Shipwrecked (Acts 27:1-28:10)
Early Trip Issues (27:1-20)
After many difficult days of sailing, Paul admonishes the crew to not take unnecessary risks (v. 10). Paul was certainly prepared to die for the sake of the gospel, but he had no desire to die needlessly. He understood that there was impending disaster, and knew that it was better for them not to continue. Still, greed and comfort won the day and Paul’s word was not heeded. As the hurricane winds continued to blow, the optimism of the crew was shattered and hope began to dissipate. They did what they could to protect the ship—sailing under the shelter of an island, supporting the ship with cables, letting down the sea anchor, and throwing the ship’s tackle overboard. But as the storm continued, “all hope of [their] being saved was gradually abandoned” (v. 20)
Paul Speaks Up (27:21-38)
Paul responds to the obvious hopelessness with words of encouragement. He assures them that there would be no loss of life, only of the ship. Paul was able to keep his courage in what seemed like a hopeless situation because he believed God (v. 25). His confidence was based on the character and covenant of His God. These godless sailors are benefactors due to Paul’s godliness. In the same way, all of humanity is in the same “boat,” and through the tapestry of God’s dealings the blessings reserved for the people of God benefit others as well. Paul had previously preached the gospel in fullness and with clarity. Now, his faith in Christ is witnessed as he remains hopeful in the events of “real life.” There is a time to open up and speak truth, and there is also a time to shut up and live in light of the truth.
Paul encourages them to remain together and to eat. The promise from God that no lives would be lost presupposed that they would remain together. If the sailors abandoned the ship, the rest of those on board would not live. And unless the men on board ate, they would die. God’s sure decree never implies a fatalistic response. Responsibility is the context for receiving what God has promised. Paul’s advice was heeded: they were encouraged, they stayed together, and they ate (v. 36).
The Shipwreck (27:39-28:10)
When the ship began to be torn apart after striking the reef, the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners. But God intervened through the Centurion, who wanted to preserve Paul’s life, and the soldiers were not permitted to harm anyone. Just as God had spoken through Paul, “they were all brought safely to land” (verse 44). The islanders proved to be very civilized and compassionate, caring for all 276 people for the duration of the winter. After Paul was unharmed by the snake bite and after the island’s leading man’s father was healed, the rest of the island began coming to him to be cured.
From the initial boarding of the ship, to the point that it was destroyed by waves, there was not a single miracle. There was no divine calming of the sea, no angelic deliverance to a safe harbor. The passengers and crew were saved only after two weeks of suffering at sea, to be finally wrecked and stranded on a foreign island. God has not promised ease in this life—not for Paul, and not for you. We are not called to be super-spiritual heroes, but men and women who live by faith, humbly aware of our own limits and of the ways God has determined to work ordinarily. Of course, miracles happen; but the normal course in this life is one of God’s people living through the struggles of a fallen world by faith in Him.