Why does Luke record such a long-detailed sea voyage to Rome? In the Old Testament the sea was a symbol of chaos, evil and rebellion against God. In Acts 27 the sea seems to be opposed to Paul’s taking the gospel to the ends of the earth (Rome). Note the following phrases: the winds were against us, we sailed slowly, arrived with difficulty, the wind did not allow us, with difficulty, struck down, could not face the wind, driven along, with difficulty, driven along, violently storm-tossed, neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
Despite this God is sovereign over the waters of chaos. In 27:24 God speaks a message to Paul urging him not to be afraid because he must stand before Caesar in Rome. In fact, God’s grace to Paul means God’s will save all who sail with Paul as well! It seems whatever forces may oppose the gospel’s spread are ultimately unsuccessful due to God’s sovereignty.
Another theme in the sea voyage narrative is how the Roman centurion hears Paul’s words. In 27:9-10 Paul warns the centurion against proceeding with the journey, but the centurion pays more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. In 27:21-26 Paul speaks again. He highlights the truthfulness of his earlier words to invite his hearers to share his faith in God’s word that they will be saved. Finally, in 27:31 when Paul tells the centurion what he must do to be saved (from the storm) the centurion obeys Paul’s words. Does this not imply both the truthfulness of Paul’s words and the necessity of faith to be saved through the gospel?
Providence is also demonstrated when the Roman centurion forbids the soldiers from carrying out their plan to kill the prisoners to save Paul. God’s providential plan to save Paul overrules all men’s designs.