3145. Paul In The Tempest

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No. 3145-55:229. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, May 20, 1909.

And we being extremely tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; and the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. 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 after long abstinence Paul stood up in the midst of them, and said, “Sirs, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. 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. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not fear, Paul, you must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God has given you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told to me.” {Ac 27:18-25}

For other sermons on this text:

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1070, “Wrecked, but Not Reckless” 1061}

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3145, “Paul in the Tempest” 3146}

   Exposition on Ac 27:11-44 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2952, “Church the World’s Hope, The” 2953 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on Ac 27:1-26 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3145, “Paul in the Tempest” 3146 @@ "Exposition"}

   {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Ac 27:24"}

   {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Ac 27:25"}

1. Here we see a believer full of comfort cheering others. The words of good cheer now before us are from a man; but inasmuch as he only repeats what the Lord had spoken to him, they are none the less precious, and they may be all the more profitable if they move us, by their example, to speak words of cheer to others.

2. The believer is sure to come to the forefront. He may be hidden away in the crowd, and his condition and circumstances may put him in the rear rank for a time; but his light will by some means rise out of obscurity. Paul is nothing but a prisoner all the time the ship sails safely: he is courteously entreated, yet he holds rank among others who are being carried to Rome for trial; but the storm comes on, and the ship is driven before the tempest, and he who was only a prisoner becomes practically the chief man in the ship. The owner, the captain, the centurion,—these are very small figures in the picture; you scarcely notice them in the group huddled together in the labouring barque. Paul is the centre of the whole company, observed by all. He is as much the captain of the ship as Caesar was when, in the tempest, he encouraged the mariners with the words, “Do not fear, you carry Caesar and all his fortunes.” Paul is greater than Caesar, for he says less of himself, and more of the Eternal God. He is evidently reverenced and esteemed even by those who hold him in charge.

3. Paul on board that vessel was strikingly like the Lord Jesus when he came into the ship on the Galilean lake. There are many parallels between every true believer and his Lord. Albeit that he is great, and everything about him is colossal, we, if we follow Jesus, are like him, and in this world we are as he was, we are miniatures of his life-size portrait, shadows of his glorious substance. When Paul, on board the ship, sees the fears of those around him, and lovingly cries, “Be of good cheer,” his voice has a consoling ring borrowed from his Master’s. If you, dear friend, are thoroughly and strongly a believer, you will find a place in which you shall illustrate to others the character of your Lord. If I might so speak, on board that ship Paul was prophet, priest, and king. In our text he spoke prophetically; for he declared to them their perfect safety. He acted like a priest in his prayers for them all; and I had almost added that, in his breaking of bread, he was dimly like Melchizedek, blessing men, and refreshing them with bread and wine. As for the kingly office, was not Paul truly royal? No mortal brow was ever more worthy of a crown. Amid that crowded ship he was more imperial than Caesar, and all on board acknowledged it. They felt constrained to obey him, for he stood superlatively above them all,—unassuming, modest, gentle, self-denying, sympathetic, yet evidently a superior being. If we had more faith, we should sink in our own esteem, but we should greatly rise in our influence on others, for we, too, should dwell among men as prophets, priests, and kings. Are not the saints the twice-born, of a higher lineage and a nobler race, the excellent of the earth in whom is the delight of holy men?

4. Let us think for a while of the apostle’s character as shown by his cheery speech, and view him under three aspects. First, let us see in him the affirmed believer, secondly, let us consider him as the bold prophet, thirdly, as the sympathetic comforter. May we, by God’s good Spirit, be made to exhibit each of these characters!

5. I. First, as we read our text, the apostle will be seen as THE AFFIRMED BELIEVER. Hear him as he says, “I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told to me.”

6. He begins his statement of his faith by saying that he believed God. We cannot have a better basis of faith than that. We must settle in our minds that there is a God, that the Word of God must certainly be true, absolutely infallible, and beyond all question. “I believe God,”—if a man can say no more than this means in the very mildest sense of it, he is on the way towards faith; but he who can say, “I believe God,” in such a sense as the apostle intended, has reached an eminent height of faith, and has obtained the elements of spiritual strength.

7. “I believe God.” Sometimes it quite staggers me that it should be difficult for us to believe God. Dear friend, do you not sympathize with me in my wonder? If our hearts and minds were as they should be, faith in God would be a matter of course; and even now, imperfect as we are, it ought to need a crushing argument to persuade us to entertain the slightest doubt of God. It is most of all surprising that God’s children should ever doubt him; especially those who have been so highly-favoured as some of us have been. Let preacher and hearer be amazed that we should ever dare to say that we find faith in God to be difficult. It is a grievous imputation on God when we talk about faith as hard.

8. If we were to say of a neighbour, “I find it hard to believe him,” I do not know what worse we could say of him. If a child were to say of his father, “You know my father: he is in high repute but I find it quite a struggle to believe him.” What rumours would spread abroad! What whisperings! “That man’s own child confesses that he finds it hard to believe him!” Will not this produce in us the blush of shame, and the tear of repentance, to think that we should ever have spoken like this of God our Father? Is there any proof of our fall more conclusive than this? Is there any sign of the natural depravity of our heart more glaring than that we should be so out of order as to doubt the living God? Why do we not trust him altogether and implicitly? How is it that, when we get a great promise, we begin to say, “And is this true?” When we come into deep trouble, how is it that we doubt his goodness? How is it that we do not rest in God in all things great or small? He who is true to his covenant and to his oath will be true in the very jots and tittles of his promises. He who is true to Christ will be true to every member of Christ’s body. He cannot lie. It is impossible that he should deny himself; ought it not to be impossible for us to suspect him? The apostle is worthy to be called “the master of the sentences” in this brave utterance, “I believe God.” Take this one line to heart, beloved hearer, and repeat it for yourself very many a time, “I believe God.” Whatever else you question, always believe God.

9. Paul’s firm faith was based on revelation, for he says, “I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told to me.” He believed, then, that God had told to him something. He says for a certainty “it” that it was told to him. An angel had told it to him, but we need not envy him the channel of communication, since the written Word of God is a more sure word of testimony than anything else can be. Even the word which came on the holy mount in the transfiguration, when Peter and James and John saw Christ in his glory, though it was a true and pure and bright word, yet it is spoken of by Peter as second to the Scriptures; he says, “We have a more sure word of prophecy,”—more sure even than speech heard by the ear. Nothing is so sure as the revelation of the inspired Book: the man who criticises the inspiration of the Word of God has given up the very foundation of faith. You and I, kind friend, at any rate, are able to say that we believe that God has told us something, for we accept the Bible as his word to us,—even to us. We are not of those who say about a certain chapter, “That is for the Jews”; for in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but all the promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God by us. We are the true Israel who worship God in the spirit, and have no confidence in the flesh, and the promises are certain for all the seed. We believe in inspiration and revelation, and we base our faith on it, even as Paul did. “I believe that it was told to me,” is our unmistakable affirmation.

10. Observe carefully that Paul’s faith, based on God and the fact of a revelation, went on to a conviction of the absolute certainty of that revelation: “it shall be even as it was told to me.” “It shall be.” You can apply this to everything that God has told you. Whatever promise he has made, whatever declaration he has written in his Holy Word, it shall be even as it was told to you. Just as, when the printing press comes down on the paper, the type leaves its own impression in each line and letter, so shall the eternal purpose and promise of God leave its impression in your life and mine, fulfilling in actual fact all that the Lord God has promised. We shall try the Word, and we shall prove it to be true. We shall expect the promise to be faithful, and we shall find it so. “It shall be as it was told to me.” There shall be no errata at the end of the chapter, no emendations and obliterations. What God has written he has written, and it must be even so. Augustine wrote confessions and retractions at the close of his life; but not so Augustine’s God. At the last day, when the roll of history shall be complete, and “finis” shall be put to it, it will tally with the predictions of God’s Word in every respect. Has he said, and shall he not do it? Has he spoken, and shall it not come to pass? Heaven and earth shall pass away, but God’s Word shall never pass away. Here is the joy of the believer, he can say, “I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told to me.”

11. The faith of Paul was most blessedly comprehensive. I want you all to notice that fact; for God had told to him that he had given him all those who sailed with him, and he believed it for their comfort. It is a great thing for faith to make a sweep as wide as God’s Word. I have known some, to whom God has said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your household”; and they have only gone as far as “you shall be saved,” and according to their faith it has been to them. As yet, they have not believed the other three words, “and your household”; and when their children grow up, and grieve their hearts by their bad manners, what is the cause for it except the parents’ unbelief? If we have not prayed believingly for our children, is it any marvel that they are not saved?

12. It often comes to pass that, by clipping a promise, we shear off a blessing which we might have had if our faith had accepted the Sacred Word in its entirety. Oh, for a comprehensive faith concerning all that is in the gracious covenant! Have you looked long enough at the promise to see all that is in it? What sheaves of blessing are tied up in a single promise, though it may only consist of a dozen words! I like to make my troubles into bundles. Do you ever do that? If a man has nine, ten, twelve, or fourteen parcels to carry, they may be all little ones, but, what a worry they are to him! Here are some in this pocket, and some in that, and they are more than he can manage, for they drop everywhere. If he is a wise man, he finds a bag, and puts the separate items together. True, they are no lighter, but they are much easier to carry. Bind your troubles into one burden, and then roll it on the Lord. With your mercies do just the opposite; cut the string, and open the package: they will be no more, but, they will give you more joy as you count them, and examine them one by one. Take care that your faith grasps the whole mass of blessing stored away in the promise, and be careful to believe that it shall be even as God has told you.

13. Further, note that Paul believed this when, to outward appearance, “all hope that they should be saved was taken away.” Paul’s faith hoped against hope. When Hope mourns, “I cannot find rest for the sole of my foot,” Faith cries, “Use your wings.” When there seems nothing for faith to rest on but the bare Word of God, then faith is glad, for now she can commune with her Creator without being entangled by outward means and instrumentalities. Did not the Lord hang the world on nothing but his Word? And can we not hang our souls there too? It is grand to stand like the arch of heaven, unpillared and yet unmoved, resting only on the invisible God. Only, did I say? Is that not resting on everything that is worth trusting since God is all in all?

14. Before we leave this point, we ought to notice that, while Paul believed God like this, that it should be as it was told to him, he very plainly and boldly expressed this faith. He did not conceal his confidence, but he proclaimed it even before those who did not share his belief. No matter whether they could sympathize with him or not, he spoke out boldly. He did not cast pearls before swine by needlessly parading his faith; but since it was necessary to speak of it for the comfort of others, he did not hesitate for a single moment, but confessed in the hearing of soldiers and sailors “I believe God.”

15. Nowadays, people are so dreadfully modest that they are afraid to glorify God. May God save us from such cowardice! Infidelity brawls in every street: shall faith be dumb? If you believe, there is at this time grave necessity that you should declare your faith, for unbelief is rampant. Look at the high-class reviews, look at popular literature; these things reek with unbelief of the worst kind. Alas that it ever should come to this,—that men who call themselves Christians should lend their pens to suggest and spread infidel principles, and even enter into pulpits to insinuate doubts about the verities which they were ordained to preach! Honesty seems to have fled from the earth, and men have lost all conscience. Let us who believe in God speak out at once, though men will call us narrow-minded, destitute of culture, incapable of enlarged views, and other pretty things. What does it matter what they say? All that they say or insinuate should only make us all the more vehemently declare, “I believe God.” Why, it has become a rare thing to find a man who believes anything now, for the reputed wise man of the period is he who says, “I do not believe in anything in particular. I hold certain views, but I am quite prepared to change them, for there is a great deal to be said on the other side.” This is not according to the manner of Christ, nor according to the ways of the faithful in the olden time, who held firm the form of sound words, and were ready to die for the truths which had taken possession of their souls. It is time now, if ever in the world’s history, for those who are believers to speak with all confidence. Fear nothing. Can there be anything to fear in believing God? Can there be any shame in affirming an implicit faith in the God of truth? For my own part, I would rather be ridiculed for bigotry than be applauded for “advanced and liberal views.” I would sooner be despised with the orthodox than reign with “the intellectual.”

16. II. So we have gone over Paul’s words as an affirmed believer, and now we may turn to look at him, AS A BOLD PROPHET.

17. Far be it from any one of us to set ourselves up as prophets, for we are not called to it. Yet every truly-instructed Christian is in some sense a prophet, and may prophesy according to the proportion of faith, if he will follow the true method. Paul was not rash in his prophecies; he confined himself to revelation. He said, “It shall be.” But what shall be? “It shall be as it was told to me.” You may always go to that length; and you will be to many men a wonderful person. If you go only as far as that, they will marvel that you dare say, “It shall be even as it was told to me.” We speak positively where they can only guess and dream. We cannot see behind that veil which hides the future; but we know what is to come concerning some matters, for God has told us, and we can therefore prophesy that it shall be according to his declaration. Learn from Paul not to be a presumptuous dreamer, but a prudent speaker.

18. On what he foretold he staked the honour of God, for he said, “It shall be as it was told to me.” But why? Because “I believe God.” If God is not worthy of belief, then it may not be as it was told to me: but his Word must be fulfilled, and his promise kept, since he is a faithful God. Never recklessly compromise the honour of God by any rash assertion of your own; but you may always challenge the veracity of God concerning his own promises or threatenings, and be quite sure that he will vindicate both himself and his servant, by making it to be as he told you.

19. The apostle uttered this prophecy of his before all who were in the ship. Most of them were unbelievers, but he boldly said to them, “It shall be even as God has told me.” Some of them were his superiors in station,—officers of the Roman army; but he told them, “It shall be even as it was told to me.” It is sometimes hard to confess Christ in polite society, in the presence of those who are considered to be superior people; but, do not let any believer in him yield to fear. Say with David,—

   I’ll speak thy Word, though kings should hear,

      Nor yield to sinful shame.

20. Paul made his affirmation of faith in the presence of very rough men,—selfish sailors, cruel soldiers, and criminal prisoners; but what of that? An affirmation of faith in God might be made before all the fiends of hell; and you could not say a better thing before the angels of heaven. In no place and in no company can the testimony of faith in the living God, and his Son Jesus Christ, be out of place; therefore do not fear to make it. My friend, make the world conscious of your solemn conviction that God is to be believed. Protest, and so act as a true Protestant; confess Christ, and so be his disciple indeed. Speak like a prophet in the name of the Lord what he has told you in his Word, and fear no man. Let the fear of God banish all other fear.

21. Paul, so truly, so practically believed God that the power of his faith impacted all who were around him. If they did not themselves believe, yet that calm face amid the storm, that practical action in telling them to take food and eat, that common sense proceeding in cutting away the boat so that the sailors might remain to manage the ship,—all this made them see that he was not a man who merely talked about faith, but one to whom believing was part and parcel of his life, the fountain of the common sense which equipped him to be a leader. He acted like a man who believed in God in a business-like way: faith was real in him, and therefore practical. Many Christians appear to hold their religion as a pious fiction, regarding the promises of God as pretty things for sentimentalism to play with, and his providence as a poetic idea. We must get out of that bad habit, and make God to be the greatest factor in our daily calculations,—the chief force and fact of our lives. Each one of us must boldly act on the conviction that “it shall be even as he has told me.”

22. Paul was all this while himself in trouble, for he was in the ship with those whom he comforted, suffering the same discomforts, and yet he said, “I believe God.” It is all very fine for one who has a good income, and enjoys good health, and is in excellent spirits, to sit down by the side of some poor half-starved woman, who is full of disease, and near to death, and say, “My good woman, you should have faith in God.” Do you hear that land-lubber teaching sailors how to go to sea? That is true faith which believes God when it is in the sinking ship, in the same peril and trouble with others, and yet unmoved where they are filled with alarm. How I wish that each of you may be able to believe like this!

23. May God make you to be so far a prophet that you may be prophetic on several points: in the first place, always declaring that God will hear believing prayer; and, next, that a wrong thing cannot have the divine blessing resting on it. Be prophet enough to say these two things, and act on them as downright matters of fact. You can also foretell that, if the gospel is faithfully and simply preached, with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, it must win souls. You may prophesy that, and never fail; and you may prophesy, also, that if the biggest sinner in the world will come to Christ, he shall be forgiven; that if the vilest heart will yield itself to the Saviour, it shall be renewed; that if the most rebellious and obstinate man who ever lived is touched by the finger of God, and is led to repentance and faith, he is capable of becoming one of the brightest of the sons of God. No one shall ever shame you by proving that you spoke falsely if you speak for God in this way. Speak out, then, and banish guilty silence.

24. III. The apostle may be viewed in a third character, as A SYMPATHETIC COMFORTER.

25. They were all in trouble, for they were all in danger of drowning. The ship was going to pieces, death stared them in the face, dismay was written on every countenance; but Paul says to them, “Sirs, be of good cheer.” Doubtless, his cheerful tones and manly voice helped to banish their fears, and to prevent a panic. Beloved Christian friend, should it not be our effort, wherever we are, to make troubled ones happy? Next to loving God, the first duty of a Christian is to spread peace on earth, and goodwill to men. Whenever we meet a person in trouble,—I do not mean spiritual trouble only,—we should administer relief. Even when we meet a child who has lost a penny, or has broken a jug, we should take pleasure in soothing his grief. His mother will scold him, so buy him another jug if you can, and try and cheer his little heart. What a mass of happiness you can buy for a few pence, if you will spend them on poor children.

26. Where money is not needed, you may give sympathy and consolation, and these will be much valued. Do not reply that you are unable to act as a comforter. Learn the art. If you cannot speak well, there is a better way than speech. A little child once said to her mother, “Mother, I stayed with Widow Brown, for she said that I comforted her so.” “Well, I daresay you did, my dear,” the mother replied. “But, mother, I do not see that I am of any use to her, for I cannot tell her anything; but I put my cheek against hers, and when she cries, I cry too, and she says that it comforts her.” Exactly so. This little child shall lead us. Herein is wisdom. “Weep with those who weep”; you cannot console them more effectively. Comfort others with the comfort with which you yourself are comforted by God; for Paul said, “Be of good cheer. I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told to me.” He had been comforted by the Lord, and with this consolation he could cheer others. May the Lord grant us grace to be looking out for those who are in any kind of affliction, so that we may cheer their hearts, but let us be doubly watchful over those in spiritual distress. Let no one in our neighbourhood ever complain, “No man cares for my soul.” Comfort God’s people, and labour at the same time to win sinners to Jesus, and the love of your heart shall bring untold blessings into your own life. Happiness is contagious, and the cheerfulness of your piety will be so attractive that the careless and indifferent will be allured to the ways of piety. Do not run around with bad news, but make your conversation joyful by mixing the glad tidings of salvation with your cheerful daily talk; so you shall imitate your Lord and his apostle by saying, “Be of good cheer.”

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Ac 27:1-26}

1-3. And when it was determined that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band. And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, intending to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go to his friends to refresh himself.

Even a Roman centurion could see that Paul was no ordinary prisoner, and that it was quite safe to allow him privileges which others might have abused.

4-12. And when we had launched from there, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing to Italy; and he put us on it. And when we had sailed slowly for many days, and scarcely were come opposite Cnidus, the wind not allowing us, we sailed under Crete, opposite Salmone; and, barely passing it, came to a place which is called the Fair Havens; near the city of Lasea. Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, and said to them, “Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with harm and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.” Nevertheless the centurion believed the captain and the owner of the ship, more that those things which were spoken by Paul. And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the majority advised to depart from there also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is a haven of Crete and lies towards the south-west and north-west.

It was quite natural that the centurion should think that the captain and the owner of the ship knew more about seafaring matters than Paul did, but the sequel proved that the apostle knew more than they did, for he had access to information that was hidden from them.

13. And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, sailing from there, they sailed close by Crete.

That was not the only voyage that began favourably and ended disastrously.

14. But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

Apparently, that was the only thing they could do; and, at times, we may find that it will be good to follow their example. When we have done our best, and can make no headway, we had better commit our vessel to the care of God, and “let her drive” wherever he wishes.

16-19. And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, struck sail, and so were driven. And we being extremely tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; and the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.

They used all the means in their power, and evidently Paul and his companions took their full share of the work that had to be done: “we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.”

20-22. 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 after long abstinence Paul stood up in the midst of them, and said, “Sirs, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. 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.

Paul might well remind the officers of the wise advice he gave them in Crete, but he did not rest content with that, but went on to cheer them as far as he dared, though he again warned them that they would lose their ship. To prove that he was not speaking without due authority, he added:—

23-26. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not fear, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God has given you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told to me. However we must be cast on a certain island.”

The next chapter tells us that the “certain island” was Melita, or Malta as it is now called. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3136, “Lessons from the Malta Fire” 3137} In that respect, as in all others, Paul’s prophecy was literally fulfilled, for the ship was lost, but all on board were saved.

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These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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