Sometimes we find our lives tossed about like the ship in Acts 27. We stand in need of undergirding, adjustments and have to cast off excessive weight and baggage that is weighting us down. We find ourselves wandering to and fro in the waves, with no direction in our lives, in darkness and unsure of outcomes. We pray hardest during those periods and yet it seems in the midst of the storm, our prayers go unanswered.
You recall from the previous chapters, Paul had been accused of the Jews, tried and found innocent, yet he had previously appealed to Caesar, his right was a Roman born citizen. That was not something that could be withdrawn, so he was placed under guard and sent to Rome. Acts 27 starts with the beginning of that journey.
The details of this voyage are incredible. Dr. Luke had time to record many of the finer points. He told of the ports, the directions, the landings, the time of year, the seas, the ships names, the passenger count, the directions of the wind, (the name of the wind in one case), even the seemingly pointless fact they are aboard a ship with dual rudders Ė the names of Paulís guard (Julius), the depth of the ocean near where they would break up; the two seas coming together and on and on.
Paul perceived that the trip would not be a good idea and that harm could come to the voyage. While not a direct revelation from God, dream, or vision, he had a sense of doom he expressed to those in charge of the journey.
Paulís warnings are not heeded.
Paul has gained the trust and confidence of his keeper guard and at one point is let off the ship to attend services with friends in Sidon.
Unable to convince them of the impending danger, the ship, slow and listless at first with little guiding wind finally gets underway. From almost stalled at sea to damaging winds, the journey takes a terrifying turn. At one point, Luke records, the ship required much help Ė undergirding with lashes and ropes to hold together the hull.
Paul was as much in the dark about his fate as the other men, who were resigned to shipwreck and death, until a visit from the angel of the Lord. Letís look at that for a moment. Paul could have been given a ďsenseĒ of safety, an intuition like before, or he could have been given a dream Ė heís had those before Ė or a vision. Paulís been praying since the departure for a safe journey. We know that by Paulís nature and donít have to be told. But now, Paul getís a personal messenger Ė an angel of the Lord, for reassurance. Why the sense of importance? Paulís the only one who saw the angel Ė so itís not like it was necessary for the faith and belief of the others.
Something is going on with this wind. Iíve always contended that weather is the revealed will of God. And I think generally, thatís true. The Lord causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. We hear stories of tornadoes destroying entire neighborhoods but sparing one believer in the midst. Iím going to adjust my thinking on this matter Ė and say that generally, weather is the revealed will, but sometimes, the currents that control the patterns of weather are reacting to their environment, and on occasion, Satan can create havoc in weather by disturbing those patterns. Hereís the verse that caused me to recant my long standing position on weather:
Mar 4:39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Perhaps Satan was trying to kill the disciples. I donít think the wind here was from the Lord Ė because if Jesus rebuked the wind, that would have put Him and his father at cross purposes. Impossible. Paul calls Satan the prince of the power of the air in Ephesians 2:2, meaning he has a dominion in which he can operate. Remember in Daniel where one of Satanís minions is called the prince of the Kingdom of Persia?
Dan 10:20 Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.
It seems logical to conclude that that Satan is working pretty hard to sink this ship. Luke records the tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. Thatís the natural wind cycle, but the enemy is stirring it up.
And Paul needs a full reassurance from the angel thatís in the region fighting on his behalf. Paul, long now on the ship, fasts and seeks heavenly assistance.
The Angel Arrives Two Weeks Before Actual Deliverance.
Even after the angel appeared with good news Ė the ship continued to be tossed about. God had heard the prayers of Paul and had answered them positively. But, the ship still rolled and was fraught with danger.
At what point do we consider that Paulís prayers for safe voyage were answered?
Paul must appear before Caesar. And the safety of every man is guaranteed by the Lord.
We would expect after the angelís visit that the seas would calm, the sun would shine and soft steady winds would carry these men to Italy on downy pillows of ease. Yet for a total of 14 days, many under tormenting rains, strong winds and roaring seas, the ship was cast about.
Have you ever prayed and not felt like your prayer was answered? The storm just kept coming and coming Ė but in reality, when you look back, God had probably already resolved your issue Ė it needed only time for the circumstantial events to fall into place.
In the dark, they know they are nearing land because they are sounding the depth. A huge 18 inch lead plummet on a rope is let down until it becomes slack and by they can measure their depth. They find themselves at 120 feet and a few moments later, at 90 feet. Good news and back news Ė they are close to land, but they canít see it in the storm or the dark. And they appear to be closing in fast.
In response, they cast four anchors out of the stern (or the rear) of the ship to hold them from crashing into the rocks.
How did they know there were rocks in the dark storm?
The sounding tool Ė the lead plummet would be coated in grease and lowered. They wanted to see sand on it when it came back aboard after measuring the depth. It came up clean; meaning rocks were between them and the sand and were a great danger.
Men began to lower the smaller boats Ė hoping to escape the danger and Paul turns to his guard Julius Ė instead of the to the Master of the Ship and the Commandeer who had the authority and says ďExcept these abide in the shipÖ
Hereís one of those lessons that we need to look at carefully. A few verses back Paul tells us God has guaranteed the safety of all those involved. So, if thatís the case, what does it matter whether these men get into the boats or not? We know, from reading the outcome, the exact number of men on board and it recorded not the loss of a single one. What gives?
A reasonable person could look at this situation and say God has declared that all will be safe, all will survive and we know that the will of God cannot be overthrown. So does it matter if they abide in the ship or not? Just because God made a statement about the outcome, doesnít always point us to the final result. A statement from God is not always the final outcome of a situation. Hereís a good example:
1Sa 23:9 And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.
1Sa 23:10 Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake.
1Sa 23:11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down.
1Sa 23:12 Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up.
David asks two specific questions and the Lord answers them both honestly. Will Saul come down and get me Ė Yes. Will the people of the city deliver me into the hand of Saul for my certain death? Yes.
We have an enemy in our ranks that takes license with our liberty in Christ. They have taken a doctrine that we love and cherish and have added their own interpretation to it. The Bible says ďKnowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.Ē 2Pe 1:20
Men have taken the doctrine of predestination far beyond the limits of Holy Scripture. They have taken it to mean the Absolute Predestination of all things. You want to know the final destination of things? Theyíre going to burn up. Pre-destination pertains only to people. Specifically, Godís people. Donít ever apply it to things.
Hereís something you need to consider about salvation and rightly dividing the truth. If you falter from the doctrines of grace, there are only two options Ė a ditch on the left and a ditch on the right. One of them is fatalism, the absolute predestination of all things which makes God the author of sin. The other is universalism, decrying that God must save each and every one. There are no options. You will end up forced by your knowledge of the doctrines of grace and the things you have learned to accept one or the other positions.
This verse in 1st Sam should teach us also that the absolute predestination of all things is fallacy and heresy. There are Ifs implied in the verses above. Will Saul take David when he comes to Keilah? He will. Will the people turn him over if he stays? Yes indeed. Now, here are some things that could come to pass if David stalls, disobeys, doesnít think, isnít mindful and so on. God has not decreed that these things and potential harm come to David Ė Davidís locked into circumstances. God doesnít say stay or go; David has free will. And David isnít relying on the promise heís going to be King of Israel and staying put looking for Godís miraculous hand to intervene.
Asked Prayers are Answered More Often that Unasked Prayers.
Something else here: David asked two questions. God answered those two questions. God didnít offer temporal salvation or deliverance. You wonít find God answering a lot of prayers that havenít been made. You have not because you ask not. God has established prayer as a method of communication Ė thatís how he wants you to talk to him Ė daily. David could have asked. He didnít.
We make choices, but circumstances often interfere with progress. Let me state that differently. David is our subject Ė and later in life, David is going to find Bathsheba and commit adultery with her and murder because of her. When he comes to see his sin, he repents, he begs for and receives forgiveness, but the consequences of his circumstance override his situation. He lost a child in the mater, but God forgave him. He never murdered again, but he was subject to a long period of war.
Reaping and sowing. This one law of God and nature would help so many lives if Godís children understood it. If we would start each day knowing our decisions impact our lives - -Gal 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. -- What a difference it would make in our coming years.
These sailors are reaping their failure to acknowledge Paulís warning to stay in harbor. But Paul, who would have taken his own advice, is reaping the consequences of their actions as well. Hereís the answer to the battle cry of every teen-ager on the planet: My choices donít impact anyone else!
So when God says all these in the ship will be alive at the end Ė Paul says, stay in the ship. Iím not getting into the boats; you ought to stay out of the boats. Godís promise was to me, so I have some priority here in the decision process. So now our question is this? Was the safety of all those on the ship absolutely pre-determined? No. At any time, one of them could have not harkened to Paulís admonishment to be of good cheer and jumped overboard, but the foreknowledge of God foretold the safety of them all provided they followed sound and reasonable steps.
Stay in the ship. Itís important. The soldiers under command of Julius cut the smaller boats away, now trusting Paul. They had no evidence of Paulís rightness Ė only his sense of foreboding that it was a bad idea to leave Fair Harbor and his word an angel had stood beside him and told of their fate. Yet they now trusted Paul.
Weíve used that many times before Ė every good old Baptist takes this verse up when making the point of salvation not always being eternal. We talk about the church being a type of ship and the salvation we enjoy staying therein. And itís a good lesson Ė but now letís examine the intended meaning of this verse for what it says:
Act 27:30 And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,
Act 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
Who is Saved in Abiding in the Ship? Not Who You Think...
Paul doesnít say except we abide in the ship, we canít be saved. He says except THESE abide in the ship, YE cannot be saved. Heís talking to the Centurion and the soldiers. He knows that if the sailors depart (and itís clear from the verse before they are trying to sneak off the ship) the Centurion is going to lose charge of his command and perhaps some of his prisoners as these boats being lowered begin to fill up with deserters.
Act 27:40 And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
Iím a stickler for words in scripture so I want to look at this carefully. The goal here is to make the ship as light as possible so the waves will carry into the shore where it will break apart on a sandbar. I donít think they are pulling these heavy weights back onto the ship, because they had previously dumped as much weight as they could, but the contrary, taking in the slack so they could cut them loose. This ship is beyond saving. Youíll recall in verse 17 they had to lash or undergird the ship Ė tying ropes and nets around the hull to hold it together. This is no longer a seaworthy vessel.
So paraphrasing to get the clear sense of whatís taking place: And when it was day, they cut the four anchors, committed themselves to the sea, loosened the bands on the rudders, hoisted the main sail and headed for land, attempting to ground the ship in a sandbar.
By these means, did all 276 survive alive and end up on Malta. In all of Europe, to this day, the highest concentration of Christians exists on the island of Malta. Nearly 98 percentile of all on the island classifies themselves as Christians. And they will tell you there is a bay there; they call the Bay of Saint Paul, where the shipwreck took place. But itís probably not the one named after Paul, but rather one about 5 miles away, in the Bay of Saint Thomas, where the biblical description fits better, and where, in the 1960ís, divers looking for something else, brought up 4 anchors from a depth of 90 feet, and dated them back to Roman times.
They exist today in the museum on the island.
Brother Royce Ellis