Paul's Shipwreck (Acts 27) Bible Lesson

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This lesson continues the Journey through the Book of Acts.  This lesson covers Paul’s shipwreck as he sails toward Rome.  Students will see how the Holy Spirit enables believers to have courage in difficult situations and be able to be an encouragement to others who are struggling.  The lesson was prepared for older students.  This is only a suggested guide to give an idea how to teach this lesson. Make adjustments and adapt to the needs of your students. Click here to see all the lessons in this curriculum series.

Bible Story: Paul is Sent to Rome & Shipwrecked
ScriptureActs 27
Target Age Group: Age 9 – 11 (U.S. 3rd – 5th Grade)
Learning Context: Sunday School
Target Time Frame: 60 minutes
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Supply List: Bibles, a map of Paul’s journey to Rome, paper/note cards, pencils,
Learning Goal: Students will learn that the Holy Spirit enables believers to encourage others when going through great difficulty.
Learning Indicator: Students will actively participate as the lesson is being taught.  They will be able to demonstrate their comprehension of the lesson by answering review questions.
Learning Activity #1: Students can actively participate during the lesson.  Depending on resources you can create a ship with large pieces of cardboard etc or just put tape on the floor in a boat shape.  Students can hold up waves cut out of blue construction paper or raise their arms in the motion of waves and make sound effects at the proper time. At the point of the lesson where the passengers eat you can share some granola or cereal (or any substitute for children with food allergies) from a zip lock bag.  Have props that represent things that get thrown over board.
Learning Activity #2: As students wait for everyone to arrive have them write a note of encouragement to someone who is going through a difficult time.  Have a list of Scriptures with references that they can include in their notes.
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: Acts 27:25 “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.”

Bible Lesson: Paul Sails for Rome

(Begin lesson with prayer.)
Waiting for God’s timing is not always easy.  How long has Paul been waiting in prison to go to Rome?  (2 years)  How do you think Paul might have felt?  How was Paul able to remain faithful and obedient to Jesus? (Psalm 37:7)  (The Holy Spirit enabled him to trust God.  God comforted Paul and told him he would go to Rome and testify about Jesus.)
Let’s open our Bibles to Acts 27.  Finally it is time for Paul to travel to Rome.  (Show map)
Acts 27:1-12 A centurion named Julius is put in charge of Paul and they board a ship called Adramyttium (ad’ruh-MIT-ee-uhm).  Paul was not alone on this journey to Rome.  First and foremost, the Lord Jesus was always with Paul.  In verse 2 we see that Aristarchus from Thessalonica (If your class studied Paul in Thessalonica-review what they remember from Thessalonica/Riot in Ephesus Acts 19:29) and Luke are on the ship with Paul sailing to Rome.
Whenever we face difficulty, we are NEVER alone.  If we are Christians, the Holy Spirit lives in our heart and is always with us. Many times God puts another believer alongside to encourage us as we go through difficult times.
The ship sailed to a place called Sidon and the passengers got off.  Julius showed Paul kindness and allowed Paul to go and spend time with his friends and receive care from them.
Paul was not the only prisoner travelling on this ship. What do you think Julius saw in Paul’s life that made him show kindness to him?  (Allow responses)
When believers live an obedient, upright life before others, they see that there is something different about them.  (Proverbs 16:7 “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”)
Paul and his friends returned to the ship and they were at sea once again. It was fall when Paul was sailing to Rome.  Sailing at this time of the year could be dangerous. The winds blowing on the sea were very strong.  The winds got so strong that the boat Paul was sailing on went to Cyprus (show map) to have some shelter from the wind.  After finding shelter in Cyprus they set sail and traveled to a place called Myra.  It was there that Julius put all the prisoners on an Alexandrian ship that was heading to Italy.  Sailing was becoming increasingly more difficult and it took many days to travel a short distance so they stopped in Cnidus (NI-duhs) because the winds would not allow them to continue on.  When the winds died down they moved on to the island of Crete and stopped at a place called Fair Havens.  They spent many days in Fair Haven.  The winter season was quickly approaching and sailing would be very dangerous.  Paul went to Julius and said, “It would be wise not to sail our ship at this time of year.  We could safely wait here until winter is over and the strong winds quit blowing.  If we don’t, this trip will end in disaster with much loss, not only with loss of the cargo but with the loss of many lives.”
Julius heard what Paul said but he was more persuaded to listen to what the owner of the ship and the sailors said about the trip.  The owner of the ship felt that they should move on to a better place to keep the ship for the winter.  No one listened to Paul’s warning and they began to sail the ship.
Acts 27:13-20 The ship had not sailed far before the wind began to blow very hard.  The wind blew the waves so high that they looked like mountains all around the ship. (Have students make ‘waves’ and make wind sounds)  It was blowing so hard that the captain could not turn the ship back.  They were caught in the middle of a terrible storm.  The waves came crashing down onto the ship.  The sailors had to work hard to keep the ship from filling completely with water. (Have students act like they are filling buckets and throwing the water overboard) The ship was being tossed up and down (sway back and forth).  The wind grew stronger and stronger.  The wind howled all day and all night.  Because the wind and waves crashed against the sides of the boat it felt like the ship was going to break apart.
The ship was towing a small lifeboat.  The lifeboat was interfering with the progress of the ship.  It was making it difficult to steer the ship where they wanted it to go.  With great difficulty the sailors hoisted the lifeboat up out of the waters. The sailors passed ropes under the ship to help hold it together.  The next day the sailors began to throw packages of things that were heavy out of the ship to help it from not sinking.  (pretend to throw things out or use props)
It had been dark for many days.  No one could see the sun during the day nor stars at night.  The winds were still raging against the ship.  Luke wrote that they had given up hope that anyone would come and rescue them at sea.  Everyone was sure they were going to die at sea.  It was a very scary sailing trip!
Acts 27:21-26 Paul was in a very dangerous situation along with all the other passengers on the ship. In his human strength it would have been very natural to focus on himself as he faced this danger.  The Holy Spirit gives believers the supernatural ability to do things that they cannot do in their own strength.  The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to have courage in this terrible, life threatening storm and the ability to encourage others.
Paul stood up in front of all the men on the ship.  He had to speak in a loud voice to talk over the noise of the storm.  He said, “Men, if you had listened to my warning, we would not have been caught up in this terrible storm.  I want to encourage you because last night God sent an angel who stood beside me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid Paul, you must be brought before Caesar and God will save all those who are sailing with you.’  Paul believed God and encouraged the passengers to be brave because it will happen just as God says it will.
Paul could have allowed fear to paralyze him.  If he would not have believed the words God spoke to him he wouldn’t have been able to help the passengers on this boat.
The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to have the faith to believe the words of Jesus.  Remember that Jesus Himself stood by his side one night when Paul was arrested in the soldiers’ barracks.  (Acts 23:11) Jesus said Paul would be going to Rome and Paul believed Jesus’ words and in the midst of a frightening storm, Paul wasn’t focused on himself.  Because Paul believed God would keep His Word, he had the power of the Holy Spirit to help him to speak words of encouragement to those who were terrified all around him.
Acts 27:27-32 We see the sailors doing what comes naturally in their own human ability.  They wanted to save their own lives and did not think of the other passengers on the ship.  The sailors tried to sneak off the boat because they were afraid they were going to die when the ship crashed against the rocks.  The Holy Spirit gave Paul wisdom to know that they were planning to escape and he spoke to the centurion and the soldiers.  He said, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”  The soldiers immediately cut the ropes from the lifeboat and let it fall into the ocean so no one could escape.
Acts 27:33-38 As it began to get close to morning, Paul told everyone that they needed to eat something. (Share some food)  It had been 14 days since anyone had eaten anything.  He knew the people needed their strength to survive and he believed that God was going to save every one of them.  After he had said these things he took bread and gave thanks to God and began to eat.  Everyone was encouraged and they began to eat as well. Let’s read verse 37 to see how many passengers are on this ship.  (276)  After everyone ate as much as they wanted they threw the rest of the grain overboard.  (Pretend to throw extra grain out)
Acts 27:39-41 In the morning, the light began to fill the sky and everyone looked in all directions to see if there was any land close by.  They could see that there was a beach.  The ship would now have a safe place to stay.  The ship began to move in the direction of the beach. Everyone must have thought that they were out of danger.  All of a sudden the ship jerked to a jolting stop!  It had hit the sandy bottom of the ocean floor before they safely reached the land.  The water was still deep, but the ship would not move.  They were stuck!  The waves began to pound against the side of the ship.  Then there was a horrible noise. CR-RACK!  The ship began to break apart.  Water began to flood into all parts of the ship and the ship began to sink.
Acts 27:42-44 If any of the prisoners escaped the soldiers guarding them would be put to death. Everything was going crazy as the ship is sinking and people are panicking. The soldiers thought they should kill all the prisoners so none could escape.
Once again we see God’s kindness and protection of His servant Paul.  Julius wanted to save Paul and he told them they could not kill any of the prisoners.
God had a plan for Paul’s life and no one was going to end Paul’s life before God’s work for Paul was done.  Believers can find comfort in knowing that God is in control of their life and their lives will not end on this earth until God’s purpose for his/her life is fulfilled.
Julius commanded all the passengers who could swim to jump overboard and swim to the beach.  The passengers who could not swim were to grab broken pieces of the ship and paddle to the shore. Everyone made it to the beach alive.  Not one person on the ship died.
The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to believe God’s promises. His faith in God enabled him to encourage the other passengers on the boat in a very difficult time.  It would have been natural and easier for Paul to focus on himself when he was in a frightening situation but Paul heard a promise from God and chose to encourage others with that promise.
The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to have courage and trust God in a very frightening situation.  Paul chose to encourage his traveling companions in this dangerous situation.  His example also helped the passengers to learn that they could trust in God.
Because Paul was an obedient servant many lives were touched by the power of God.  God had a plan and purpose for Paul’s life and no difficulty was going to stop God’s purpose for Paul.  As God’s purpose for Paul’s life was being fulfilled other lives were blessed and touched by God as well.
God has a plan and purpose for each one of us.  If you are a believer the Holy Spirit will enable you to fulfill that purpose in your life.  God wants your faith to grow so you can be a strong witness to share Christ with others.  Believers will face difficulties but God never leaves us in those difficulties.  The Holy Spirit will help you to encourage others to turn to God and trust Him.
Maybe you are not a believer yet.  Maybe you are like many of the passengers on the ship sailing to Rome.  You may be going through a very difficult time in your life and you are scared.  You don’t have to go through this difficult time alone.  God sent His Son Jesus to die for your sins so you can have a right relationship with God.  When you believe in Jesus you are adopted into God’s family and will never be alone because the Holy Spirit will live inside your heart.  The Holy Spirit will give you the strength and courage you need as you face different circumstances in your day-to-day life.  Please talk to us after we pray if you have any questions about becoming a Christian.
Close in prayer.
Review Questions:

  1. Do you think Paul’s life as a Christian was easy or hard? Why? (encourage their answers)
  2. How do you think Paul was able to keep serving God despite the difficulties? (The Holy Spirit gave him power to continue to follow God)
  3. Where was Paul sailing to? (Rome)
  4. Who was the centurion in charge of Paul? (Julius)
  5. How did God show love and kindness to Paul on this trip? (Friends traveled with him (Luke, Aristarchus), Julius let him spend time with friends spared his life when soldiers wanted to kill prisoners)
  6. What advice did Paul give Julius? (Stay where they were for the winter) Did Julius follow Paul’s advice? (No)
  7. How did Paul encourage the people on the ship when it was very frightening and everyone had given up hope of being saved? (He shared God’s message of promise with them)
  8. How many people were traveling on the ship?  (276)
  9. How did God show these men on the ship that His promises could be trusted? (Not one person died in the shipwreck)
  10. Who are some people you could encourage?  What could you tell them about God to encourage them to trust Him today?

1 thought on “Paul's Shipwreck (Acts 27) Bible Lesson”

  1. Thankyou for the thoughts and ideas you have put together on this passage. I will be teaching on this Scripture on Sunday, and will use some of your insights.

    Many thanks again, and God bless you, and this work.

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