Not All Sacrifices Are Good

We're not called to be reckless.

Acts 27:1-12 (ESV)

And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

There are many interesting details in this passage that are easy to miss. We learn that there were some other prisoners on board the ship with Paul. Since appealing to Caesar wasn’t common, that’s a mystery.

The next day we put in at Sidon. We? Luke is on the ship! Consider the magnitude of the sacrifice that implies. This isn’t a one-week vacation so Luke can tour Rome; it’ll cost him months (and maybe his life) to accompany Paul. That kind of sacrifice (which is typical of the first Christians) puts us to shame.

Being after the fast (Yom Kippur – in early fall) it’s too late for safe sailing in the Mediterranean. Paul knows God wants him to go to Rome, but he knows Mediterranean fall weather too, so he announces, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” Since he’s a prisoner, his advice isn’t heeded. The majority decided to put out to sea.

They voted on this!

When Paul said, “Sirs, I perceive …” he was speaking for himself. God hadn’t revealed this to him. But God had revealed that he should go to Rome. So why hesitate now? Is Paul having second thoughts about obeying God’s command to go to Rome?

Absolutely not. This is a great example of how Christians can be shrewd in obeying Christ. Paul took lots of risks and made lots of sacrifices, but he wasn’t reckless.

We should be willing to take risks for the Lord, but not stupid ones.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.