Reading through the Bible together
One wonders at the details of this ship’s voyage and wreck, relative to the rest of the presumably more significant incidents in the life of Paul. It took Luke 44 verses to tell the story—a fascinating one, to be sure—his ministry in Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe took only 28 verses, and his 18-month ministry in Corinth took only 17 verses. Ellen White suggests the reason for the long description was to record how the ship’s crew and prisoners were able to “witness the power of God through Paul and that the heathen also might hear the name of Jesus” (Early Writings, p.207). Paul was not going to Rome the way he first intended, but God was with Paul all the way there, and it showed among the unbelievers. Luke, the beloved physician, accompanied the man of God because Paul’s health had deteriorated. In the case of Aristarchus, scholars suggest that the only way he could have accompanied Paul on his journey to Rome, was if he had become Paul’s servant by his own choice. Once in Rome, Paul refers to this friend from Macedonia as his fellow prisoner (Col 4:10).
Paul intervened four times during the voyage. His first intervention was while docked at Fair Havens, at the island of Crete. He recommend against sailing on to Rome in wintry weather which had begun. The problem was that the port was not suitable for staying there through the winter. Since the ship carried prisoners, the centurion was the man in charge, over the captain or owner of the boat, and he decided to go on. It proved to be a mistake. The winds were contrary and the fear of sinking was so real they had to tie ropes around the ship to hold it together (v.17). Things were bad, and everyone lost hope. Then came Paul’s second intervention. He told everyone that an angel of God had assured him they would get to Rome, and there would be no loss of life (vv.21-24). This must have been a real encouragement to crew and soldiers alike. This also shows that Paul had been praying for the lives of those on the ship.
But two weeks later, it looked as if the journey would come to a tragic end. The sailors were trying to escape. Paul intervened again. He told the centurion that they needed to keep the sailors on board. Then he told everyone to eat, to regain their strength. Due to worry or sea-sickness, nobody had eaten for two weeks. Eating again gave them strength to unload some of the cargo to lighten the ship.
Paul’s last intervention was without words. When the ship hit the shore on the island of Malta, and began to break up, the soldiers were ready to kill the prisoners and let none escape, because they would have to pay for it with their lives. But the centurion in charge determined to save Paul, and thus all the prisoners were saved. The life of a truly godly person can make the difference of life or death for all those around them.
Ron E. M. Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and TheologySeminary, Andrews University