SAIL INTO ITALY
Acts 27:1 And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band. 2 And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. 3 And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself. 4 And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. 6 And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein. 7 And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone; 8 And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea. 9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, 10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. 11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.
Unless you are just excited about a ship’s travel log, for there to be any benefit from this passage there is a need to see it as a picture of the spiritual journey of the christian through the perils of life. And there are enough references in the Scriptures to allow us to have edifying and practical lessons from our text.
As we begin our quest, let us first notice the words, when it was determined. And to properly see this phrase we must keep in mind that there is, seen by faith only, the First Cause in all matters who sets in motion those second causes which everyone can see, whether saved or lost! Let us not fail to remember this as we refresh ourselves in a few verses that preceded these events.
Acts 19:21 After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. Acts 23:11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
And we also have the letter to the believers in Rome, written by the Apostle Paul, as part of our inspired scriptures, giving his intentions in coming to them. Romans 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. (Also read Romans 15:17-24.)
But, nonetheless, we come to understand that even though our Lord has “determined” for the Apostle Paul to go to Rome, this is a dangerous mode of transportation. Acts 27:10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. And this was no small ship. Read just how many souls there were aboard: Acts 27:37 And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. There was a total of 276 persons aboard this ship.
And is that not just like the Christian’s journey through life? “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come. ‘Tis grace has led me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home!” Part of this apostle’s perils of life was that thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; (2 Corin 11:25). So we must be willing to lose “the lading” both of things which provide comfort and even safety in our lives! Hebrews 10:34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Luke 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
And is not this mode of travel the theme of the Psalmist as he tells of men’s relating to God as sailors dealing with the sea? Psalm 107:23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
And what of the terms that the Apostle Paul uses to warn Timothy of failing to persevere in grace and faith? Did he not use a seafaring term? 1 Timothy 1:19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: This not only gives us warning regarding enduring to the end in regards to sailing, but also shows us that the ship which we should be careful to maintain is a good conscience!
And how does he state that men, desiring riches shall fail, but in the same comparison? 1 Timothy 6:9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. Evidently, while spending that night and day in the sea, it was revealed to him how men must feel who “drown” in a sea of lust!
We also have a very revealing account of this same lesson in the Book of Mark, chapter six. For there the Lord instructs the disciples to enter into a ship and go to the other side of the waters. But in the midst there comes a storm which causes them to toil in rowing. Then a very unique thing takes place. For even as the Lord comes to them in the midst of the storm, due to the hardness of their hearts, they do not recognize him. They even thought him to be an evil spirit, which terrified them more.
But what is most unique is when he came to them, walking on the water, (as He is seen in Genesis 1:2), he would have passed by them. This is the most dangerous thing in this whole matter! For losing one’s physical life by drowning at sea, is nothing to be compared to losing one’s eternal soul by God passing by without bestowing any mercy! But just what was the reason given for the Lord Jesus’ possibility of passing by his disciples in the midst of this storm? The reason is given in these two verses: Mark 6:51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. 52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.
Due to their coldness in not giving the Lord any glory for the miracle of the loaves; in just taking it for granted that this was just some ‘normal’ thing God does, their heart’s were hardened, setting up the dilemma that needed a storm to correct their ignoring the glories of Christ! Those who are but lukewarm in regards to his glory he tends to spew out of his mouth! (Rev 3:16)
And should you take time to read this account (Mark 6:45-52), you will find that after getting back the recognition of the Lord, and with the storm still raging, they come to peace! For it was not the storm that was the issue in their loss of peace! The issue plainly was their improper relationship with the Lord of Glory! For this was the universal sin of mankind! Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Let us now take note of the characteristics of sailing for our profit in directing our lives through life’s dangers. First they sailed close to the shore line! In verse two of our above listed text we find that the were said to sail by the coasts.
We read in Genesis 1:2 that darkness was upon the face of the deep. And we see that man was not created until after God made dry land appear (Gen 1:9, 26). And in order not to ‘get in over our heads,’ we are not to Launch out into the deep, except by the Lord’s specific command! (Luke 5:4). Being content with one’s place and refusing to endanger ourselves and others, with contentment under the Lord’s purposes for our lives is a very wise matter. For true sheep are content to lie down in green pastures, beside still waters. 1 Tim. 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
Their ships were fragile! Acts 27:17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. In coming to know God’s absolute sovereignty, we must also come to know our absolute dependance! 2 Corin. 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be (be seen to be) of God, and not of us.
Do you recall the words of 1 Timothy 1:19, listed above concerning making shipwreck of faith? And do you see that which is listed in that verse with the necessity of maintaining faith? It was a good conscience! THIS is how the Apostle Paul introduced himself to all, in order to identify himself as a believer, and not just a religionist! Acts 23:1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. For to violate one’s conscience is to do great damage to the ship of ‘religious faith,’ possibly putting one’s soul in jeopardy!
Just consider the importance of maintaining a good conscience in these following verses, written by the Apostle Paul in his Roman letter: Romans 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
We are even instructed to be careful of the fragile ‘ship’ of conscience in other souls. 1 Corin. 8:7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
As the ships in the Apostle Paul’s day, so our ships of faith also require undergirding helps, and casting out of any weight that might hinder our voyage. Do we not need to strengthen our faith with helps of scripture reading, listening to edifying messages, and prayer? And do we not need to cast away those weights that so easily beset us, in order that we might run our race with patience? (See Acts 27:19,38).
They sailed not in winter! Acts 27:12 And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. One of the things that caused winter sailing to be undesirable was the lack of clear skies. Acts 27:20 And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
But our Lord is the sovereign cause of winter, and of the light. Psalm 74:16 The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. 17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter. And it is in his infinite wisdom that winter, with its shadows and afflictions, should abide throughout the believer’s lives. Genesis 8:22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. Matthew 18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
For we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22). Therefore it is essential that every believer plot his course by faith, whatever the circumstances may be!
The sea was unstable! Acts 27:18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;
Dear Reader, human kind are like Reuben, Unstable as water! (Gen. 49:3-4). Isaiah 57:20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. Revelation 17:15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. We must never therefore, put our trust in the flesh! “The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own;”
Pastor Gene Breed. September 28, 2013