Acts, Lesson 29: Paul Sets Sail to Rome

Model of Roman Ship (610x351)After being under house arrest for two years in Caesarea, and after speaking before Herod Agrippa and Festus, Paul’s appeal to Caesar now begins to take place. They deliver Paul to be taken by ship to Rome.

Luke records these events in a parallel structure: 

A Paul journeys to Malta (Acts 27)

.     B Paul on Malta (28:1–10)

A′ Paul journeys to Rome (28:11-16)

.     B′ Paul in Rome (28:17-31)


Paul sails to Rome

Read Acts 27:1-2


Lesson 29, Who's Who


Read Acts 27:3-5Lesson 29, Lee of Cyprus

Lee of Cyprus: The prevailing winds during autumn were from the northwest. Since wind was the ship’s source of power, this made sailing to Rome difficult, because the wind was blowing against them. So the ship’s captain took advantage of the topography, using Cyprus to shield them from the wind. “The lee of Cyprus” is the part of Cyprus protected from the wind.

  • Why do you think the centurion treated Paul kindly and what did he allow Paul to do?


Paul’s epistles confirm that Christians helped him when he was a prisoner (see Philemon 13).

Read Acts 27:6-8

  • While in Myra, what happened to Paul and his traveling companions?


  • Luke repeats a phrase two times, emphasizing what in verses 7-8?


  • What does that mean concerning the progress (or lack of it) in their journey toward Rome?


Read Acts 27:9-11

  • How had the winds affected the trip to Rome?


  • Luke gives a reference for the time of year. What was that reference?


The Fast: “The Fast” referred to the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27), which was in late September. They were now entering the stormy winter season, which would make sailing even more dangerous.

  • Luke noted that that centurion didn’t pay attention to Paul about the dangers of sailing in the stormy season. Instead, he listened to the ship’s captain. Why?


Lesson 29, Paul's Journey to Rome


Read Acts 27:12

  • What would the ship’s crew have preferred because the stormy winter season was upon them?


  • Then why did they choose to do what they did?


Fair Havens: Fair Havens lay on the south side of Crete, providing safe harbor from northern and western winds, but not much else (Acts 27:12).

Synonymy: In these 12 verses, Luke used four specific seafaring terms, a total of 11 times. Luke even used one term, pleo (“sail”), in three different compound forms: apopleo (“sail away”), hypopleo (“sail under” as in being sheltered), and diapleo (“sail through”). Through such variation, Luke avoided the monotony of being repetitious. But by choosing to use specific nautical terms, instead of terms like went or moved, we see Luke’s craft of “storytelling,” helping transport the reader/hearer from land to sea in his mind’s eye.


Despite the stormy season, they sail toward Rome

Read Acts 27:13

  • What event leads the captain and crew to think their fortunes have changed?


Read Acts 27:14-15

  • When the wind direction changes, a storm catches the ship’s crew by surprise. What are they then forced to do?


Read Acts 27:16-17

  • What was the ship’s crew able to do when they got a brief respite from the wind by the island of Cauda?


  • Why didn’t they just anchor at Cauda?


The Syrtis: One of two sandbars off the coast of Libya that could ground and scuttle ships. They were nowhere near the Syrtis, but it shows how much the crew had lost their bearings, not being able to discern their location through landmarks, the sun, or the stars by night. Thus, they feared the worst.Lesson 29, Drift Anchor

”Lowering the gear”: This was using a drift anchor, attempting to slow the ship during the storm.

Read Acts 27:18-20

  • What does the ship’s crew do over a series of days trying to survive the storm?


  • What do they eventually conclude?


Paul and the ship’s crew

Read Acts 27:21-26

Asitia: The ESV says that they had been “without food for a long time.” It was true that they hadn’t eaten in some time, but this was because they had lost their appetite (asitia). They hadn’t run out of food; the storm kept them from eating or being able to hold down their food.

  • What does Paul say to the crew?


  • Why would the ship’s crew consider what Paul says to be credible?


Read Acts 27:27-32

Adriatic Sea: Today, the Adriatic Sea refers to the water between Italy and Greece. In Paul’s day, it also applied to the Mediterranean Sea that was south of Italy and Greece, which was where the ship was travailing by storm winds (see map above).

  • When the ship’s crew took soundings, what did they realize?


  • What then did they do, and also attempt to do?


  • To whom did the centurion and soldiers listen? Again, why would they do that?


Read Acts 27:33-36

  • What does Paul encourage all on the ship to do?


Excursus: Connections to the Lord’s Supper in Luke’s Narrative and Paul’s Actions

In Acts 27:35, Luke phrases what Paul did similarly to how he described what Jesus did when He instituted the Lord’s Supper.


 Luke 22:19  Acts 27:35

He [Jesus] took bread,

and when He had given thanks,

He broke it…

He [Paul] took bread,

and giving thanks to God in the presence of all,

he broke it


Luke phrases what Paul did similarly to how he described what Jesus did when He instituted His Supper. Luke didn’t have to describe what Paul did in such a way; he chose to do so. When Luke described what Paul did using Lord’s Supper wording and imagery, he did so because he wants us to see similarities between what Paul did for those on the ship and what Jesus does for us in His Supper.

We would be remiss if we saw such similarities as simply coincidental—especially when we see other connections to the Lord’s Supper surrounding Paul’s actions. We find Luke using salvation-like language (not eternal salvation, but salvation from the storm) surrounding Paul taking bread, breaking it, and giving thanks. Luke wrote, most of which are quotes from Paul:

  • Acts 27:22: “there will be no loss of life among you”;
  • Acts 27:24: “do not be afraid”;
  • Acts 27:24: “God has granted safety to all those who sail with you”;
  • Acts 27:25: “faith in God”;
  • Acts 27:31: “saved”;
  • Acts 27:36: “were encouraged,” and
  • Acts 27:44, 28:1: “brought safely to,” (Greek: diasozo. Luke used the verb for salvation as a passive verb, “were saved”).

Luke also described Paul using the meal to encourage and assure those on the ship. Eating represented hope: all would be saved, and so all ate. This also takes place for us in the Lord’s Supper!

So—although Paul was not celebrating the Lord’s Supper, nor does Luke want us to think as much—Luke still wants us to see connections to the Lord’s Supper in what Paul did, and what that means for us.


Lesson 29, Connections to the Lord's Supper in Paul's Actions



Read Acts 27:37-38

  • After eating, what then were those on the ship enabled to do?


  • How does this mirror our life of sanctification after receiving the Lord’s Supper?


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