The Book of Acts (Chapter 27) (Part 39)
In the Gospel of Luke we read where the Lord Jesus was teaching a crowd while sitting in a fishing boat with His disciples. When He had finished preaching He asked Peter to take the boat out into the deep water and to let down their nets. Peter and the others had worked through the night and had caught nothing. Even though he and the others were tired Peter obeyed the Word of the Lord Jesus. As a result they caught so many fish that the nets began to break and the disciples had to call their fishing partners in the other boat to help them. When we see this situation it speaks about the nature of the faithful Church engaged in soul winning and discipleship.
Where to fish
Faithful believers cannot win others to faith in the Lord Jesus by their own strength and ability but only through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus is the head of His Body the faithful Church represented by the boat. At His direction His followers fish for souls where He directs them to fish through the voice of His Holy Spirit. When souls are saved there will be other churches also fishing who will come alongside to share in the catch. When a revival starts in one church it will often spread to other fellowships. One thing to always keep in mind in the work of evangelism is that revival is not souls being saved but the result of a revival.
Re-discovering your first love
A revival has to do with Christians rediscovering their first love for the Lord Jesus and encountering the power of the Holy Spirit. Only after that has happened will there be a great spiritual harvest among the unsaved. Having said this we now look at the situation where Paul was in on his way to Rome by ship. If we look at the ship Paul was in as the faithful Church being tossed around by the spiritual storms and opposition from the nations depicted by the tossing seas, we also see that there were both saved and the unsaved in the boat. The only security for all of them was to stay on board. Eventually the ship was broken up but they all survived. Everyone was physically saved that had been on that boat. With these thoughts in view we will now look at the text.
(Vs.1-4) “When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius. And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care. From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary.”
When a local fellowship starts to engage in winning the lost to the Lord Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit there will always be a growing opposition. The devil knows full well that “the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) and does not want his kingdom of darkness plundered. He knows full well that once the Holy Spirit starts to go to work winning souls he will always find himself on the loosing team and losing ground to the Christians. In the Church there are both the saved and the unsaved as we see in this situation with Paul. The contrary winds speak of the opposition from Satan to hinder the progress of God’s work in saving souls.
While most in the boat were not believers Paul and his brothers in Christ were and trusted that God would somehow bring them safely through the storm. When real spiritual opposition occurs, institutional Christendom with its denominational structures cannot survive the spiritual onslaught coming against it. We have seen this in what has happened to the Christian Church in Iraq, Syria and Iran and in every other Muslim country. Every believer is a member of the Body of the Messiah and part of local fellowships all over the world but as the end of this age approaches and the Second Coming of Christ draws nearer the contrary winds of opposition and persecution are going to escalate in frequency and intensity. There are multitudes within Christendom in the western democracies that have never been born again. Paul was on his way to take the Gospel to Rome, the heart of the known world, and Satan did not like it one bit.
(Vs.5-8) “When we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it. When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.
Sometimes in the work of winning souls the wind of opposition is so strong that the local church engaged in soul winning and discipleship is hard pressed to make progress in its evangelistic work. We see this when Paul, previously called Saul before he was saved, persecuted the Christians. After he had encountered the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus the persecution virtually stopped for a time and we read where “the Church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit and grew in numbers, living in the fear of the LORD.” (Acts 9:31)
In the work of evangelism there will at times be respite from opposition as Satan cannot keep up his attack and has to retire to lick his wounds over the damage the Spirit filled believers have caused him. We see in this situation with Paul and the others in the boat we see that they came to a place called “Fair Havens.” This was a brief respite provided for them under the providence of God. The Body of the Messiah is not to stagnate but to keep moving forward in its efforts to see sinners saved and saints sanctified. As it progresses things can get quite dangerous. And so we read…
(Vs.9-10) “When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
Believers engaged in the work of God know full well that human institutions in the end do not provide security in this world. So many churches feel secure when they have structures in place such as programmes for Church growth of one sort or another. They have committees and councils, which can have their place in the local Body of Messiah, but sadly these structures do not help when real opposition comes. Now Satan is not concerned with those denominational churches that are into self-esteem, seeker friendly and seeker sensitive programmes and courses but he is concerned with those preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to the unsaved both within and without Christendom. In the situation Paul and the other were facing desperate measures were called for as the ship was being severely tossed around by the contrary winds and the surging waves of the sea. Paul started to warn the unbelievers on the ship that their very lives were now at risk because the adverse winds had become more intense as they sought to make headway.
In the last days the faithful Body of the Messiah is going to be hit hard with adversity through persecution. The time is coming when Alpha and Purpose Driven and other so called ‘seeker friendly’ programmes will fail to bring spiritual strength and perseverance to those being persecuted. Many institutional structures will be abolished by those in high places opposed to Christianity. Undoubtedly those on the ship Paul was on who had weathered storms before were now faced with the loss of everything they had on board as well as their very lives. Their skilled seamanship was no match for the oncoming storm.
(Vs.11-13) “But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul. Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there. When a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.”
Within the denominational Church system there are those who seek to rely upon human methods for church growth and the opinions of men when faced with problems and adversity. In contrast those fellowships that are preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, calling upon the unsaved to repent and believe on Him who shed His blood for sinners will be able to persevere and persist in progress despite the fierce and contrary winds of opposition. Many of those who are relying upon their denominational structures and programmes based on secular marketing strategies for Church growth will always gravitate to human wisdom and not to that wisdom that comes from above and revealed by the Spirit through the Word of God.
Now Paul had warned them what would happen if they continued their journey. Instead of listening to this man of God the Centurion went with the advice of the majority while ignoring Paul’s warning. In the professing Christian Church when persecution and adversity is looming on the horizon God will send His prophets to warn both the saved and the unsaved within the rank and file of the professing Christian Church.
Now there was a place of safety provided for Paul and the others by the providence of God that was not suitable for them to stay humanly speaking but would have allowed them no doubt to weather the storm before progressing but instead of listening to God’s man they went with the crowd. God sends adversity to purify the Church and to separate the wheat from the chaff as it were. Now it seemed to the unsaved people on board the ship that everything would settle down as a moderate south wind came up giving them the impression that things would continue as they had always been. Many professing Christian churches do pass through spiritual storms and manage to survive but if they have not allowed the Holy Spirit to really have His way in their fellowships then more severe adversity lies around the corner.
God allows adversity to mobilize the Church into action preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. God does not willingly bring on persecution but allows it. Persecution is a necessary tool to move and to motivate the faithful Church into evangelism and discipleship and to chop away the dead wood, “those branches that are not abiding in the vine.” (John 15:4-6) We read earlier in the book of Acts what happened to the faithful Body of Messiah when persecution broke out at the behest of Saul before he was saved; “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4)
Once they were on their way again there would be more opposition. In the last days the Lord Jesus will purify the Church. Those who refuse the refining fire will go to the Babylon of the world and into false religion. They will abandon their faith. As the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus draws closer the winds of adversity will seek to stop the progress of the Gospel reaching sinners. And so we continue to read…
(Vs.14-15) “But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along.”
There will be times when the progress of the gospel will be severely hampered and resisted by demonic forces especially where Satan knows that his kingdom is about to be plundered. At such times he will unleash his minions from hell to try to sink the ship with all on board. At such times the Church will be driven back by the contrary wind of this demonic activity and for a time make very little progress in its soul winning endeavours. Paul had experienced this in his on ministry as will all those whom God has anointed for the work of ministry, evangelism and discipleship. In a war the snipers always go for the officers first if they can. Satan does the same thing with his three main weapons, the girls, the gold and the glory! Paul and the others were being driven along and humanly speaking the situation was now out of their hands but firmly held in the hands of God.
Always keep in mind that the Lord Jesus knows those that are his and will keep them in and through the storms of adversity and persecution and satanic oppression. Paul and his companions experienced this kind of satanic opposition to the point where they almost despaired of life itself. He wrote about this to the Church at Corinth; “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the hardships we encountered in the province of Asia. We were under a burden far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, we felt we were under the sentence of death, in order that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9) One thing to keep in mind is that all of us who are bond-slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ are headed for the resurrection where no devil or angel or Satan himself will be able to touch us ever again.
(Vs.16-17) “Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along.”
Many churches, when they see their numbers dwindling seek to rely upon man-made strategies for growing their church. We see this today in the many ‘mega’ churches that rely heavily upon supporting structures such as music, programmes, hyped up worship and giving their members ‘sugar coated sweets’ in delivering self-esteem and feel good sermons laced here and there with Bible verses to bolster their seeker friendly message. When the Holy Spirit is not at work men have to come up with a solution to fix the problem. It’s much like a problem with a computer where you have to come up with the right programmes to get satisfactory results. In many churches the programme and its content does not really matter if it works and brings people in and fills the seats of the auditoriums.
A very distinct contrast in seen in those countries where Christian worship and reading the Bible is outlawed and those seeking to honour the Lord Jesus and His Word are persecuted. Their leaders may not have the superstar status of charismatic leaders or the programmes and purpose driven courses for church growth but they do have the power of the Holy Spirit in their midst. Souls are saved every day and saints thoroughly sanctified and often amidst abject poverty. They may be driven along by the winds of adversity but know that the words of our Lord Jesus are true when He said that He would build His Church on the great and solid rock (boulder) of revelation knowledge about Himself and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it! (Matthew 16:18)
(Vs.18-19) “The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.”
A time is coming to the Church in the western democracies when those within the institutional church will have to jettison all of their man-made structures, plans, programs and expel all of their false teachers and prophets infesting their fellowships if they want to survive the spiritual storm that is coming and has already started to blow. It will come to the point where the only thing that will matter will be spiritual survival. This storm that was rocking the ship blocked out the sun by day and the stars by night for many days. This speaks about the Great Tribulation where the sun and the stars will not shine nor the moon giving its light.
Time will not matter for many the time of spiritual darkness will prevail for many days, namely for three and a half years and then the end will come! During this time there will be a faithful remnant manifesting the light of the Gospel as it is in the Lord Jesus that will penetrate the spiritual darkness prevailing in the world at that time. As the prophet Isaiah predicted; “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. “For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2)
Now the storm hitting the ship was so severe that all hope of the ship being saved was gradually abandoned. At the end of this age the institutional Christian Church will no longer be able to rely upon their programmes and human methods of trying to put ‘bums on seats’ as it were. All will go to the Babylon of false religion and Biblical Christianity as we know it will cease to exist in the euphoria of interfaith and ecumenical madness. Only a remnant will come out from them through the power of the Holy Spirit and separate themselves to God, to the Lord Jesus and to the Word of God. The only hope left for anyone to be saved will be through a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus and fellowship with those that belong to Him, namely our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As the prophet Joel and the apostle Peter preached; “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yes, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”(Acts 2:17-21)
(Vs.21-26) “When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, “Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss. Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island.”
It takes times of extreme adversity to bring some people to obey the Word of God. They were now without food and things were getting darker and more difficult by the hour. The ship had now received irreparable damage and would eventually break up completely on the rocks near the shore. Now Paul being a man of God had a word of hope for those on board the ship and in times of darkness and adversity the light of the followers of the Lord Jesus shine like a beacon in the prevailing darkness whether in the temporal or spiritual realm. Despite the seemingly impossible circumstances and the impending doom the Lord Jesus spoke to His bond-slave Paul and told him that he and all on board would be saved and furthermore He wanted Paul to preach the gospel in Rome and that before Caesar himself. He had God’s word on it and that settled the matter. Let Satan and his minions howl and roar they could not stop the progress of the gospel which Paul boldly declared was the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believed!
In times of great darkness and adversity the Lord Jesus will encourage His bond-slaves through His word either by the Word or in some cases through dreams and visions or by the direct testimony of the Holy Spirit. Once God has spoken, things will always turn out exactly as God has said. In the last days when the structures of the institutional Church are snapping and the ship is sinking in the sea of compromise, ecumenism, interfaith and idolatry and immorality including sodomy there will be those who will be saved out of it. There is always safety within the faithful Body of the Messiah, not institutionalised Christendom. In the last days these things will become the reality on a global scale. For Paul and the others God had a place where they would find refuge from the storm. God always has His places of refuge in the storms and trials that assail us as believers. God always has everything under control even when it does not look like it or feel like it. If we are walking by faith in the blessed trinity and the Word of God then God will be at work in all things whether they are good or not so good. As Paul; also wrote; “And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
As Bond-slaves of the Lord Jesus there are some things that will happen to us because of our own foolish decisions or mistakes and there are things that are imposed upon us by others that we have not merited, and then there are other things forced upon us by Satan himself but in all these things God works them all together for our good because we are called according to His purpose. Paul came to understand this great truth as he battled his way through the enemy’s defences, namely Satan and his hordes from hell. The battle was fierce but the victory assured. The ship would be lost but the people on it saved. At the end of this age the Antichrist will destroy institutionalised Christianity but those who belong to the Lord Jesus will be saved forever even if Satan succeeds in killing their bodies, they will live again at the rapture and resurrection to co-reign on the earth with the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy Him for ever and ever! (Revelation 7:13-17)
(Vs. 27-32) “But when the fourteenth night came, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. They took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretence of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it fall away.”
It was approaching midnight. The rocks were just ahead of them. Time was running out. They were wishing for daybreak. Some of the sailors wanted to jump from the ship and take to the lifeboats but they would not survive. If they listened to the Word of God through His servant Paul they would be saved. In the time of Great Tribulation only those who stay with the Lord Jesus and remain in fellowship with other saved members of His Body the faithful Church will be saved. Furthermore, those who are unsaved who get saved will also escape the coming wrath of God upon all unrighteousness and wickedness of men. Many cling to the ropes of good works, self-righteousness, self- esteem and the philosophies, commandments and traditions of men to save themselves but in the end they will find that these ‘boats’ have holes in them and will inevitably sink and they will go down with the ship!
(Vs. 33-34) “Until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.”
In the Last Days when the faithful Church of the Messiah is being tossed to and fro on the waves and storms of adversity it is vitally important that His Body is nourished and fed on the solid grain of God’s Word. Not only will the spiritual survival come about for those who are saved but for the unsaved as well especially those who are in the fellowship of the Church but not born again. Through the regular preaching of God’s Word by men filled with the Holy Spirit people will be saved. In times of adversity those believers who have not been regularly nourished on the Word of God will be famished spiritually. This is why it is vitally important in these last days to be regularly fed with the nutritious grain of God’s Word.
(Vs.35-38) “Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. All of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea.”
The storm was so intense that they decided to jettison anything that could weigh the ship down and stop its progress. When the storms of life and adversity are hitting the Body of the Messiah, the faithful Church, hard the Lord’s Table will be at the centre of worship and ministry. Fellowship with the Triune God and with fellow believers will be vital to spiritual survival. Those who are not born again but in the fellowship will also benefit from what God is doing and many will come to faith. In those circumstances the fellowship will abandon anything that can potential cause the ship to sink. When adversity hits the local Body of the Messiah all human methods and programmes will be abandoned and fellowship and worship and ministry in the Holy Spirit will take its place. Everything that has hindered the work of the Holy Spirit will be abandoned.
(Vs.39-40) “When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach.”
It was a last ditch effort to save the ship. The anchors were cut free and the attempt was being made to hoist the sails and loosen the ropes in the hope that they would reach the safety of the beach. Many Churches in the time of persecution and adversity will try to survive with their structures and programmes but in the end man made programmes and structures will not save the ship that is sinking fast. When it looks like there might be a respite the ship hits the reef. And so we read…
(Vs.41-44) “But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim away and escape; but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.”
It has been said when all else fails read the book! When the Church is sailing under fair sky and a shining sun it has a tendency to sit back and enjoy the ride. At such times spiritual complacency and lethargy can slip in unnoticed, not to mention false teachers with their spiritually seductive and deceptive doctrines of men and demons. However, when the Church hits the reef of persecution and adversity all that matters is what God has said in His Word. The ‘fair weather’ prophets and teachers will be nowhere to be found but like the rats deserting a sinking ship they will also abandon the fellowship, being hirelings and shepherds who have been only feeding themselves.
The time is coming when all human structures will fail and all that matters will be survival. Those in the fellowships who stay with the believers may lose everything they have clung onto in this world but will be saved and rescued and kept by the power of God for the world to come. This will be the lot of the Body of the Messiah in the very last days in almost every nation on the globe.
Notice that when the ship and everything on it had been destroyed everyone on board was brought safely to the shore. In these last days fellowship is vitally important, as it has been said if we cannot stand together we will never stand alone. The storm of adversity for the name of the Lord Jesus is coming and so is the reef of persecution and it is vitally important that we cultivate fellowship around the Word of God and the Lord’s Table to prepare ourselves for the storm of adversity and persecution that will hit the faithful Church around the world. Those who persevere to the end will be saved out of the storm having been preserved and upheld through it all by their faith in the Lord Jesus and by the sustaining power of the blessed Holy Spirit.