“The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus.”
Acts 20:15 (NIV)
We were trundling in a taxi along a rough road on our way to visit the port town of Kusadasi in western Turkey. The taxi driver had been fairly chatty in his pigeon English – which was far superior to our efforts in the Turkish language. Suddenly the driver exclaimed, “that island there is Samos! Beautiful!” Samos was a little island just off the coast of Kusadasi. We agreed that it really was beautiful, sitting as it does in the turquoise Aegean Sea. “Yes,” the driver continued, “the name means grace.”
We were thrilled; imagine here was an island that the Apostle Paul had sailed round on the return from his third missionary journey recorded in Acts 20:15. We marvelled at the name meaning grace – how apt – how appropriate. Here we have Paul, who suffered so much for the gospel’s sake, sailing round an island called grace.
It was when we got home and I looked further into the meaning of Samos that I discovered in fact the meaning is very different, referring to the geology of the island—‘Full of gravel!’ I was disappointed, and yet the taxi driver was most emphatic that the word ‘Samos’ meant grace. Could this be a local name perhaps? We may never know.
Whatever the truth is, the island signified to us the arduous, long and exacting period this third mission had been. Paul had experienced internal and external dissension on a large scale; he met with betrayal and an assassination plot. He knew that suffering lay ahead in Jerusalem, his destination. The church knew this also and grieved deeply at the parting. The description of what happened is moving: “When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.” (Acts 20:36)
All that Paul endured, including his martyrdom, was for the sake of Jesus’ gospel. He wanted so much to spread this wonderful message of grace. He wrote to the church in Ephesus (very near Samos) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
God’s marvellous, merciful grace allows us to be saved from our sin—this little island reminded us of how much we owe him and also of how hard Paul worked to tell the world.
Father God, thank you so much for the faith of your servants in times past and present, we pray for those today who are persecuted for your name’s sake. Thank you, Lord, for the grace that we live under—your gift to us by the sacrifice of your precious Son.
Study by Irene Wilson
Worldwide Church of God Watford
St. Peter’s Church
61 Westfield Avenue
Herts. WD24 7HF
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