Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 27:1-5
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 27:1
v1: As the governor of a Roman province, Festus had a council available to him made up of various officers as well as some younger men who may have accompanied him to Caesarea in order to gain experience in provincial government. They were there to consult him on important decisions, especially those involving Roman law (Ac 25:12). He could seek their advice whenever he chose but the responsibility for decisions belonged to him alone (F. F. Bruce, Acts, Eerdmans, reprint 1974, p.479). Judging from the way Luke describes the decision to send Paul to Rome, it appears Festus consulted this council. Luke says, “And when it was judged (in a trial) to sail us to Italy, they handed over both Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion named Julius….”

Monday: Acts 27:1-2
v1 (continued): Luke notes that Julius was a member of a special army unit called the Augustan Cohort. This title, along with his rank, indicates that he was an officer of a highly-trusted unit which at times may have guarded the emperor himself. This unit may have been stationed in Caesarea to protect Festus, the governor. The ancient historian, Josephus, mentions that a troop of horsemen by this name was stationed at Caesarea (Wars, 2.12.5). v2: Festus and his council decided to send Paul to Italy even though it was very late in the season for navigation. The weather at that time of year became treacherous. It was considered dangerous to sail on the Mediterranean from about September 14th until November 11th, and then, after that, all navigation came to a complete end until the winter was over. In verse nine Luke mentions that by the time they arrived at the island of Crete, the Day of Atonement (“the fast”) had passed. If this journey took place in A.D. 59 the Day of Atonement fell on October 5th (F.F. Bruce, Acts, Eerdmans, reprint 1974, p.506).

Tuesday: Acts 27:2
v2 (continued): Paul had been held in Caesarea for over two years, so there is no apparent reason that his transport to Rome could not have been delayed until spring, when travel became safe again. But it seems that after Paul preached the Gospel so bluntly to Festus and Agrippa (Ac 26), Festus wanted to get rid of Paul by sending him to Rome as quickly as possible. So rather than waiting four months until their travel would be safer, he ordered Paul, along with some other prisoners, to be put on a ship right away.

Wednesday: Acts 27:2
v2 (continued): Based on Luke’s description of their voyage, it’s obvious that strong, westerly (or northwesterly) winds were already blowing when they left Caesarea and normal shipping had stopped. Normally, this group would have gone to Alexandria, Egypt and sailed from there directly to Rome. But by that time of the year, they had to board a smaller Greek vessel which could work its way north, running along the coast, and then once they reached the southern coast of Asia Minor (Turkey) they hoped to find winds and ocean currents that would allow them to move west. Throughout the voyage, Luke uses the first person plural (we/us/our) to indicate that he was accompanying Paul on this trip, and he must have kept a daily log because his descriptions are detailed and accurate, clearly those of an eye witness.

Thursday: Acts 27:2
v2 (continued): Luke mentions that Aristarchus, a Macedonian from the city of Thessalonica was also with them. Since Aristarchus had been with Paul in Ephesus (Ac 19:29), and then had traveled with him to Jerusalem two years earlier (Ac 20:4), it may be that he had devoted himself to caring for Paul and had remained with him the entire time he was in Caesarea. In two of the letters Paul wrote while a prisoner in Rome, he mentions Aristarchus and describes him as his “fellow-prisoner” (Col 4:10; Phm 2:4). One way or another it appears this loyal friend ended up joining Paul in jail.

Friday: Acts 27:3
v3: On the next day after leaving Caesarea, the ship arrived at the ancient harbor of Sidon which was located nearly seventy miles north. The Christian community in that city had probably been in existence since believers fled Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen. Phoenicia was one of the places to which these refugees carried the Gospel (Ac 11:19). Paul had also visited the city on several occasions during his travels between Jerusalem and Antioch in Syria (Ac 11:30; 12:25; 15:3; 18:22). A major road ran along the Mediterranean coast and passed right through Sidon so, as you might expect, Paul, who had traveled that road many times, had “friends” in that city. When the ship docked, Luke says Julius, the centurion in charge of Paul, treated him very kindly by allowing him to leave the ship and go into the city so he could receive care from his friends. Undoubtedly a soldier accompanied him (Ac 28:16), but clearly, Julius already trusted and respected Paul.

Saturday: Acts 27:4-5
v4: We’re not told how long the ship stayed in Sidon. It probably remained in the harbor only long enough to unload its cargo and take on more. Then, once they put out to sea, the captain headed north toward the east coast of Cypress in order to find some shelter from these strong westerly winds by sailing close to the eastern shore of the island. Luke says the winds were “contrary.” v5: When they finally reached the southern coast of Asia Minor they were able to slowly move west by catching the westward current that flows along that coast, as well as any helpful breezes which might come off the land. They would have stayed close to shore and rested at anchor whenever necessary, slowly working their way down the coast of Cilicia, Paul’s home province, and then past Pamphylia which Paul visited during his first missionary journey (Ac 13:13). At some point, Luke’s choice of words tells us that the ship sailed across a stretch of open ocean before arriving at Myra, in the province of Lycia, one of the main ports for large ships that regularly carried grain from Egypt to Rome (F. F. Bruce, Acts, Eerdmans, reprint 1974, p.502). 

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