Acts 27:23
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) For there stood by me this night . . .—With most others of the enthusiastic type of character, visions, real or supposed, of messengers from the unseen world have produced terror and agitation. With St. Paul they are the source of a calm strength and presence of mind which he is able, in his turn, to impress on others.

Whose I am, and whom I serve.—The service implied is that of worship rather than labour. The word and thought were eminently characteristic of St, Paul. (Comp. Romans 1:9; 2Timothy 1:3.)

Acts

TEMPEST AND TRUST

A SHORT CONFESSION OF FAITH

Acts 27:23
.

I turn especially to those last words, ‘Whose I am and whom I serve.’

A great calamity, borne by a crowd of men in common, has a wonderful power of dethroning officials and bringing the strong man to the front. So it is extremely natural, though it has been thought to be very unhistorical, that in this story of Paul’s shipwreck he should become guide, counsellor, inspirer, and a tower of strength; and that centurions and captains and all the rest of those who held official positions should shrink into the background. The natural force of his character, the calmness and serenity that came from his faith-these things made him the leader of the bewildered crowd. One can scarcely help contrasting this shipwreck-the only one in the New Testament- with that in the Old Testament. Contrast Jonah with Paul, the guilty stupor of the one, down ‘in the sides of the ship’ cowering before the storm, with the calm behaviour and collected courage of the other.

The vision of which the Apostle speaks does not concern us here, but in the words which I have read there are several noteworthy points. They bring vividly before us the essence of true religion, the bold confession which it prompts, and the calmness and security which it ensures. Let us then look at them from these points of view.

I. We note the clear setting forth of the essence of true religion.

Remember that Paul is speaking to heathens; that his present purpose is not to preach the Gospel, but to make his own position clear. So he says ‘the God’-never mind who He is at present-’the God to whom I belong ‘-that covers all the inward life-’and whom I serve’ -that covers all the outward.

‘Whose I am.’ That expresses the universal truth that men belong to God by virtue of their being the creatures of His hand. As the 100th Psalm says, according to one, and that a probably correct reading, ‘It is He that hath made us, and we are His.’ But the Apostle is going a good deal deeper than any such thoughts, which he, no doubt, shared in common with the heathen men around him, when he declares that, in a special fashion, God had claimed him for His, and he had yielded to the claim. ‘I am Thine,’ is the deepest thought of this man’s mind and the deepest feeling of his heart. And that is godliness in its purest form, the consciousness of belonging to God. We must interpret this saying by others of the Apostle’s, such as, ‘Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your bodies and spirits which are His.’ He traces God’s possession of him, not to that fact of creation {which establishes a certain outward relationship, but nothing more}, nor even to the continuous facts of benefits showered upon his head, but to the one transcendent act of the divine Love, which gave itself to us, and so acquired us for itself. For we must recognise as the deepest of all thoughts about the relations of spiritual beings, that, as in regard to ourselves in our earthly affections, so in regard to our relations with God, there is only one way by which a spirit can own a spirit, whether it be a man on the one side and a woman on the other, or whether it be God on the one side and a man on the other, and that one way is by the sweetness of complete and reciprocal love. He who gives himself to God gets God for himself. So when Paul said, ‘Whose I am,’ he was thinking that he would never have belonged either to God or to himself unless, first of all, God, in His own Son, had given Himself to Paul. The divine ownership of us is only realised when we are consciously His, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Brethren, God does not count that a man belongs to Him simply because He made him, if the man does not feel his dependence, his obligation, and has not surrendered himself. He in the heavens loves you and me too well to care for a formal and external ownership. He desires hearts, and only they who have yielded themselves unto God, moved thereto by the mercies of God, and especially by the encyclopaediacal mercy which includes all the rest in its sweep, only they belong to Him, in the estimate of the heavens.

And if you and I are His, then that involves that we have deposed from his throne the rebel Self, the ancient Anarch that disturbs and ruins us. They who belong to God cease to live to themselves. There are two centres for human life, and I believe there are only two-the one is God, the other is my wretched self. And if we are swept, as it were, out of the little orbit that we move in, when the latter is our centre, and are drawn by the weight and mass of the great central sun to become its satellites, then we move in a nobler orbit and receive fuller and more blessed light and warmth. They who have themselves for their centres are like comets, with a wide elliptical course, which carries them away out into the cold abysses of darkness. They who have God for their sun are like planets. The old fable is true of these ‘sons of the morning’-they make music as they roll and they flash back His light.

And then do not let us forget that this yielding of one’s self to Him, swayed by His love, and this surrendering of will and purpose and affection and all that makes up our complex being, lead directly to the true possession of Him and the true possession of ourselves.

I have said that the only way by which spirit possesses spirit is by love, and that it must needs be on both sides. So we get God for ourselves when we give ourselves to God. There is a wonderful alternation of giving and receiving between the loving God and his beloved lovers; first the impartation of the divine to the human, then the surrender of the human to the divine, and then the larger gift of God to man, just as in some series of mirrors the light is flashed back from the one to the other, in bewildering manifoldness and shimmering of rays from either polished surface. God is ours when we are God’s. ‘And this is the covenant that I will make with them after these days, saith the Lord. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

And, in like manner, we never own ourselves until we have given ourselves to God. Each of us is like some feudatory prince, dependent upon an overlord. His subjects in his little territory rebel, and he has no power to subdue the insurgents, but he can send a message to the capital, and get the army of the king, who is his sovereign and theirs, to come down and bring them back to order, and establish his tottering throne. So if you desire to own yourself or to know the sweetness that you may get out of your own nature and the exercise of your powers, if you desire to be able to govern the realm within, put yourself into God’s hands and say, ‘I am Thine; hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.’

I need not say more than just a word about the other side of Paul’s confession of faith, ‘Whom I serve.’ He employs the word which means the service of a worshipper, or even of a priest, and not that which means the service of a slave. His purpose was to represent how, as his whole inward nature bowed in submission to, and was under the influence of, God to whom he belonged, so his whole outward life was a life of devotion. He was serving Him there in the ship, amidst the storm and the squalor and the terror. His calmness was service; his confidence was service; the cheery words that he was speaking to these people were service. And on his whole life he believed that this was stamped, that he was devoted to God. So there is the true idea of a Christian life, that in all its aspects, attitudes, and acts it is to be a manifestation, in visible form, of inward devotion to, and ownership by, God. All our work may be worship, and we may ‘pray without ceasing,’ though no supplications come from our lips, if our hearts are in touch with Him and through our daily life we serve and honour Him. God’s priests never are far away from their altar, and never are without, somewhat to offer, as long as they have the activities of daily duty and the difficulties of daily conflict to bring to Him and spread before Him.

II. So let me turn for a moment to some of the other aspects of these words to which I have already referred, I find in them, next, the bold confession which true religion requires.

Shipboard is a place where people find out one another very quickly. Character cannot well be hid there. And such circumstances as Paul had been in for the last fortnight, tossing up and down in Adria, with Death looking over the bulwarks of the crazy ship every moment, were certain to have brought out the inmost secrets of character. Paul durst not have said to these people ‘the God whose I am and whom I serve’ if he had not known that he had been living day by day a consistent and godly life amongst them.

And so, I note, first of all, that this confession of individual and personal relationship to God is incumbent on every Christian. We do not need to be always brandishing it before people’s faces. There is very little fear of the average Christian of this day blundering on that side. But we need, still less, to be always hiding it away. One hears a great deal from certain quarters about a religion that does not need to be vocal but shows what it is, without the necessity for words. Blessed be God! there is such a religion, but you will generally find that the people who have most of it are the people who are least tongue-tied when opportunity arises; and that if they have been witnessing for God in their quiet discharge of duty, with their hands instead of their lips, they are quite as ready to witness with their lips when it is fitting that they should do so. And surely, surely, if a man belongs to God, and if his whole life is to be the manifestation of the ownership that he recognises, that which specially reveals him-viz., his own articulate speech-cannot be left out of his methods of manifestation.

I am afraid that there are a great many professing Christian people nowadays who never, all their lives, have said to any one, ‘The God whose I am and whom I serve.’ And I beseech you, dear brethren, suffer this word of exhortation. To say so is a far more effectual, or at least more powerful, means of appeal than any direct invitation to share in the blessings. You may easily offend a man by saying to him, ‘Won’t you be a Christian too?’ But it is hard to offend if you simply say that you are a Christian. The statement of personal experience is more powerful by far than all argumentation or eloquence or pleading appeals. We do more when we say, ‘That which we have tasted and felt and handled of the Word of Life, declare we unto you,’ than by any other means.

Only remember that the avowal must be backed up by a life, as Paul’s was backed up on board that vessel. For unless it is so, the profession does far more harm than good. There are always keen critics round us, especially if we say that we are Christians. There were keen critics on board that ship. Do you think that these Roman soldiers, and the other prisoners, would not have smiled contemptuously at Paul, if this had been the first time that they had any reason to suppose that he was at all different from them? They would have said, ‘The God whose you are and whom you serve? Why, you are just the same sort of man as if you worshipped Jupiter like the rest of us!’ And that is what the world has a right to say to Christian people. The clearer our profession, the holier must be our lives.

III. Last of all, I find in these words the calmness and security which true religion secures.

The story, as I have already glanced at it in my introductory remarks, brings out very wonderfully and very beautifully Paul’s promptitude, his calmness in danger, his absolute certainty of safety, and his unselfish thoughtfulness about his companions in peril. And all these things were the direct results of his entire surrender to God, and of the consistency of his daily life. It needed the angel in the vision to assure him that his life would be spared. But whether the angel had ever come or not, and though death had been close at his hand, the serenity and the peaceful assurance of safety which come out so beautifully in the story would have been there all the same. The man who can say ‘I belong to God’ does not need to trouble himself about dangers. He will have to exercise his common sense, as the Apostle shows us; he will have to use all the means that are in his power for the accomplishment of ends that he knows to be right and legitimate. But having done all that, he can say, ‘I belong to Him,’ it is His business to look after His own property. He is not going to hold His possessions with such a slack hand as that they shall slip between His fingers, and be lost in the mire. ‘Thou wilt not lose the souls that are Thine in the grave, neither wilt Thou suffer the man whom Thou lovest to see corruption.’ God keeps His treasures, and the surer we are that He is able to keep them unto that day, the calmer we may be in all our trouble.

And the safety that followed was also the direct result of the relationship of mutual possession and love established between God and the Apostle. We do not know to which of the two groups of the shipwrecked Paul belonged; whether he could swim or whether he had to hold on to some bit of floating wreckage or other, and so got ‘safe to land.’ But whichever way it was, it was neither his swimming nor the spar to which, perhaps, he clung, that landed him safe on shore. It was the God to whom he belonged. Faith is the true lifebelt that keeps us from being drowned in any stormy sea. And if you and I feel that we are His, and live accordingly, we shall be calm amid all change, serene when others are troubled, ready to be helpers of others even when we ourselves are in distress. And when the crash comes, and the ship goes to pieces: ‘so it will come to pass that, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship, they all come safe to land,’ and when the Owner counts His subjects and possessions on the quiet shore, as the morning breaks, there will not be one who has been lost in the surges, or whose name will be unanswered to when the muster-roll of the crew is called.Acts 27:23-26. For, &c. — As if he had said, It is not without good authority that I speak in so express and positive a manner, with regard to an event which seems to you utterly improbable; there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose servant and property I am, and whom I serve — Worship and obey. How short a compendium of religion! Yet how clear and how full! Containing both doctrine and practice, both the foundation and the superstructure: comprehending at once faith, hope, and love, with their proper fruits: in fact, all graces and virtues. Reader, see thou be able to say, Whose I am! and then, and not before, thou wilt be able to add, and whom I serve. Be his subject, his servant, his child, his heir, and know thyself to be such, know that thou art of God, by the Spirit which he gives thee, and then thou wilt be able to serve him in holiness and righteousness before him, making his will thy rule, and his glory thy end, in all thy actions, and that all the days of thy life. Saying, Fear not, Paul — Such a message God’s angels have often brought unto his people. See Daniel 10:12; Daniel 10:19; Luke 2:10; Matthew 28:5. Thou must be brought — Rather, be presented; before Cesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee — Paul had doubtless prayed for them. And God gave him their lives; and perhaps their souls also. And the centurion, subserving the designs of the Divine Providence, spared, for his sake, the lives of the prisoners, Acts 27:43. Here we have an instance how wonderfully the providence of God reigns in things apparently the most contingent! And, rather shall many bad men be preserved with a few good, (for so it frequently happens,) than one good man shall perish with many bad. So it was in this ship, and so it is in the world. Paul repeats, it seems, the very words of the angel, Lo, God hath given thee all that sail with thee. For at such a time of distress as this, there was not the same danger which there might otherwise have been, of Paul’s seeming to speak out of vanity what he really spoke out of necessity. Wherefore, be of good cheer — Take courage, and lay aside your fears; for I believe God — I trust in him whose word is faithful, and his power almighty; that the event shall be as has been told me. Howbeit — I know also; we must be cast upon a certain island — And that the vessel will be wrecked upon the coast of it. Nevertheless, if we take care to use the proper means, we shall all escape, and get safe to land.27:21-29 They did not hearken to the apostle when he warned them of their danger; yet if they acknowledge their folly, and repent of it, he will speak comfort and relief to them when in danger. Most people bring themselves into trouble, because they do not know when they are well off; they come to harm and loss by aiming to mend their condition, often against advice. Observe the solemn profession Paul made of relation to God. No storms or tempests can hinder God's favour to his people, for he is a Help always at hand. It is a comfort to the faithful servants of God when in difficulties, that as long as the Lord has any work for them to do, their lives shall be prolonged. If Paul had thrust himself needlessly into bad company, he might justly have been cast away with them; but God calling him into it, they are preserved with him. They are given thee; there is no greater satisfaction to a good man than to know he is a public blessing. He comforts them with the same comforts wherewith he himself was comforted. God is ever faithful, therefore let all who have an interest in his promises be ever cheerful. As, with God, saying and doing are not two things, believing and enjoying should not be so with us. Hope is an anchor of the soul, sure and stedfast, entering into that within the veil. Let those who are in spiritual darkness hold fast by that, and think not of putting to sea again, but abide by Christ, and wait till the day break, and the shadows flee away.There stood by me - There appeared to me.

The angel of God - The messages of God were often communicated by angels. See Hebrews 1:14. This does not mean that there was any particular angel, but simply an angel.

Whose I am - Of the God to whom I belong. This is an expression of Paul's entire devotedness to him.

Whom I serve - In the gospel. To whom and to whose cause I am entirely devoted.

23. there stood by me this night the angel of God—as in Ac 16:9; 23:11.

whose I am—(1Co 6:19, 20).

and whom I serve—in the sense of worship or religious consecration (see on [2132]Ac 13:2).

A good introduction to recommend the true God, and the gospel of his Son. Paul, who knew the certainty of what he had predicted, owns himself to be now in the service of God, that not unto him, but unto God, may be given the glory. For there stood by me this night the angel of God,.... One of the ministering, spirits that stand before God, and who was sent by him to the apostle; and appeared to him, either in a vision by a dream, or rather when he was awake, and stood by him, as he was praying for deliverance from the storm; for it is most likely that the apostle should be engaged at such a time as this:

whose I am, and whom I:serve: meaning not the angel, but God, whose the angel was; and his the apostle was, by electing, redeeming, and calling grace; God the Father had chosen him in his Son unto salvation; and Christ had redeemed him by his blood; and the Holy Spirit had called him by his grace; and he was not only the Lord's in common, as all other saints are, but he was his apostle and minister, and served him in the ministration of the Gospel of Christ, as well as from a principle of grace, obeyed the law of God, and was subject to the ordinances of Christ; in all which he served with great pleasure and cheerfulness, diligence, constancy, and faithfulness; from right principles, and with right views, being constrained by love, and influenced by the consideration of the relation he stood in to God. And all this was not peculiar to the apostle, but common to all the saints, excepting that of his being an apostle and minister of the Gospel: and the consideration of their relation to God has the same influence upon them it had upon him; they are not their own, nor are they the servants of men, nor do they belong to Satan, nor even to the ministering angels, but they are the Lord's; not merely by creation, as all men are, but in a way of special grace: they are Jehovah the Father's, to whom he bears a peculiar love and favour, and whom he has chosen in his Son for his peculiar people; and which is made manifest and known by drawing them with loving kindness to himself in the effectual calling; by his Gospel coming in power to them; by the blessings of the covenant of grace being bestowed on them; and by the spirit of adoption witnessing to them, that they are the children of God: they are Jehovah the Son's, they are his people made willing in the day of his power; they are his portion assigned him by his Father; they are his spouse and bride, whom he has betrothed to himself; they are his children, to whom he stands in the relation of the everlasting Father; and they are his sheep the Father has given him, and he has laid down his life for; all which appears by their having his Spirit, as a Spirit of regeneration and sanctification, without which none are openly and manifestatively his: and they are Jehovah the Spirit's; they are his regenerated and sanctified ones; they are his workmanship, having his good work of grace begun and carrying on in their souls; they are his temples in which he dwells; he has the possession of them, and will not leave them till he has brought them safe to glory: and under all this evidence, and especially through the testimony of the Spirit of God unto them, they call themselves the Lord's, as the apostle here does, and this engages them to serve him. The natural man has no desire, but an aversion to the service of God; converted men are willing to serve him, and delight to do it; they serve God in the best manner they can, in righteousness and true holiness, in an acceptable manner, with reverence and godly fear, and heartily and willingly; as appears by the pleasure they take in being called the servants of God, by disclaiming all other lords, by running all risks to serve the Lord, and by lamenting it, that they serve him no better.

For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 27:23-25. Ἄγγελος] an angel. But naturally those hearers who were Gentiles, and not particularly acquainted with Judaism, understood this as well as τοῦ Θεοῦ κ.τ.λ. according to their Gentile conception (of a messenger of the gods, and of one of the gods).

οὗ εἰμὶ ἐγὼ, ᾧ καὶ λατρεύω] to whom I belong, as His property, and whom I also (in accordance with this belonging) serve. Comp. Romans 1:9. Paul thus characterizes himself as intimate with God, and therewith, assures the credibility of his announcement, in which τοῦ Θεοῦ with great emphasis precedes the ἄγγελος κ.τ.λ. (see the critical remarks). On ἐγώ (see the critical remarks), in which is expressed a holy sense of his personal standing, Bornemann correctly remarks: “Pronomen Paulum minime dedecet coram gentilibus verba facientem.”

κεχάρισταί σοι ὁ Θεός] God has granted to thee, i.e. He has saved them (according to His counsel) for thy sake. See on Acts 3:14.

Here, too (comp. on Acts 16:10), the appearance, which is to be regarded as a work of God, is not a vision in a dream. The testimony and the consciousness of the apostle, who was scarce likely to have slumbered and dreamed on that night, are decisive against this view, and particularly against the naturalizing explanation of Eichhorn (Bibl. III. p. 407, 1084), Zeller, and Hausrath. De Wette takes objection to the mode of expression κεχάρισται κ.τ.λ., and is inclined to trace it to the high veneration of the reporter; but this is unfair, as Paul had simply to utter what he had heard. And he had heard, that for his sake the saving of all was determined. Bengel well remarks: “Non erat tam periculoso alioqui tempore periculum, ne videretur P., quae necessario dicebat, gloriose dicere.”

οὕτως καθʼ ὃν τρ.] comp. Acts 1:11.Acts 27:23. παρέστηἄγγελος: on this Lucan phrase and description of angelic appearances cf. Luke 2:9; Luke 24:4, Acts 12:7 (Acts 23:11), and see above, Acts 1:10.—τοῦ Θεοῦ: “of the God whose I am, whom also I serve,” R.V., Ramsay, Rendall, not “an angel of God,” as A.V.; the R.V. rendering gives the force of the Greek more naturally in addressing a heathen; see also critical note.—λατρεύω, see on Acts 24:14; cf. Romans 1:9, and LXX, Jonah 1:9.23. the angel of God] [R. V. an angel of the God]. In speaking to heathens this would be the sense which the Apostle designed to convey. They had their own gods. But St Paul stood in a different relation to his God from any which they would acknowledge towards their divinities. To him God was a Father, and therefore all obedience and service were His due. Cp. the language of Jonah when he was among the heathen sailors. (Jonah 1:9.)Acts 27:23. Εἰμὶ, I am) To belong to GOD is the height of religion; wherein faith, love, and hope, are comprehended. The correlative is, to serve GOD.—λατρεύω, I serve) They who were in the ship saw this.Verse 23. - An angel of the God whose I am, whom also for the angel of God, whose I am, and whom, A.V. and T.R. Observe Paul's open confession of God before the heathen crew. The angel

Rev., correctly, an angel. There is no article.

Of God (τοῦ Θεοῦ)

Rev., correctly, supplies the article: "the God," added because Paul was addressing heathen, who would have understood by angel a messenger of the gods.

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