Acts 27: Shipwrecks


When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the story of the Titanic. Not the James Cameron movie that was only recently surpassed as the highest-grossing movie of all time, but the actual Titanic. Even if you don’t know the details, chances are that you at least know the main gist of the story: a magnificent, “unsinkable” ship sets sail from England on its maiden voyage to New York but strikes an iceberg and sinks instead. the world’s largest and most luxurious oceanliner was gone. More than 1,500 lives were lost.

The account of the Titanic is the classic story of this amazing thing that goes horribly wrong, and if I had to guess, I’d say that very nearly all of us can tell about our own Titanic. Perhaps it was a family trip that was an absolute disaster. A business venture that just exploded in our face. A project that failed spectacularly.

For Paul, it was Acts 27. No, not the chapter itself; Luke probably didn’t write it until well after the events. Rather, it was the events recorded here. After being falsely arrested in Jerusalem in the midst of a riot, whisked off in the middle of the night to Caesarea to protect his life, put on trial before Governor Felix and then held for some two years for no apparent reason, and finally put on trial again before Governor Festus and King Agrippa, Paul had appealed his case to Caesar when Festus appeared ready to return him to Jerusalem and the waiting plot against his life. So he was placed into the custody of a Roman centurion named Julius, and along with a number of other prisoners bound for Rome, put aboard a ship that set sail immediately.

Sea travel, though, wasn’t like it is today. Today’s ships are large enough and strong enough to withstand monstrous gales. But when a winter storm descended on Paul’s ship, it was a major problem. For the better part of two weeks, the ship was driven along by the storm, the crew having thrown the cargo and even the tackle (i.e., the equipment needed to raise the sails and actually navigate the boat) overboard. And then came the word: they were approaching some unknown island.

Staring in the face of an imminent shipwreck, the people on that ship had a choice to make. For the crew, the answer seemed to be to escape aboard the only lifeboat, leaving everyone else to drown. For the soldiers, it seemed to be to kill all the prisoners, just in case. Each of these chose to panic and concern themselves with their own safety. For Paul and the believers with him, though, there was another option.

God told Paul that, if they would only trust in Him, He would deliver every life on the ship.

So Paul trusted God. He warned the passengers of the crew’s intention to abandon the ship, thus ensuring that the ship would still have the right people to survive. And he pleaded with the centurion to ensure that none of the prisoners were harmed. All because he believed that God had a plan to bring glory to Himself and save all of them.

And indeed, everyone aboard made it to shore safely. And none of them could deny that it was solely because of the hand of God.

When we first realize that we’re in that shipwreck scenario, where the whole thing is going down and breaking apart all around us, we have a similar choice to make. We can focus only on ourselves and abandon everyone else to go down with the ship or lash out at those around us. Or we can choose to trust in God, to obey what He has called us to do even when it appears bound for certain doom, and let Him take care of us and all the people around us if and when the time comes.

The next time you find yourself in the middle of a shipwreck, choose the latter. Trust. Obey. Even when all looks lost. Because God has promised to work all things out for your benefit, even if that means you’re destined for heaven today. Because our primary concern should never be ourselves or our interests, but God’s glory. And because, if we will stick with Him even as the boat is being crushed by the waves, the chances are pretty good that He’ll do something amazing to bring glory to His name.


  • (1-2) The names which Luke drops here are interesting. Clearly, he thought that at least some of his readers may have heard of these people. He presents them as witnesses that can be tracked down to present the authenticity of the account, I suppose. But I wonder what impact Paul and co.’s faith had on them?
  • (11) In case there was any doubt about the centurion’s loyalties, he listened to the pilot and owner of the ship before he listened to Paul. Paul remained a mere prisoner in his charge.
  • (19) This must have been a very bad storm. To throw the tackle overboard to lighten the ship, the crew was sacrificing the ability to navigate when the storm finally died. If they did not somehow end up at some place of safety during the storm, they would be condemned to drift in the middle of the Sea until they inevitably starved or drown.

1 Response to “Acts 27: Shipwrecks”

  1. 1 Rowland March 8, 2010 at 12:52 am

    I really like your comments about Paul’s shipwreck and our possible shipwrecks. Yep, trust in God is where it is at! I’ve had a busy day today. Preached for Dan as he was ill and could not talk, actually both he and Stacy. As a reward he made a crockpot supper for us. Just finished and it was really great. Have a great week and be sure to hug your kids.

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