Summary: Three things about advice seen in the advice given to the apostle Paul.
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 36
“A Study On Giving Advice”
Dr. John R. Hamby
Advice can be a wonderful thing or an absolute disaster. Given a moment or two I am sure that each of us can think back on some bad advice that you have received or perhaps some bad advice that you have given.
“Norma Bombeck writes the following about advice;
1. Never have more children than you have car windows.
2. Never loan your car to someone to whom you have given birth.
3. Pick your friends carefully. A "friend" never goes on a diet when you are fat or tells you how lucky you are to have a husband who remembers Mother’s Day--when his gift is a smoke alarm.
4. Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.
5. Know the difference between success and fame. Success is Mother Teresa. Fame is Madonna.
6. Never be in a hurry to terminate a marriage. Remember, you may need this man or woman someday to finish a sentence.
7. There are no guarantees in marriage. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a Sears battery.” (Erma Bombeck. www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/a/advice.htm)
In our text Paul is given advice on two different occasions by people who had a considerable influence in his life. These were people who cared deeply about Paul and did not want to see him suffer therefore they urged him not to go to Jerusalem.
Not everyone agrees on how to interpret Acts 21. Some see this as an example of Paul’s bravery while others see this as a grave mistake on the part of the apostle, arguing that Paul went against the Holy Spirit’s clear directions not to go to Jerusalem. Paul was of course human and made mistakes but I do not see this as a mistake on the part of Paul.
Paul had just experienced a heartrending farewell with the Ephesian elders. This experience was intensified by Paul’s statements to them that they would never see his face again (20:38). The Holy Spirit had previously revealed to Paul that the road ahead held “chains and tribulations.” (20:23).
Knowing that danger lay ahead, he trusted in God and did not fear the consequences. In Acts 21 we read, “Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. (2) And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. (3) When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. (4) And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.”
Verses 1-4 take us from Miletus, where Paul met with the Ephesian elders, to Tyre, where Paul and his party look up the believers and stay with them for seven days. It is here that Paul gets his first advice and I would like for you to notice three things about advice.
1. Some Times Good People Can Give You The Wrong Advice.
When he landed in Tyre he went looking for some Christian companionship. We are told that these brethren warned Paul, “through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.”
(v. 4b). The word “through” (dia) is not the word used previously (13:4, hupo) to speak of the direct agency of the Holy Spirit. Here it is better understood as “in consequence of the spirit,” that is because of what the spirit said. The Holy Spirit had not forbidden Paul to go to Jerusalem but according to Acts 20:22 had constrained Paul to go. [Ralph Harris. Ed. The New Testament Study Bible: Acts. (Springfield, Missouri: The Complete Biblical Library, 1991) p. 503]
The Holy Spirit had revealed that Paul would undergo suffering for Christ. The Holy Spirit did not tell them to inform Paul not to go to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit predicted persecution for the apostle and their love for him caused them to beg him not to go.
Christian’s today are just as inclined to give advice today as they were in Paul’s day. Unfortunately often the advice which is given today is well-intentioned, but wrong. We cannot avoid the sad fact of life that even some Christians will not understand the path we are taking when we follow the Lord. Some parents will be opposed to the decision their children take to follow the Lord if it is along a difficult path.
Paul obviously did not heed the advice offered him, because when the ship was ready to sail, he was on it.