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Scripture reading – Acts 26; Acts 27
Background and Introduction (24:27-25:27)
Paul was confined to prison in Caesarea for two years. Though he was not convicted of any wrongdoing, Felix the Roman governor of Judaea, imprisoned him because he saw it pleased the Jews (24:27). When Festus, the diplomat soldier who replaced Felix as governor, was come to Jerusalem (24:27; 25:1), he entertained accusations brought against Paul by the “high priest and the chief of the Jews” (25:1-2). Unwilling to transport Paul to Jerusalem to be tried, Festus invited the apostle’s enemies to Caesarea where they could state their charges against the apostle (25:3-5).
After he successfully defended his innocence, Paul’s appeal to be judged by Caesar moved his case from Judaea to Rome. (25:6-12). Soon after, king Agrippa’s visit to Caesarea gave opportunity for another authority to hear Paul’s case (25;13-21). Therefore, Festus appealed to Agrippa to question Paul and assist him in determining the charges for which he should be sent to Caesar for trial (25:22). After hearing Paul speak, Agrippa was confident he had committed no crime, and would have been set free had he not appealed to be heard by Caesar (25:23-27).
Agrippa gave Paul liberty to freely share his testimony, including his former life as a Pharisee and persecutor of the followers of Christ (26:1-11). Then, Paul declared his salvation, faith in Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and his calling to be an apostle to the Gentiles (26:1-18). He defended himself against the charges brought by the Jews, and proclaimed he was held in prison for no crime other than preaching the Gospel: “That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (26:23).
Hearing Paul speak, Festus suddenly interrupted the apostle’s oration, and asserted, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad” (26:24). Paul answered, “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness” (26:24). The apostle then appealed to Agrippa, who was himself a Jew, and asked, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest” (26:27). Agrippa answered, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (26:28).
What a tragic confession, but how many sinners have been almost persuaded? Some suggest Agrippa’s response was meant to mock the apostle. I believe the king acknowledged the words Paul spoke were true (26:28). Paul then lifted up his voice in a passionate appeal, and confessed his passion that all who heard his voice would have faith (26:29). Chapter 26 concluded with Agrippa agreeing with Festus’ judgment: Paul was innocent, and had he not appealed to Caesar, he “might have been set at liberty” (26:32).
Paul’s Journey to Rome (27:1-8)
Arrangements having been made for Paul to sail to Rome along with other prisoners, he was assigned a military escort with “one named Julius, a centurion of [Caesar] Augusts’ band [regiment]” (27:1). The ship stopped at several ports in its journey, including Sidon where Luke noted the centurion’s favor in allowing Paul to fellowship with other believers (27:3). Departing from Sidon, the centurion transferred Paul and the other prisoners to a “ship of Alexandria [i.e., Egypt]“ that was sailing to Italy (27:4-6).
Paul Warned of Danger (27:9-20)
The sailing was slow (27:9), and knowing storms would soon make sailing dangerous, “Paul admonished” the captain of the ship and the centurion guard to seek safe harbor (27:9-10). Dismissing Paul’s concerns, the ship set sail until the vessel was caught in a great storm, and in Luke’s words, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (27:11-20).
Paul’s Courage (27:21-44)
God revealed to Paul the ship would be lost, but all aboard would be saved (27:21-24). Blown several hundred miles off course and hearing the roar of waves upon the shore, some shipmen arranged to abandon ship, and prepared to cast off in a small skiff (27:30). Heeding Paul’s warning that any who abandoned ship would be lost, the soldiers cut away the ropes of the small boat (27:32). Miraculously, all 276 men on the ship were saved (27:33-44).
Closing thoughts – Ever wonder why God allows His people and choice servants to go through difficult trials? Believers are not spared sickness, disappointments, accidents, sorrows, or losses. Nevertheless, we may not rightly see God’s purpose; however, we are surely no different than Paul. He was falsely accused, arrested, and tried; however, he turned the occasions into opportunities to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Festus (Acts 25) and then Agrippa (Acts 26). When he was a prisoner on a ship sailing for Rome, Paul turned the occasion of the storm and shipwreck into an opportunity to share God’s revelation that all lives would be saved. The Lord revealed he “must be brought before Caesar” (27:24), and Paul confessed, “I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” (27:25).
Do you believe God’s Word, and trust His will is best? (Romans 8:28-29)
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