To many original readers, Julius would have seemed like a contradiction – a kindhearted Roman centurion, though he was not the only one… not even the only one in the New Testament.
A member of the Imperial/Augustan Regiment, Julius would have had about 100 men under his command. The few glimpses we get of Julius reveal an authoritative yet compassionate commander.
Paul was imprisoned many times for his boldness with the gospel. While under arrest, an unusual relationship developed between Paul and Julius.
I. Stage 1 of the Journey: from Caesarea to Sidon (Acts 27:1-3)
The Command of Julius… Julius was the responsible for ensuring Paul, on his way to testify before Caesar, arrived safely in Rome. That was no small task. More than one person wanted Paul dead – maybe even more than one group of people. Even the weather seemed determined to make their journey as difficult as possible.
II. Stage 2 of the Journey: from Sidon to Myra (Acts 27:4-6)
The Compassion of Julius… Along the way, Julius allowed Paul to disembark from the ship in Sidon (north of Judea on the Mediterranean coast) to visit friends – a gesture significant enough to warrant inclusion in Acts 27.
III. Stage 3 of the Journey: from Myra to Fair Havens (Acts 27:7-12)
But, when Paul warned of a dangerous journey ahead, Julius ignored him… preferring to take his advice from the ship’s pilot and owner instead.
IV. Stage 4 of the Journey: from Fair Havens to Malta (Acts 27:13-44)
– The Fearful Storm (v.13-20)
Paul was proven right when a storm threatened to tear the ship apart.
– The Cheerful Saint (v.21-44)
He told Julius that anyone who tried to escape the ship would die; the ship was the only safe place. This time Julius listened, ordering his men to cut the ropes that held the lifeboat. The fact that his soldiers would obey what must have sounded like a suicidal command indicates the kind of authority Julius had.
Later, when the ship was grounded, Julius’ authority and compassion came together. His men wanted to kill the prisoners to keep them from escaping the shipwreck, but Julius intervened to save Paul’s life. If he had not done so, Paul would never have gotten his opportunity to preach the gospel in the very heart of the Roman Empire.
Julius’ refusal to kill his prisoners showed much trust in Paul’s integrity. The penalty for losing a prisoner was death (Acts 16:27). Paul was the kind of person who could be counted on to keep his word, even if the price was his own freedom.
From that shipwreck on, Julius gave Paul a say in the decision-making that concerned Paul. It is possible Julius even met Christ through his contact with Paul!
Every person we meet gives us an opportunity to be faithful to Christ in our words and actions. How do you show your faith to those whom God has placed in your circle of influence?
* No relationship is accidental.
You can read the story of Julius in Acts 27:1—28:16.