And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to one named Julius…
I. THE EXPOSURE OF GOOD AND BAD ALIKE TO STORMS AND PERILS.
1. In this ship's company there were, besides Paul and Luke and Aristarchus, criminals and the centurion, with his morally mixed band of soldiers. Paul was not permitted to choose his companions, nor are we. The wheat and the tares grow together.
2. In this instance the first day's sailing was unhindered. But then the winds began to be "contrary," and their course grew "dangerous." Then came a little season of "soft south wind." But close upon this they were struck by a hurricane which rendered the ship uncontrollable.
3. Here was rough experience. But it was not peculiar. Lands, too, have their cyclones. Ships are wrecked and towns are laid waste notwithstanding the wisdom of the wise; and these are but examples of ills in numerous forms — ills which oftentimes are nearest when we fancy we are safest (vers. 13, 14). How stealthy the tread of the pestilence! How swift the stroke of the lightning!
4. Nor yet are outward assaults the worst to which we are exposed. There are foes and perils which assail the soul.
5. Is God, then, careless of our well-being? This we cannot believe. Certain it is that all these dark things have their side of light; and doubtless in due time this will appear.
II. THE EFFORTS AND SACRIFICES MEN WILLINGLY MAKE TO ESCAPE OUTWARD ILLS.
1. Struck by the "tempestuous wind," the first thing the seamen did was to secure the boat, by means of which some might be saved if worse came to worst. Then they "used helps, ungirding the ship"; next they "lightened the ship"; and, last of all, they cast out such gear and furniture as could be moved. All their wealth and means of comfort they willingly "counted but loss." So much will men do to save the bodily life. Nor are they unwise; for what material good is there for which one could afford to exchange his life?
2. But these same men have an eternal life exposed to ruin. Sin, unresisted, works its destruction. What shall we say, then, of the unwillingness of so many to make efforts by which it may be saved?
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S ADVANTAGE IN TIMES OF PERIL AND ILL.
1. The seeker after spiritual salvation surely finds. Not so always with lower good. This is given or withholden as seems best. Despite their efforts the seamen had not ensured their safety. "Hope was taken away."
2. And yet in this company of "famishing wretches in a fast-sinking ship" there was at least one who appeared calm and trustful. Not that Paul was without natural timidity. The assuring words, "Fear not!" indicate the contrary. The bravest soldier has his first moments of tremor. The Christian is still human. And yet how calmly the apostle now stands forth! What was the secret of this courage? Wherein, at such times, is the Christian's advantage? In that he is in friendly relations with God, knows how to find Him, and can trustfully commit his whole case and being to Him.
3. There are two sentences to be noted — "Whose I am, and whom I serve," and "I believe God." Paul belonged to God by a personal consecration; and he had come to put implicit confidence in God's word. He was not his own, and he trusted Him whom he served. If you try to be a Christian, and still to own yourself, or believe only what your reason can find out for itself, God will seem to be afar off. But try the other way, and then you shall say, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee!"
4. Moreover, God often bestows on such the very things they ask (ver. 24; cf. Romans 1:15).
IV. THE GOOD WHICH, AT SUCH TIMES, MAY COME FROM ASSOCIATION WITH CHRISTIANS.
1. The message the angel bore to Paul related not only to himself, but to his companions, for whom doubtless he had prayed. And so every man was to be saved just because of Paul's presence. This is no solitary instance. Ten righteous men saved Sodom. Moses and Samuel often came between Israel and judgment. It was out of regard for a faithful remnant that God bore with His people. So now, the good of a land are its best defence. Two or three godly families will make a community better to live in. Cheerfully, then, support Christian institutions. And yet association with Christians will never spiritually save; for this one must have pardon, and this Jesus only can give. Make Him, then, your companion. That will not secure exemption from storms, but it will secure a safe arrival in port.
(H. M. Grant, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.