The Road to Rome
And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band. And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.
After two years of false accusations, physical attacks, slander from the highest religious leaders in Israel, trial after trial without a verdict, death threats, and imprisonment Paul is on his way to Rome to face Nero’s judgment.
Luke and Aristarchus travel openly aboard the ship as the friends of Paul.
The information provided about Julius and the Augustus band is not sufficient to fully understand who these soldiers are and their normal assignment. But for this trip, they are Paul’s guards to escort him, as a prisoner, to Nero.
They set off from Caesarea on a ship, from the city of Adramyttium which is in Mysia, just south of Troas. They are starting out sailing along the coast which may give us a hint that it is already too late to be sailing out in the open Mediterranean.
We have looked at this before, but the Jewish tradition is no sailing in the open Mediterranean between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Pentecost. Roughly mid-October through May. It is a Jewish tradition that has some soundness to it. It was based upon man’s observation of the seasonal weather patterns on the Mediterranean. Yet it should always be understood that any tradition not based upon words God has spoken will be wrong from time to time, or always.
While we are studying Acts 27, we will have the opportunity to consider a Christian tradition, Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta. Tradition is never to be rejected simply because it is tradition. But tradition that promotes a lie about God, should be exposed and eliminated.
And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.
To me this is an amazing verse of scripture. The word translated “courteously” is the Greek word for how a “friend” would act. Julius, by his actions, is placing himself in the same category as Luke and Aristarchus with respect to friendship. Look at how these words are used.
Helps Word-studies: philanthrṓpōs (an adverb) properly, friendly; describing the kindness shown by (literally) a friend (phílos) of humanity.
Helps Word-studies: phílos – a friend; someone dearly loved (prized) in a personal, intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection.
The Greek word for “courteously” is philanthropos. While the Greek word for “friends,” speaking of Luke and Aristarchus, is philos. The centurion considers himself a friend of Paul.
The attitude of Julius is definitely a blessing to Paul, for Julius has allowed Paul to have liberty to be with his friends. Normally, Roman prisoners are chained and held below deck.
Why are friends of a prisoner even allowed on the ship? They are on a ship of commerce; they, meaning Luke and Aristarchus, could have booked passage on the ship as travelers. This was not a Roman prisoner ship.
And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
They continue to hug the coast all the way to Myra. The current along the north coast runs westward and staying close to the coast will give them some shelter from the contrary winds. So, they can make some progress.
And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.
A ship bound for Italy, much better than hopping along the coast and much better for sailing pass the Aegean Sea.
And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone; And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called the fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.
They allowed the ship to go out into the Mediterranean Sea so they could sail on the south side of Crete, using Crete to block the winds, as they had been using the coastline. But the wind has been contrary to sailing toward Italy this entire trip.
We do not know when they left Caesarea, but the traveling was much slower than they expected as they stopped at one port after another.
Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,
The “fast” is already past, what fast? The fast is associated with the Feast Day of the Atonement, five days before the Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Booths). This is the time of year when it became dangerous to sail in the open Mediterranean because of storms.
Paul admonished them, and said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. Nevertheless, the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter, which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.
So, here is the discussion and the decision. Paul is sharing Jewish tradition that sailing at this time of the year on the Mediterranean is dangerous and he gives counsel to winter rather than move on. But the ship’s master thought there would be no problem to continue.
Now, as a master of a ship on the Mediterranean Sea he is knowledgeable of the weather Paul is mentioning. He would not associate these storms with Feast days, but he would be aware of the seasonal patterns. The only ignorant person in this conversation is Julius, a Roman soldier not sailor.
The word “admonished” is in the imperfect tense which means Paul kept saying the time for safe sailing was already past. The word translated “believed” is not the normal Greek word for believing, pistis. Here believe is translated from the word peitho which means persuaded. The ship’s master persuaded Julius to continue verses stopping to winter at Fair Havens.
Julius appears to be the deciding factor, which makes sense, he has the soldiers, and represents the Roman government. Julius goes with the advice of the ship’s master, which also makes sense. If he had followed Paul’s recommendation over the ship’s master, explaining that once they reached Rome could prove interesting for the centurion.
Paul’s recommendation is based upon a tradition of men. Meaning there might be bad storms this year and then again, maybe not. Julius is moving with the opinion of the expert, the master of the ship.
And when the south wind [notos] blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.
“South wind” is the Greek word notos. Because this wind blew gently or softly it was taken, by the ship’s master, as a good sign to proceed ahead.
“NOTOS (Notus) was the god of the south wind, one of the four directional Anemoi (Wind-Gods). He was the wet, storm-bringing wind of late summer and early autumn. Notos dwelt in Aithiopia (Ethiopia), the southernmost realm in the geographies of myth.”1
The master of the ship should have known better than to continue this journey, but a gentle breeze was enough to convince him that Notos was not bringing a storm. Trusting a false god never works.
But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.
The Euroclydon winds come out of the northeast during the fall or winter in the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek word euroklydon literally means east wind that causes surging or violent waves. It has fierce winds that blow up to 120 knots,2 in miles per hour that is 138 mph, in kilometers it is 222 kph.
Euroclydon is compared to a typhoon, or hurricane. In terms of a hurricane, it would be a category four hurricane which has wind speeds of 130 to 156 miles per hour.
I have been in a nor’easter and a hurricane, but neither lasted as long as the storm Paul encountered, and I was on land for both storms. I have been fishing, about six miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, when a thunderstorm has come up. Quiet seas quickly turned to seas with 12-15 foot waves. It was like a rollercoaster that took you up and down while shoving you from side to side. Some became seasick almost immediately, very seasick, and we were in rough seas for only a few hours. I remained on deck, outside the cabin, because the smell in the cabin was overwhelming from all those who became seasick. Paul’s ship was carrying 276 people. If any became seasick it would have just added to the ship’s problems.
And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive. And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
As they left the port of Fair Havens the ship was caught in the Euroclydon wind, and it pushed them further out into the Mediterranean Sea than they had hoped or planned. They had expected to simply sail along the coast of Crete to make their desired winter port of Phenice, but the storm had other ideas and now they are south of Clauda.
First, they worked hard to get their small boat into the larger vessel. Unlike today when we carry our lifeboats, or smaller craft, on the larger boat, in the first century, they towed the smaller boat behind them. But by the time they tried to pull the small boat on board it would have been filled with water making it exceedingly difficult to deal with during a typhoon. Next, they undergirded the ship, this too would have been an amazingly difficult challenge.
To undergird their ship, they would fasten ropes or chains to one side of the ship, then send those ropes or chains under the ship, bringing them up on the other side of the ship and fasten them to that side with the idea of keeping the ship from splitting apart. Obviously, being a sailor in those days was not for the faint of heart.
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
A Christian today should not be tossed about to and fro with false doctrine, like the men on this ship. How, you ask? By holding the right doctrine for our administration, as it was revealed to the Apostle Paul and he in turn spoke it and wrote it.
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
First, the word fellowship is koinonia in the Greek, but the oldest manuscripts have the Greek word oikonomia, which means administration. The oldest manuscripts (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus and others) all have oikonomia or administration.
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation [oikonomia] of God, which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
If ye have heard of the dispensation [oikonomia] of the grace of God which is given me to you- ward:
The word “if” is a first-class conditional clause and should be translated since, “Since you have heard of the administration of the grace of God…” An administration was given to the Apostle Paul. What we have called the Administration of Grace.
What is the doctrine and practice of the Administration of Grace?
The Paradise Administration, as we have seen, gave God’s Word to Adam with the Tree of Life.
The Patriarchal Administration had God’s Word written in the stars.
The Law Administration had the Word of God written and spoken by Moses.
The Christ Administration had the Word of God spoken and lived by Jesus.
The Revealing Administration had the Word of God spoken and written under Peter’s leadership.
The Millennial Kingdom Administration will have Christ sitting on his throne.
Each administration is unique and individual.
Each had, or will have, its own doctrine and practice to follow.
We can, and should, learn from all administrations, but we must be wise and sharp when it comes to applying that which is directed by God for another administration. Applying the Law given to Moses during the Millennial Kingdom would be wrong, unless there is an application as in the Feast of Tabernacles. Applying the doctrine and practice of the Paradise Administration any time after God expelled man from the Garden would be an insult to God and man.
What is the doctrine and practice given to the Apostle Paul for the Administration of God’s Grace?
If you cannot answer this question, then as a believer in this administration you will be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. Trust me, (one of the rare times you will ever read or hear me say that), the Adversary has a perverted wind of doctrine for every word within the Word of God.
As contrary as the winds are on Paul’s journey to Rome, they are just as contrary spiritually as you endeavor to walk with your heavenly Father, as you serve Christ Jesus, your Lord.
In the Administration of Grace what must a person do to be known by God as one of His children?
See how contrary these winds just became with that question?
There should be one united answer from Christian leadership, directly from God’s Word.
What is the answer?
Is it in the Old Testament? No!
Is it in the Gospels? No!
Is it in the doctrine God gave to Paul? Yes!
All of God’s Word is for our learning, but not all of God’s Word is for our application.
The ship carrying Paul is being tossed around the Mediterranean Sea like a toy in a bathtub with a four-year-old boy splashing in the water.
And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
No sun and no stars mean a sailor cannot navigate; he cannot set his course. He is simply at the mercy of the storm and the Adversary does not come with compassion.
This is how too many Christians feel today about their spiritual life as they are tossed to and fro around the spiritual spectrum of what is the right thing to do, what is the right thing to believe?
As a lifeline some grasp onto the words of Jesus.
“I cannot go wrong if I do what Jesus said.”
Let’s read an account of a Gentile woman talking with Jesus.
And behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
Here is a Gentile with a need coming to Jesus. She recognizes Jesus for who he is, Lord and son of David. The Jewish people did not even see these things.
But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
Jesus ignored her and his disciples found her annoying. But you say, Jesus talked with and ministered to other Gentiles in the Gospels. You are right, he did. But they were Gentiles who were proselytes.
But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Are you Jewish? Are you part of the twelve tribes of Israel?
“I came for them, not you.” Is what Jesus is telling the woman.
Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
Can you picture this? She is on the ground, at his feet, begging for help.
But he answered and said, it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
The response of Jesus is to call the woman a dog!
The Judeans, the people of Israel, at this time considered all non-Judeans to be dogs. Jesus is just reiterating what he had told her a moment ago. He was sent to Israel. His words were for Israel. His promises were to Israel. Jesus is not trying to be insulting or harsh. He is simply teaching her the Word of God.
So, if you are a Gentile which words of Jesus do you follow?
This woman received deliverance for her daughter because of God's loving grace. But not by what Jesus did and not by what Jesus said. The gospels do not hold an answer for a person looking for salvation in the Administration of Grace. The words of Jesus in the gospels are addressed to Israel regarding the Old Covenant with Israel. A person looking for salvation today will not find the answer in the gospels.
Today is the day of God’s abundant grace, the doctrine for today was given to the Apostle Paul, the one to whom God revealed the Administration of Grace.
All of God’s Word is for our learning, but not our application.
The master of the ship and his crew were afraid the wind would drive them across the Mediterranean into the quicksands of North Africa. The quicksands would be the gulf off present- day Benghazi. The quicksands were sandbars that would form in this area and storms only made this area worse. Since this was not where they wanted to go the master of the ship ordered the sails down so that the wind would not push them over to Africa.
They were a sailing ship, but the sails were the wrong application for the wind blowing them toward Africa. However, they did not throw the sails away.
Are you a Christian? Do you want help today? Is your life being tossed all over the place as the world swirls around you like the fierce winds of a mighty storm?
If the wind drove them to far south toward the coast of Africa, they could also get caught in the current coming in from the Atlantic Ocean. In the Mediterranean Sea, the current coming in at the west end, from the Atlantic, flows south of Malta and straight into the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea by current day Gaza.
The day after dropping the sails they lightened the ship by throwing things overboard. By the third day they threw away the tackle, the furniture and beds, things considered unnecessary. The lighter the ship the easier it was to move with the current rather than the wind.
By lightening their load, the ship could catch the current coming off the west end of Clauda which flowed north by northwest toward Greece and the Adriatic Sea. (See Map)
The blue line shows the current of water coming in from the Atlantic Ocean and the red line shows the current of water leaving the Mediterranean Sea and back into the Atlantic Ocean.
But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country.
Adria is the name of a city at the north end of the Adriatic Sea, it is the city from which the Sea takes its name. They had been riding the current for eleven days and if they caught the current, they were hoping to catch, they should be near or in the Adriatic Sea.
They were driven up and down “in” the Adriatic. The Greek word for “in” is the preposition en. Doctor E.W. Bullinger says of this preposition, “denotes being or remaining within, with the primary idea of rest and continuance.”
When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land.
On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land.
New International Version
And after the fourteen days of our roaming and tossing on the Adriatic Sea, at midnight, the sailors conceived that they approached land.
Murdock's Peshitta Translation
After drifting with the current for eleven days they thought they were near land, so they dropped four anchors out of the stern (back) of the ship to wait for daylight so they could see what they needed to do.
For fourteen days they have been tossed to and fro in this ship being pounded by the rain, the fierce winds, and violent waves.
And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.
For fourteen days they had not eaten. The word “fasting” is from the Greek word asitos. “A” from alpha, when used as a prefix it means no and sitos meaning grain or wheat. Not exactly a fast as in a ritual fast, but simply having no food during the storm.
With winds moving the ship around the sea like it was a toy and the waves battering the ship like they wanted to smash it to pieces, food was not high on their priority list. But now they sat and ate with Paul after he gave thanks to God. Then they were all filled with good cheer, good emotions. All 276 people on this ship were encouraged.
And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.
The word "creek" in this verse is the Greek word kolpos and means a bay. The overall body of water is known as the Adriatic Sea. Verse thirty-nine also declared that it was a land they did not know, they did not recognize.
And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.
In verse forty-one we read, "where two seas met" referring to the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. Malta is more towards the center of the Mediterranean Sea, looking north to south, and not "where two seas met." Where two seas meet is the place, they dropped four anchors. This is where they ran their ship onto a sandbar, or something similar, and the force of the waves from the two seas tore the ship apart sending all hands and passengers into the water.
Normally, the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea do not meet in a violent manner. But during a typhoon, with the winds blowing out of the northeast and the current flowing to the northwest, the two seas clash.
Acts 27:44 and Acts 28:1-2
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. And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us everyone, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
They landed safely on an island called Melita. When they were on the ship they were too far off to see the island clearly. But now that they were on the island, they recognized it and knew its name Melita.
Off the coast of Dalmatia there just happens to be an island named Melita. The people there were barbarous, Acts 28:2. The Greek word is barbaros.
Helps Word-studies: bárbaros – properly, a barbarian; generically, anyone "lacking culture" (an "uncivilized" person. (bárbaros) is specifically used for all non-Greeks (non-Hellenists), i.e., anyone not adopting the Greek language (culture); a non-Hellēn.
The Dalmatia area was not conquered by Roman until 10 A.D. They did not use the Koine Greek language and they had no elements of Greek culture. In other words, the people on this island fit the definition of barbarous.
The island of Malta was a little different. Although Cicero referred to Malta as Melita, it was an island that had been under Roman rule since 218 B.C.
A Roman villa was discovered in the 19th century. It was dated to 1 B.C. and this was said about the building, “It contains some fine floor mosaics and was furnished with marble statues, some depicting the reigning imperial family.”3
Further, considering the definition of the Greek word barbaros, referring to the Hellenistic aspects of a culture, there is this statement concerning Malta; “The archipelago was intensely Hellenized beginning in the 3rd century BC…”4
The island where Paul spent the winter of 60-61 A.D. was the island of Melita.
And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, no doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
Not long after arriving on the island the Apostle Paul was bitten by a viper, a deadly, venomous snake. The island of Melita in the Adriatic Sea to this day is overflowing with venomous snakes that can kill a man with a single bite. The island of Malta has no venomous snakes and by archeological evidence has never had any venomous snakes that could harm a man.
In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us, and lodged us three days courteously. And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So, when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
After failing to die from the snake bite a door opened for Paul to minister to the father of the chief man of the island. A door also opened for Paul to minister to others who were sick and needed healing. Paul spent three months on this island waiting for spring to arrive.
We saw as we studied the Book of Acts that Paul never simply walked through an area healing people with his "magic" touch. Paul first taught God's Word, teaching people what to believe and then, people received healing as they believed God. Consider Acts 14 when Paul was in Lystra.
When Paul leaves the island of Melita he leaves behind a fellowship of believers, a fellowship that needs more teaching, more training in God's Word. When Paul departs for Rome, he leaves behind a fellowship that is in need of a leader.
2 Timothy 4:9-12
Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.
Paul had already sent Artemas to Crete to replace Titus. Now he is sending Tychicus to Ephesus to replace Timothy who he has asked to come to Rome. Further, he is sending Crescens to Galatia, and he is sending Titus to Dalmatia. With his final letter Paul is arranging leadership positions in the different areas, as God works within him, to best care for the needs in the different areas of the world.
There would be no need to send a seasoned leader to Dalmatia if Paul had not left an unfinished work in that area. A work that was left unfinished because the Apostle Paul was under arrest when he was shipwrecked on the island of Melita off the coast of Dalmatia.
So, what difference does it make if Paul was shipwrecked on Malta or Melita?
Absolutely no difference.
The important points are these and could happen on either island:
•God’s Word is held forth with power. •People received deliverance through believing the words of God. •Luke, Aristarchus, and the other 273 people from the ship get to spend three additional months listening to Paul teach about the One True God. •But it does explain to us why Titus is sent to Dalmatia in 2 Timothy 4:10.
and all 276 people on the ship reached the island alive, even those who could not swim.
It is important to some people because they want to walk where Paul walked.
If you want to walk where Paul walked, then walk on God’s Word.
Every day Christianity is battered by the wind, and the rain, and the waves of assaults by the Adversary. Many of God’s children are seasick, and afraid, and lacking direction for they have not seen the sun and the stars to help them navigate. For the Christian, God’s Word is our standard for truth, our sun and stars, by which we navigate.
For the Administration of Grace, the Pauline epistles give us our immediate navigation.
In them we learn we are justified NOW!
In them we learn we are sanctified NOW!
In them we learn we are righteous NOW!
In them we learn we are holy and without blame before God NOW!
In them we learn we have authority and power NOW!
The doctrine revealed to the Apostle Paul is not only for our learning, it is for our immediate application. NOW!
1. NOTUS (Notos) - Greek God of the South Wind (Roman Auster) (theoi.com)
2. Euroclydon wind speeds - Search (bing.com)
3. Roman Times - Visit Malta
4. Greeks in Malta - Wikipedia