“And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.”
Sometimes soldiers feel they are a law unto themselves, and think all is secure simply because of their superior military strength. Yet, there are times when all the military might of a whole troop of soldiers is not sufficient to prevail against a single opposing force. It is just such an occasion that is described in the story related in Acts 27.
In this true story, Paul and certain other prisoners are being escorted by a centurion and his band of soldiers to Rome on a ship. During the course of their voyage, the fierce fury of a Mediterranean storm–perhaps a hurricane–is unleashed upon the ship by the providence of God. All onboard the ship are virtually powerless in the face of nature’s ferocious onslaught–mere pawns being tossed about by wind and wave.
After riding out the storm for many days, and after receiving instructions from the angel of God through Paul, the Apostle, it becomes apparent to the sailors that the ship is about to run aground. As a last resort, they cast four anchors out of the stern and wished for the day. Fear and anxiety prevailed on board the imperiled vessel.
It is at this point that our text reveals a plot by the seamen to abandon the ship and its unsuspecting passengers under the pretext (“under color”) of casting anchors out of the foreship. We are not told if Paul perceived the deception naturally or supernaturally, but his words to the centurion and the soldiers are brief and to the point:
“Except these (sailors) abide in the ship, ye (soldiers) cannot be saved.”
It doesn’t matter, soldier friend, how many battle scars you wear, or how red your badge of courage may be; if you have no navigator in the midst of the stormy sea you cannot hope to survive. Every man has his place in the grand scheme of the kingdom. All are not soldiers; all are not sailors. The sailor depends on the military prowess of the soldier that he may have a flag under which to sail. In much the same manner the soldier must depend upon the sailor to transport him and his comrades safely from port to port.
The soldiers aboard Paul’s sailing vessel responded quickly to the Apostle’s warning by cutting the ropes of the boat with which the sailors were preparing to escape. How different is the attitude of our soldiers nowadays. Let the old sailors leave!, they cry. How little do they know that their safety is contingent on the skill and resources of the old sailors.
Please, Sir Soldier, don’t let the sailors abandon ship. You may be about to founder upon an island–shipwrecked; but Almighty God in His providence has decreed that unless the sailors stay with your ship, you, soldier, will be lost. Your lack of perception is about to cost you your life. Except these sailors abide in your ship you cannot be saved!
Etched deeply into the lines of the grizzled face of that salty old captain are years and years of experience. Many a storm has spent its fury upon the back and brow of these men of the cloth. In ice, wind, rain and sun the relentless pull of the sea has been out-maneuvered by a man with a clear head and a steady hand at the helm. With each lash of every wave these seasoned seamen earn a new stripe. These men know the waters in which we sail.
More than one foolhardy soldier has been set adrift by the fierce winds of doctrine only to find himself marooned on his own little island with no hope of rescue–unless God peradventure, in His mercy, would send him the very sailors that he refused to keep on his ship when the going got tough. A wise old philosopher once said: “No man is an island.” The scripture, written centuries earlier, bears this same theme:
“None of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself.” (Romans 17:7)
He who is careless about cultivating relationships with great men is certain to wind up bereft of meaningful company and destitute of beneficial associations.
Beware, Soldier, lest you make the worst mistake of your life by allowing men whose service to your ship is indispensable slip over the side of the ship during the storm.
Rev. Tim D. Cormier
Reprinted from the September, 1996 and April, 2002 issues of the Apostolic Standard.
(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.