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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Acts 27



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Verse 22


‘And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.’

Acts 27:22

Festus delivered his prisoner into the hands of Julius, a centurion of the Augustan band. The Apostle was accompanied by two friends—the beloved Luke and Aristarchus, an old Thessalonian friend and disciple (Acts 19:29). There does not appear to have been any ship in the harbour of Cæsarea going direct to Italy. So they went on board a merchant vessel which was in the harbour, bound for Adramyttium, a seaport of Mysia, where they hoped to find another vessel bound for Italy. And on the voyage the ship was wrecked. Yet it was St. Paul, the prisoner, who gave the word of cheer in the storm as accounted in the text.

What do these words suggest?

I. A trying situation.—How so?

(a) Well-nigh hopeless. ‘When neither sun nor stars,’ etc. (Acts 27:20).

(b) Brought about by no fault of his. St. Paul was in the right path. Greatest trials often when we are in path of duty.

(c) Seemed against fulfilment of God’s decree. It had been divinely ordained that St. Paul should preach at Rome (Acts 23:11). Was this purpose to be defeated?

II. A timely messenger.—There stood by St. Paul ‘the Angel of God.’

(a) God ever watchful of His own (Psalms 121).

(b) God ever ready to interpose in their straits. ‘Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.’

(c) Only His own He thus favours—those who, like St. Paul, can say, ‘Whose I am.’

III. A tender message.—‘Fear not, Paul.’

(a) Fear not for thyself. ‘Thou must be brought before Cæsar.’ God will bring through present danger.

(b) Fear not for those with thee in the ship. The wicked spared often because of the righteous.


‘The description of the storm in this chapter is admitted by those who know what a storm is to be one of the best ever written. It is stated that Lord Nelson read this chapter on the morning of the Battle of Copenhagen, and that the ships at that battle, as well as others in which Nelson had the command, were anchored by the stern (an unusual thing), as was the ship in which St. Paul sailed.’

Verse 23


‘Whose I am, and whom I serve.’

Acts 27:23

I. Christian manliness.—Like a true man, St. Paul came to the front in the hour of danger. The ship is drifting to her ruin; the sailors are absolutely hopeless; but it is as if, through a rift in the clouds which covered the heavens, a message of mercy had dropped at their feet, as they gather round this Jewish prisoner, and listen to his word of calm assurance, while he speaks to them in the name of his God, Who rules the earth and sea, and promises that not one of them shall perish.

II. A good confession.—It was not easy for St. Paul, a prisoner, and almost the only Christian on board that great vessel, to confess Christ and speak of Him to the heathen. It was especially difficult, when the storm came on. Those heathen sailors were terribly superstitious, and, as the case of Jonah reminds us, they might have easily taken up the idea that it was against St. Paul the anger of their gods was roused, and that their only safety would be to cast him overboard. And yet he was not ashamed to own his Master. It was a great thing for St. Paul to promise, that not a hair would fall from the head of any one on board. Suppose that, just as he was speaking, the waves had washed some one of the sailors overboard, what attention would have been paid to him or his words thereafter? He had no fear; he knew God and trusted Him. God had certainly spoken to him. It was a great promise He had made; but St. Paul knew it was like his God to promise great things and do them.

III. Ownership and service.—‘Whose I am.’ He expresses it more fully in some of his epistles, when he calls himself ‘the slave of Jesus Christ.’ A Roman slave was the absolute property of his master: he was to have no will of his own; he had to do, say, and suffer whatever his master chose without a thought of appeal or resistance. And this is the word St. Paul uses, once and again, to express his relation to the Lord Jesus. The words which follow present the other side of St. Paul’s relation to Christ: ‘Whom I serve.’ This word ‘serve’ seems to be always used of the service of God, and it seems to indicate joyful, willing service.


(1) ‘Bishop Moule, in his little book on Christian Sanctity, says many beautiful things on this subject. Christ is my despotic Master, he thinks the words mean; He has a right to order me about: let Him do it. Every moment I will remember that I am at His disposal. In the little things of life, I will stand and wait close beside Him. Let others know where to find me, ever at my Master’s side. No corner of my spirit is to be shut against Him; I am bound to think as He thinks, and my piques and my prejudices and my sensitiveness are to be laid at His feet and to lie there all day long.’

(2) ‘It is impossible to estimate the national and civic value of a good man. He is the salt that preserves society from total corruption. If all the good men and women were taken out of the world, then Dante’s Inferno would not be a thing of fancy but of fact. The religious element in English society is its best safeguard.’


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Acts 27:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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