Getting Our Sea Legs - Acts 27
Last Sunday, Pastor Stacey preached from Acts 27 and from it we learned three things:
I. God steadies us through learning experiences. (vv.1-12)
II. God steadies us through special revelation. (vv. 13-26)
III. God steadies us through divine deliverance. (vv.27-44)
You can listen to the sermon below, or keep scrolling to read the sermon notes:
Recently I was invited on an offshore fishing trip, about 65 miles into the Gulf Stream.
One of the first questions I was asked by the friend who invited me was, “Do you get seasick?” He asked me this because after traveling over two hours out into the ocean, it’s not a quick trip back. So if you get sick, you’re going to be sick all day. I told him I thought I would be okay. I took some pills to prevent motion sickness. The water was rough on the way out, and I felt a little queasy. But I was told to pick a spot on the horizon and focus on that. But still I felt slightly nauseous.
We made it to our first location to begin trolling, and we hadn’t been fishing long when one of the guys hooked a large sailfish. When the fish came up out of the water, you could see the long bill and the sail as it unfolded. No one in the boat had ever caught a fish like this. All of us where in awe. The fish turned out to be about 6 feet long. After getting the fish to the boat, getting control of him, and taking some pictures, the guy who caught the fish let him go, and we continued to talk about how amazing that experience had been. And then I noticed something: I wasn’t queasy anymore.The thrill and the wonder of the battle with the sailfish made me forget about being sick. Maybe it had been in my mind the whole time.
It’s normal to need some time to get used to the rough waters. To get your sea legs, so to speak. Throughout the Scriptures, we see many events that take place on the sea. In the water, on the water. The sea is most often associated with danger and uncertainty. Think of the great flood in which Noah and his family are saved in the ark. Or the people of Israel as they cross the parted Red Sea between tall walls of water that fall behind them and drown the Egyptian army. Or the terrible storm that the prophet Jonah faces as he rejects the instructions of God and finds himself trapped on a ship in a raging storm that only be calmed by the crew throwing him overboard. Think of Jesus asleep in a boat during a storm as his disciples panic. Then Jesus wakes up, calming both the storm and their fears. Or the apostle Peter’s fear and lack of faith, when Jesus instructs Peter to step out of the boat and walk to where Jesus supernaturally stands on the water.
In Acts 27 we see another Biblical event involving turmoil on the open sea. But Luke is intentional to demonstrate how faith lead to steadiness in the turmoil. We aren’t naturally steady as we face turbulence and uncertainty in life. We waver in our faith. We worry, we panic, we question, we doubt, we get angry. But we learn here in Acts that God steadies us with increasing assurance that he is entirely good and wise, and that he is sovereign over all things. And because God steadies us in this way, we should anticipate this work of God in our lives. So how does God do this? How does he steady us? What should we look for?
You’ll see an outline on page 6 and 7 of the worship guide. It’s there to help you follow along as I work through this chapter. We see that God steadies us through three things:
1. learning experiences (1-12)
2. special revelation (13-26)
3. and divine deliverance (27-44)
First, through learning experiences. (v.1-12)
Paul is put on a ship to Rome. He’s still in Roman custody and is being sent to appeal to Caesar. But he was allowed to have some friends are allowed to accompany him. There are guards and more prisoners, and they make their way to Italy, changing ships once. Because of the time of year, the wind makes the journey rough, so Paul offers some advice. Verse 10, Paul says to the Roman guard and the captain, “’Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss,
not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.’ But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said.”
What business did Paul have offering his advice on sailing? There’s no indication that God had revealed to Paul that they would have trouble. Actually, he’s speaking from personal experience. We learn in 2 Corinthians 11 that prior to this, while on his missionary journeys, Paul had previously been shipwrecked not once, not twice, but three times. Paul had been there and done that, and he learned from experience.
There’s an old saying that you don’t learn anything the second time you’re kicked by a mule. You learn a lot the first time, don’t you? Here’s another old saying – you can probably finish it: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” We learn from experience. God has designed the world in this way. And the second time difficulty comes along, or the third or fourth time, we’re more prepared. Because hopefully, we’ve gained wisdom. Proverbs 3 says, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.” Often, wisdom come from experience. That’s why people who are older tend to be wiser. Job 12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” Of course, someone doesn’t have to be older than you to offer the wisdom of experience, but with more age tends to come more experience. And through the wisdom of experience, God provides steadiness of heart and mind when we face turmoil. Romans 5, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” This is heart change taking place as a result of learning experiences.
How has God used your experiences to teach you and to steady you? What past experiences can help steady you in the present? Have you noticed as you face new difficulties that you are steadier than you were before? You may have gone through something recently and thought, “I couldn’t have endured that 10 years ago.” Has the wisdom of your learning experiences been for you like what the father describes for the son in Proverbs 24? He says, “My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” God steadies us through wisdom gleaned from learning experiences.
Next, he steadies us through special revelation. (13-26)
No one listens to Paul, and at first it appears like they made the right choice. The wind blew gently. But verse 14 says, “soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land.” They fight to control the ship.The lifeboat must have filled with water, so they empty it. They try dropping anchor to slow down. They even unload some of the cargo to try to steady the ship. The storm continues to rage, and notice verse 20: When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
They have no reason to think they will survive.
So Paul speaks up. This is an “I told you so” moment.
The crew “had been without food for a long time,” probably from a loss of appetite due to despair. Paul urges them to take heart, because he can assure them that no one will die,
even though the ship will be lost. He explains how he knows this in verse 23: “For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship,  and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.  But we must run aground on some island.”
Paul receives special revelation from God. We differentiate in the Bible between general revelation and special revelation. General revelation includes all the things about God that are apparent to all people through what God has made. The earth, all the creatures on the earth, the universe.
Romans 1 says: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Psalm 19 says: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
That’s general revelation from God. It’s directed to all people.
But also we learn about special revelation. For instance, general revelation doesn’t tell us about salvation in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1 talks about special revelation. It says: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Throughout the OT God speaks directly to people in various significant moments. To Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, Moses, various prophets. Often we see the angel of the Lord delivering a message. It’s a special message. Not all people hear it. Everything written down by the OT prophets that we understand to be the OT Scriptures is classified as special revelation.
This is the case also in the NT. We see special revelation to Mary and Joseph concerning the birth of Jesus. Everything recorded about Jesus in the Gospels. And God delivered special revelation through the apostles, including all their writings that we understand to be the NT Scriptures. The apostles realized that they had the same roles as the OT prophets. For instance, Peter put Paul’s writings on par with the OT Scriptures. In 2 Peter 3, Peter talks to the church about Paul’s letters. He says,“There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” The apostles had a special role in the work of Christ in the world. There are no more apostles, so we don’t add to the Scriptures. What God gave us through the prophets and apostles is standard for all believers.
Here in Acts 27 God provides special revelation to Paul for he and his fellow passengers as God carries out his redemptive plan for Paul to testify to the gospel in Rome and fulfill the words of Jesus in Acts 1. Jesus had said “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Even in the turmoil of this storm, God steadies this crew through special revelation. And through the special revelation that we have in his written Word, he steadies us today.
Consider the power of a message that things will be okay coming from a person who has the ability to know such things. This is significant aspect of the written Word of God. God knows what will happen, so when he says that he will work all things together for our good, we can take comfort in that. When he says that he will complete the good work that he began in us, we can take comfort in that. When he says Jesus will return and make all things new, we can take comfort in that. This is why the preaching of God’s Word must not go outside the boundaries of what God actually says in the Scriptures. We preach what the Bible says. No more, no less.
And the special revelation of God in his Word ultimately points to Jesus. God’s redeeming work in sinners and the creation is main point of God’s special revelation to us. Many preachers expound a section of Scripture, telling people what they should do and should not do, and then they stop preaching. And someone might say, “Oh he brought the Word? He laid it on us!” But if he didn’t magnify the saving work of Jesus Christ above all else, he didn’t land the plane. He didn’t bring it all the way home. If the special revelation of God is expounded, you absolutely should find out what you should stop doing and what you should start doing, what you should believe and what you should reject.
But if you don’t have the saving work of Jesus in view as you go from that sermon, you’ll either be weighed down by guilt and shame because you’re failing, or you’ll be puffed with self-righteousness and legalism because you think you’re doing great. But when the preacher brings into view how Jesus stood in the place of sinners and earned their righteousness while cancelling their sin debt to God, he’s been faithful to what Paul describes in Acts 20 as “the whole counsel of God.” Bible scholar David Peterson defines the “whole counsel” as this: “the whole plan of God for humanity and the created order revealed in the Scriptures and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.”
Do you recognize the importance of the special revelation of the written Word to steady you on the open waters of life? Don’t feel left out because you’ve never been approached by an angel of the Lord. Historically speaking, that is extremely rare. It’s not the normal way that God reveals himself. The written Word is reliable, and through it, God steadies us.
Finally, God steadies us through divine deliverance. (v.27-44)
What Paul has been told comes to pass. Notice in verses 27 and 28, the waters grows shallower, and fearing that they will run onto the rocks, the men start to escape the ship. But Paul warns them that they shouldn’t. So now, they listen. And Paul then encourages them in verse 34 to eat so they will have strength. This is key because we see later in verse 43 that they must swim to safety after the ship strikes a reef. They lose the ship, but every life is saved, just as Paul, under direction of God, said they would. It’s clearly a case of divine deliverance. God obviously saved them. There were multiple ways this could’ve gone wrong for them. Yet they survive.
Divine deliverance steadies us. Why was Paul so steady? Because God had delivered him three times before. Of course, God would not always deliver him from death. Paul was ultimately put a death later on for preaching the gospel. But even then he had a sense that his time had come.
This past summer, Panama City Beach FL was the site of an amazing rescue. Two young boys, ages 8 and 11, were caught in the riptide and unable to swim to the shore. Their mother and other family members went out to rescue them, and they too were overpowered by the current and unable to escape. Beachgoers called the police, and when one arrived, he tried to swim out and save them, but was unable. But someone had the idea of creating a human chain. An estimated 80 people held hands and passed down boogie boards and surfboards to the family, saving all nine members. It was an act of deliverance. What an experience, to come face to face with death, and then to have your life given back to you in this way.
When you’ve been saved like that, it does something to you. You looked death in the face and lived to tell about it. You may have had a similar experience, you may not. From what have you been rescued? Well, for those who have faith in Jesus, you’ve experienced the greatest of all rescues. You’ve experienced divine deliverance. Colossians 1 says that God has, “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
How could the death of Jesus take away sins and bring us into the family of God? What we learn in the Scriptures is that because Jesus was fully man, he could truly live a human life in our place. And because he was fully God, he could live that life perfectly in our place. Do you know Jesus as your divine deliverer? And does your knowledge of rescue in Jesus comfort you? Does it give you peace? To know that the worst thing that could ever happen to you, can never happen to you, because you have peace with God the Father, through God the Son, by the power of God the Holy Spirit?
With all the accounts of dangerous waters throughout the Scriptures, it’s no coincidence that in the book of Revelation, as the apostle John sees a vision of the new heavens and earth upon the return of Jesus, John states, “the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.” Even outside of the Bible, Jewish literature saw the sea as a symbol of danger. In Revelation 13, the Beast emerges from the sea. What does mean that the sea will be no more? It means that when Jesus makes all things new, there will be no more danger, no more threat, no more fear and worry.
See, our lives now are something like that of the character Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Mowgli is a human living in the jungle. He’s a stranger there. He doesn’t belong. And he’s always aware of constant danger. He must always be on the look out for animals that prey upon him. We always sense the threat of danger and the uncertainty of the future. That will be the case throughout this life. But when Jesus returns, he will finish what he started. And until that time, he steadies us as we reflect on our learning experiences, as we delve into his special revelation and as we remember our divine deliverance.
Let’s pray together.