Highlight/overview of Acts 27:1-28:16: The story of Paul sailing to Rome, the storm, the message from the angel of the Lord, the shipwreck,nobody dies, the snake bite, Paul doesn’t swell up and die, and the people on the island of Malta who witnessed the testimony of the grace of God and provided for the rest of Paul’s journey to Rome.. (vv. 1-2a; vv. 9-11; vv. 21-25; vv. 41-44; 28:1-10)
This passage in Acts 27 and part of 28 shows us a great picture of God’s sovereign, almighty, all-powerful, unstoppable, and unmerited grace. Paul, based on God’s word (promised to him), will go appeal to Caesar and will testify to the greatness of God through the gospel of Jesus to the leaders of Rome. In the meantime, this sovereign grace proves to affect everyone in its path and is relentless in accomplishing its will… (its revealed and hidden will).
Revealed and hidden will: I say revealed and hidden will because in the midst of God’s grace, there are many things that have been revealed in Scripture, and yet many more hidden, that God has not revealed to us and we see them in our every day lives. We see one of them right here when we read about the suffering of those on the ship who go 2 weeks without food, then eventually shipwreck, yet God saves all of them regardless of their faith. The God who sovereignly orchestrated this shipwreck and preserved all of these mens lives, could have kept them from wrecking the ship in the first place. Here’s a couple real life stories in my life that I think will paint a good picture with where I’d like to go when talking about God’s sovereign grace:
Story of me getting ran over by a car: When I was 5 years old, I was riding my bike to a friends house in the neighborhood just south of MetroCenter on Ruth Ave. As I was riding on the sidewalk, there was a younger girl riding on a tricycle coming the other way. To my left was a fenced in front yard and to my right was a street littered with parked cars, almost bumper to bumper. Because I was riding a “big boy” bike that only had hand brakes that were too hard for my small 5 year old hands to squeeze, I decided to jet out into the street in between two cars and I met a car head on that hit me and then ran me over.
To make a long story short, I left the hospital three days later with lots of cuts and bruises, a few stitches, no broken bones and very relieved parents. There was a tire mark (from a car!) going across my back and the Dr.’s only way of explaining how it didn’t crush me was the fact that the bike frame (that was on top of me when the car ran me over) somehow took the weight of the car and preserved my life. This story was talked about among the nurses and Dr.’s at Phoenix Baptist Hospital and through it, one nurse inquired more about the story, heard that our family believed that God saved me, came to our church the next week and God saved her.
Now I know full well that if God can ordain all the miracles of this story: the car not crushing me, no broken bones, the nurse coming to the Lord, my life being drastically saved in many ways…. then this God was fully able to prevent the accident in the first place.
But what about when God’s Sovereign grace does not work out for our healing?
Story of my cousin Daniel’s accident: Fast forward in my life 7 years when I was 12 years old. My cousin Daniel who was living in St. Louis at the time (and was also 12 years old) was riding in the back seat of a car with 3 other people when the driver ran through a R/R crossing that didn’t have an arm that came down, rather, it only had red flashing lights to warn the driver that a train is coming.
You can probably guess what happened; the train smashed the side of their car killing 3 out of the 4 people in the car, and only the driver survived. Again, I know full well that the God who sovereignly spared the life of the driver of that vehicle was completely able to save the life of my cousin Daniel as well.
What do we say to this? We say, God does not always spare us from calamity.
Then what do we say of God’s sovereign grace? We say, God’s sovereign grace does not provide for us only worldly bliss, nor does it keep us from suffering and distress; rather it is the grace that orders our suffering and distress, and then, in the midst of the pain, is there to sustain us. This is what sovereign grace is.
Let’s look at a New Testament passage that confirms this then spend most of our time in an Old Testament passage that confirms this as well. Turn your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9a But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
God’s grace ordains that Paul have a thorn in the flesh for the sake of his humility and then will not remove it in answer to Paul’s fervent prayer. Instead God says, “My (sovereign) grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”
To which Paul responds:
9b Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
God’s sovereign grace ordered Paul’s suffering and distress, and then, in the midst of the pain, was there to sustain him.
Now let’s turn to Jeremiah 32 and read how God’s sovereign grace does not always spare us from calamity. In this passage, God’s chosen people are in darkness and distress, and it is God Himself who has ordered it because of their disobedience. Look at verse 36:
36 “Now therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’:
This is God’s grace upon His people that has not spared them suffering and despair. But this picture of God’s grace does not end in despair, as God’s sovereign grace never does. It didn’t with Paul, and it won’t with God’s chosen people. Let’s read on (vv.37-42):
37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. 42 “For thus says the Lord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them. (Jer. 32:37-42)
God declares that he has ordered their trouble and pain: “I drove them”, God says, to those foreign lands. And He declares that He Himself will deliver them and bring them back to Himself and to their land and to safety. In other words, God’s sovereign grace will eventually triumph over the calamity for those whom He calls His people.
How can we be sure of this victory of God’s sovereign grace? If God is a God of justice who can send Israel into devastating exile where many are lost because of their sin and disobedience, then how can we have confidence that this will not happen to God’s chosen people today; the church, the bride of Christ, the true Israel, you and me, who have been called into fellowship through His Son, Jesus?
Well the rest of this text (and many others through out Scripture) testifies to God’s promise of His sovereign grace towards His chosen people. As we close, let’s look at seven promises of God’s sovereign grace from this passage in Jeremiah 32:
1. God will bring us (His people) to His land to dwell safely. This is partially fulfilled in that Christ Jesus allows us to be baptized into His body by faith in Him (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 2:8-9), and become sons of God and heirs to the Father’s kingdom! Spiritually, we are God’s people, members of His kingdom, and are completely safe. But this will not be fully realized until the new heaven and the new earth when we have new bodies that have been promised to us (1 Cor. 15:35-49).
2. God will be our God. God will rule us and we will be happy slaves of His. We will be His people and we will be governed by the greatness of almighty God and the world will look at us and see that we are God’s people by the way we love one another (John 13:34-35).
3. God will change our hearts. He will remove our hearts our stone that are dead, and give us hearts of flesh that are alive, and able to respond to heavenly stimuli (Ezekiel 36:26). These hearts will be able to commune with God, hear from Him, be like Him and understand things about Him. God will make our hearts new. These hearts will be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we can know the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:6-16) and will be continually growing from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).
4. God will not turn away from doing good to us. This is fully realized in the person of Jesus. He who knew no sin, took on sin for us, so that we could be made right with God. And His perfect life, death and resurrection forever will stand on our behalf before God so that we will eternally be accepted as sons and daughters of God…. He is eternally doing good for us through Jesus (Gal. 3:10-14; Rom. 3:21-26)!
5. God will not let us turn away from Him. Whom god saves, God keeps! Not only is He our eternal advocate, but He seals our hearts so that we will never turn from Him and can’t ever “not” be a son or daughter. He will write His law on our hearts and His Spirit will bear witness to our spirit that we are his kids and we will never turn away or be snatched out of His hand (Eph. 1:11-14; Phil. 1:6; 2:12-13). This is reason to praise His glorious name!
6. God will do this with joy and with ALL His heart and with ALL His soul. This shows us the intensity with which God saves us, loves us and lavishes His mercy upon us!! We can not fathom what it is like for God to “rejoice in doing good to us, and planting us in His land in faithfulness, with all His heart and all His soul!!” Oh how deep the Father’s love for us! Oh how wondrous and deep are His mercies! Oh the joy that He finds in us and the everlasting covenant of grace that He will keep with us!! All because He is good His Son bore our sin! What a wonderful Savior! How majestic is His name in all the earth! May our praises sing out loud to Him! May He receive all honor and all glory and all dominion forever and ever!!
7. God will keep His promises. And God does not lie… He cannot (Heb. 6:18)!! What God says He will do, it is done! His promises are yes and amen (1 Cor. 1:20)!!