp.440, 441.
c. What was finally decided—but with what results? Acts 27:11–17.
“The centurion decided to follow the judgment of the majority. . . .
“Driven by the tempest, the vessel neared the small island of Clauda, and while under its shelter the sailors made ready for the worst. The lifeboat, their only means of escape in case the ship should founder, was in tow and liable to be dashed in pieces any moment. Their first work was to hoist this boat on board. All possible precautions were then taken to strengthen the ship and prepare it to withstand the tempest. The scant protection afforded by the little island did not avail them long, and soon they were again exposed to the full violence of the storm.”—Ibid., pp.441, 442.
3. HOPE TO THE DESPAIRING
a. Describe the struggles that occurred at sea. Acts 27:18–20.
“All night the tempest raged, and the ship leaked. The next day, all on board—soldiers, sailors, passengers, and prisoners—united in throwing overboard everything that could be spared. Night came again, but the wind did not abate. The storm-beaten ship, with its shattered mast and rent sails, was tossed hither and thither by the fury of the gale. Every moment it seemed that the groaning timbers must give way as the vessel reeled and quivered under the tempest’s shock. The leak rapidly increased, and passengers and crew worked constantly at the pumps. There was not a moment’s rest for one on board. . . . A gloomy apathy settled upon those three hundred souls, as for fourteen days they drifted, helpless and hopeless, under a sunless and starless heaven. They had no means of cooking; no fire could be lighted, the utensils had been washed overboard, and most of the provisions were water-soaked and spoiled. In fact while their good ship was wrestling with the tempest, and the waves talked with death, no one desired food.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 265.
b. What did Paul do at this moment—and how could he soon bring hope to all on board? Psalms 55:22; 56:3; Acts 27:21–26.
“While all around were looking only for swift destruction, this man of God, in the serenity of a blameless conscience, was pouring forth his earnest supplications in their behalf.”—Ibid., p.266.
“[Paul] grasped by faith the arm of Infinite Power, and his heart was stayed upon God. He had no fears for himself; he knew that God would preserve him to witness at Rome for the truth of Christ. But his heart yearned with pity for the poor souls around him, sinful, degraded, and unprepared to die. As he earnestly pleaded with God to spare their lives, it was revealed to him that his prayer was granted.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 442.
“Physically the greatest sufferer of them all, [Paul] had words of hope for the darkest hour, a helping hand in every emergency.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 266.
4. IMMINENT DANGER
a. What deceptive ploy did the selfish sailors begin in an attempt to save only their own lives (and not the others’)? Acts 27:27–30.
“[Passengers and crew] were now threatened by a new danger, of having their ship driven upon some rock-bound coast. They immediately cast out four anchors, which was the only thing that could be done. All through the remaining hours of that night they waited, knowing that any moment might be their last. The leak was constantly increasing, and the ship might sink at any time, even if the anchors held.
“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.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 267, 268.
b. How did Paul disarm their plot that would not have succeeded? Acts 27:31.
“Had [the selfish heathen sailors] 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.’ 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.”—Ibid., p.268.
c. Explain how, even now, the apostle inspired cheer. Acts 27:32–38.
5. EXACTLY AS FORETOLD
a. Describe the final shipwreck. Acts 27:39–41.
b. How did God miraculously preserve all on board? Acts 27:42–44.
“Paul and the other prisoners were now threatened by a fate more terrible than shipwreck. The soldiers saw that while endeavoring to reach land it would be impossible for them to keep their prisoners in charge. Every man would have all he could do to save himself. Yet if any of the prisoners were missing, the lives of those who were responsible for them would be forfeited. Hence the soldiers desired to put all the prisoners to death. The Roman law sanctioned this cruel policy, and the plan would have been executed at once, but for him to whom all alike were under deep obligation. Julius the centurion knew that Paul had been instrumental in saving the lives of all on board, and, moreover, convinced that the Lord was with him, he feared to do him harm. He therefore ‘commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: and the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.’ ”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 445.
“When the roll was called, not one was missing. Nearly three hundred souls, sailors, soldiers, passengers, and prisoners, stood that stormy November morning upon the shore of the island of Melita. And there were some that joined with Paul and his brethren in giving thanks to God, who had preserved their lives and brought them safe to land through the perils of the great deep.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1067.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How has God lightened my burdens as He did for Paul in chains?
2. How might I be in danger of rejecting an inconvenient warning?
3. What can I learn from Paul’s care for the heathen aboard ship?
4. Why would the selfish plot with the lifeboat never have prospered?
5. What should I learn from how Paul’s prophecy was exactly fulfilled?