CHAPTER SIX

VESSEL LOST---ALL SAVED

"And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea."

"And when it was day, they recognized not the land; but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, 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 unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore."

"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."

Acts 27: 38 - 41.

As you know, up to now I've been analyzing Acts 27 under the principle of the Law of Double Reference. In the above passage, I believe there is a triple reference! First of all, plainly, the historical voyage was coming to a climax. Next, I believe the ship reaching this "land" (Malta) pictures the Church when it meets Christ at the end of this age (to be discussed further later.) But, thirdly, in the middle of these two extremes, I also see America alluded to again.

Incidentally, I've come to this conclusion even as I write today, February 1, 1995. I don't know how I've missed this because of all the allusions to America in Acts 27, I think this one is the clearest and most comprehensive. [Ahem! Now that I see it I can say that.] But then, that's the way of metaphoric content. Something becomes clear in a passage today which has previously been overlooked [or not comprehended] in the same passage you've read hundreds of times before. Now let me explain this new discovery:

Picking up at verse 38, imagine the ship's condition as it neared the "island" [which, you recall, pictures Paradise]. They knew that they were near land the night before, and having measured the depth of the sea and finding it shallow, dropped four anchors to prevent going aground on the shore. Now, between the time the anchors were dropped and the time all persons on the ship reach the "island" is the period which symbolizes the Church's greatest, closing hours of her whole voyage. What happened aboard that ship just before its final breakup pictures the Church in America.

To see this, it will help to summarize a few of the basic, metaphoric indicators already known:

1. Even a few days on Paul's ship pictures a long time, prophetically speaking. I believe one day [on this voyage] represents a century of time.

2. It has only been during the past two centuries that conditions have made it possible for the Gospel to go forth explosively into the whole world, the thrust being generated primarily by the Church in America.

3. The ship having anchored on the "fourteenth night" forecasts the Church in the twentieth century. You recall that this counting started at Crete [the island which symbolizes the Church in Great Britain, the first great impact of the Gospel there occurring in the sixth century.] This means that when the ship lay just offshore the "island" [of Malta], it is picturing the 20th century, the century which introduces the coming of the Lord to take His Church to Paradise.

4. The Church is now almost 2,000 years old. And I believe Scripture clearly indicates that Jesus will return between now and no later than about 2,030 A.D. [I have many reasons for taking this stand, all fully-explained in THE TWO WITNESSES.]

Now, with these axiomatic points in mind, let's look at some key thoughts in the above Scriptures. As day was coming on [alluding to the Day of the Lord], the ship's company did something very symbolic. After they had "eaten enough", they "lightened the ship" and "cast the wheat into the sea". Now, metaphorically, what does this suggest to you? Could you agree to the following?

Having had plenty of food themselves pictures those Christians who first arrived in America from Great Britain and other European nations. They came filled with God's Word and an overwhelming desire to express more freely what was in them. It just had to come out. They were full to the brim with the knowledge of God, and they had been called and anointed of God to go forth and do a mighty work. Next, they "lightened the ship", which indicates they could no longer stand the heavy weights that the ecclesiastical hierarchies in Europe had placed around their necks.

Even more picturesque is that they "cast out the wheat into the sea". This is not an unusual metaphor. I've heard many preachers over the years use the idea of casting wheat to illustrate spreading the Word of God. Jesus used it in the parable of the sower (Matt.13:3). Luke's little portrait is unmistakable: To "cast out the wheat into the sea" is a bold inference of sending forth the Gospel into the sea of humanity. This is precisely what has been done by the Church in America.

In verse 40 we again see "the wind", not a "contrary wind". They committed themselves to it and the sea and headed for shore. Remember, "the wind" alludes to the Holy Spirit. When the ship's company "committed themselves" and "hoisted up the mainsail to the wind" strongly suggests a more dedicated, consecrated Church that was settling in America than was true in the areas from which they fled. These were committed Christians who trusted in the Lord and "the wind" that brought them here.

Many books attest to the dedication and conviction of the early Christian settlers of America. They believed God had sent them here where they could freely express and practice their faith, holding also the conviction that there was a Divine purpose of establishing a government based on the Bible. They also believed that from this land the Gospel would go forth into the furthest reaches of the world. This has indeed been the historical reality of the Church in America from the beginning, up to and including this very day.

A PLACE WHERE TWO SEAS MET

I believe the "place where two seas met" alludes to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans---those two great bodies of water which border and virtually surround the USA. This is where "they ran the ship aground" and "the bow stuck fast and remained unmovable, but the stern was broken with the violence of the waves". What a beautiful metaphor! Let me increase the light on this picture.

Realize now, we are not yet on the "island", meaning the Christian age is still not quite complete. Notice that the bow stuck. This would represent that part of the ship which was pointed towards the land; the part that's right up front; the land where the Gospel would stick---America---and there remain unmovable. This is the land where the Church will make its last, strong stand for God; the mantle and mandate that God gave the Church here will not be moved again. Here is where God's final "witness" will be proclaimed. There are no more earthly horizons where the Church will have a stronger foundation than it has right here in America.

The stern [or back part] being "broken up" pictures the apostate lands from which the Church had come. The Church which early Christian Americans left behind was broken up, and has not recovered even till this day. Let me put it in even stronger terms: The nations (i.e., the stern) from which the Christian Church in America came, today need evangelizing. Even England!

How is it that the lands wherein the Church once thrived are now found in great apostasy? Verse 41 tells us: "...the stern was broken up by the violence of the waves". This means that too many other cares, created by Satanic turbulence, turned the Church upside down in Europe. It is the way of all apostasy, whether we are talking about individuals or an entire nation which once had a strong element of Christianity among its citizens. We ought to address this in a little more depth.

THE WAY OF APOSTASY

Apostasy, in its simplest terms, means a falling away. In one of his epistles, the apostle Paul had this to say in reference to the second coming of the Lord:

"Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come the falling away [GR. apostasia] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,"

"who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." 2 Thess. 2:3-4.

Here, Paul was looking into the distant future when there would come a great falling away from strong Christian belief and commitment. He not only was pointing out a fact to be remembered, but that the apostasy, in conjunction with the rise of the anti-Christ (i.e., the man of sin), would be the primary sign for Christians to look for just prior to the coming of the Lord. Now, what causes apostasy?

First of all, it's important to realize that apostasy doesn't refer to unsaved people. An unsaved person cannot fall away. He's already fallen! Apostasy affects the body of Christ, the Church. Someone may ask, "Lance, are you saying that a Christian can fall away and become unsaved?"

[I've written another book called WHAT IS SAVING FAITH?, in which I devote an entire chapter on the permanence of salvation once a person is in Christ. No, a Christian cannot become unsaved.]




However, a true believer in Jesus can fall away from deep commitment and strong consecration to God, which will, of course, reduce Christian' activity and fruitfulness. How does this come about in an individual? Let me list a few examples of a Christian on a downward spiral:

1. He takes his mind and focus off Jesus.

2. Leaves off routine reading of the Bible.

3. Slows, or stops, prayer and meditation on God's Word.

4. Drops out of fellowship with like believers.

5. Avoids regular church attendance.

6. Anticipating and meeting the needs of others becomes laborious.

7. He becomes strongly self-centered.

Except for the seventh [which perhaps should be #1], the commonality found in this list is a cessation of practicing basic, positive, Christian principles. But, no one lives in a vacuum. So, we need to ask the question: What comes in to fill the void, and why does it happen? It's altogether wrapped up in what I call the three big Ds:

a. Delusions of Satan. Satan is sometimes given the privilege of laying temptations before us.

b. Distractions of the world.

c. Desires of human nature---the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.

DISCUSSION:

Why does Satan get the privilege to lay his delusions before us? It can be because of sin in one's life, but not necessarily. We know this because the Father allowed Jesus, Who knew no sin, to be tempted. And if you'll study those three temptations very carefully (Luke 4:1-13), you'll note that Satan followed the very same pattern against Jesus that he does against every Christian. Using the distractions of the world, Satan appeals to the desires of basic human nature---the lust of flesh, the lust of eye and the pride of life---all designed to cause us to fall into the pattern of unGodly activities. And if carried out to the nth degree, the result is personal apostasy.

But Jesus didn't weaken. He held His ground against the devil. I can hear someone saying, "But Jesus is God! He couldn't have sinned." I refuse to get into that debate and lose the primary purpose of this discussion.

I will say this much: The Bible asserts, "...Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man". (Luke 23:52.) I take this to mean that He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man! In other words, if God's Word says Jesus "increased" in something, then He did. [On divisive and fruitless issues, forget the arguments; take your stand on God's Word, and go on.]

Jesus was, and is, God. But He was also fully man, subject to all the stresses of life that you and I are. From the time He was baptized with the Holy Spirit, He functioned in the power of the Holy Spirit, not on the basis of His God nature. Many will disagree with this. But, if this is not so, then much information in the Gospels about the life of Christ loses its meaning. [Again, I realize this is a controversial subject, but, nevertheless, is a conviction I hold.]

Throughout His lifetime, Jesus was laying down examples for us to follow in like manner. If He simply went about doing things supernaturally, drawing on His built-in God-nature, then His examples us-ward become meaningless. He wanted you and I to know that if we do the same procedures He did---accurately, faithfully, and empowered by the Holy Spirit---then the outcome would be the same as if He were here doing the same thing.

Jesus was thoroughly acquainted with the Bible. And when He was tempted by Satan, He quoted him Scripture, and, in that way, won the battle against the devil. He also maintained perfect purity of thought, purpose and deed throughout His lifetime. He did this by being constantly obedient to the Father, relying on His empowerment of the Holy Spirit when He did what He did. Well, Christians are empowered by the same Holy Spirit too, so what hinders us from simulating Jesus' lifestyle?

The pride of life, the lust of eye, and the lust of the flesh are the key elements of human nature where Satan sets his traps. Scripture capsules these three terms as the "old man". And as outlined above, Satan's strategy to get to a Christian is through his delusions, our desires and the world's distractions. I think the hardest thing for Christians to learn is that all of these weaknesses were dealt with at the cross of Christ, actually becoming dead (spiritually) when we are saved! Let me explain further.

Paul said this "old man" has been crucified with Christ, the result and purpose of which is that the body of sin might be destroyed, to be replaced by a "new man". The problem is that our "new man"---the Spirit-sealed, born-again spirit of every believer---must still live in the same body that the old man did. Overcoming and maintaining control of the former tendencies [of the "old man"] where the lusts and pride are found, were not altogether cast out. After we are saved, lusts and pride have no authority over us. It is in this sense that they are dead. But that death must be dealt with, with reckoning power. Understand and practice this principle, my Christian friend, and you've come a long way towards attaining the victory Jesus paid for at the cross.



WHAT IS RECKONING POWER?

It is the power of God [by Divine gift] placed into the spirit of every born-again believer in Jesus. It comes in the same way faith was "...reckoned to Abraham for righteousness" (Romans 4:9). Reckon is a verb, implying action, meaning this power must be appropriated in order to be a sustaining, overcoming Christian.

"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:11.

Reckoning power comes with the "package" of being saved from the grips of the devil, the world and, yes, even our own prior, fleshly ways. This power is activated through the door of faith. But if not acted on, it will wither away, resulting in the downward spiral as outlined above.

Like many other good words, reckon has lost its usage in our present day. But I recall as a young boy, my Dad often used the expression, "I reckon so." And when he said this, it had strong meaning behind it. I knew that if he reckoned something as "so", in his mind, it was done deal. This illustrates exactly the apostle Paul's admonition for Christians to "...reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus..." It's worth the time and effort to look at this a little deeper.

The World Book Dictionary defines reckon this way:
To find the number or value of; count up; to think; to suppose; to depend; to rely; to settle.


These definitions convey very well what Paul was driving at as to how Christians should evaluate and view themselves after being saved. In Romans 6:11, he is explaining what actually took place inside a believer when he accepted Jesus as Savior. Even though a new Christian doesn't see the death of his "old man", or that he now has a "new man" inside of him, Paul's "reckoning" means we must look, by faith, at the value of what occurred at Calvary, count on it, think, suppose, depend, rely as so, that (spiritually) your "old man" is dead, and your "new man" (in Christ) is alive; and lastly, settle the account in your mind and spirit forever that this transaction is done.

Do you see, dear reader, what Scripture is telling us? Our perfection is total and complete in Christ Jesus. What He purchased was a full ransom when He went to the cross. It wasn't a partial down-payment. The problematical stumbling-block for Christians in this area of theology is that most haven't been taught these things very carefully and, consequently, they really don't understand what happened inside their spirit the day they were saved. And for this reason, they don't move on into the deeper things of God. "God, give us teachers who can reinforce these truths into Christianity".

You see, as I said earlier, it is through the door of activated-faith that the power of God is released and can come alive in you and me. That is, God wants us to use our faith in order to bring His faithfulness into the picture. He could sovereignly intervene (and sometimes does) to straighten out our bumbling. But this is not the primary design of God's "spiritual architecture" for Christian living. He wants us to reckon on the facts of what takes place in the heavenly realm when one is saved; we are expected to evaluate our lives and draw on the account that is set up in our name in heaven just as if we could see it with our natural eyes.

And when Christians do come to the point of realizing just how powerful a position he holds once he is in Christ Jesus, then (and not until then), he/she can begin to exercise and do the same things Jesus did! Jesus said He only did what He saw the Father do. In other words, He didn't go around acting out His own will (even though He was the incarnate God). No, Jesus did what the Father instructed Him to do, by faith, and through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, we too have access to the Father and thus can walk in Jesus' footsteps. This takes belief, time and practice. We must first reckon these things as so; then we must act on it, by faith, just exactly the same way we would if we could see it with our natural eyes.

My friends, what I have done in the past several paragraphs is to give a brief explanation of what true Christianity should be like. Born-again Christians are the "sons of God" and we ought to act like it. The main problem with many [perhaps I should say most] Christians is that they don't go much further than the knowledge of basic salvation. They become stymied because of weak theology and shallow teaching around them. The whole book of Galatians, plus Hebrews 5 & 6, spell out in very clear terms why Christians are often so lethargic. It's because of not practicing what you already know, and/or because someone has deceived you into believing and practicing something other than what God's Word says. God's way of deliverance is through the practice of active, reckoning faith. This way is simple; so simple that many miss it. But it is dynamic, because it is God's way.



Now let's sum up the current passage under investigation in Acts 27. Recall we were talking about apostasy, pictured by the fact that the "stern" of the ship was "...broken by the violence of the waves". I spent a lot of time explaining how apostasy develops in individuals, which we noted was primarily due to inactive faith brought about by wrong teaching, and/or incomplete understanding of what it means to be in Christ Jesus. Apply the same type of degradation to a congregation of people, and you have an apostate church. Broadening out still further, and a nation of apostates can be the result. If this spiritual 'disease' is left untreated, this can even affect an entire continent that may have once been strongly Christian. Such was the consequence of Satanic influence virtually throughout all Europe---the "stern" of the ship---which early Christian Americans tried to leave behind.

Try to explain what I have just described (and believe to be correct, Biblical, Christian-maturation) to an average, European "christian", and you'll likely get a blank stare. Most won't grasp what you are saying. And, unfortunately, starting about the early 60s, this same kind of blindness entered and is presently having its impact on the Church in America.

However, recently, there is rising a glimmer of hope in the Church within America. More and more people are becoming disenchanted with shallow teaching and unfruitful Christianity. To their credit, some churches are waking up and the individuals in these congregations are indeed fortunate. A few saints are reaching outside their denominational doors to other churches and para-Church ministries which God is raising up in our day. Surely all this is being done by the Holy Spirit to (1) bring a higher level of truth back into the local Church and (2) to increase zeal among Christians for the endtime harvest.

Let me repeat, since the world began, no people on this earth have had blessings and benefits shed abroad so bountifully by Almighty God as has been true upon the land and the Church within the United States of America. Among Gentiles, it has never been equalled.

Verses 42 - 44.

"And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out and escape."

"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 the land."

[In the last chapter we saw that the word "soldiers" pictured representatives of God; here in verse 42 they seem to serve Satan. When studying Scriptures, metaphorically, we must be very careful how we analyze them. Sometimes there may be a shift of what is inferred (by the same word) in one instance to a different meaning in another instance. I'm not jumping around wildly. For example, you will recall that even the number 276 had two entirely-different connotations: (1) it represented the kingdom of Satan and (2) it also meant to be saved out of Satan's kingdom.]

In verse 42 above, the "soldiers counsel was to kill the prisoners". What does this infer? Well, in the natural sense, it simply meant that since they believed the whole ship was going to be destroyed, they might just as well render a verdict of "guilty" against the prisoners right then and kill them, lest they escape and be a threat to the Roman society later. This has a prophetic parallel.

At the end of the age, as has been discussed previously, there will be a restoration of the Roman Empire. Ultimately, the anti-Christ [Satan-personified] will be the ruler over this kingdom and he will have in mind to destroy all Godliness and all believers in Jesus---those who are in the "Ark of Christ". And the "soldiers"---i.e., all the worldly leaders and followers who will have joined forces with the anti-Christ---will be a part of the powers who agree to kill God's people. All this is inferred by the statement "...the soldiers counsel was to kill the prisoners".

These forces are building up today. And there are attempts even in America at this very moment being made to remove from the secular arena all reference to God and Jesus. This evil spirit is in the government, in our whole educational system and in the economic community; in short, it is evident everywhere, even in many apostate churches. Satan's "soldiers" are out there fighting; God's "soldiers" better wake up and join in the resistance. Occupying until Jesus comes is our mandate. Keep on keeping on, fellow believer, for we are on the winning team. The devil and all his cronies [demonic and/or unrepentant, wicked mankind] will all end up in the pit of hell. Live courageously and obediently to the Lord Jesus, for He will see us through this thing. He said that He would never leave us nor forsake us; I believe this today and I hope you do too.

Notice that the "centurion", the God-sent chief of holy angels, was "...willing to save Paul...", instructing those who could swim to do so, and those who could not, to get on boards and float in to shore. What does this mean?

As we approach the end of the age, the physical Church is coming apart at the seams. There is but one Church, but it has splintered into many denominations. I believe this is pictured by the "broken pieces" in verse 44.

The centurion told those who could swim, to do so; and those who could not, hang on to broken pieces of the ship. This is referring to Christians throughout the world, who either don't have the privilege of being in a local congregation of like-believers or to those God has placed in para-Church ministries and the like. The point is, whether surrounded by spiritual darkness or spiritual light, in this nation or another, in or out of a local church, just do whatever you can to stay afloat [occupying and being faithful] in these closing moments before the Rapture comes. If you are truly in God's ship of His Son, you are going to make it to the "land".

ALL ESCAPED SAFELY

And so, just as Paul had said, the vessel was lost but every person aboard was saved. No matter what the role was of each individual on that ship---the captain, the crew, the centurion and his band(1), Paul and the other prisoners---they all made it to the island. Another person had made this prediction earlier: (See Matt.16:18.)

"...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Jesus of Nazareth





"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels."