Turn in your Bible to Acts 27. And we’re going to look at this rather lengthy chapter and complete that which we began last Lord’s day in dealing with the shipwreck of Paul. Acts chapter 27. This chapter, as far as its historical significance is concerned, is really about a shipwreck. But in terms of the principles that are here, you could title it “Leadership in Crisis,” because it really is a portrait of a man who is a leader just when he needs to be one.
It shows a man who comes through in the tremendous time of stress with all of the abilities that a great leader has to have. So it’s not just a narrative about a shipwreck. It’s also a portrait of a leader in the midst of a crisis. I was thinking, as I was thinking about that fact, that if there’s a premium on anything in our world today it’s a premium on leadership. And whether you’re talking about government or industry or economics or education or medicine or science or whatever, there’s a tremendous need for leaders or capable people who can make decisions, or people who are willing to let the buck pass to them and then handle the situation.
There was an interesting survey done in recent years of seminaries in America. And the determination of the survey was that the vast majority of all people studying for responsibilities in the church wanted to be no higher than second man because nobody wanted ultimate responsibility. And I think that’s not only true in terms of the church, but it’s very true in terms of the world. There is definitely a premium on leadership. And especially true, I think, since leadership is so susceptible to criticism.
But in the church, I think we face the same thing. There needs to be a rising up in the church of leadership and people need to accept the responsibilities that come with being a leader. Now, the world is really preoccupied with this. In fact, there is a rather constant stream of seminars and professional methodologies being presented to various and sundry communities of people to try to extract from those communities the leaders. And I’m sure they have their criteria for determining who is a leader.
The same thing is true, I think, in the terms of the church and in God’s kingdom and the things that God wants to do. There’s a real need for leaders. And I believe the Holy Spirit is seeking leadership. I believe God is calling out leaders. In all of God’s history, as you go back in the Bible, you’ll find that God moved through men. And that in every era, at every crisis time in God’s economy there were leaders that God used to bring about the effecting of His will. And whether it was Moses or Joseph or David or Abraham or Elijah or Elisha or Ezra or Nehemiah, or whether it was, in the New Testament, John the Baptist or Peter or Paul or whomever it was, at all points in time God had somebody through whom He could lead.
And the tragedy so often of the history of Israel was the tragedy of an inadequate leader, an immoral leader, an ungodly leader, or a leader who just failed to fulfill the obligations that are basic to leadership. I think that as you study the Scripture, the greatest view or insight you have of leadership is simply the example of lives of the men that are the leaders. And that is really the case here in Acts 27.
Now this is a chapter about leadership. But not from the precept standpoint, but rather from the example standpoint. You’re not even going to hear a word about leadership here. It doesn’t even appear in the text. But what you do see is a man who takes control of an impossible situation and exhibits leadership ability. In fact, as I thought about it, I supposed that leadership ability really isn’t ever proven until you have a crisis.
The only true leader is the leader who can handle the stress. The great leader is the one who can solve the problems and bear the burdens and find the solutions and win the victories when everybody else can’t. The great leader is the one who can take the problem that is unsolvable and solve it. And Paul does just that in the passage which we’ll study. And, of course, he does it with the aid of divine and sovereign power from God. But that’s – that’s a great resource that we as Christians have.
Now, you’ll notice you have a little outline in your bulletin. And you’re going to need to follow that because you have to follow the map on the back of your outline if you want to know where we are again this morning. Paul is returning to Rome as a prisoner. He is going there to have his case heard before the court of Caesar. He has left Caesarea where he’s been a prisoner for two years for Rome. Now the trip occurs here in the 27th chapter and even into the 28th chapter. And we divided this chapter into five stages. The journey that he takes follows five stages.
We said stage one was the start, verses 1 through 8. And I’m just going to read it so that we can get ourselves in context. “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. And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning 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 treated Paul and gave him liberty to go unto his friends” – that is the Christians at Sidon – “to refresh himself.” And we said that’s a medical term indicating Paul had a physical illness.
“And when we had put to sea from there,” – that is from Sidon – “we sailed under Cyprus” – that is around the back side of Cyprus – “because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia,” – that is along the coast on the map there where Cilicia is listed, and Pamphylia is just to the left of that – “we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy, and he put us on board. And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarcely were come off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us,” – we sailed under the lee or – “we sailed under Crete off Salmone. And passing it with difficulty came unto a place, which is called Fair Havens, near to which was the city of Lasea.”
Now, that is the beginning of the journey. They had one ship which was a coasting vessel, which was associated with Adramyttium, which was a small area way up on the northwestern corner of Asia Minor. The ship was available. They took it as far as Mysia. They had to change – or Myra. They had to change there to get a ship bound for Rome. And what they picked up was one of the Alexandrian grain ships that was delivering grain around the Mediterranean for the sake of the Roman soldiers and whatever needs the Roman government had.
When they changed their ships and began the journey to Rome, they ran into the headwaters and the headwinds as soon as they passed Cnidus. And you’ll notice on your map that Cnidus is right at the point. And once they hit Cnidus, they sailed out from the shelter of Asia, Asia Minor. And, therefore, the winds became stronger, the headwaters became difficult. And they couldn’t pursue a straight course; they had to go south, which they did around Salmone Cape, and land there in Fair Havens, the harbor of Crete, one of the harbors. And so the journey began.
And stage two we said was the stay. Having arriving in Fair Havens they had to remain there because of the winds. Verse 9, “Now when much time was spent, when sailing was now dangerous,” – remember I told you that there was a season when sailing became dangerous? It was totally forbidden to sail from November 11th till the end of March. But from September 14th until November 11th was the dangerous season and it wasn’t wise to sail in the open Mediterranean. And so they had to lay up so long in Crete in Fair Havens, that the dangerous season began.
And he says the Fast was already past, and that refers to Yom Kippur. And if this is the year 59 A.D., as many suspect it is, Yom Kippur would have been on October the 5th, which would mean they were way into the month of October and definitely into the dangerous season. If they left by mid-August it’s already taken them nearly two months to get this far. Now, because of this, Paul admonished them and said unto them, “Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with injury or violence and much damage not only of the cargo and ship but also of our lives.” In other words he said if we go any further we’re going to have tremendous trouble.
“Nevertheless, the centurion believed the pilot and the captain of the ship more than those things which was spoken by Paul and because the haven was not commodious to winter in,” – they didn’t want to get stuck in Fair Havens for three or four months – “the greater part” – that is the majority – “advised to depart from there also if by any means they might attain to Phenice” – or Phonica – “and there to winter, which is a haven of Crete and lies toward the southwest and northwest.” It’s exposed in both of those ways. They wanted at least to get to Phonica if they couldn’t make it all the way to Rome. That was stage two.
Stage three, we said then, was the storm. Verses 13 to 26, “And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing from Fair Havens they sailed close by Crete.” This tremendous wind that had been so difficult for them, this westerly wind that had been prevailing that they could not handle, now turned into a gentle south wind and they felt that they could attempt to make the journey. And so they went a little ways along the coast of Crete, sailing close by Crete because if a bad wind did come in they could always get right into the harbor at Phenice and stay there for the winter.
“But” – verse 14 – “not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind.” This is a hurricane or a typhoon, very severe wind called euroaquilo or Euroclydon, the sailor’s name for it. It comes from two words: the Greek word, euros, the east wind and the Latin, aquilo, the north wind. It was a northeast wind, a hurricane wind. “And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind we let her drive.” They couldn’t get into Phonica port. They couldn’t make it. They had to just let the ship go. And you can see the way it went. It just proceeded immediately out past Clauda, or Cauda right into the open Mediterranean Sea.
“And running under the lee of a certain island, which is called Cauda or Clauda, we had much work to secure the boat.” They hauled in the dingy, which by now was swamped and would have snapped and been lost. “Which when they hoisted it they used helps undergirding the ship.” As I told you last time they then frapped the ship. That is, with the large cables that were bound around it, they tightened the winches to pull the ship together because the tremendous wind hitting the mast was splitting the hull.
And so they held the ship together, “fearing lest they should fall into the surtis.” The word quicksand is surtis. And you’ll notice at the bottom of your map, the Greater surtis. This is the graveyard of ships, and they were afraid the storm would drive them and smash them there and they would be lost. And so they were driven. Now notice it says in 17, that “they undergirded the ship, fearing they should fall into the quicksand, and then they struck sail.” Literally lowering the gear. They lowered the mast, put up a storm sail to give themselves some control of the ship and tried to fight against the wind all the way.
And you can see that their course took them straight to Melita, or Malta as it’s called today. And, of course, this was God directing them. There was no way in the pitch dark that they were sailing in, with all the clouds covering the stars at night and sun by day so they couldn’t navigate at all, there was not a way they knew where they were going. But God had a rendezvous for them at the island, and so they went on a straight course right to that island without even knowing it. You can see the odds of doing that by chance are impossible when you see the vastness of the Mediterranean Sea.
Verse 18 says, “And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship. The third day we cast with our own hands the tackle 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.” So they’re being just blasted as it were across the Mediterranean by this tremendous northeast hurricane. They’ve jettisoned the cargo and they have only a storm sail. They’ve endeavored to secure the ship the best way they can. They have tremendous fear that they’re going to land at the surtis and be lost there because they can’t navigate, because they can’t see anything. Hopelessly and blindly they’re driven on.
And immediately at this point Paul speaks up. “After being long without food, Paul stood forth in the midst of them and said, ‘Sirs, you should have hearkened unto me and not loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.’” I told you so. You should have listened to me. “Now I exhort you to be of good cheer for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of God, whose I am and whom I fear, saying, ‘Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar, and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.’ Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer, for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me. However we must be cast upon a certain island.”
Now, here you find the angel gives Paul the promise that they’re going to make it. Paul has to get to Rome and everybody’s going to get there with him. God gives them a promise. An angel spoke to Paul. Paul says, “I believe what that angel said because I believe God.” Now God sets the stage to establish His reputation. They have heard God say through the angel, through Paul, that you’re going to get there and you’re going to get there safe. You’ll lose the ship, but you’ll make it. And because they have heard that, God’s credibility is at stake. Paul says, “God said this and I believe it.” And now they’re going to have the opportunity to verify whether or not this God of Paul’s is credible. God is setting the stage to prove Himself. I know we’re hurrying through that narrative, but that was review.
Now, that brings us to stage four in the narrative, the shipwreck. And this is absolutely fascinating. So many insights here, verse 27 to 41. Now just a footnote. By this time Paul had taken the leadership. I mean the captain wasn’t leading, the pilot of the ship wasn’t leading, the centurion, they were all panicky. And the only guy left with any sense of cool was Paul. And so he just takes over. And I’ve said this before to you in this context. Leadership is not the title you have. Leadership is the ability that you have. The ship continues to be driven by the hurricane. The struggle to stay afloat has been so intense that nobody has eaten for two weeks.
They are scared. They are petrified. The panic has been stretched out with intensity all of these days. They haven’t the faintest idea where they are, they don’t even know what direction they’re going. And here they are in the midst of this situation without any hope of being saved. But the apostle Paul moves in and tells them, “God says you’re all going to survive.” Now God’s credibility is at stake and the real proof is about to be established. All right, verse 27 then gives us insight into the shipwreck. “But when the fourteenth night was come,” – that is fourteen nights since they left Fair Havens – “as we were driven up and down in Adria” – now Adria is not the Adria Sea as we see it today on the map. But the Adria Sea is not technically the Adriatic, which extends way, way up toward the European continent.
But Adria, in ancient times, referred to the central Mediterranean, that whole area. And they didn’t really know where they were, other than that they were somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean in the Sea Adria. Well, “as they were driven up and down in Adria” – and that gives you an idea that they had no idea where they were going because they didn’t even know if whether it was up or down – “about midnight the sailors deemed that they drew near to some country.”
Now can you imagine? Here they are in the middle of the sea and, all of a sudden, they can – they can sense that they’re coming near to some land. Now there’s only really one way they could have known that at midnight in the pitch dark without a star in the sky, and that is by the pounding of the surf upon the shore. And if they could hear the pounding of the surf, they would be very near to shore. Verse 27 then indicates that the sailors heard the surf pounding. It’s interesting to look at a little bit of nautical insight into this. Now mark this. The distance from Cauda, on your map, to Malta, is 476.6 miles. Now, Mediterranean navigators have supplied information that indicates that such a ship in a gale or hurricane wind would drift about 36 miles every 24 hours.
If they were fighting into the wind to try to compensate, they would be able to go about 36 miles every 24 hours. Now, if that was true, it would take them exactly 13 days, one hour and 21 minutes to be driven from Cauda to Malta. You add one day from Fair Havens to Cauda and you have the sum of fourteen. So navigational information, nautical judgments corroborate, specifically, the fact that is in fact a 14-day journey if you happen to take it in a hurricane.
Now, according to further calculations, and as I said at the beginning of this study last Lord’s day, many archeologists and many historians have studied this passage for its nautical information. And so many secular minds have been applied to this passage. But according to these calculations, it would be on the 14th day that they would have been less than three miles from the entrance of the harbor at Malta that today is called, for obvious reasons, Saint Paul’s Harbor. So the nautical people tell us that in exactly 14 days at that speed they would be three miles from the entrance to Saint Paul’s Harbor.
Now notice that Malta is a dot in the Mediterranean. You have to see here the providence of God, don’t you? There’s no other conclusion. The Scripture is so accurate. The soundings that they then took indicate that they are passing Koura. Notice that Melita, or Malta on the map, the very east point of it is called Koura, K-O-U-R-A. And by the time they would have passed Koura, they would have been about a quarter mile from shore, and that’s why they would have heard the pounding. A quarter mile from the east point shore, three miles yet to go until they would come right into the harbor, now called Saint Paul’s Bay.
And do they heard the pounding of the furious surf being driven by the wind to crush the shore. Well, of course, as soon as they heard that they wanted to find out how near they were, so verse 28 says, “They sounded,” – that is they dropped sounding devises into the sea to determine the depth. – “and they found they were twenty fathoms.” A fathom is approximately six feet, so you can multiply that and figure out they’re about 120 feet. And then they went a little further it says, probably about a half an hour. “They then sounded again and found it fifteen fathoms.” And even today it’s interesting that the – that the geography around Malta supports this very text, that these are very accurate features. “And they found it fifteen fathoms,” so they were really moving toward the shore.
Well, folks, that’s cause for panic. That isn’t cause for rejoicing. Because in the middle of the night at midnight in the pitch black of a hurricane, you really don’t want to hit the shore. And so verse 29 says, “Then fearing lest we should fall upon rocks they cast four anchors out of the stern and wished for the day.” Well, they only really knew one thing to do and that was to unload anchors on the stern. Now, there’s been a lot of discussion why they put out stern anchors. But the answer is fairly obvious if you study anything having to do with sailing vessels. They anchored the stern because the bow then would face the shore. If they anchored the bow, the stern could float all different directions and, consequently, the ship could be pointed in any direction. If they anchor the stern then the bow is going to be pointed toward the shore and will not drift.
In fact, if you just anchored the bow everything could be problematic. The water that is moving toward the shore could turn the ship around backwards. You anchor the stern, the driving of the force of the water keeps the bow pointed toward the shore. And the point was that when daybreak came and they could see the shore, they would just cut the four anchors and the bow would just point right in and they would go right up and beach the ship. Now, that was their intention apparently. Then something interesting occurred.
Listen folks. If you’re ever on a ship and the crew panics, you’re in real trouble, and that’s what happened. “And as the sailors were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat” – or the dingy – “into the sea under pretense as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship.” Those guys had a plot. If you can believe how panicked they were, they were so panicked that they were going to abandon the ship in the pitch-black night of midnight in a hurricane and try to make it to shore in a dingy. And they didn’t even know where the shore was and they didn’t even know what was on the shore. They just knew it was better to hit the rocks in a dinghy than it was in that huge lumbering thing that they were in.
And so, in their panic, they tried to make it look like they were dropping anchors over the bow. But what they were really doing was putting the dinghy back in the water. And once they got it in the water they were going to get in it. And they were going to cut it loose and try to make it to shore. Well, their plot didn’t work because Paul caught them. He was alert, verse 31. Notice, Paul knows how to go through proper chain of command, plus he was aware that he himself couldn’t handle the whole crew. “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, ‘Except these abide in the ship, you can’t be saved.’” If they get away you’re in trouble. God wants everybody in this ship or nobody’s going to make it.
Well, by this time the centurion was a believer because everything else that Paul had said had come to pass, and he wasn’t about to hassle him at this point. It would have been disastrous for the whole crew to leave the ship anyway because you’d have no skilled hands left when daybreak came to make the thing get into the shore the right way. And all the prisoners and the soldiers trying to make that thing work would have had a horrible time. And so the centurion listens to what Paul says and, apparently, he got excited about it. And verse 32 says, “Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat and let her fall off.” They just went over there and whacked the dingy loose before the crew could get in it.
I’m not sure Paul advised them to do that because they could have used that dinghy. They could have used it to get to shore later on. As it turns out they’re going to have to swim. But, apparently, the centurion thought it necessary to stop them. Verse 33, “And while the day was coming on,” – don’t you imagine that was a welcome sight – “while the day was coming on Paul besought them all to take food.” Now Paul is in total command of the ship. He is calling all the shots. Everybody else is sublimated to this man. And now, he tells them all to eat. He says, “This day is the fourteenth day that you have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.” Hard work is about to occur and they’re going to need energy. If they’re going to get that thing to land they’re going to have to have some strength, and they lacked it after fourteen days with no food. And so he says, “let’s eat.”
“And when he had thus spoken,” – verse 35 – “he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.” I like that. Two great keys to serving the Lord: prayer and a good breakfast. I mean that’s a terrific balance, isn’t it? That’s a balanced meal, the spiritual and the physical. So Paul really sets the example for them. He says in verse 34, “I beseech you take some food for your health.” This means for your wholeness. It’s a word that’s used of physical salvation and of spiritual salvation in Scripture. But here it means for your physical wholeness, for your safety. “For there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.”
Now you say, “That’s a rather dumb thing. I mean who cares if you lose a hair on the way in?” But you see, that’s an old Jewish proverb. You can go back to I Samuel 14:45, II Samuel 14:11, I Kings 1:52, Luke 21:18, and in all those places you’ll find that old proverb. It meant that you’re going to be secure. It meant that you’d have complete immunity from harm. So Paul says, “You’re all going to make it. But that’s no excuse not to have a good breakfast.” So you see the balance is here between the sovereignty of God and the perfect planning of God and the responsibility of man.
Verse 35, “He then became the example, taking bread, giving thanks, in the presence of them all and he broke it and began to eat.” Well, he just encouraged them so much by his own example that verse 36 says, “Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some food and were all in the ship, two hundred and seventy-six souls.” Everybody had their breakfast. The courage of Paul became infectious. Verse 38, “And when they had eaten enough they lightened the ship and cast out the wheat into the sea.”
Now, they earlier had jettisoned a great amount of the cargo. But they never would jettison the entire cargo in the Mediterranean because they would use the remaining cargo as a ballast and to keep the ship down in the water to some extent. Also, I’m sure they felt perhaps they would be able to salvage a part of it. But by this time it was so totally sea-soaked, so totally salted that it was worthless. In addition to that, when you’re going to beach the ship you want it as light as possible so that it’s as high on the water as it can be so that you can get as close to the shore as you possibly can. So they jettisoned everything in verse 38, all of the wheat.
Day dawns in verse 39, “And when it was day, they recognized not the land” – in other words, they finally saw the shore but they didn’t know where they were. They didn’t know they were in Saint Paul’s Harbor because it hadn’t been named yet. They didn’t even know that it was Melita or Malta – “but they discovered a certain creek with a shore” – Apparently, a beach rather than rock. There was a creek that was coming off the island and emptying into the bay and there was a beachy area there and they saw that – “into which they were minded, if it were possible to thrust in the ship.” And so they said, “Well, let’s head for that creek. Let’s head for that beach area, that sandy area.”
Well, verse 40, “And when they had taken up the anchors,” – and that may mean that they pulled them in, but it likely means that they just severed them – “they committed themselves unto the sea.” They just had to go with it. “They loosed the rudder bands,” – apparently, the side – they had rudders on the sides of the ship, which they had secured tightly. They loosed them to give them some kind of steering capacity – “they hoisted the mainsail and made toward shore.” So they head in and they’re headed, supposedly, for a beachy area by a creek “and falling into a place where two seas met.”
That, friends, is a very difficult phrase. Dithalassos is the one word. The translation “two seas meet” may not even be an accurate translation. It probably means a shoal or a reef. They could have called it the dithalassos in this sense. In the middle of Saint Paul’s Bay, there is a small island called Salmanetta, and the waters from the west and the waters from the east meet behind this island. And it may have been that they assumed that the island was actually an extension of the mainland. And when they went into that area, they realized that there was water behind the island, and where those two seas met there had been the pushing together of sand that created sand bars. Whatever the significance of it is, they ran aground into the sand bars.
Verse 41 says, “Falling into a place where two seas met they ran the ship aground and the bow stuck fast and remained unmovable, but the stern was broken with the violence of the waves.” So here the bow is stuck in the sand bar, apparently a great distance from the shore and the waves, the tremendous hurricane waves are just smashing the stern of the ship and splintering it to pieces. And so there they are, stuck while the ship disintegrates.
That brings us to the fifth stage in this record, the safety. And here comes the great ending, verse 42. And notice, the soldiers were afraid of not only losing their own lives but of losing their prisoners, because when a Roman soldier lost his prisoner he had to take his prisoner’s sentence. Remembers that? So he didn’t want to lose his prisoner. And so the soldiers panicked, verse 42, “The soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners lest any of them should swim out and escape.”
So they were going to slaughter Paul and all the rest of the prisoners on the ship so they wouldn’t get away. But the centurion moves in and saves Paul’s life. And all the rest of the prisoners could thank Paul, too, for having their lives saved. Verse 43, “But the centurion, willing to save Paul,” – I mean he knew this. We – we’ve got to have this guy. Without him we have no chance. – “kept them from their purpose,” – He restrained the soldiers from killing the prisoners – “commanded that they who could swim should cast themselves first into the sea and get to land.”
You know, “everybody in the pool” was the call. And if you can swim, hit it. “And the rest, some on boards and some on broken pieces of the ship.” I mean that thing was disintegrating right there and they were just grabbing onto whatever they could if they couldn’t swim. Well you can imagine the 276 people diving into a hurricane water, grabbing boards and floating debris and trying to make it to shore. But you know something wonderful? Verse 44 ends this way. “And so it came to pass that they” – What? – “all escaped safely to the land.” That is incredible. Absolutely incredible; 276 people jumped in the water and 276 people met on the shore in a hurricane.
Listen. The first thought those people must have had is, “You know, that God that Paul worships, He’s right. His word is true. He said this would happen. Look, it has happened.” You see how God not only credibly establishes His own veracity, but He establishes the veracity of His leader, Paul, doesn’t He? God keeps His word. Isaiah 40:8, “The grass witherith, the flower fadeth, but the Word of God shall stand forever. Isaiah 55:10 and 11, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” God’s word is always fulfilled. Jesus said in Matthew and Mark, in both places, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.”
God’s word is reliable and God established that in this marvelous incident. Peter said, you know, in I Peter 1:25, “The Word of God abides forever.” Jesus said in praying to the Father, “Thy word is truth.” So God gave them the opportunity. God said, “Here’s My word. See if it isn’t true.” And this is the same test that God gives to every man in the world. The end of Malachi, God says, “Try Me, test My word, see if it isn’t true.” Again, here in this passage, as God has done so often in the history of mankind and the history of revelation, God uses predictive prophecy to establish divine authority. God says it will happen, then it happens, and that’s convincing that God is who He claims to be.
The greatest proof of Scriptural authority, the greatest proof that God wrote the Bible is the fulfillment of predictive prophecy. And the Scripture is loaded with it. Some of it fulfilled in the Scripture in the sight of those people God wanted to convince, such as this; some of it fulfilled today in history that the convincing may continue to go on even now.
Now, as I sum up this entire passage, and this is what I want to draw to your attention, a tremendously exciting – and, incidentally, we’re only at Malta now, so come back next week. I mean we haven’t even gotten bitten with the snake yet, and from there on to Rome. But as I look at the section in chapter 27, I want you to notice some things here. You see here exemplified in the life of Paul the principles for great spiritual leadership, the principles for great spiritual leadership. Now, what are the characteristics of this man? What are those qualities that qualify him to be a dynamic leader? And believe me, people, this is a great concern because what God really needs today is this kind of leadership.
Now, what is it that – that really exhibits this leadership? What is it that portrays it or that characterizes it? And I’m just going to take them as they come in the text. Let’s go back to the beginning of 27 and just pick them out of the narrative. Number one, a leader is loved. A leader is loved. Now, this isn’t always true in the world. This is always true, however, in the church. And I don’t mean that he’s loved by everybody all the time, but I do mean this. A man who leads for God is an honored man, he is a beloved man. You’ll notice in verse 3 that Julius allowed Paul, when the journey first began, to go to his friends to refresh himself. Now here you see a man who has taught doctrine, a man who has been a primary leader in the church, and he goes to these people and they minister to his physical need.
Now, this is just a hint at something that we’ve seen again and again and again in the life of Paul and that is the tremendous love the people had for him. You know, some people assume that to be a leader is to eliminate people’s love, to be a leader is – is to set yourself off from any kind of personal warmth in the lives of people. And I don’t think that’s true at all. I really believe that true godly leaders are beloved by the people they lead. If that isn’t true, they’re not leading as responsive to the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit generates love. Very often we fail. We make errors in judgment. We often offend.
I know this all from personal experience. Yet, I believe that even though there is offence and even though there are mistakes and errors in judgments and misrepresentations – and we struggle with the same human weaknesses and frailties that you struggle with – at the same time, there must be in a godly leader an irresistible quality that makes loving followers or he isn’t leading in a godly way. Titus 3:15 is supportive of just this very concept. “All that are with me greet thee, greet them that love us in the faith,” says Paul. Paul knew that people loved him, even though he was a disciplinarian, even though when something needed to be said he said it flat out, point blank, nose to nose, even to people like Peter.
When there was an issue to be dealt with he dealt with it strong and hard and firm and they loved him, because in spite of his failures and in spite of his strengths, there was an irresistible quality that made him loveable. Jesus, of course, the strongest of all leaders who ever lived, was so beloved that words couldn’t even begin to express it. And the apostle Paul said, “you may speak with the tongues of men and of angels,” – you may come down with tremendous divine authority and resource – “but if you have not loved you're” – What? – “sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.” Paul said to Timothy in I Timothy 4:12, “Be thou an example in love.” In I Timothy 6:11, “But thou, oh man of God, follow after love.” And so, beginningly, a true leader is beloved.
Secondly, a true leader such as Paul never gives up. Verse 3. I mean he was sick. He was sick and yet he pursues, even in his sickness, the objectives. If he was sick when he was there in Sidon, can you imagine what he must have been on the ship. Fourteen days without food, fighting the hurricane with all of the background of pain that he had, and yet he never quit. He’s indomitable; it doesn’t matter what happens to him, he never gives up.
I read an interesting article this week about the tortured genius whom we know as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence of Arabia tried to retire from sight after World War I. Of course, he’s a very famous man for his fighting in North Africa, but because of his desert campaign, burned out by the fires of controversy over Arab nationalism. Once he got out of that thing he went back to England and he tried to hide. What he did was change his name and joined the RAF as a private. He used the name John Hume Ross. But soon, some reporter from a London newspaper discovered him and exposed him.
And so his cover was blown and he left because he didn’t want publicity. Still craving obscurity, the famous Lawrence of Arabia changed his name again to T. E. Shaw and joined the Royal Tank Corp. He rented an old beat up cottage near the camp where he served. He made it his home. And over the door of the cottage he inscribed the words that reflected his inner thoughts. These were the words inscribed there and inscribed in Greek: “What do I care.” It’s amazing isn’t it for a man who apparently cared so much he got worn out and quit.
And I suppose that if you were to look at Paul from the human standpoint, you’d have to wonder how a man could go through imprisonments and trials and murder plots and sickness and shipwrecks and whatever else that he went through, and the pain and the – the agony of all of these things that we see in this portion of Scripture, and never ever quit. He didn’t know the meaning of that. I always used to think of what Buddy Young said. He used to play football in the National Football League, and he was 5 foot 5 and 145 pounds. And he used to say, “When the going gets tough the tough get going.” And he’d say, “It isn’t the size of the man in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the man.” Well that was sort of like the apostle Paul.
A third thing about leadership, not only leadership creates love and leadership never quits, but true leadership uses good judgment. True leadership makes practical wise decisions, verses 9 and 10. Here they are in Fair Havens and much time has been spent, and sailing is now the dangerous season. And Paul says, “Folks, it is not wise to go from here.” Now, what I like about this is just this point. Watch. Did Paul know by this time he was going to get to Rome? He knew it absolutely, didn’t he? Because in 23:11 an angel told him that.
But just because he knew he was going to get to Rome, he never lost his sense of practicality, you see? He never became foolish. He never presumed on God to do what was stupid from a practical standpoint to gain what was promised from a divine one. He was not presumptuous. Like David said, “Keep Thy servant back from presumptuous sins.” He was patient for God’s will. He didn’t test it. Jesus, when He was on earth, knew that because He was the Messiah, because He was the Son of God, He would inherit the kingdoms of the world. So what did Satan do? He offered Him the kingdoms of the world, didn’t he? But Christ waited until God’s time to give Him those kingdoms.
Satan tried to get Christ in all three temptations to jump ahead of God. You’re the Son of God and You’re hungry. Turn those stones into bread. And, in effect, Jesus said, “He’ll feed Me when He’s ready. I’ll wait for Him.” Why don’t You go off the temple, dive off the pinnacle of the temple and the people will acknowledge You as the Messiah. “God has a time plan, I’ll wait for Him,” Jesus said. I’ll give You the kingdoms of the world. “God will do that in His time, I’ll wait for that time if I have to suffer in the meantime.” You see Jesus could never be forced to presume to be foolish about taking something that had been promised to Him until God’s good time for it.
There are so many people who do this, so many people. Lead people down a primrose path to a dead-end while they’re presuming on God. Many men have done this in churches. They’ve got into monumental building programs or colossal expansion programs. And you’ve been reading about it in the paper lately, haven’t you, where they’ve led all these people? They say “God wants to win everybody. God wants to give the gospel to everybody.” So they become huge conglomerate corporations spending fortunes of money. And what happens lately, is the government comes in and they’re all in trouble for breaking the laws. You see they presume that the end justified the means, and they lost their sense of sanity, their sense of practicality, and allowing God to accomplish what God will accomplish in God’s own time.
Fourth thing about leadership that is important, I think, is that leadership speaks with authority. I think that one of the characteristics of a true leader is that he speaks with authority, that he knows whereof he speaks. Verse 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 only of the ship.” Now that’s pretty straight stuff, folks. I mean that’s coming right on.
“There stood by me this night an angel of God whose I am and whom I serve saying, “Fear not Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar and lo, God has given all them that sail with thee. Wherefore sirs, be of good cheer for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me.” Now notice, here is boldness. Paul stands up and says “this is how it is, people, because God says it.” I believe that a leader must speak with authority. And his authority is not his own, it is the authority of the Word of God.
There was an article in Christianity Today, which I read this week, written by James Boyce who is the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Philadelphia, the church formerly pastored by the great Dr. Barnhouse. And in the article, he says this: “Scriptures as the infallible and authoritative Word of God has declined in the life of the church generally, it is not surprising that the eloquence and power of the proclamation of this Word has diminished also.
“What is the result? It is well put in this description of a panel discussion involving a rabbi, a priest and a protestant minister. The rabbi said, ‘I speak according to the law of Moses.’ The priest said, ‘I speak according to the church.’ The protestant minister said, ‘It seems to me.’” And that’s exactly what’s happened in Christianity. “It’s seems to me.” Where is the authority? The authority went when this went. True spiritual leadership knows this Book and stands on its absolutes. No comfort if Paul gets up and says, “Well fellows it seems to me that we might make it.” Oh, who are you, fellow? Sit down and start throwing stuff over. True spiritual leadership is authoritative.
Fifthly, true leadership strengthens others. You know, when Paul stood up and said that they believed that. He says, “Be of good cheer.” Well later on in the very same passage, he says, “Men eat,” verse 34. I’m telling you get something to eat and they ate and they were cheered up. There’s another characteristic of a leader. He leads. Did you get that? Leaders lead. That is they have other people who do what they do. They have followers.
When they are strong, they strengthen others. They affect others. This was Paul. I’m telling you the man affected other people. He made other people to be what he was. This is so very, very basic to leadership. And in a way – it goes this way. And I’m not going to take the time because our time is gone. But there’s a great illustration in I Samuel 30. First, a leader is encouraged by God and then a leader passes that encouragement on. David would go to be with God, take strength from God and then pass strength to his people. A leader strengthens others.
Sixth thing about true leadership. True leadership operates on unwavering faith. True leadership operates on unwavering faith. Verse 25, “I believe God” – What? – “God.” Boy, I like that. True leadership operates on unwavering faith. “Abraham” – Romans 4 says – “staggered not at the promise of God, but was strong in faith giving glory to God.” Tremendous truth.
Let me give you another point, maybe a seventh. True leadership demands obedience. True leadership demands obedience. A true leader never compromises. Look at verse 31. They tried to get away. Paul says, “Except these abide in the ship you can’t be saved.” You either do it God’s way or you pay the consequences. Now, do you see there, the absolutes? A true leader never compromises. He always deals in conformity to God’s absolutes.
And in the church today, what we have so much of is that lack of authority that says “It seems to me,” and the compromising spirit that has no absolutes. There can be no place for compromising on God’s absolutes. Paul says, “You guys get in that water and you’re going to get it. This whole ship is lost and you’re going to go too. Unless they stay in the ship it’s all going to be lost.” This is absolute. We need people who are authoritative and who deal in absolutes.
Well, another point, maybe an eighth one. A leader leads by example. Look at verse 34 and 35. When Paul wanted them to eat, he ate first. Here is the greatest key to leadership. Example. We’ve seen it many times. He leads by example. This is the pinnacle of leadership. He leads by example. What I do you do. Boy, that’s all over the New Testament. Do what I do, be like me, follow me as I follow Christ. Paul repeats that again and again and again and again. And you know something. In response to all these features of leadership, you have the promise that God is going to fulfill His will. It’s a beautiful thing. A leader knows the balance between God’s absolute promise and his own responsibility. He knows God is going to fulfill His will and yet he’s practical and wise. He balances sovereignty and practical effort.
He has a hearty breakfast to do the work, but he prays. You see the balance? It isn’t just saying, “God do what you want.” It’s putting myself to the task as well. And so we find in this marvelous passage the providence of God protecting His choice leader and we see the characteristics of leadership. And I trust that in our lives if God has called us and placed us in positions of leadership, we would accept the responsibility as Paul did and manifest the true characteristics of a godly leader. Let’s bow in prayer.
Our Father, we’re grateful for the example we see in Paul. We’re grateful for the strength of the man that is so apparent and so evident. We’re grateful for the characteristics that are so translatable into our lives if we’re to be effective for Thee.
God, I just pray that out of this congregation of people, out of this fellowship, You would raise up those who can lead, whether it be the fathers in the home and whether it be the teachers in the classes, the leaders in various ministries, or whether it be those who are called to pastorates, to mission fields, may they be the kind of leaders You would have them be.
We ask, Father, that You would cause Your kingdom to be exalted, the gospel carried forth through this world by the use of those that You have called as they fulfill the task of leaders in the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen
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