Acts 27:31
Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
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(31) Except these abide in the ship . . .—We need hardly embarrass ourselves with the question how far the divine promise was dependent on the contingency thus specified. Prompt vigour, and clear discernment of what was needed on the instant, spoke out in the Apostle’s words. The assurance that had been graciously given was to be realised, not by the apathy of a blind fatalism, but by man’s co-operation. It was obvious that landsmen like the soldiers and the prisoners would be quite unequal to the task of handling a large ship under such critical conditions, and the presence of the sailors was therefore, from a human point of view, essential to the safety of the others. The thoughtful vigilance of St. Paul, even in those hours of darkness, was eminently characteristic.

27:30-38 God, who appointed the end, that they should be saved, appointed the means, that they should be saved by the help of these shipmen. Duty is ours, events are God's; we do not trust God, but tempt him, when we say we put ourselves under his protection, if we do not use proper means, such as are within our power, for our safety. But how selfish are men in general, often even ready to seek their own safety by the destruction of others! Happy those who have such a one as Paul in their company, who not only had intercourse with Heaven, but was of an enlivening spirit to those about him. The sorrow of the world works death, while joy in God is life and peace in the greatest distresses and dangers. The comfort of God's promises can only be ours by believing dependence on him, to fulfil his word to us; and the salvation he reveals must be waited for in use of the means he appoints. If God has chosen us to salvation, he has also appointed that we shall obtain it by repentance, faith, prayer, and persevering obedience; it is fatal presumption to expect it in any other way. It is an encouragement to people to commit themselves to Christ as their Saviour, when those who invite them, clearly show that they do so themselves.Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers - The centurion had, it appears, the general direction of the ship, Acts 27:11. Perhaps it had been pressed into the service of the government.

Except these - These seamen. The soldiers and the centurion were unqualified to manage the ship, and the presence of the sailors was therefore indispensable to the preservation of any.

Abide in the ship - Remain on board.

Ye cannot be saved - You cannot be preserved from death. You will have no hope of managing the ship. It will be remembered that Paul had been informed by the angel, and had assured them Acts 27:22-24 that no lives would be lost; but it was only in the use of the proper means that their lives would be safe. Though it had been determined, and though Paul had the assurance that their lives would be safe, yet this did not, in his view, prevent the use of the proper means to secure it. From this we may learn:

(1) That the certainty of an event does not render it improper to use means to obtain it.

(2) that, though the event may be determined, yet the use of means may be indispensable to secure it. The event is not more certainly ordained than the means requisite to accomplish it.

(3) that the doctrine of the divine purposes or decrees, making certain future events, does not make the use of man's agency unnecessary or improper. The means are determined as well as the end, and the one will not be secured without the other.

(4) the same is true in regard to the decrees respecting salvation. The end is not determined without the means; and as God has resolved that his people shall be saved, so he has also determined the means. He has ordained that they shall repent, shall believe, shall be holy, and shall thus be saved.

(5) we have in this case a full answer to the objection that a belief in the decrees of God will make people neglect the means of salvation, and lead to licentiousness. It has just the contrary tendency. Here is a case in which Paul certainly believed in the purpose of God to save these people; in which he was assured that it was fully determined; and yet the effect was not to produce indolence and unconcern, but to prompt him to use strenuous efforts to accomplish the very effect which God had determined should take place. So it is always. A belief that God has purposes of mercy; that he designs, and has always designed, to save some, will prompt to the use of all proper means to secure it. If we had no such evidence that God had any such purpose, effort would be vain. Where we have such evidence, it operates, as it did in the case of Paul, to produce great and strenuous endeavors to secure the object.

31. Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers—the only parties now to be trusted, and whose own safety was now at stake.

except ye abide in the ship ye cannot be saved—The soldiers and passengers could not be expected to possess the necessary seamanship in so very critical a case. The flight of the crew, therefore, might well be regarded as certain destruction to all who remained. In full assurance of ultimate safety, in virtue of a DIVINE pledge, to all in the ship, Paul speaks and acts throughout this whole scene in the exercise of a sound judgment as to the indispensable HUMAN conditions of safety; and as there is no trace of any feeling of inconsistency between these two things in his mind, so even the centurion, under whose orders the soldiers acted on Paul's views, seems never to have felt perplexed by the twofold aspect, divine and human, in which the same thing presented itself to the mind of Paul. Divine agency and human instrumentality are in all the events of life quite as much as here. The only difference is that the one is for the most part shrouded from view, while the other is ever naked and open to the senses.

Notwithstanding the promise mentioned, Acts 27:24, that they should all be saved, they must use means, so far as means can be used, although the efficaciousness and truth of the promise do no ways depend upon the virtue of the means; but the means are made effectual by virtue of the promise. Yet whosoever neglects means upon any pretext of a promise, he does tempt God, but does not rightly believe in him.

These; as it were pointing unto the mariners, and such as were useful in such a case.

Paul said to the centurion, and to the soldiers,.... He did not direct his speech to the governor and owner of the ship, who very likely, being sensible of the danger, were in the scheme with the mariners, and at the head of them; but to Julius the centurion, and the soldiers under him, who having no knowledge of maritime affairs, were not apprised of the danger, nor aware of the design of the shipmen; and besides, had now great dependence upon the assurance the apostle had given, that no life should be lost: to these he said,

except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved; pointing to the mariners who were about to let down the boat, in order to make their escape: the apostle had before declared, that there should be no loss of any man's life, and yet now affirms, that unless the mariners continued in the ship, the rest of the company could not be saved: this does not show that the decree concerning the salvation of them was a conditional one, and that the condition was, that the mariners should stay in the ship; but that their stay in the ship, who had skill to guide and direct it, as also the company when shipwrecked, were a means absolutely fixed in the decree, and therefore was absolutely necessary: God had determined to save the whole ship's crew, and that in the same way and manner; they were all to be shipwrecked; some were not to leave the ship before hand, and save themselves in the boat, but they were all to be exposed to equal danger, and then be saved; and till that time came, the proper and prudent means were to be made use of, who were the shipmen, who best knew how to manage the ship in this extremity: this teaches us that the end and means, in the decrees of God, are not to be separated; nor is any end to be expected without the use of means; and means are as peremptorily fixed, and are as absolutely necessary, and must as certainly be accomplished, as the end. Thus spiritual and eternal salvation is a certain thing; it is the appointment of God, which is absolute and unconditional, immutable and unfrustrable; there is a sure connection between the decree of God and salvation; it is a scheme drawn by Jehovah in the council of peace, who is God only wise, saw everything before hand that would come to pass, and has power to execute his scheme; it is an affair secured in the covenant of grace, which is sure and immovable; God is faithful who has made it with his Son; and Christ, the surety and Mediator of it, is equal to that part which he has in it; yea, salvation is a finished work, full satisfaction is made for sin, and pardon procured, an everlasting righteousness is brought in, all enemies are conquered and destroyed, and Christ's people are saved from them: and the interest which he has in them shows the certainty of their salvation; for they are given to him, and are in his hands; they are his portion, his treasure and his jewels; they are the purchase of his blood, and the travail of his soul; they are united to him, and are built upon him; they are interested in his preparations and prayers, and are in some sense saved already; and yet there are some things which God has fixed as means, and made absolutely necessary, and without which none can be saved: as for instance, none can be saved without regeneration; without this there is no meetness for heaven; nor does it appear without it that any have a right unto it; nor can an unregenerate man have any true hope of it; wherefore such as are chosen and redeemed, are regenerated by the Spirit of God: so likewise without holiness no man shall see the Lord; this is fixed in the decree of God, and is necessary to the enjoyment of him, and to fellowship with angels and glorified saints; wherefore the Lord sanctifies all he saves: particularly none without faith in Christ will ever be saved; nor is this inconsistent with salvation being by grace, seeing it is not considered as a cause of salvation, but is itself a gift of grace; it lies in receiving things at the hand of God, it admits of no glorying in men, and gives all the glory of salvation to God and Christ, and free grace; and this is necessary because God has appointed it, and therefore he bestows it on all he means to save: to which may be added, that without perseverance in faith and holiness, there is no salvation; wherefore the Lord puts his grace into the hearts of his people to cause them to persevere; he encompasses them with his power, upholds them with the right hand of his righteousness, and preserves them from Satan, and from a final and total falling away.

{9} Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.

(9) Although the performing of God's promises does not depend upon secondary causes, yet they make themselves unworthy of God's bountifulness who do not embrace those means which God offers them, either upon rashness or distrust.

Acts 27:31-32. Paul applied not first to the captain of the vessel, but at once to the soldiers, because they could take immediately vigorous measures, as the danger of the moment required; and the energetic and decided word of the apostle availed.

οὗτοιὑμεῖς] Correlates. Paul, however, does not say ἡμεῖς, but appeals to the direct personal interest of those addressed.

σωθῆναι οὐ δύνασθε] spoken in the consciousness of the divine counsel, in so far as the latter must have the fulfilment of duty by the sailors as the human means of its realization.

ἐκπεσεῖν] to fall out. We are to think on the boat let down into the sea (Acts 27:30), yet hanging with its fastened end to the ship—when the soldiers cut the ropes asunder.

Acts 27:31. ὑμεῖς not ἡμεῖς: St. Paul appeals to the law of self-preservation, and the centurion acts promptly on his advice; although safety had been divinely promised, human means were not excluded, and it is altogether hypercritical to find any contradiction here with Acts 27:24-26, as Holtzmann supposes.

31. Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers] These would probably be able to stop the intended desertion better than the captain of the vessel. At all events they were strong enough in numbers to take the matter into their own hands, and cut the boat adrift. It seems too (from Acts 27:11) that the centurion had much to do with the direction of the ship. Probably he had chartered her for the conveyance of his prisoners and so had the right to be consulted on all that was done.

Except these abide in the ship] We see from this that every human effort was still to be made, although God had revealed to Paul that they should all be saved. If the sailors had left, the ignorance of the soldiers and other passengers would not have availed to save them at such a time. The skill of the sailors was to be exerted to carry out what God had promised.

Acts 27:31. Ὑμεῖς, ye) He does not say, we. The soldiers had no anxiety as to the safety of the prisoners; Paul was not afraid for his own.

Verse 31. - Paul said. It is remarkable what ascendency Paul had gained during this terrible fortnight. He now penetrated in a moment the design of the selfish sailors, and, with his wonted decision, told the centurion, who was in command of the whole party (ver. 11), and who, it is likely, had iris soldiers on deck to preserve order and discipline. Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. The ὑμεῖς is emphatic, you yourselves. Acts 27:31
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