Sermons

The Proof is in The Pudding

Sun, May 29, 2022
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Duration:22 mins 50 secs

Message text

The Proof is in The Pudding
Acts 27:39-28:16

INTRO: Good morning. Last time in Acts we saw that although life’s outlook doesn’t look good at times we should take courage, because our eternal forecast as Christians is looking great.

We saw that God never intended for humans to be alone. Paul was not alone on that ship. Luke went along on this journey to Italy with him and Aristarchus.

We saw that life will be dangerous at times. When Paul was on that ship the violent wind didn’t let up all night and continued the next day, so the sailors began to throw the cargo overboard. Later when the Euroclydon hit their vessel, they spent many days in danger.

When everyone else around you is giving up hope, you don’t give up hope because your suffering is only for a little while. When you don’t give up hope you can encourage others. Paul told them that not one hair on their heads would be harmed.

I heard this story about two heavily intoxicated New Englanders who, after leaving the tavern one night in the wee hours, went down to their skiff to return to their homes across the bay.
They got in and began to row. They struggled rowing the rest of the night, wondering why it was taking them so long to get to the other side. When the sky became light, and they became more sober, they discovered that their mooring-line had never been loosened, and that their anchor had not been raised. Can you imagine that, rowing all night only to find out that you never lifted the anchor?

That’s exactly what stops some people from becoming Christians. They cannot believe, because they are tied to this world. They need to cut the cord and set themselves free from the clogging weight of earthly things, then they will see the right path and be on their way towards heaven.

I. Luke continues to tell us about Paul’s adventures on this trip and they too, after surviving the night, had some cords to cut. Just like people need to cut the cords with this world to get to heaven, these sailors must loose themselves to get to a safer place. Acts 27:39-41 – “39. Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. 40. And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudders ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. 41. But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.”

A. As day broke, it became clear why Paul had said the sailors needed to stay on board. Although they did not recognize the land which was nearby, they did know how to guide the ship toward a bay with a beach which they could see. Without their skilled hands, all could have been lost.

1. It’s then that they had to let go of the anchors, loose the rudders' ropes and hoist the mainsail. These ancient vessels had dual steering oars to keep the ship on course. Though more efficient than a single rudder, the exposed oars were more vulnerable to damage.
2. Just before the ship reached shore, it stuck fast in a sandbar formed by the swirling waters caused by the merging of two seas. These submerged shoals, are sometimes formed by the sands which had been piled together by water action on both sides. It was invisible; therefore they plowed the ship into it, with the result given in this verse.
3. The bow stuck firm but the stern began to break apart in the rough seas.

B. I’d like us to recall that in those days if someone oversaw a prisoner, they were in charge of their lives. Back in Acts 16 when Paul and Silas were in prison in Philippi, at verse 26 we read – “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison-house were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened; and everyone's bands were loosed.” God freed them and the jailor was about to kill himself. Why was he going to do that? Because Roman law says that if a prisoner escapes your custody, you have to pay the penalty that your prisoner was due.
C. The reason I shared that with you is because of what Luke tells us next. Acts 27:42-44 – “42. Now the soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. 43. But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44. and the rest, some on boards and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.”

1. The present situation led the soldiers to think that it would be better to kill the prisoners than to risk any of them getting away. Their heartless plan shows how little regard they had for the providential escape from death which they had just experienced. The soldiers didn’t want to be held accountable, so they planned to kill the prisoners. But God was working through the centurion Julius, and Julius wanted to save Paul so he forbid this course of action.
2. Instead, anyone who could swim was told to make their way to shore while the others who couldn’t swim used boards and broken pieces of ship to help them float ashore.

D. It’s all about trust. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 56:3 – “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.”

1. Folks, that is one of our reasons for Bible study. Yes, we study in depth and often go over familiar ground. In doing so we meditate on God’s word and the quicker we get His word into our hearts, the quicker we will develop our trust in God and His promises.
2. They had forgotten what Paul had told them earlier. They had forgotten God’s promise because they didn’t trust God like Paul did.

E. Back just a few verses in Acts 27:23-26 – “23. "For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24. "saying, `Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' 25. "Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26. "However, we must run aground on a certain island.''”

1. If they had listened and believed they would not have panicked like they did. If they believed, they would have realized that what Paul said to them earlier was true.
2. Paul told them that the ship would have to run aground and he told them just as God's messenger had promised, not a single life would be lost.
3. Put your trust in God and His promises, folks. He has delivered you time and time again from stormy waters and He’s not going to stop now. He wants you to make it to that heavenly shore.
4. As one put it, if at any time you feel you’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, then swim Christian swim. Keep swimming Christian, because before too long you will come across an old rugged cross to cling to, which was sent from heaven to take you to heaven.
5. God kept His promise and not a single soul was lost.

F. The journey to Rome had been interrupted by a disastrous shipwreck, Paul's fourth by the way; but Luke would go on in the next chapter to recount the continuation of the trip, first reporting what happened during the delay on the island of Malta. In it all the "finger of God" is clearly visible.

II. Luke continues in Acts 28:1-6 – “1. Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. 2. And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. 3. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.'' 5. But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.”

A. Luke says that they discovered the island's name was Malta. The natives, who were descendants of Phoenicia, did not speak Greek, but they did show considerable kindness to those that were shipwrecked.
B. Luke tells us that the rain was falling and it was cold. Remember this was late in the year and the weather was likely quite chilly. All those from the ship would have been soaked having to swim to shore. To get warm they built a fire, and Luke says that while Paul helped gather sticks for the fire, a viper, made active by the heat, latched onto the apostle's arm. Paul shook it off into the fire.
C. These islanders, who were very superstitious, believed he must truly have been guilty of something since the snake bit him after he had survived the sea. When he didn’t die, they decided he was a god.

1. In reading this, we notice this is a strange reversal of what had happened at Lystra (Acts 14:12ff), where Paul was first hailed as a god, and later stoned. The carnal man loves extremes, either worshiping himself in the person of his heroes, or by killing those who do not conform to his prejudices.
2. God delivered Paul from the prisons. He delivered him from the courtrooms. He delivered him from the shipwreck, and He has delivered him again from snake bite.
3. On the road to Damascus we know that Jesus told Paul he had a purpose. One of those purposes was for Paul to preach in Rome and no-one and nothing, not even a snake was going to prevent that from happening.
4. God has a purpose for you too and if you will trust Him even through times of trials and suffering, He will deliver you time and time again until you have achieved that goal.

III. Luke continues in Acts 28:7-10 – “7. Now in that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. 8. And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. 10. They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.”

A. Luke tells us that the centurion and ship's officers, along with Paul and his company, were invited to stay at the house of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius.
B. Publius entertained them for three days, during which time Paul healed Publius' father of a fever and dysentery by praying and laying his hands on him. In this way Publius' kindness was repaid. In working such a wonder, Paul verified the truth of Jesus' promise that His apostles should suffer no hurt from deadly serpents, and that they should lay hands on the sick and heal them. Dummelow noted about this scripture, "Here we have first hand evidence of a competent medical witness to the reality of Paul's miraculous cures." The word “dysenteria” which we translate "dysentery" is a medical term used by the physician Luke.
C. People love to contemplate miracles and there are those that come around claiming they can perform them,

1. Many years ago, Oral Roberts went to Nashville, Tennessee with his “miracle working” campaign.

a. The Apologetic Press ran a newspaper advertisement offering a $1,000 reward for medical proof of a single miracle.
b. Roberts never sought to claim the reward.

2. The late Ronald Coyne, a small-time “healer” from Oklahoma, went to Nashville Tennessee, claiming that he could miraculously see through a “plastic eye.”

a. The Apologetic Press offered to pay all expenses if he would submit to testing administered by a qualified physician specializing in the study and treatment of defects and diseases of the eye.
b. He declined the offer and threatened to sue them. The Apologetic Press urged him to do so, for the courtroom is a real arena for the examination of evidence. Coyne took his “magic eye” con game and left town.

3. Here is a this small note written to the Apologetic Press.

a. “The miracle power of Christ was at work when my friend was healed instantly of terminal cancer, including the scar tissue from the radiation.” He went on to say that “The proof is in the pudding.”
b. Listen to the reply they gave this man. All we ask is: “Let us see the evidence that there was any pudding!” Does the gentleman actually expect anyone to believe that story in the absence of any objective evidence whatever? Were there before-and-after x-rays that document the “miracle”? Is there written testimony from competent physicians regarding the instantaneous disappearance of the “terminal cancer”, scar tissue and all? If so, where is it?

4. Making claims and proving them are two different things. 'The proof is in the pudding' is just shorthand for 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'. That longer version makes sense at least, whereas the shortened version really doesn't mean anything. The meaning becomes clear when you know that 'proof' here is a verb meaning 'test'. You can claim anything but until it is tested it is not proved. The more common meaning of 'proof' in our day is the noun meaning 'the evidence that demonstrates a truth'.

D. Luke tells us that after seeing Paul’s healing of Publius' father, others who were sick were also brought to the apostle and he healed them. No wonder they bestowed honor on Paul while he was with them and sent the whole company on their way with adequate provisions.

IV. Just before we finish Luke goes on and tells us in Acts 28:11-16 – “11. After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. 12. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13. From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14. where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. 15. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. 16. Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.”

A. Luke informs Theophilus that they set sail aboard another ship after three months, likely after the worst of the winter storms were over.

1. Their first stop was at Syracuse, then Rhegium and, finally, Puteoli. Puteoli was the main port of call for ships carrying wheat from Egypt to Rome.
2. It’s there they found brethren and stayed with them for seven days then they went on to Rome.

B. Paul has finally reached his destination. While he was in Rome, he was permitted to live with a guard by himself.

CONCLUSION:

When Paul headed to Rome, the word apparently got around. Brethren came to greet him as far as the Appii Forum and the Three Inns. The Appii Forum, also known as The Market of Appius, was "forty-three miles from Rome”, and Three Inns was ten miles closer to Rome. The travel of some of the saints such a distance to welcome the beloved apostle was a source of great joy.

Look at Paul’s reaction to this meeting of the saints. When he saw them all, he thanked God and they gave him the courage to go on.

Do we do that? Do we thank God for our brothers and sisters in Christ and give them the courage to go on? When Christians meet it should be a time of thanking God because we are glad to see each other. It should be a time of encouraging each other.

Did you know that encouraging is a gift from God? Paul tells us that in Romans 12:6-8 and I’ll paraphrase – “6. We have gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if it is prophesying, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7. or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; if you are a teacher, in teaching; 8. if it is to encourage then give encouragement; he who gives, give generously; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, do so with cheerfulness.” [para]

Folks, let us be encouraged this morning to be like Barnabas, to be a son of encouragement. Take a moment and look at the people around you as you go through the day and ask yourself, who can I encourage this week? After you have identified them, do something about it.

Remember you don’t need a miracle to visit them, give them a call, send a text message, send e-mail, or write a small note or card with words of encouragement within. Whatever it is you decide to do, do it knowing that you have practiced the use of the gifts you have.

Let’s put the proof back into the pudding that we really do practice what we preach.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ, be buried with Him in baptism, and become a part of the work He has for us; or if you need to ask for prayers on your behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.

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Reference Sermon: Mike Glover

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