James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
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.Acts 27:1-28:31
A PRISONER AT ROME
The reader is urged to add to the interest of this lesson by the further use of the map. The sea journey is marked by different stages, from:
Adramyttium to Myra (Acts 27:1-5), · Myra to the Fair Havens (Acts 27:6-8), · Fair havens to Melita or Malta (Acts 27:6 to Acts 28:1), · Melita to Syracuse (Acts 28:2-12), · Syracuse to Rhegium, Puteoli and Rome (Acts 28:13-15).
The most interesting stage is the third, which covers the shipwreck. In all classic literature there is nothing which gives so much information of the working of an ancient ship. Moreover, historical research has confirmed the facts of the chapter and identified the scene of the wreck. The narrative has often been used in an allegorical sense to portray the history of the church, and also the history of the salvation of a single soul, but we have no time to enter into this. Frank Gaebelein has a striking observation on Paul’s warning to the centurion and the shipmaster (Acts 27:9-11), saying:
We can think of other warnings given through the great apostle, warnings concerning the spiritual dangers, the apostasy of the last days, the perilous times of seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. The professing church has forgotten these, for which she is drifting cast about by every wind of doctrine and rapidly nearing the long-predicted shipwreck.
Alas! how true this is!
The phrase “barbarous people” (Acts 28:2), is not to be understood as meaning savages, but simply foreigners to the Greeks. All who did not speak their language were called “barbarians.” What a striking fulfillment of Mark 16:18 is found in Acts 28:2-6! Read Acts 28:15-16 in comparison with Romans 1:11-13, written years before, and be impressed with the different way in which Paul entered Rome from that which he expected. Note in Acts 28:17 how consistent is his method of preaching the Gospel with the principle he laid down in Romans 1:16, “to the Jew first.” Note too, his quotation of Isaiah 6:9-10, when the Jews turned their back upon his message, and how sadly those words of the prophet have been fulfilled in the history of their nation from that day to this. But the latter part of Romans 11 should be read in the same connection, to learn what God’s gracious purpose is for that same people in the time to come. Acts 28:28 marks a larger beginning of the world-wide proclamation of the “salvation of God” among the nations. This proclamation however will one day close as Romans 11 foretells, when it will have come to pass that they too have judged themselves “unworthy of eternal life.”
Paul is now a prisoner in Rome where he remains for two years actively engaged not only in preaching the gospel by word of mouth, but expounding its deeper truths through the epistles he wrote from his prison house to the churches of Ephesus, Colosse and Philippi. There is reason to believe from his later pastoral epistles that he was liberated after his hearing before the Emperor, and once more took up his itinerary among the churches and in unevangelized parts. He was arrested a second time however, as we may gather from the same sources, when, according to tradition, he was beheaded in Rome for his testimony to the Gospel and the Savior he loved.
1. Name the stages of Paul’s sea journey.
2. How is the word “barbarous” explained?
3. Have you read the latter part of Romans 11?
4. What church epistles were written from Rome by Paul?
5. What have history and tradition to say concerning the subsequent life of this great apostle?