© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 3 – The Historical Emergence of the Church
Lesson 188 – The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility
31 Jan 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Tonight we are finishing up the narration through Acts and going on to the doctrinal side of things. If you keep in mind that diagram, page 71, figure 4, and notice as you go through the book of Acts it becomes less Israel centered and more church centered. And of course Paul is the leading feature of this movement. We covered everything last week quickly, but I want to go back and review a certain theme here. In so doing I’m going to stop at a chapter that’s not in the notes but I think this chapter in the book of Acts will become very useful for you as it has for me over the years in giving a neat, easy to picture story that get sovereign and human responsibility together.
At first a few words about the theme as you get toward the end of Acts. Jesus said in Acts 1:8 that the church should be “witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the world.” That is not just a forecast; that is an announcement of what surely will happen. We have done an exegetical class in the book of Acts so we haven’t gone through all the details, but had we done so you would see over and over again in the book of Acts how the church did not initiate obedient following out of Acts 1:8. That’s not the theme of Acts. So when you hear people say oh, we’ve got to get back to the first century church, now you can kind of think well, not really. What you see in the book of Acts is not the church initiating its mission function, what you see is God working in history to bring out the fulfillment of Acts 1:8. The initiative lies with God, not with man. The initiative doesn’t lie with superior church leadership; it doesn’t lie with the fact that they had all their doctrine together - they didn’t have that either. The whole thing, the whole fulfillment of Acts 1:8 is due to God’s sovereign working in history.
We said in Acts 21 Paul almost gets killed here, and the people who rescue him, ironically, from the religious crowd are the Roman soldiers, looked down upon by the Jews. So the fact that Luke is writing this history, Luke/Acts, two volume history, and he’s recording these kind of events, particularly events that would antagonize Jews, you have to come back and say okay, what’s the big picture here. Why does he seemingly try to set up a situation in his history, his two-volume text here, something that just ruptures any kind of a relationship with the Jewish community? It’s not like he’s trying to do this, it’s just that this is the way history played out. So in Acts 21 you almost have Paul killed, but because God’s will is that he go to Rome, he is going to go to Rome.
In between Acts 21 and 28 is another very famous chapter, and I want to spend some time on it as sort of a break from the rest of what we’ve been going through in Acts because this is a neat story, and over the years, like I said, I have used this story so many times in straightening out my head about sovereignty and human responsibility. The story involves a shipwreck, Paul’s shipwreck. Paul is on his way to Rome for his trial, which he has, as a Roman citizen demanded, and which the Roman soldiers now have to imprison him and bring him to Rome. He left here on a boat, he comes across to Crete. Paul is going to go by here, and they’re going to have a very bad storm. In Acts 27 we want to go through this because it’s an example, excellent, excellent example of sovereign and human responsibility, and since it’s in a physical context, most people find this easier to grasp because you don’t have salvation issues at stake here, spiritual issues.
It’s a straightforward catastrophe, a thing that would strike the front page of the newspaper, that kind of an event. Verse 1 is the setting for the narrative. In the first three verses we have introduced where, when, who and the main people. “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.” There are several points to look at in verse 1. You’ll notice it’s a plural first person pronoun, “we.” Who’s the “we?” Luke and Paul. So clearly Luke is accompanying on this. So now Luke is operating, not on the basis of a research historian but as a historian who was there, on scene reporter. “When it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners,” that “they” is the Romans, the Romans that were in Israel, and they gave them over to this guy Julius. Julius is a special envoy.
It says in verse 1, and the historians have noticed, next time you hear some sloppy Joe talking about how the Bible has mistakes in it and we can’t trust it, and all the rest of the stuff … YES you can! And two of the clearest books that have authenticated themselves in the eyes of historians are Luke’s work. It’s little details like verses 1–3 that Luke shines, because it is where scholars have been able to check, for example, on Augustus’ band, where they have checked this all out against extra-Biblical materials, it turns out that by golly, that guy Luke knew what he was writing. We are twenty centuries later and we have to acknowledge that Luke, who was there, really reported something. Wow, big accomplishment. And we twenty centuries later that know everything, nobody knew anything before we came along of course, we have decided that Luke understood things as they really were.
Augustus’ band that’s mentioned had a function in the Roman hierarchy. This group was an elite group of officials and they, in their function, apparently operated much as our federal marshals operate, they were in charge of moving prisoners back and forth in the Empire, and being sure that particularly they came to trial in Rome. So, notice again that in Acts, Luke is careful to mention details like this. Remember Cornelius in Acts 10, he not only says Cornelius was a centurion, he says he was a centurion in the Italian cohort. Now he’s talking about Julius, and he says he is a centurion of Augustus’ band. See what I mean by these details. That marks Luke as a historian who knows what he’s talking about. He’s placing Christianity in the bureaucracy of the ancient world, fixing where it is.
He describes in verse 2, “And entering into a ship … we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia,” which is Turkey, Asia Minor….  And the next day we touched at Sidon,” which is going up the coast to Sidon, which is now Lebanon, “and Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.” So it’s an amicable relationship going on and Luke is careful to point this out. After Acts 21 when you have that ferocious, Jewish religious mob who tried to kill Paul, notice the extra pains that Luke goes into showing how accommodating the Romans were. Don’t lose sight of that, that’s important, that tells you something about how things are shifting here in the book of Acts.
It says, Acts 27:4, “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.” He’s going over on this route; it’s an east-west route, going south of the island of Cyprus. Verse 6, “And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us on board.” Another point by Luke’s language here, he correctly reflects the fact they were the main big boats, and this is going to be a big one that Paul gets on now, move out of Egypt, there’s Egypt, and they’re shipping grain across the Mediterranean. Sometimes they’ll go up and visit some of these places, but the grain shipments came out of Egypt and went across here. And these are big freight vessels; they’re the tankers of their time. So, it shows you the little boat launched in verse 2, that was more or less a little yacht thing, a coastal shuttle, and now they get on the big boat.
In verse 9 Paul’s upset because of the delay. This is in the fall of the year, “Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous,” and Luke is again correct. Jedeus [?] mentions that the transition season for sailing in the Mediterranean occurred between Sept. 14 and Nov. 11, that’s when the shippers realized that you start planting vessels after that you’ve got a problem. Winter storms come into the Mediterranean and even though this body of water isn’t an ocean, you can get some really vicious storms there. Luke is correct; this is a bad time to make the trip “because the fast was already past, Paul admonished them,”
The thing to notice about this story is here we have a picture of the Apostle Paul, the leading proponent of the Christian faith and how he acted toward pagans in the street context. Notice he didn’t buttonhole them all the time, in fact you don’t even have him telling them about the gospel. He carries on a normal conversation, he’s establishing social contact and here’s the model for a guy doing this. What he did, in verse 9, “Paul admonished them,  and he was saying to them,” meaning he said this several times, it wasn’t just one announcement. He said “Sirs, I believe that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the cargo and ship, but also of our lives.  Nevertheless, the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship …” now that’s the setting of the story. Paul doesn’t have credibility with the centurion at this point.
Watch what happens. Here’s the centurion, he’s got to make a decision, he’s got a prisoner, he can’t send him around, he wants to get him over here to Italy before the winter gets really set, so he’s got a problem. He’s basically like a federal marshal, he’s got to move a prisoner from point A to point B so he wants to get Paul over here and get the mission over with do he doesn’t get messed up out here in the Mediterranean in the winter time. Verse 12 says they didn’t really have a place to winter in, so they tried to go to a place on Crete, on the west end of it. Verse 13, “And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing from there, they sailed close by Crete.  But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind,” so here they are in the middle of a vicious storm. And obviously from what you see in verse 17 they lost control of this big boat.
To give you an idea of how big this boat is, if you look in verse 37 you’ll see that there are quite a few people aboard this thing. It says two hundred three score, so there’s two hundred plus sixty plus sixteen, there’s 276 people aboard this boat. This isn’t a rowboat out here, this is a large vessel with 276 people, with all the dining facility, the food facilities, the lodging facilities, plus a whole load of grain, so it’s a big boat. Why is it a big boat? Because it’s a freight line that runs between Alexandria and Rome, that’s why, it’s shipping grain back and forth. This is not a small little boat here. So we’ve got a big problem because it’s this big boat in verse 17, “Which, when they had hoisted it, they used helps undergirding the ship; and fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, struck sail, and so were driven.” The picture there is that they actually took cables, threw it under the hull to make the hull hold against the wave power. So this boat has problems. You can imagine, this boat isn’t weak, this boat is used to transport grain, so to hold the hull together in the middle of the storm they are using cables underneath the hull.
Verse 17, “…and so were driven,  and we were being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship.” So because they’re taking aboard water and so on, they’re going to start jettisoning cargo. When the guy who is the captain of this large a vessel starts jettisoning cargo, do you know what else he’s jettisoning? Money. So this is a major problem. Verse 19 describes the problem, “And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackle of the ship.” Now they’re tossing their tools overboard.
Verse 20, “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 being taken away.” Watch Luke here, the hope was being taken away. What hope? This is not hope of eternal life, this is hope to just physically survive an accident that was about to happen, normal living. Of course, we all know as Christians when hope is taken away, that usually is some sort of a circumstance God is putting into our lives to make us look up, so we have to not be knocked flat on our back to look up. We all know that problem.
Here we get a stress situation, a high stress situation. Watch what happens to Paul, it’s very interesting. Here’s where you want to be sharp, look carefully at the text, because you’re going to see an interplay here between a sovereign pronouncement, and human response to the sovereign pronouncement, and then the outcome. Verse 21 “But after being long without food, Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.” There you have a believer, he’s not the number one command aboard the ship, but nevertheless, he’s an articulate proponent of wisdom and he’s not afraid to stand up and say it. He says it respectfully, but he says it truthfully and firmly. I think this is an interesting way he does it in verse 21. He disagrees with the leadership; he’s submissive to the leadership but he doesn’t just collapse and turn into a doormat either. There’s a time to voice disagreement and it can be done gracefully; don’t be nasty, he’s not nasty here, he’s not disrespectful in the way he says it. But he said I told you we shouldn’t do this, we made a wrong decision.
Verse 22, “And now I exhort you to be of good cheer; for there shall be no loss” watch this, “of any man’s life among you, but only of the ship.” So in the sovereignty of God, and he’s going to say an angel told me so, we don’t know how that was taken by the centurion, no comment from Luke, but here’s the sovereignty of God, the people, 276 are going to be saved, the boat is going to be lost. Let’s see how that works out and watch the interaction. Verse 23, “For there stood by me this night an angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,” so there he testifies to who God is. Notice he hasn’t got into any details of the gospel, but like he does in Acts 17, like he does in Acts 14, he clarifies the nature of who God is.
This is important, a secular western civilization can hardly any more think of the biblical God. And if you ask me, this is what is making western civilization vulnerable to Islam. Chuck Colson was on the other night and he was just pointing out how the fastest growing religion in America is Islam, after Sept. 11. Now why is that? One of the things why is because Muslims have a very clear doctrine, by the way, he also pointed out another neat thing and that was that they don’t have seeker-friendly churches either, they don’t have welcome mats out in front of the mosque. They don’t have basketball teams, and all the rest of it; nothing wrong with basketball teams, a good youth activity, it gets rid of energy. But the point is that the Muslims don’t approach people on sort of a friendship type thing. They lay it all out in the front, there is no god but Allah, period, if you don’t like it, leave. That’s the approach. But you know something, people appreciate that because they can trust you if you are blunt and truthful and tell them where it is.
There are a lot of people in our culture who have had mealy-mouthed presentations of the gospel, who have gone over to the cults and heard this and heard the secular message and everything is relative; the soul is made for certainty, God wants us to be sure. And Islam comes along and says this is it. Remember what I’ve said in the Framework course, every heresy is like a parasite, it feeds on a weakness in the church. When we see other religions displacing Christianity you’d better check, because the church is doing something wrong, and the other people are a scourge from God, just like the Babylonians were a scourge to Israel. If you people don’t put the light in the candle I’m going to take your candle out. That’s the book of Revelation. It’s part of God’s discipline upon us when we don’t get it together, when we have all this other stuff happening.
So Paul in verse 23 publicly says this, he didn’t ask the permission of the American ACLU or something, he didn’t ask an attorney what he should say to be politically correct, he announced it, and he didn’t argue the point, it is an argument in a way but it’s a presuppositional approach. “For there stood by this night an angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.” And it’s in His name that I am telling you these things so listen or leave. Verse 24, “Saying, Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar;” see the link here isn’t just the 276 people in the boat; the reason for the salvation of the people is that Paul must go to Rome. That’s the theme, Paul to Rome. There’s the heart and what is that a reflection of? It’s part of the Acts 1:8 program - sovereign program of God - because the church is going to be a witness to all the world. How is the church going to be a witness to all the world? Because Paul is going to get to Rome and from Rome he is going to then spread Christianity, and historically that is what happened.
So Paul has got to get to Rome, that’s an expression of Acts 1:8. Acts 1:8 is an expression of the sovereignty of God, and because Paul happens to be on a boat with 276 people, that’s grace for them because they are going to be blessed along with the fact that Paul is not going to lose his life, they are not going to lose their life. So the issue by phrasing it the way it’s phrased in verse 24 relates it to Acts 1:8. That’s part of Luke’s theme. “Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar; and, lo, God hath given” perfect tense, “God has given you all them that sail with thee.” That’s a past tense, so now Paul says the angel has told me that at this point, past tense, these people have been given to me, that is, they are identified with Paul and God is going to be sovereign gracious to Paul because they’re in the same umbrella with Paul, the same boat, 275 people plus Paul are going to be saved, and that was decreed by God, nothing is going to change it, and it’s the sovereign expression of God, “He has given you all them that sail with you.”
Verse 25, “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” So he’s witnessing here to pagans but he’s witnessing at a very elementary level. He’s not getting right to the cross, he’s simply introducing who God is, that God is sovereign, God is omnipotent, God is over all, powerful, and therefore He can do these things, so on and so forth, and I trust that and I live my life in accordance with that principle. So by simply articulating the principle he has in verse 25 he’s created the contrast between them.
Verse 26, “However, we must be cast upon a certain island.” And then he stops talking, and verse 27 continues the narrative. “But when the fourteenth night was come,” notice how long this went on, the third day is in verse 19, so this is fourteen days, so here we are eleven days later. So a week and a half later, verse 27, “as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the sailors deemed that they drew near to some country,  And sounded,” they’re taking depth measurements, see they weren’t stupid people, these people were business men, great sailors, had technical tools of navigation, and here it’s equivalent to our depth finder, except it was a thing with a weight on the end of it and they’d reel it out and measure how deep the water was. They’re at night, they haven’t got any visibility so what they’re using is maps. And they’re figuring out okay, if we keep dropping this rope with the weights and we reel it up and we measure it, and then an hour later we drop it down and we measure it, and it’s getting less we’re coming to land somewhere. This is the way they navigated at night when they couldn’t see what was going on.
Verse 18, “And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they sounded again, and found it thirteen fathoms.  Then, fearing lest we should fall upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.  And as the sailors were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under cover as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,” now there’s a little scheme. In verse 30 these guys seen an opportunity to save themselves and they’re going to use the lifeboat to do it, the heck with the other 200 some odd people aboard. Well verse 31, “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers,” now watch this, here is an address to human choice. What have we just got through saying? Under God’s sovereignty 276 people are going to be saved. That can’t be changed because God said it. But then what do you have here, and this has always helped me get this together in my head, in verse 31 “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye [275 people] cannot be saved.
Now we have number two; first number one which is an expression of God’s sovereignty, now we have human responsibility, men are responsible to stay in the boat, and if they don’t stay in the boat, they’re going to be lost, which would then collide with the first principle that God said no one is going to be lost. So what does this do? You’ve got to be careful here. However you look at verse 31, what you can’t say is that if these people rebel and try to go overboard, then sovereignty goes away. We know sovereignty isn’t going to go away, God’s character isn’t going to change - this statement has to always remain true no matter what they do. Yes it does and no it doesn’t; sovereignty, when sovereignty degrees something, we have this fatalistic view.
Let’s draw some points on a line here: points 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. At point 1, announcement is made about condition of point six. What you have to be careful of when you think of the sovereignty of God is that when God says that point 6 is going to take place, what you can’t do in your head is you can’t eliminate points 2, 3, 4, 5 just because God is only addressing point 6 because if you do that you get into a fatalism, where it doesn’t matter what happens at point 2, 3, 4, 5. That would be like saying I had a vision and I’m not going to die before I reach 80, so you starve yourself to death. You have to eat three times a day. So eating is part of the action for the sovereign fulfillment. When God sovereignly announces something, like point 6 He implicitly is saying there’s a pathway to go from point 1 to point to point 6, and you’re responsible to follow it.
Here’s point 1, the vision on the boat, point 6 is everybody is going to be saved. But the fact that God has sovereignly guaranteed 6 means backing up that certain things have to take place, and it’s proper to consider the things that take place to be by human choice, but it’s a choice that has already been included in the plan of God, because God could not have made the first statement, could He, if He hadn’t have already within that sovereign statement seen that the people after all would stay in the boat. But notice in verse 30, 31, 32, 33 that in these four verses, look at the number of times they almost don’t stay in the boat, and look at the number of actions that people have to do in order to keep the people on the boat.
For example, in verse 30, that was the first attempt, the guys tried to take off with an emergency boat. And what did Paul do? Verse 31, “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these guys stay in the boat, you cannot be saved.  Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.” These are great Roman soldiers, they get an order, boy they just do it. You want it cut off, okay, pop; there goes the whole life boat. That’s what the centurion said, cut it, so they cut it. See the order of these guys, amazing fellows.
Verse 33, “And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take food, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, have taken nothing.  Wherefore, I beseech you to take some food; for this is for your health; for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.” Verse 35, notice what he does, “And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all;” and I would imagine he ended his prayer “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” without apologizing for it in public, “and when he had broken it, he began to eat.  Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some food.” Now why is Paul giving them food here? Because these guys are going to have to jump in the water, finally, when they get close to land, and they need strength, so Paul is taking care of them. See, this is God’s grace and He’s using normal, everyday means to do so. But you can see that everything turns out in the end, God was right, 276 people get saved, but they got saved because they stayed in the boat. And the fact that they stayed in the boat was because the centurion had the moxy to respond to Paul when Paul saw that you’ve got to keep these guys… don’t get them off here now, they’re going to drown.
In a storm the finest swimmers can become fatigued so fast they can drown “just like that.” The movie, The Perfect Storm, was an example where the rescue paramedics that were dropped from the Coast Guard helicopter into that water, they drowned, two of those guys drowned and they were top swimmers. But when the waves are thirty or forty feet in the North Atlantic it doesn’t make … the Atlantic doesn’t care whether you’re a good swimmer or a bad swimmer, waves kill you anyway. When we were sending military into Grenada a number of years ago, because of a foul up with the weather, a C-130 was dropping a crew down, dropped a Seal Team, great guys, powerfully equipped, these guys can swim miles, dropped them out in the middle of a thunder storm, they all drowned, a great way to take the airport, a whole group of guys, the commandos that were in the lead thing, they all drowned, so that’s why we didn’t the airport, and that’s how another team got shot up; examples of what happen when you get in these situations.
So it’s no small thing that happens here when in verse 30 that thing happens, verse 31 Paul immediately intervenes. Now if he had been thinking fatalistically he would have said ah, it doesn’t make any difference if the guys go out in a boat, God said 276 people are going to be saved, no sweat, no problem. But this story, if you will read it through carefully, will help you see how, with a non-salvation narrative like this passage, talking about a simple easily visualizable accident, will help you see that God uses means to get to His sovereign ends.
What is the application for missionary work and evangelism? God says I’m going to build My church. God says I’m going to call out X number of people and when we finally get to the magic number, the body of Christ will be finished. That’s going to happen, and Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against that. Does that mean, therefore that the church can just lie back and say well, God sovereignly decreed it, no problem. Or when we hear Him say that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen because other people are going to get out there and be the means for doing it, just like Paul was the means of saving that crew. Had Paul not spoken up in verse 31, this could never have taken place. And the fact that God sovereignly chose tells you that included … the sovereign degree includes human responses. How that happens beats me; nobody else has figured it out, it’s just that this narrative is a neat example to go back to time and time again, go back to Acts 27 and run it through your head again, over and over, and pretend you’re on the boat, visualize it in your head. Imagine yourself participating in this accident and it’ll help you see because that imagery will come over to other problems in life, because all problems in life can be looked upon as a storm.
So notice what happens, verse 37 the census occurs, there’s all the 276 people, [37, “And we were in all in the ship two hundred and seventy-six souls.”] And then verse 38 says “And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.” Now they’re throwing overboard the cargo, they’ve thrown over their tools, they’ve thrown over a lot of other stuff on deck, now they’re tossing out the cargo, trying to get the hull light so if they’re going to ground the thing it will at least go up the beach a little bit and won’t be totally stuck out in the water. Verse 39, “And when it was day, they recognized not the land; but they discovered a certain creek with a short, into which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.  And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves into the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.”
Then in verse 41 they run aground and the back part of the boat, obviously it was a rocky area with a lot of waves; the wave action totally destroyed the boat. “And 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.  And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners,” so here comes the next crisis that happens. If the soldiers had killed the prisoners there wouldn’t have been 276 survivors. So see the story is laced with almost God saying 276 people are going to be saved, but almost the guys get out the back stern of the boat with a safety boat. And then we have the food issue, these people are not going to be able to get out if they don’t have strength, and now we have the last thing, the soldiers say hey, if we crash and these guys get out, we’re the marshals, we’re in charge of these prisoners, and that’s all we have to do is come back to Rome without the prisoners, that’s going to look great, that really helps our promotions.
So what they decide to do is they’re going take care of the problem, just kill the prisoners, [“lest any of them should swim out and escape.”] Verse 43, no they’re not going to kill them, if they killed the prisoners in verse 42, who is going to get killed? Paul is going to get killed and then what happens to the fact that Paul is going to go to Rome, then God’s sovereign decree goes down the tubes. So even though the soldiers try to do this, and Paul at this point isn’t the one that intervenes. It was Paul who intervened in verse 31; it was Paul who intervened about the food in verse 35. But Paul could not intervene in verse 42, so who intervened in verse 42? It was the commander, Julius in verse 43, “But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that they who could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land.  And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass that they all escaped safely to land.” He was a good officer, he had a crisis, he figured out how to solve the crisis and he gave explicit instructions to different kinds of people to do different things and they’d be okay; a good leader here. Notice how Luke ends chapter 27, “they all escaped safely to land.” So this little drama of the shipwreck is a wonderful, wonderful story of God’s sovereignty.
In chapter 28, which is the end of the book of Acts, we covered it last week but there is one thing we didn’t cover and that is, remember they come to see Paul, they’re Jews, and they can’t make up their mind, verse 24, “And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.” There’s the double-minded man in the Jewish civilization of the time. Verse 25, they didn’t agree among themselves, Paul could not get a consensus from the nation Israel over the issue of the gospel. Now Paul in verses 26-27 quotes from the Old Testament. But the quote that he quotes from the Old Testament, if you hold the place and turn to Matthew 13 you’ll see it was used before.
Who is the speaker in Matthew 13:14? Jesus, and at that point of His ministry, if you study the Gospels, it’s half way through the ministry, it begins to be clear that Jesus is not going to be accepted as the Messiah of the nation. So in response to that rejection, Jesus says: “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing, ye shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing, ye shall see and shall not perceive;  For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” That goes back to the thing we studied years ago when we were dealing with the decline of the kingdom in the Old Testament in Isaiah’s day, 586 BC. So, at this point in Jesus’ career He’s being rejected and He explains the rejection in terms of Old Testament prophecy associated with the exile.
Now you come forward to Acts 28 and what does it say? The same quote. Isn’t that interesting? Why do you suppose Luke took it upon himself to write and tell us about Paul saying this passage? What had happened, the gospel had been rejected, and so Paul is going to use the same passage from Isaiah that Jesus used when Jesus tried to preach the gospel and He was rejected. So in the grand scheme of things, at the end of the book of Acts we have the second invitation to Israel. The first invitation was Jesus; the second invitation has been going on and on and on throughout the whole book of Acts, and finally the nation says no. And this fulfills that parable that we’ve gone through several times, Matthew 22, the king set out to invite the people to the wedding feast, they didn’t come so he sent a second wave out, and they killed those people. That’s the book of Acts. Same wedding, same king, same call, same response - number two.
The Bible always goes by twos, there are two witnesses in the Tribulation, in the Joseph stories there are always two dreams, the rejection, Jesus and Paul, two rejections. Why is there always two, this theme comes up again and again in Scripture? Why? Because at the mouth of two or three witnesses an act is confirmed. It’s just part of the way God demonstrates to us truthfulness. He corroborates the evidence by duplicating it.
So we see in Acts 28 where he concludes, verse 28, “Be it known, therefore, unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” Last time we went through the significance of the gospel coming to Europe and the fulfillment of Japheth, etc.
Turn in your notes to page 72; I want to introduce what we’re going to do the next two times we meet. We’re going to go over the work that the rest of the Trinity does for us as believers. The second chapter we dealt with the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit we said, the regeneration, indwelling, baptizing, sealing plus the Spirit intercedes for us, plus He distributes spiritual gifts. We could go on with more, I’m just taking six. What we’re going to do in the next section is we’re going to deal with the Son and we’re going to deal with the Father, and each of these are going to have six. So when we get done we’re going to have eighteen blessings that are common to all Christians, in all centuries, in all cultures, in all tongues, everywhere and always throughout church history. These are blessings of God that do not depend on circumstances, do not depend on what other people think about you, do not depend on whether you’re in a country that’s poor or a country that’s rich, does not depend on what language you are, does not depend upon your race, it depends upon whether or not you are in the body of Christ.
So here are eighteen different works that we’re going to study. We’ve already studied the first six as the Holy Spirit. But was we do these, we want to also do something else. We want to tie these clusters in as they are related to each other, because we’re dealing here with a Triune monotheism, one God but three in His person. How that happens, the equal ultimacy of One in Three we don’t know. [blank spot]
We’ve studied six of His works, regeneration, and that was the image of creation, think in your head, I tried to give you images so you can think in pictures. Regeneration is just a recreation. It’s creating something new in our souls, a new human spirit. Indwelling, what’s the image there? The image is that of a temple, so think of a temple, think of the glory of God in the Old Testament that occupied a temple and you have the picture, a Holy Spirit indwelling a believer. Baptism, baptism was the image of separation. The baptism of Noah was the flood, there was a separation, the people that got drowned and the people that were on the boat. There’s the baptism of the Red Sea, the baptism of Moses. We studied some of those non-popular unknown baptisms, the image of separation. Sealing, that’s the fourth thing, RIBS, and the “S” in RIBS is sealing, it’s the image of a security seal on a document, to know that that doctrine can’t be touched without messing with the seal.
And then we said His intercession for us, and we went through Romans 8 and we noted that the important thing about this intercession of the Holy Spirit for us is that the intercession is directed not at the First Person of the Trinity, but at the Second Person. That’s kind of noteworthy because that usually is not the case. So we know immediately then that because the intercession of the Holy Spirit is directed to the Son, that what we probably have seen here is how the body works, the body of Christ. The head of Christ in heaven now is connected to the rest of His body that’s on earth, and the connection link between them is the Holy Spirit doing this com thing. And we said that He speaks with “groanings that cannot be uttered.” And it’s not meaning He’s got some oogy spooky way of talking, it’s just that it’s encrypted in modern day vocabulary, the Holy Spirit carries on an encrypted conversation with the Son.
Why is He encrypting it? We’re in a spiritual warfare. Who is it that’s listening to the com lines? Who would love to know what God’s next step is going to be in your life, my life, and the church’s life? Who’s out there to jam it? Satan is, so therefore this takes the initiative away from Satan because if the Holy Spirit is praying for me, for you, for somebody else, He’s talking to the Lord, the head, we’re located in as cells in His body, and He says okay, this person needs a little straightening out here and I suggest we do this. That’s a private communication, because that concerns God - it’s none of Satan’s business. And Satan will try to react to it but he doesn’t have the initiative. So this is a very clever and very encouraging thing that the Holy Spirit does.
And then He also gives spiritual gifts. Every Christian has a place in the body and has a gift of ministry of some sort. There are no spectators in the body of Christ. You may be a spectator for a while, while you’re learning, but sooner or later God’s going to thrust you into a position, just like He did the early church. The guys that stayed in Jerusalem, “Oh, I can’t do this; we can’t do that.” Well, they found out, after they persecute us in Jerusalem we’d better find out, better get a motel down in Samaria and start thinking about moving your business because it isn’t going to flourish around Jerusalem. So they were thrust out into a position where they were forced to be engaged in some sort of ministry, and that’s going to happen to all of us. It may happen in personal conversation, it may happen in an encouragement word … you’re placed next to somebody who is suffering or something, and you can offer exhortation, you can lead them to the Lord, different things that are involved. So those are the things that the Holy Spirit does.
What we want to do is connect those with the next six. Page 72, I want to go through this with you and explain why I said what I said. We’re going to reverse the usual order. “We move from the Third Person back to the Second Person, and then back to the First Person. … Six works each of the Son and the Father will be listed. These twelve works [will be] added to the previous six of the Holy Spirit. They reveal much of the church’s position.”
Next paragraph, “It is well to remember an aspect of the Trinity to help put these eighteen blessings into a coherent whole. The words that the Triune God chose to use in Scripture direct us to think of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in terms of a speaker, his message, and the effects of the message upon the listeners.” Just think of Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and the Holy Spirit was fluttering on the surface, “And God said,” and immediately something happened. So the picture there is… treat it simple, don’t worry about the physics, cosmology, just think of the simple words, what does it say. God is there, He creates the heavens and earth, the Holy Spirit is ready, He’s moving, He’s ready, God says “Let there be light, and there was light.” Now there are three things that happened. God speaks, so He has a plan. He has a plan to make light. He articulates that plan and reveals that plan in a speech, and He says “Let there be light.” And after He says the word, the Spirit creates it, and it happens. And that’s always the sequence. That’s why in John 1, built off of Genesis 1, John says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was God,” and by Him all things were made that was made. Where’s he getting that idea from? Genesis. I didn’t see logos in Genesis. Yes you did, there’s a verb form there, God “said.” What’d He say? You don’t say, “Oooomm,” you say words; so God said, God spoke.
Keep in mind the Trinity here and think of this, we’ll go one more sentence in this paragraph, “… and Holy Spirit in terms of a speaker, his message, and the effects [of the message upon the listeners]. The work of the Spirit which we studied in the previous chapter centers upon the historical effect of establishing the church on earth among men. Believers in this life have a recreated human spirit, a residency of the Holy Spirit inside them, a spiritual identification as belonging to the saved … a communications link directly to the Head of the church, and a position of ministry in the body.”
Next paragraph: “The Work of the Son. Following out the biblical guidance we’ve been given, we can think of the work of the Son as centering upon content and meaning of the church in God’s eternal plan.” So whereas the Holy Spirit, all these RIBS things, these are things that we experience on earth, they are results of the Holy Spirit creating and setting up the church in history. But the six things that we’re going to start studying now about the Son, the work of the Son, they’re real things too, just as real as the RIBS, but there’s an emphasis here upon the things the Son is doing form the core of the meaning of why the church exists in the first place.
Then when we advance back to the Father, the First Person, the six things we’re are going to study with Him point out the fact that causation is personal. There is a personal cause to history. Somebody has to be a speaker and it’s not a gas cloud, it’s not a differential equation, it’s not an electrical field, it’s not the dark force in the nucleus. It’s something that is a person. It’s not something—it’s some One. So the person who causes things is a Person. That separates us, as Bible-believers, from the rest of the world, because the rest of the world—apart from those who have been influenced by the Bible—don’t believe that. Ultimately the rest of the world believes that the universe is just there, even ancient pagans, the world is just there and inside this impersonal thing there are some gods, men, animals, rocks, fire, water and whatever else you want to add into the thing, but the thing itself isn’t personal, the thing itself is just this chaos of environment. Therefore in that situation if I believe that, what’s my ultimate cause of all things? It can’t be the gods because the gods are all finite and they’re all squabbling among themselves, so where do you get cause from? What’s the cause of all things? Usually it’s one of two things, fate or chance, fate or chance. That’s the only other option here.
The Bible says it’s not fate or chance; it’s somebody who speaks, that whatever has taken place has been thought by a Person and spoken by a Person and that Person is God the Father. All things come from Him. So there’s no such thing as an impersonal cause. Everything is personally caused. So the six things we’re going to study there have emphasis on the fact that we have a Personal cause in our lives and in the universe.
The Son, His gives us the center, this reveals meaning and purpose, and the Holy Spirit makes it all happen in history. So these things RIBS, intercession and spiritual gifts, are the outworking of what God has spoken. So we’re going to back up from them and next week we’re going to start in with the things the Son has done for us. And when we look at those things, yeah, they’re just as real as RIBS but these things form the content of what God’s doing, they express God’s will. RIBS, regeneration, indwelling, baptism, spiritual gifts are the historical things that have been brought into existence because of this plan that God has. What’s the plan that sets all these up? That’s what we’re going to study. If you look ahead, you’ll see the first thing, page 72, is imputed righteousness. Read that and look the verses up because that is something we studied a little bit with the call of Abraham, justification, but the trick in imputed righteousness is we’ve got to define what we mean by righteousness and justice. Then on page 73 the next thing is the death and resurrection, people often talk, you’ll hear devotional texts talk about co-crucifixion with Christ and co-resurrection with Christ, you’ve seen water baptisms, dead with Christ, rise with Him, that’s what baptism shows. There’s the death and resurrection points to a certain key meaning in all reality, it’s a translation from a mortal existence to an immortal existence, and thereby reveals the ultimate will of God for His creatures.
So these are powerful things that take the Christian life and move it on a plain that is just incomprehensible, and puts it on a plain far above any of the self-help courses and all the other psychological, sociological, babble that goes on, and elevates this to a position that honors the Lord and shows what kind of God it is we worship.
I was just handed an e-mail that was passed around, apparently amongst some Christians, and it’s kind of an interesting encouragement. It’s from a commentary by Cal Thomas. Cal Thomas is kind of a conservative evangelical Christian. Talk about a guy that can just take words and wrap them around an opponent, he’s sort of a roughened version of Bill Buckley, very astute on his feet. Here’s what Cal Thomas said, he brought up John Ashcroft, so this is kind of a neat little encouragement.
“People are always asking me if there are good leaders in Washington. There are, there are quite a few but you don’t often hear about them because many of them aren’t engaging in scandalous or self-serving activities. One such good person is Attorney General John Ashcroft. I had the pleasure of interviewing him again this week for a column I’m writing. During the interview Ashcroft said something so profound I wanted to share it with you.” This is good, this is the Attorney General of the United States government speaking here, listen to this, this is so good.
“Islam is a religion in which god requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends His Son to die for you.” The Attorney General of the United States, isn’t that encouraging? That’s encouraging!
Someone says something: Clough says: That’s right. You know in this rise of Islam in our country, of course it’s taken over Great Britain; Britain was one time the country that spawned the whole missionary movement. Most of the missions in almost every continent, if you look at their history, came out of Britain. And then America started taking over a lot of the missionary work. But the sad thing was the Church of England just so compromised doctrine, so turned away from the Word of God, and people who have been there tell me that you can go down the street now and look at these wonderful historic Christian buildings and do you know who’s in them now? Muslims. Just falling left and right, dozens of them, and it’s because there’s a total theological vacuum out there. People want certainty and Islam gives them that certainty. We’re watching it take place in this country. But the encouragement is… of course, Islam doesn’t fill the human heart and one of the most successful mission movements to Islam….
We had a missionary over to our house last week and she was telling us this. Campus Crusade got some Egyptian actors and actresses to depict Biblical stories, but do so from within an Arabic context, Arabic speaking. So they made all these tapes up, and then they said, “How can we get the Arabs themselves to want the tapes?” It turns out that there’s quite a bit of traffic back and forth between Spain and North Africa, and there are ferry boats that run back and forth because on holidays, etc. the Muslims by the thousands go up to the Continent, see the scenery, buy stuff, etc. Then they come back and they wait for the ferries to come. So Crusade thought ah, what we’ll do is we’ll just… because you have to be careful how you witness to the Muslim, so what they did is they passed out these cassettes because everybody has a cassette player in their car, they’re sitting there waiting for the ferry. So they’re selling these cassettes and the Arabs, yeah, I’ll have those, and they stick them in there and they like them because they’re Bible stories, you know, the Koran gives at least lip service to the Old Testament, and so here these people are by the thousands getting these tapes that aren’t openly evangelistic yet, but they’re selling the seed. And they’re successful at doing this, and it’s one of the most successful making inroads into there because it addresses the human heart, which we know can never be fulfilled, never experience fullness apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. Anyway, that’s a good example.
I had to share that with you; I thought that was such a wonderful statement that somebody that high up in office, in two sentences, could make such an astute comparison. Any questions on what we’re working on. We’ve gone through the separation of the church, hope you’re seeing now that the church is something new, the church is a different origin, different destiny, different character than Israel, and that’s why you have to be careful in how you handle the New Testament epistles and how you deal with the Old Testament Law. It’s not the same thing.
Question asked: Clough replies: Yeah, as long as it’s done in the right spirit. By fatalism I’m not trying to say we shouldn’t be thankful for point 6 in the thing, I’m just saying that you want to be careful that point 6 isn’t totally disconnected from the pathway. Now the way to think of it so that you can say I’m thankful that this is going to take place regardless of what I do, what you really mean by “regardless of what I do” is the things where we know we’re going to sin, we’re never going to be perfectly obedient, we know that we’re going to face things for which we had no control whatsoever, and we just can’t control the details in our lives. So that’s refreshing to know that yeah, point 6 is already determined. [same person says something] But where Paul could do something, he did. And where he couldn’t do something he didn’t, but it all worked out. It’s just a very, I think one of the clearest places in the Bible where all of the elements are in one story.
You can get to this by other places in the Bible but you’ve got to kind of connect stories. Like you’ve got to connect Joseph to Isaac to Abraham, and it’s there, finally, you get down to Joseph, “you meant it for evil but God meant it for God.” There’s an example of sovereignty, but it’s over three generations. It takes a little longer, a stretch of your imagination to capture it in your head. But the shipwreck story is easy to think of, it’s a one-chapter story, it doesn’t go on and on. And the storm is a wonderful illustration because it’s a metaphor of trouble; it’s a metaphor of problems.
Question asked something about going from strength to strength: Clough replies: Psalm 84:1-7. Another Psalm, now that you mention Psalm 84, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of this but it’s one of the most popular, not as popular as Psalm 23 I’m sure you’ve all heard this Psalm. But I wonder if you’ve ever thought about the background of it. Turn to Psalm 121, a very familiar one, and I’m sure the minute your eyes light on the text you’ll recognize it because it’s quoted so often in Christian circles. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. From whence comes my help?  My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he who keeps thee will not slumber.  Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is thy keeper; the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.  The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil; he shall preserve thy soul.  The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming inform this time forth, and even for evermore.”
The King James translates this in such a way that it misses some of the verb tenses of the Hebrew, because at the time the King James was translated I guess they didn’t consult rabbis too well, who would have been experts in the language. But Psalm 121, if you look under the title you’ll see it says “A Song of Degrees.” If you look at 120 it says “A Song of Degrees.” This whole section of the book of Psalms is thought by scholars to be a collection of prayer songs that Jewish families would pray on their travels to come to the city of Jerusalem, because remember Jews had to come to the city of Jerusalem three times a year. We don’t think of this often, but now you hear stories in Afghanistan of the food guys, trying to bring food in, and they get kidnapped, get shot, you have highway people, robbers, in a no man’s land. We can’t appreciate the security we have although I think we’re appreciating it more. But there are places on earth where you take your life in your hands if you just travel between town and town. Psalm 121 is one of those traveler Psalms, and it has to be read in the light of a traveler’s mercy, needing help to go on a journey.
The idea if you read it that way, Psalm 121:1, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills,” and the King James says “from whence comes my help” as though the guy is saying my help comes from the hills. That’s not really the meaning of this. The idea is I lift up my eyes to the hills; what is a traveler looking at the hills for? That’s where the bad guys are. So what the meaning of verse 1 is I will lift up my eyes, I’m lifting up my eyes, I’m going on this trip and I’m seeing these hills, and I’m concerned, where’s my help going to come from? It’s a question. I see the danger; I see the threat, where is my help going to come from? What’s so nice about these Psalms is they teach us hundreds of illustrations of how Old Testament saints worked in their head. The Psalms reveal their thought life and if you see this, this is taking you through step by step how to think about trouble. It gives you an insight as to how these Old Testament saints who faced as much trouble as we do; they worked their way through it, till finally they could rest in the promise of God.
So think of this Psalm this way: I’m lifting up my eyes to the hills, I’ve got anxiety over stress to my safety. Now where is my help going to come from? The answer, and notice how he answers, he says “My help is going to come from the LORD,” and it’s not just any Lord, it’s the “LORD, who made heaven and earth,” and the hills and everything else. So he goes back to a big view of God, it gets back to the Framework. When we studied the Framework what was the first event in the Framework? Creation. And what did we say was the one event in the whole Framework that defined the nature of God? Creation. So here it is again, the Framework.
So here the guy is working in his soul, and he’s incorporating this Framework approach by saying my help comes from the Lord and I define who I mean by God in the terms of “who made heaven and earth.” Now, there’s a dialogue in this Psalm, so there’s a second person besides the soliloquy of verse 1 and 2. In verse 3 it’s a prayer that’s like another person, or a priest maybe, blessing him and he says “may your foot not suffer, may he that keeps thee not slumber.” So it’s the positive desire that God not do that. It’s a priestly prayer sort of. So verse 3 can be looked upon as a prayer petition. “May not your foot be moved and may the One who keeps you,” and it’s a participle, “may the One who constantly keeps you not slumber,” because obviously when do people slumber? At night. When is the traveler in most danger? At night. “Behold, he that keeps Israel, He won’t slumber or sleep.” So it’s not just the individual Jewish traveler but it’s He that keeps the whole nation of Jews, “He that keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
“The LORD is thy keeper, the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand,” that’s daytime travel. “The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.” Then verse 7 and 8 are sort of another prayer, it’s not the Lord shall, but it’s “May the LORD preserve thee from all evil, may He preserve thy soul.  May the LORD preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth.” By going out and by coming in isn’t going in and out of a house, that’s going on a trip to Jerusalem and back.
So there’s an example, like Psalm 84. And what’s so nice, it tells you the anxiety, frankly these people were anxious just like we are, but they were able to get through the anxiety over to a point where they could trust. And just watch how they’re thinking, they were disciplined thinkers. 99% of our problem lies inside our own heads; only 1% of it is outside. It’s how we handle the problem up here and it’s a battle, it is a battle all the time. And that’s why doctrine from the Scripture is so important. You cannot go on in the Christian life on the basis of how you felt yesterday afternoon because right now how you felt yesterday afternoon carries zero points.
Question asked: Clough replies: Yeah, this was probably an anxiety attack for him, but in a larger course of things, had it not been for the larger picture of the role that Paul was going to play in the plan of God, he could have been snuffed out easy in that storm. So yeah, Paul had to go through the process, and it might have been some hours in prayer while the ship was rocking, when the angel came to him, okay Paul, I’ve got word for you …
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s going back to the history, remember when we went through Framework Part III, talking about the Davidic dynasty and here this teenager was anointed, and he didn’t get to be king; he was anointed and there were seven assassination attempts on David. Seven times Saul tried to knock him off and every time it was thwarted because God said that guy is going to be King of this country. That didn’t mean David just sat there and let Saul throw his spear. But rather it was this mysterious work of how God has His sovereign plan in history.
Application to all this it that when you get into this positional business that we’re going through and we’re going to talk about imputed righteousness, we’re going to talk about the intercession of Christ, we’re going to talk about death and resurrection, all that has to do with our position in the plan of God. That position is where you have to work from. If you’re weak and don’t understand your position in Christ you’ll be vulnerable to these things. But once you understand where we are in Christ, and that this is God’s eternal plan, and that because we’re inside an eternal plan, “He that keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” because we’re aware of our connection with the plan, not that we’re so great. It’s the plan that’s great and we’re part of the plan.