Acts 27 – The Storm

Paul and his companions were booked as passengers on a grain ship bound for Rome.  There was no such thing as a passenger ship, so this was a commercial vessel and Paul’s passage was likely commandeered by the Romans (Dunn, Beginning form Jerusalem, 995).  It is possible these was a financial bonus for delivering grain to Rome before the end of the sailing season, explaining why the captain attempted to sail so late in the season.  Acts 27:9 tells us that they did not sail until after the Day of Atonement (“the Fast”), which is late September, early October.  Paul advises they not sail until spring, since after mid-November sailing to Rome would be impossible.

Ancient boats were not built to handle sailing into the wind, and the sailors try to keep the ship together during the storm.  Verse 17 describes the lashing of ropes to hold the ship in one piece, it is difficult to know how they did this. The area to the south of Crete was a kind of “Bermuda Triangle,” a part of the sea feared by the sailors.  They were in no real danger of going that far south, but they knew that the sandbars were dangerous.  Cargo is tossed overboard, then the extra equipment.  This was done to lighten the load (although one wonders if the extra weight would keep them from being overturned).  The clouds are so thick that they cannot make a sighting on stars or the sun, so they have no way of knowing which way the are headed.  The sailors become despondent, thinking they are not going to survive.

Paul speaks again and tells the captain that he has been told “by an angel” that they will all survive.  There is a bit of “I told you so” in his speech, but it is not an angry condemnation either.  Paul  knew what he was talking about in the first place, and now his knowledge was based on something more that sailing skill, it was based on divine revelation!

Paul encourages them, and tells them that he knows from an angel of God that they will survive, even though the ship will be destroyed.  Why an angel?  In other cases, the Lord simply speaks directly to Paul.  This is likely an accommodation to the Roman sailors who would have no idea who “The Lord” is, or respect his revelation over their own superstitions and beliefs.  An angel can be taken as a “divine messenger” here.

Paul’s message (verses 23-25) is that they will all survive because the God he serves has told him so. This speech is a remarkable statement of faith:  It is the God whom Paul belongs that will save the people on the ship.  The God Paul worships is the God who is in divine control of these events.  Paul is once again promised that he will stand trial before Caesar despite the fact that the ship will run aground.  No one will be lost even if the ship is destroyed.

28 thoughts on “Acts 27 – The Storm

  1. I love this narrative. When I read Acts, sometimes I skip to this part. I have to admit though, it’s interesting to read it in the context of the entire book. Although most of the book is narrative, this just seems especially riveting. This section is also a lot like Luke, where towards the end of the book the actions seems to happen a lot faster, leading to the climax.

    It’s also interesting to put this story in historical context and say that there were no commercial ships at the time, just shipments of goods. It puts a whole different perspective on the events of the shipwreck, especially because those on the ship were expert crewmen, not just average travelers with no concept of sailing. Even though they were professionals, God was more powerful… although it doesn’t take much.

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    • Good point, not many people knew about sailing – but Paul had been on merchant ships often. He probably knew more about sailing than any of the rest of the passengers and apparently more than the Centurion!

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    • Very interesting points Joe. I especially liked how you mentioned how God was more powerful in this situation and that is not hard to believe since He is God. This story made me think about Jonah when he told the sailors to throw him overboard. Although Jonah did not talk to God in that story he still knew God would save the crew and the ship from wrecking just like Paul did. Do you think God uses similar stories throughout the Bible to show He is real? This is not the only two stories found in the Bible that deal with a ship in a storm. mean, what are the chances of all these huge storms occurring where all the sailors lost hope but they make it out? Pretty small.
      I also liked how you mentioned that this story is exciting and leads to a climax. I think this is key because although the Bible is for Christians to learn about God and figure out how to follow Him, I believe God wanted us to be excited about reading it. At times, it is easy to think God is this powerful ruler who does not care about His people and their happiness. This is far from the truth. God longs for us to be happy and excited in all areas of life, including when we read our Bible.

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  2. I like where you talk about the “angel” being known to the Roman’s and sailors as a divine messenger. It’s like you already addressed, if Paul were to tell them that God told him that they would be ok, it probably wouldn’t give them much comfort because they do not know who this God fellow is. Paul, as he has done in the past, uses language that the sailors would understand. It is possible that the sailors would have taken Paul’s words as being a message from Hermes/Mercury seeing as he was the messenger/trade god. Could it be that Paul’s intent, although very mission oriented, could have been in part, spoken to keep the morale high and the sailors fighting for their lives lest they give up and die?

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    • Probably, he presents a positive message and makes it clear that his God is going to keep them safe, but he also explains it in a way a Roman is going to understand without too much trouble. I suppose we could be cynical and say Paul was playing the Roman for more time to avoid execution, but that is likely not the case.

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      • I agree with Jason in this post. It is really smart of Paul to say that an angel had come to him and that may be the actual event that happened. God uses all kinds of ways to communicate with his people. It would make sense like Jason said to send an angel so that the Roman’s would not misinterpret which God Paul was refering to in this situation. They believe in multiple gods in the Roman culture and I know from history, from fine arts and from the scripture that beings like angels were more tangible things for the Roman’s to understand that it was the God of Israel knowing that no other god in the Roman belief system had angels, I think..

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  3. The part of this story that I love is in the ways that God accommodates to the needs of Paul and the sailors. He sends an angel to speak to Paul for divine reassurance for him, and also to speak to the sailors. I like what Jason says about how Paul speaks in a way that all involved will understand. Despite the turmoil and chaos surrounding him, he had the faith that his God would deliver them from the intense storm. This is made clear through his dialogue with the sailors as well.

    I think this is a story that we often read as encouraging and go on wishing that we had the same faith of Paul. At some level we allow a story like this to be looked at as just a story of faith from the life of Paul and don’t allow the truth of scripture to apply to our own lives. It’s easy to say we want or will have this type of faith in the midst of life’s storms, but is it really ever lived out? Paul had this faith and understanding of God because he lived a life that required this level of faith. I believe that’s where the story applies to our lives.

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  4. Here we find a good example of Luke’s writing ability. Luke was a great writer and we see this in this passage. Paul has a confidence about the storm that is tossing him around. God has communicated to Paul that he will be alright even though the situation looks grim. Paul tells the captain that things will be ok, but the captain is thinking about his boat and ability to sail it in a storm of this volume. I like what Dave says about this being a story of faith. We see a literal example of having faith through the storm, and yet sometimes fail to believe that we can have such faith. Paul was faced with death but if God said he would be ok, then he would be.

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  5. When I read this story and your view on it, I totally see this story as almost a Three Stooges act. The fact that they set sail in fall instead of spring, that they sailed into the wind though the ship was not built for that, and that they lightened the load though it is possible that the cargo may have kept them from tipping over just makes me see this as totally comical. I picture the sailors running around the ship and throwing stuff off the side (maybe even a person) and colliding with each other as the frantically run about. It seems to me that Paul is the only voice of reason on the ship. He trusts God and knows that they will be safe. At the same time, it must have been very frightening to know that they were going to be in a shipwreck. I was in a hurricane this summer, and even though I knew God was going to protect me, I was still scared waiting for it to come. I can totally relate to the feeling of anticipation yet peace.

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    • I suppose there is some humor, but I thought it was more about the providence of God, he is looking out for Paul and ensuring that he gets to Rome (which was the plan all along). There might be a comedy of errors, but it is not slapstick!

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  6. I always find this section of Acts interesting. I think it is just another amazing example of God’s faithfulness and control. It also exemplifies Paul’s strength and willingness to surrender and have faith. He knows that there is nothing he, nor anyone else, can do and God said that they would all stay safe, so what is there to worry about? Although, I had never really thought much about the angel before. I had always assumed it was actually an angel, but the idea that it really was the Lord and Paul said angel in order to relate to the other sailors makes sense. Also an effective way of reaching the people with the Gospel–you have to share things with them in ways and using terms that they would understand and have no question about.

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  7. This story is a nice reminder that at the end of the day God is in Control.

    This is a Cargo that has 276 people on it, how big was this thing.

    Another part that I find interesting is that if the Roman Centurion was not so loyal to his orders and let the soldiers have there way, Paul’s life would have ended differently.

    I also wonder and try to picture what the guys on the ship thought of Paul, at first they would have called him a religious Jesus Freak, who then achieve some credibility for being right, and is encouraging and feeding people.

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  8. I like how Stefan put it about the end of the day. I will admit this is probably the first time I have ever read this passage before, even though I have been taught it in Sunday School and Youth Group before, I tend to not read things that I feel like I already know about, or that I am getting taught over and over again. But it is interesting how when it is studied, there are so many different things in one passage. Like the Centurion, God must have touched his heart if he had kindness for Paul at the beginning and allowing him to go see friends, considering how known and wanted Paul was for his teachings. The Lord does work in awesome and interesting ways. I always think that there is so much we can learn from Paul, even in passages where he is not the main thing, Like Jessica said before, this passage shows off Luke’s writing abilities and his variety. I wonder if he was on the ship? Maybe that is a stupid question…it does say we in the passages though so I am deciding he must have been.

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  9. I have to agree that this account is a huge testimony to Paul’s faith. I understand this story indeed as a reflection of Jesus because it seems that Paul keeps so calm amidst the chaos. The disciples accused Jesus of this seemingly apathetic attitude amidst the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Mark records Jesus sleeping and the disciples waking him in a panic asking, “don’t you care if we drown?!” And Paul is able to carry this same peace because God has promised him that not one life will be lost. It is faith, more specifically trust, and I think that this trust is formed in the small moments and the small concerns of life. I too hope that I can respond in chaos like Paul did so many times.

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  10. This is an awesome story of how amazing God is. I find it very interesting that you point out that Paul told them it was an angel. I like that you say it is because they would not understand Paul’s God. I really love that God used that, he wanted to show these people his power but also wanted to make sure they would listen and not continue to freak out they way they were. By the way, yes you would think keeping more stuff would keep the ship from over turning but whatever. Anyways, Paul does an awesome job of standing firm here and telling them what he heard. I mean think about it Paul could have kept that good news to himself and watched everyone panic and have a good ol’ time doing it.

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  11. I had never thought about this story in the way that Porter and a few others present it here. Unlike Jason, I’ve never had a particular affinity for this passage, except for the fact that Paul effectively communicates that EVERYONE on the ship is going to survive. That in itself is kind of impressive to me. I’m sure some were skeptical, but he seems to at least convince the centurion that he knows what he is talking about, probably due in some part to the fact that he had originally suggested that they wait until spring to set sail. At any rate, that is how I have generally thought about this passage, but Porter’s comments and some other simlilar ones on here are interesting in that the emphasis is not that Paul convinced the Romans, but that he had the faith himself. Like Porter said, It is really pretty impressive that he could have that sort of faith and know that everyone on that boat was going to survive because an angel told him so. No doubts, confusions, or second guessing himself. He just knew it. That is a pretty intense sort of confidence and faith.

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  12. Just as many others have said it is very interesting to note that professionalism of the sailors that accompanied Paul on this trip. Also, the professionalism of the ship itself, being a merchant ship and not a passenger ship (on account of their non-existence) is interesting. Paul would have been quite confident in his ability sailing and he knew enough to realize that sailing this late in the season was not a very good idea.
    The amazing thing about this story is not that they survive, but Paul’s stillness of mind and confidence in God’s power. He stands strong behind his statement of survival because he was told, either by God or an angle, that they all would survive. Paul could have kept this information to himself but instead he is confident enough to share the information with the rest of the crew probably to help calm them down a little. Which I can imagine worked. I like this story because no matter what storm comes your way, God is in control, even if the end result is not survival. God is still in control.

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  13. I find this passage both humorous and spectacular at the same time Here Paul has warneed all these men not to go the path they are choosing yet they ignore him. Then when the storm, exactly as Paul said it would, and the centuron finaly turns to Paul. Yet at the same time this huge storm is raging and no one dies. This was very uncommon and shows God’s amazing power and His desire for Paul to reach Rome.

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  14. I really like the discussion that is going on here. I saw the blog heading storm and thought to myself, ” I preached on storms a couple days ago” this narrative is by far one of my favorites. Like Joe, I might fidn myself skipping over all the other parts just so I oculd get to this one. Most of the book is Narrative anyways but this one really takes the cake. It is a sure reminder that in the midst of such powerful storms in which the waves are crashing in, God is still in control no matter what and he will never leave us. IN the midst of storms, we need to rely on God to carry us through the, THis narrative in Acts would be one heck of a sermon illustration for a future homiletics student.

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  15. I thoroughly enjoy this section of Acts (hence I wrote an entire research paper on it) I think it is interesting that Paul tells the people not to sail, yet they don’t listen to him. He kind of has a nice “told-you-so” moment when the sailors realize that they are not going to survive without help. It is amazing to look at this section of Acts and look at God’s provision for the people. God sends an angel to tell Paul that everyone will survive. This is an awesome feat that only God could provide for. If God can save all those people from the shipwreck, there is no reason we shouldn’t place our complete trust in his provision…

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  16. I think this is really important to note the comparison between the sailors and the people Paul travels with. The sailors were disappointed and devastated at the state of the boat and the storm. The only option they see in the end is them dying at sea. On the other hand, Paul and his companions are waiting for God to intervene. They see this trip ending with the more spreading of God’s word. They see Gods intervention in their travel and the options with God are limitless.

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  17. I think that this story is a good reminder to those reading it that ultimately, God is in control. Paul was able to have faith and to share his faith with the people who were keeping him a prisoner. He shared with them that they were all going to be okay if they listened to what he had to say. The faith that the Romans has that were on that trip to actually listen to what one of the prisoners had to say is actually incredible. The fact that they listened to Paul at all was something that amazes me. When Paul says that they will all be okay and tells them that they should eat something, it is recorded in Acts 27 that “they were all encouraged and ate some food themselves” (Acts 27:36). It would take a leap of faith for the Romans on that ship to also feel encouraged by the God that Paul served. At the end of Acts 27 it also says that “all were brought safely to land,” meaning that what Paul told them came true (Acts 27:44).

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  18. This story reminds me of the one found in Matthew 8:23-27, that is the story of Jesus calming the storm. In both of these stories there is a storm that batters a ship. And the waves are big enough to hit the deck and began to sink the boat. In Matthew 8:24 Jesus was sleeping like it was no big deal. While in Acts 27:22 Paul stood up and told them to keep courage because not one of them was going to die. Paul says that and angel appeared to him and told him that he will see Creaser and that God will spare the lives of those sailing with Paul. So, that not one single person will die, but the ship will be destroyed (Acts 27:21-24). But what both stories share is the common belief in God that no harm shall come to them. And in the case of Paul what the angel had told him turned out to be true. What makes this particular situation different is that God had sent an angel to tell Paul that he and everyone else would be fine. In other situations God tells Paul to stand strong in the face of persecution and hardships. the question is then, why did God send an angel to tell Paul that everyone would be fine? Perhaps it was to encourage him that God hasn’t forgotten about him. Or maybe it was provided as a way for Paul to evangelize to those traveling with him. Well for whatever reason it could’ve been, what the angel told Paul turned out to be true.

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  19. Paul begins a journey on a boat that he did not feel was the safest or smartest idea. He must have known a little bit about sailing from his many journeys and knew the risk they were taking for this journey. The area they would be traveling was also not a smooth ride, sailors knew this was a dangerous area, to begin with. Acts 27:9 shows us they were traveling after the Day of Atonement, Paul recommends waiting until spring. This recommendation was not taken, it is thought because you could gain more money for delivering rain to Rome so late. This boat was not the newest version and was not built to handle the harsh sailing it was going to face. When they hit high sandbars they were faced with no other option than to throw overboard their cargo and equipment. If I were in Paul’s situation I would want to throw people overboard for not listening to him and ending up in this unnecessary situation. At this point, they realized they were in danger of death because they lost sight of the stars and sun, and couldn’t see ahead. Paul was encouraged and comforted by an angel that they were going to survive. Paul passes on this comfort to others and explains to him that they will live, he uses the word angel of God, because they would not know who he meant by the Lord. Paul gives them the hope that they will live even though the ship will sink. This message goes deep in understanding God’s faithfulness and promises, but also Paul’s obedience and reliance on God, even though he will stand trial before Caesar. I’ve never been on a cruise ship or even a significant size boat, but I do not think I would be as calm as Paul was in this situation and reliant on God’s promise that they will live.

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  20. Like many people have already said, this passage reminds me of Jesus calming the storm. Jesus calming the storm is one of my favorite miracles because he says “Peace! Be Still” and I like to compare that to life sometimes being like a storm and Jesus telling us to be still. When it comes to these two passages, I believe that there are several parallels between them. Not only are their parallels, but I believe that since Paul was on the boat when Jesus calmed the storm and He witnessed this miracle with his own eyes, this made him even more confident in the fact that they would be safe when the angel of the Lord spoke to him. I think he still would have believed the voice he heard, but I also think to experience something very similar and seeing how Jesus worked miracles through that moment gave Paul even more confidence. This is true to our relationship with Christ today. We can have faith in Jesus with things coming up in the future that we have never experienced, but this can be hard for us. If we look back at past experiences and seasons of our lives where we can see our prayers were answered or God moved greatly in those moments, this will give us stronger faith and even more confidence in Him.

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  21. I love the fact that Paul is still confident even after everyone else is thinking they are going to die. This shows just how unwavering his faith was. He did not jump on the bandwagon when everyone thought they were doomed but he kept believing in the one true
    God who has and would keep him safe throughout his travels. Paul kept his faith and never turned away from it. I really love Paul’s story for this reason. He started out as a foe to the gospel, and yet God uses him to proclaim the gospel even through all of the trial he went through. Paul might have been knocked down so many times but he kept getting back up and kept going. He did not stop because he was confident in his God and what he was doing.

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  22. The transportation of the day of cargo ships was a fast and common way to venture around to areas while it was not the safest method to travel. Paul warns the captain of the ship of what is to happen and that if he follows everything he tells him to do as an angel has told him everyone will be alive and safe from the shipwreck. Through this Paul uses this as a way to share the gospel to the crew and those on the ship. As Paul also promise to the captain that he will still go to Caesar for his hearing. Paul remains true and loyal to the promises that he claims and states. As told Paul’s word remains true and life change happens.

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