WHEN THEY WERE ESCAPED
Acts 27:42 And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. 43 But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: 44 And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
Acts 28:1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. 2 And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. 3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
The Roman soldiers, who were in charge of transporting these prisoners back to Rome for trial, wanted to kill them all as they were afraid that in the chaos of this shipwreck they would “escape.” (v.42). For they knew that their own lives would be required for the loss of any prisoner. Then in verse 44 we learn that “they escaped all safe to land.” Therefore our lesson begins (28:1), with their having escaped, and revealing the location of that escape. The Holy Spirit seems to be focusing our eyes on the matter of God’s providential dealings regarding the escape of these 276 souls.
Notice the wording in verse one of chapter twenty eight. It is stated in such a way that we have to connect it to a previously mentioned escape location. For it states, “THEN they knew that THE ISLAND was called Melita,” (or Malta, as we know it today). So it wasn’t until “then” that they knew what “THE island” was named! That they would escape onto “a certain island,” along with the destruction of the ship, was foretold to them by the Apostle Paul. Acts 27:22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. 26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.
This was not just any island! It was a most “certain island!” And so it is in the lives of all the Lord’s peoples down through the ages. For as the Spirit had advised them of what kind of land they should be escaped unto, the Lord has told us that he goes to prepare a place for us to end our voyage in the seas of life to rest eternally in him! And so he did! For he was going to the cross to render us acceptable to God! Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
But even as these knew what kind of land mass they would be cast upon, they did not know which island it would be. In like fashion, in order that we might live by faith, we know that we shall always be sustained on THE foundation that no man can lay (1 Cor. 3:11), but we love and trust him whom we have never seen! 1 Peter 1:8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
Now our attention turns to the Apostle Paul, dripping wet in this cold rain, gathering up sticks for the fire that the people of Malta had prepared for them. So here we have a man coming up out of the water, helping people that Luke calls, the barbarous people, and in doing so encounters a serpent. My! That kinda sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Matthew 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Here we see the Pattern for this providential happening in the Apostle Paul’s life. The Lord Jesus Christ, who is before all things, and by him all things consist (Col. 1:17), comes up out of the water to help poor alien sinners, and immediately encounters that old serpent, the Devil.
And this is the pattern for the natural creation as well as the spiritual creation in regeneration. For in the creation of the heavens and the earth, we are instructed that they were engulfed in water. And that the firmament had to be brought forth to divide the upper and lower waters in order for the dry ground to appear. (Gen. 1:2,6). And even in the flood we read of the earth’s relation to the waters. 2 Peter 3:5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
And what of the two men that are set forth as God’s agents to bring both God’s holiness in his law, and God’s mercifulness in his grace to bear upon the entire creation? Are they not Moses and the Lord Jesus? John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. And did not both these men come up out of the water? Yes! We have already seen that of the Lord in the Matthew three passage listed above.
But what of Moses? His very name is derived from this situation! Exodus 2:10 And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water. For the word, “Moses” means, “Drawn out!”
And dear Reader, is it not the case that only those of whom we read: They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep, that are able to bring to our souls an edifying work of grace and truth from the letter of the law, which killeth? (Psa. 107:23,24). For these gospel seamen have had their soul melted and have been at their wits’ end, and have cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and have then been brought out of their distresses! (Psa. 107:26,27). These, like the Apostle Paul, were plunged into such storms of life, for the gospel’s sake, even though Paul knew better than to venture out of the fair havens (27:8)! But for the calming of the minds, and instructing of the hearts of others who would heed none of their warnings, they are forced to endure such storms!
Once the Lord of the storms has made the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. For it is after they have suffered a while, that he will make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (Psalm 107:29,30; 1 Peter 5:10). And from their Haven of Rest have they not now been prepared to be those edifying agents who bring mens hearts and minds to reflect, not just on practicing religion, but on the spiritual worship of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ? Psalms 107:31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Now let us notice two verses which tell of the shipping which the Lord provided the Apostle Paul in order to get him to Rome. Acts 27:6 And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein. 28:11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
The first was that ship which was broken with the violence of the waves. (27:41). And the second was the one that got them on to the completion of their prescribed journey. And so it also is with many of the Lord’s people today. They set forth on the seas of life only to have their first ship shattered from under them. They are on the ordained path which is both allowing them to walk with the Lord and is providing the many “dangers, toils and snares,” through which his grace is more perfectly enhanced to their hearts. For they have just as seriously entered into marriages as any other Christian, only to find that their unbelieving mate has abandoned them and that ship of union has been broken into splinters.
And some have just as dedicatedly devoted themselves to the raising of their children as other believers, but have seen the splintering of the family by offspring wasting their lives in riotous living. And of course there are many, many other scenarios too numerous to list in this little article, wherein the Lord’s people have suffered loss. But did you notice that the second ship was of the same origin as the first one? Both were ships of Alexandria! Both were provided for the Apostle Paul and his companions to get to the Lord’s place of service.
Therefore dear afflicted soul, do not be so cast down in your humiliation. Christendom will have those self righteous spirits who will look down on you, but the Lord doesn’t! He made himself of “no reputation!” (Phil. 2:7). That is, he “emptied himself.” For he must be, in all things made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:17). He was despised and rejected of men! Just as we are to be hated of all men for his name’s sake. But, dear sufferer, therfiery triale is another ship coming! The ship builders of Alexandria were already assembling it while you were weathering the storm. The merchants were already making purchases of various goods to fill it before you ever knew it was needed!
For this voyage is not about smooth and carefree sailing! It is about making us come to our wits’ end! It is about mortifying our fleshly emotions and casting us, dripping wet, with the loss of everything but our lives upon the island of Christ! The just SHALL live by faith! Whether they want to or not! God, like the mother eagle will stir up the nest, forcing her young to fall into the atmosphere, over which they will one day mount up and soar into heavenly places!
We do not know God until we have had to endure our crosses! The grown son, now with a son of his own, comes back to visit his father’s house with greater understanding and respect for his dad than ever he had before! He had to suffer a while, gaining the actual experience of being a dad, before being more established in the reality of life! 1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
Therefore we cannot really know the Lord until patience has had its perfect work, bringing us to experience the fellowship of his sufferings! We serve a crucified Master. How shall practicing religionists, with no interruptions of life relate to Him who is on the other side of a cross? For only until we have patiently endured the ship wreck of all our fleshly pride can we ever come to experience the “end of the Lord! James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
Don’t take this following verse as financial, but only as of spiritual riches: Job 42:12 So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: Dear shipwrecked soul, always remember, God only had one Son without sin. But he has none without a cross!
“I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this;
I shall ne’re get sight of the gates of light,
If the way of the cross I miss.”
J.B. Pounds (1861-1921)
It is then that we can truly identify the likeness of Christ in the storm-escaped believer. With our self confidence, along with its accompanying pride crucified, we then only come to be useful in the Lord’s kingdom. Only then can we truly give forth the spiritual witness that is not a forced religious practice. But the flowing wounds supply readily, freely, and effectually for the glory of God, and the edification of other believers. Matt. 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
True, spiritual salvation is not to be had, or identified, in any outward effort or display of men! The practice of traditional religion does not necessarily include any spiritual life, or a true believer! It cannot be had by illumination or education! The righteousness of God can only be given by the Holy Spirit from faith to faith through the glorious gospel he reveals to the heart! (Romans 1:17). And that revelation never excludes the effectual mortification on every soul by the cross of Jesus Christ! Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
Bro. Gene Breed. October 12, 2013