for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27, ESV)

As Paul speaks to the elders of the church at Ephesus [this will be the last time that he sees them], he tells them that he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”  The word translated “shrink from” is a nautical term that means “to reef the sails” or “to furl the sails.”  No doubt Paul with all of his sea travel had heard the term again and again, and of course, as we see here, it was a word that was not limited to use as a nautical term alone.

I like the picture Paul paints here where he has this message that he calls “the whole counsel of God.”  Presumably Paul means “everything that I know about our Great God and all that he has taught me and that I have learned,” I have passed on to you.  “I did not,” says Paul, “take what I knew and stow it away like a sailor stows a sail, rather I passed it on to you so that you would understand what God requires and the truth of the gospel.”

Every day and every age has certain truths that are not palatable to the culture in which they are proclaimed.  Our temptation is to reef the sails of truth exactly in the place where culture most opposes them.  In our culture this probably means the biblical truth concerning a homosexual lifestyle, concerning gender and where it came from, and concerning the sacred value of all life including of unborn children.  We must not furl the sails of truth where the truth most needs to be heard.

In the novel by Elizabeth Rundle Charles entitled The Chronicles of Schoenberg Cotta Family one of the characters named Fritz while referring to Martin Luther says:

“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”

The devil wants us to reef the sails of truth so that the Word of God is not proclaimed and people do not come to faith, Paul refused to do this; we ought to refuse also.