If you think about it, if Paul’s identity had been found in Paul’s occupation or position of influence, Paul’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth should have been taking a major hit. Maybe the transition from being a Hebrew among Hebrews to the Preacher to the Gentiles might not have been so bad. After all, while Paul no longer possessed prestige status among the majority of his countrymen, he was quite the noted itinerant among the quickly growing start-up church. Though prominence among the majority may have been traded for prominence among this upstart minority, it was still prominence.
But this morning I’m reading of Paul the prisoner in Acts 27. And this man who once directed Jews as a Pharisee, who had once planted churches as a Preacher, couldn’t even persuade a centurion or the pilot of ship to discern the weather. Like I said, if Paul’s identity was wrapped up in his influential abilities, you might expect that Paul the prisoner was hitting rock bottom.
But Paul’s identity wasn’t wrapped up in his position. His self worth not dependent on his sphere of influence. His self image less about himself and more about the image he bore. Created in the likeness of God, he was also the possession of God and believed in the promise of God.
. . . Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”
(Acts 27:21b-25 ESV)
It had been a dumb move to set sail from Fair Havens. Getting there had been with difficulty and, as the prime season for sailing had past, leaving there wasn’t going to get any easier. Everyone knew that continuing the voyage at this time would be dangerous. He had tried to warn them but, as already noted, Paul the Pharisee turned Paul the Preacher, who had become Paul the prisoner, no longer was Paul the prominent voice.
But when the weather turned, and the ship was tossed, and the situation seemed hopeless, this seemingly uninfluential victim of other’s bad decisions became the voice they all heeded. Not because the prisoner had once commanded the platform, but because he belonged to God, and he believed in what God had told him. That was Paul’s identity. That was his position of power. He was as a possession of God who believed the promise of God.
The God to whom I belong. How’s that for a label? That the God of creation, the One who fashioned me in His own triune likeness (Gen. 1:26-27), also determined to purchase me for His own, though I had sold myself into sin’s slavery. Ransoming me “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1Pet. 1:18-19). Though once an enemy of God, claiming me as the spoils of the victory won over sin and death through the cross of Christ. While I might find many things to identify me, when all is said and done, my true identity is found in the God to whom I belong.
What’s more, beyond being His beloved possession, I have been given His unfailing promise. Not to appear before some Caesar in Rome, but to one day stand face-to-face before the King of kings and Lord of lords in heaven. And though, while I sojourn to that place my lot on earth may shift, and the journey might seem hi-jacked by unexpected storms along the way, “I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”
Because I am His possession and He is faithful concerning His promises.
And that by His unfailing grace. And that for His unceasing glory.