Do we listen to the ‘Word of REASON’ or the ‘Word of GOD’? Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 27:9-11)
The events leading to Apostle Paul being on a ship en route to Rome happened because he had made his appeal to Caesar for justice (see Acts 25:11, 12). This section details the initial part of Paul’s providential journey to Rome. The phrase “we should sail” (v. 1) indicates that Luke (the author of the book of ‘Acts of the Apostles’) was accompanying Paul to the capital of the Roman Empire.
The voyage from Caesarea to Crete provided the venue for the first segment of Paul’s trip to Rome (vv. 1–12). Luke described Paul’s party sailing north from Caesarea and making several stops along the Syrian coast. The ship then turned west and proceeded along the southern coast of Asia Minor. However, a northwesterly wind forced Paul’s ship southwest to the island of Crete. Paul then recommended staying through the winter at Fair Havens, but the centurion had the final word, and he determined to press on to Phoenix.
There was some human reasoning as to why the decision was taken to travel to Phoenix instead of waiting out at Fair Havens. By now considerable time had been lost due to unfavorable sailing conditions. The approach of winter weather had made further travel dangerous. It became a question, however, whether they would spend the winter where they were, or seek a more desirable winter haven. Paul warned the crew that navigation was unsafe and that if this voyage were continued, there would be the danger of losing the cargo and ship, and even the lives of some on board. We should be aware that Paul had been at sea many times before and had been shipwrecked at least two other times before (see 2 Cor. 11:25).
However, the helmsman and the owner of the ship wanted to proceed and so the centurion accepted their judgment, and most of the others agreed with them too. They must have asked each other: What did a Jewish tent maker know about sailing a ship? Also, it is possible that the owner of the ship wanted to get his grain to a larger port so that he could sell it. Furthermore Julius, the centurion in charge, probably wanted a better place to winter his men. In other words, greed and the desire for comfort made them take the wrong judgment. So, the advice of the experts (v. 11) and the vote of the majority (v. 12) carried the day and Paul’s counsel was rejected. Everything happened as per Paul’s prediction!
This unfortunate misjudgment brings before us a question: Do we listen to the word of reason or do we rely on the Word of God? It is possible that the words Paul spoke were actually the Word of God since he was a man of prayer who was closely following God’s will. One thing is clear: Paul had reached out beyond his own interests and safety and spoke up for the safety of others. When we note the aftermath of the ship’s fate, we know that Paul’s words proved accurate and prophetic. Let us listen, follow and obey God’s Word today as His Word will remain the same and will never disappear any time in the future!