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  • Writer's pictureAlan Fong

Row the Boat

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; ~Acts 26:16


In 1 Corinthians 4:1, Paul uses a word for "minister" that is different from the typical word that is used to describe a servant. This word was applied to Paul and used in Acts 26:16 when he described his calling as a herald of the gospel. The word he used was a very common one in the Greek that referred to him as an under-rower. We would call someone like that an "oarsman." Under-rowers, or oarsmen, were men who were responsible for rowing a ship. It is a word for a servant of God that has a wonderful application for us.

  • An under-rower was typically someone that was either a slave or a servant owned by a shipmaster. He would be shackled by his feet and was the property of the shipmaster. When he boarded the ship, the will of the under-rower was in submission to the will of the shipmaster. All under-rowers were in the ship galley below the deck and always out of eyesight of the other passengers.

  • Under-rowers row to the beat of the captain of the ship. The captain would beat a drum to keep the rowers in sync. All had to row to the captain’s beat in order for the ship to go at the right speed and not veer off course.

  • Under-rowers must row as a team. A typical oar was thirty feet long and required up to three men per oar. These men could not push and pull as they felt like it. They had to function as a team.

  • Under-rowers need to have faith and trust in the captain. The captain was the one who could see the best and farthest. Since the rowers were in the galley, all they knew was to row. If the beat increased, this could signal that an enemy ship was approaching or the shoreline was close. The rowers had to obey and trust that the captain knew what he was doing.

  • All under-rowers were committed to their task for life. They could not request a transfer or change of jobs. They were in this for their lifetime, and they would die as oarsmen.

  • An oarsman would receive no honor. He was an unrecognized servant. He would perform his task day in and day out.

So, what does this all mean? Paul used this word to convey the original meaning that God had for him when he was called to the gospel ministry. As a servant of the King of kings, he was committed for life to the propagation of the gospel message. He worked as a team member with others who had this same calling. He performed to the beat of his Captain (the Lord Jesus), and he did this for his lifetime. Though his task was considered lowly and without honor, it was the highest endeavor of service to God. We are to have complete faith in our Captain, and though we cannot see far, He sees far enough that we can trust Him for our direction and arrival. We are called to be God’s oarsmen for the promotion of the gospel message.

Let’s be careful to not row the gospel message at our own whim and beat, but let's be in sync with the Captain of our salvation. Be an under-rower who gets the job done!

Have a faithful God Morning!

Bible Reading Schedule: Jeremiah 1-3

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