Monday, April 16, 2018

The Acts Of The Apostles. Day 76, Paul Addresses the Ephesian Elders, Part Two

The Apostle Paul says farewell to the elders from the church at Ephesus. He knows trouble awaits him at Jerusalem and he knows he will never see these dear friends again.

"Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God." (Acts 20:25-27) Paul shared the gospel with the Ephesians. He fulfilled his mission and now it is up to the hearers to accept or reject the word of God. This is all any of us can do. We are called to carry out the great commission, but it is up to the hearers of the gospel to accept or reject it.

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood." (Acts 20:28) The word translated "overseers" here is the same word which is translated "bishops" elsewhere in the Bible. These leaders of the church are always to keep in mind that the Lord Jesus shed His precious and holy blood for the church. He paid a high price to save the souls of mankind. Keeping this in mind will enable the elders to love and care for the church as Christ loves and cares for it.

"I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." (Acts 20:29-31) The enemies of the church don't always come from outside; sometimes they arise from within. These are the most dangerous type of enemies. They know enough Scripture to twist and pervert it and still sound like they are telling the truth. They look enough like a Christian to deceive others into trusting their counsel. They are wolves in sheep's clothing. When the gospel was first being preached, most of the opposition came from outside the church. But Paul knows that as churches become established and begin to grow and prosper that the most insidious type of opposition will come from within. Paul foresees that Satan won't be able to stop the church by heaping persecution on it, so that old deceiver is going to change his tactics. He's going to attack it with complacency, prosperity, and worldliness. By the time the Apostle John receives the revelation of Christ on the Isle of Patmos, such things will already have crept into the Ephesian church, for Christ will say to them, "You have forsaken the love you had at first." (Revelation 2:4)

"Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." (Acts 20:32) The church needs to hold fast to "the word of His grace". Everything must be founded on the Scriptures. False doctrines can't creep in if everything is held up to the light of God's word. No one will be able to deceive God's people if every sermon and every teaching is tested by the Scriptures. Anything that does not line up with the word of God should be rejected.

"I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than receive.'" (Acts 20:33-35) Luke has already told us earlier in Acts that Paul was a tentmaker. He didn't rely on the people at Ephesus to support him. The gospel should be free to anyone who wants to hear it, so Paul didn't want to be a burden to anyone while he taught the people about Christ. The Bible doesn't record Jesus saying, "It is more blessed to give than receive," but it must have been an oft-repeated proverb of His. I can well imagine Jesus saying such a thing because He also said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45) If the holy and perfect Son of God, King of kings and Lord of lords, though it more blessed to give than to receive, we should certainly follow His example.

"When Paul finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship." (Acts 20:36-38) They go with Paul as far as they can go. They watch him board the ship and sail out of sight, weeping as they wave goodbye. He leaves an honorable legacy behind as he sails away. There is no better legacy anyone can leave than to have it said, "We loved this precious friend dearly. He shared the gospel with us. He never thought he was better than anyone else but worked as hard as any of us. He not only talked the talk, he walked the walk. He set an example for us to follow. What a great loss it is to us that we will see him no more."

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