God’s Word for You
Acts 27:30-32 Anchors and lies
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, March 8, 2021
30 Now the sailors wanted to escape from the ship. They had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea as if they meant to lay out anchors from the bow, 31 but Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut the ropes of the ship’s boat and let her fall away.
By “sailors,” Luke means the ship’s crew and their officers. Anchors could not be lowered at the whim of any sailor. The orders had to come from the Captain or the sailing master, therefore the officers were in on the deception. The ship’s boat, which had been taken in under difficult circumstances while the storm was at its worst (Acts 27:16) was now lowered out again. The sailors’ deception was in saying that it was “to lay out anchors from the bow.” In practical terms, this may have been a good idea and a reasonable course of action. Bow anchors would assist the stern anchors in holding the ship fast once they began to grab on the sandy or rocky bottom. Lowering the ship’s boat was certainly a step in such an evolution, but Paul saw through their deception. In the dark of the night (according to verse 27, it was between midnight and dawn) the passengers would think that the boat was lost in the heaving sea and not realize they had been abandoned.
Paul didn’t bother arguing with the ship’s officers. He went right to the detachment of Roman soldiers and their Centurion to show that all their lives were on the line: “You cannot be saved,” he said, if the sailors leave the ship. It’s significant to note that it was the soldiers who cut away the boat. As always at sea, the boat is described with the feminine “her” in verse 32. Greek has a perfectly acceptable third gender, the neuter, used for many objects (such as a chariot, Genesis 41:43; Acts 8:38, or abstract concepts such as evil and good, 3 John 1:11), but a boat is always “she” and “her.”
When a lie is told that will bring harm to someone, this is a clear violation of the Eighth Commandment, not to bring false testimony against one’s neighbor. There are times when an untruth is meant to instruct (such as in a fable), or to entertain (such as in a dramatic performance or a work of fiction), or is even meant only in play (such as a feint or fake in a sporting event, or when children pretend to do adult things such as in Luke 7:32). None of those breaks the Eighth Commandment. There are also times when a deception is necessary in a war, such as when Gideon gave his soldiers empty jars to smash and confuse the Midianites (Judges 7:16).
Moses commands: “Do not lie. Do not deceive one another” (Leviticus 19:11). At the heart of this is not to speak evil against someone (Psalm 109:20, 139:20). We especially remember that we should help our neighbor maintain his rights, whether this is in court or not. This comes first because in the second table of the Law we are mostly concerned with loving our neighbor. Yet we should also apply this to spiritual matters, and hold preachers accountable when they speak falsely about God’s word and God’s will (which also violates the first three commandments). Thirdly, the Bible forbids lying, all “sins of the tongue,” when this will injure, hurt or offend our neighbor. This includes gossiping and any form of exposing the secrets a neighbor might have which do not need to become public. Luther warns: We should note that nobody has the right to judge and reprove his neighbor publicly, even when he has seen a sin committed, unless he has been authorized to judge and reprove. There is a great difference between judging sin and having knowledge of sin. Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business. If I interfere and pass sentence on him, I fall into a greater sin than his” (Large Catechism, Eighth Commandment, par. 265-266).
Paul exposed the deception of the sailors because everyone’s life was in peril. He saved their lives by speaking up, which we do when we expose a false teaching. We recognize false teaching by reading and remaining in the Word of God. We compare what is said with what is written, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) who loved the Word of God and lived by it. “I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go” (Psalm 143:8). God’s Word is always true. You trust in your Savior for forgiveness and eternal life, trust the Holy Spirit to guide you with godly living, too.
Pastor Timothy Smith