The apostle Paul enjoyed that sweet and unusual fellowship with God which gives one courage in times of extreme testing. This explains why he became such a heroic figure in the midst of those who sailed with him on the voyage, which is described in the verses of our text. It was by the grace and power of God that he was able to minister to the mental, spiritual and physical needs of the terrified passengers aboard the storm tossed ship in which Paul was being carried to Rome.

The Spirit led student of the Word sees the truth of Romans 8:28 standing out in all the experiences which Paul and his company passed through on this voyage. In the first place, Paul was a prisoner aboard this ship because it was God’s way of taking him to the dispersed Jews of Rome that he might bear this testimony in their hearing. This is in accord with the promise made in Acts 23:11—”And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

God tempered every wind that beat against that little ship, and He was constantly guarding the life of His called out servant and apostle against all the subtle schemes of Satan. His ministry was not to be ended by the enemy until he had borne his testimony in Rome, the capital city of the Gentiles. God had definitely and positively said, “So must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

The storms, the loss of hope on the part of the passengers and crew, the shipwreck, the bite of the poisonous snake on the island of Melita, and the diseases among the natives of the island all served as a means to an end for the glory of God and for the good of those who were “the called according to His purpose.”

Very probably the two hundred and seventy six men (Acts 27:37) aboard Paul’s ship would not have listened to God’s servant had it not been for the storm. It seems that they turned to Paul, only, after “all hope” that they should be saved was “taken away” (Acts 27:30).

God knew just how much it would take to make those soldiers and passengers listen to the following words of the apostle—”But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar; and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.” (Acts 27:21-26).

We call special attention to three statements in the apostle’s testimony quoted above—”whose I am,” “whom I serve,” and “I believe God.” All of the power which Paul had with men rested in the fact of these three statements. Men with power from above must belong to God, serve God, and believe God.

The Word of God Verses the Advice of Men and Outward Appearances

A great and practical lesson lies within the following verses, read them carefully—”Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, and said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be 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 southwest and northwest. And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.” (Acts 27:9-13).

The centurion in charge of the ship, was called upon to make a very weighty decision. Paul, the true servant of God, admonished the centurion to remain in “the fair havens” for the winter. The advice of the “master and owner of the ship” (Act 27:11), the poor situation of the haven, and the direction and temper of the wind all urged the centurion to immediately set sail for “Phenice” (Acts 27:11-13).

The responsibility of departing or remaining rested entirely upon the centurion. He must either heed the message of God through His apostle, or he must listen to the master and owner of the ship and be persuaded to move on because all outward appearances were favorable. The poor man took the advice of men and followed the urge which was prompted by the favorable outward appearances.

Many people today are doing just what this man did. They understand the teaching of the Word of God, but conditions are such that it doesn’t seem profitable to proceed according to God’s instruction. It is difficult for men to move along with God not even considering which way the wind is blowing, not being swayed by the opinions of men. God is looking for servants who will accept His Word as final and positively refuse to be moved from the course which God has ordained for them. Even though the future does not always look bright according to outward appearances, it is always best to move strictly according to the Word.

The apostle Paul was vastly in the minority when they set sail, but all on board the ship heartily agreed with his words of admonition before the voyage was finished. He was used of God to warn them. When they did not receive his warning, he was used again of God to encourage them and lead them out of their troubles.

It was not a “happen so” that they escaped death in the terrible shipwreck. God said, “And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.”

Miracles in the Closing Chapter of Acts

When Paul and his company landed on the island of Melita, God used the apostle to perform a miracle before the eyes of the natives. This miracle is recorded in Acts 28:1-6. Even though the viper that fastened itself on Paul’s hand was known to be deadly poisonous, it did not in any way affect Paul. His hand did not even swell.

The miracles of healing which are recorded in Acts 28:7-9, caused the natives to honor Paul and his associates with many honors.

These miracles were entirely in harmony with the kingdom message which Paul preached to Israel until the very close of the book of Acts. However, after the setting aside of national Israel, at the close of the Acts period, we find that such miracles cease.

In Acts 28:10-15 we find a record of Paul’s journey from Melita unto Rome. The affectionate nature of the apostle is seen in Paul’s behaviour when he saw the Christian brethren that came out to meet him. “He thanked God and took courage.”