Sovereign Grace Blog

Sermon Summary - Gods Sovereignty Through the Storms of Life - Acts 27

Three years before the events in this chapter Paul wrote a letter to the church in Rome with the intention to visit them before making his way to Spain. Two years before the events in this chapter Jesus appeared to the Apostle Paul and made a promise that he would get Paul to Rome. This is not the way Paul had imagined that he would get there, as a prisoner of Rome. Many times there are storms and anxieties and even shipwrecks on the way but those of us who have been through a number of storms know that God will get us from point A to point B. Sometimes that route is not the one we would have taken. The storm of life comes, shipwrecks happen and then doubts arise and we ask, “God are you really in control? Are you really sovereign?” There are destinations we are assured God has promised. For instance, God promised Paul that he would get to Rome and testify there. God has promised to everyone who is in Christ, that nothing would be able to separate them from the Love of God. Sometimes the journey gets messy. Sometimes it tests our faith. It is the testing of our faith that is part of God’s journey for us. Do we trust God’s providence? Do we trust that God is in control? Luke spends so much ink on this one story to demonstrate God’s providence and sovereignty in orchestrating human decisions in natural events, in order to accomplish His will.

The chapter opens with Paul being handed over to a centurion, Julius, of the Augustine Cohort, and begins their 1,500 mile trip to Rome by sea. They headed out on a ship of Adramyttium, about 60 feet long, that was about to sail to ports along the Coast of Asia and Paul was accompanied by Dr. Luke and Aristarchus, a macedonian from Thessalonica. When they reached Sidon the next day Julius allowed Paul to go with friends and be cared for. As they moved along the coast under the lee of Cyprus dealing with strong winds that were against them and then sailed open seas alongs the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, they came to Myra in Lycia. Julius then had them then board an Alexandrian ship that would have been about 180 feet long and 48 feet wide and carried cargo and food. They sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus and then sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. They finally arrived at a place called Fair Havens near the city of Lasea. Paul, fearing that the voyage had now become dangerous, advised Julius and the owner and captain of the ship to spend the winter there. Fair Havens is not a good place to park your ship as the waters become shallow and when a storm comes it could tear the ship up. Julius, trying to reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, took a vote from the crew and ignored Paul’s warning and put out to sea. 

From this point forward we can feel the desperation in Luke's writing as he goes on to describe the fear and panic that was on that ship. They feared that the ship would begin to break apart as hurricane-like winds began to batter them and drive them. They undergirded the ship fearing they would run aground on Syrtis and even began to jettison the cargo as the storm would not let up. For several days, neither sun nor stars appeared and they had abandoned all hope of being saved. Where was God in the middle of this storm in his promise to Paul that he would get him to Rome? Is God in control of nature? 

Paul now stands to offer hope and encouragement, starting with an I-told-you-so (but not with that kind of attitude), and then tells of the angel God sent to assure him that none on the ship would die. Paul’s faith should encourage us in the storms of life. He knew that God was in control and had given him a clear, specific promise that he would make it to Rome. This difficult journey led Paul, Aristarchus, and Luke to a deeper dependence upon God. Our unnecessary detours and shipwrecks at times bring us to the point of self-examination. Do I really love you, God? Do I really trust your word and this promise here? 

Another lesson in this passage is this: it teaches us to never draw wrong, unbiblical conclusions from the doctrine of God's sovereignty. Are they all going to be saved because of God in His sovereignty or is it going to happen because of their obedience to Paul's instruction? The answer is yes. God is sovereignly saving from death every person on board that ship through their obeying Paul's instructions. What the angel told Paul did not lead him to neglect wisdom and appropriate actions. 

Jesus promised Paul that He would get him to Rome. He didn’t promise how, and didn’t promise it would be smooth sailing. This was pretty rough. Paul was tested. And this is what we will experience too. But as we trust God and his promises in Scripture, we can say along with the Apostle Paul, “so take heart, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”

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