We are almost to the end of this chapter, and I love it when we reach this point. You see, I love preparing for these studies—and putting down the things I have learned and observed from from the text. However, when I get to the end of a chapter I re-read everything I put down several times. Oh, not just to try to provide the clearest understanding of the text, but to see what my Lord is trying to show me (er, us).
As I read Luke’s account of Paul’s deliverance, along with everyone on the ship, I couldn’t help but think of several Old Testament texts (and of course you aren’t too surprised to hear that, right?). I sat back and thought about Abraham, who appealed to God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah because some who were righteous might be there. On the ship in this chapter, there were at least three righteous people on board—Paul, Aristarchus, and Luke, and there could have been some others. But the way Luke tells it, God spared the passengers on account of Paul. This is very clear in the text. In fact, it is stated three times, first in verse 23 and then in verse 24, and again in verse 43.
Back in the Old Testment, God promised Abram that He would give him and his wife Sarai a son, and that their descendants would possess the land of Canaan. When Abram fled to Egypt during the famine, he passed Sarai off as his sister. God rescued Abram and Sarai from this situation because of the covenant He had made with Abram. He could not fulfill His covenant with Abram, if Sarai became the wife of Pharaoh, nor could He do so if Pharaoh killed Abram for his deception. God spared Abram and Sarai in order to fulfill His promise. Well, God spared Paul, his fellow-Christians, and all those aboard ship—all because God had made a promise to Paul that he would bear witness in Rome.
If you are a Christian, God has a purpose for your life, and I assure you that He will make sure to accomplished it—even despite your best efforts to fall on your face. What a comfort the sovereignty of God is to the believer. It assures us that what God starts, God finishes. Some time later, Paul will be in Rome, awaiting the outcome of his appeal. He may never see the Philippian saints again. Nevertheless, Paul is not worried about it, because he knew that it was God who saved them, and He would finish what He started:
For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus —Philippians 1:6
That is the good news. God will fulfill His purposes and promises to Christians. The bad news is that God will also make good on His warnings to unbelievers:
“The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him” —John 3:36
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened – the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death – the lake of fire. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire —Revelation 20:12-15
The story of the deliverance of Paul and his shipmates is a perfect illustration of the salvation which God offers to all who will receive it. The majority of those on board ship trusted in themselves, in their captain, and in their ship to get them safely to port in Phoenix. The gentle south winds at Fair Havens proved deceptive. They weren’t as safe as they thought they were, nor were they going to reach their desired destination (Phoenix). At first they figured they would be able to weather the storm, but in time, they lost all hope. There was nothing they could do to save themselves. There was one man on board ship who promised salvation if they would do as he said—Paul. By listening and following his words, everyone was saved from disaster and brought safely to shore.
Men and women today think they will somehow reach heaven on their own. Their prosperity or good health may give them confidence that they can make it on their own, so they reject the warnings of Scripture, just as those on board ship initially rejected Paul’s warnings. Then the storms of life overwhelm us, and we realize that we are hopeless and helpless. There is only one person who can save us, and His name is Jesus. He died for sinners, and God raised Him from the dead. He offers salvation to all those who will trust in Him. Those who seek to abandon Christ for some lifeboat will only perish. Those who trust in Him will be delivered safely through the storms of this life to heaven. As those on board that ship had to entrust themselves to Paul, so we must entrust ourselves to Jesus Christ. He is our only means of deliverance.
I know, I know . . . you have heard me say it over and over . . . but this is so important, you need to hear it repeatedly—even if you have already given your life to Jesus—I encourage you to continue to build your confidence of your place in His Kingdom.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts