For the Love of God, Volume 1/August 2
From Gospel Translations
Judges 16; Acts 20; Jeremiah 29; Mark 15
PAUL’S ADDRESS TO THE EPHESIAN ELDERS (Acts 20:18-35) can be broken down into three parts. In the first (20:18-24), Paul talks about his own ministry in Ephesus and his own future. In the second (20:25-31), he uses his example of ministry as an encouragement to the elders in Ephesus to “keep watch” over themselves and over “all the flock” of God (20:28) of which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers, with special emphasis on the challenges ahead when people within the church will prove eager to gain disciples and be prepared to distort the truth. In the third (20:32-35), Paul not only commits these elders “to God and to the word of his grace” (20:32), but quietly testifies again to the exacting standards of personal probity in his own life when he served among them.
More commonly than not, when this passage is preached we lay the emphasis on the central section. But here I would like to draw attention to some of the features that characterized Paul’s ministry.
(1) The most obvious is the fact that Paul perceived how he lived and served to be a role model. Elsewhere he openly tells the Corinthians to imitate him, as he imitates Christ (1 Cor. 11). In Paul there is no trace of a double standard: Do what I teach but not what I do.
(2) Paul “served the Lord with great humility and with tears,” even though he was “severely tested” by the machinations of “the Jews” (20:19). In other words, opposition neither defeated him nor whipped him into a frenzy of retaliation. By contrast, how easy it is to get discouraged and quit, or get angry and destroy what is being built.
(3) Paul’s ministry was edifying, and conveyed in a mixture of public meeting and faithful visitation (20:20). One gets the impression that above all it was the ministry of the Word, communicated through a man set on fire by that Word.
(4) Paul did not flinch from dealing with the immutables of the Gospel, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular they might be. As a result he boldly declared, to Jews and Gentiles alike, “that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (20:21, emphasis added).
(5) On occasion, Paul felt himself “compelled by the Spirit” to adopt a certain course without knowing exactly where that course would lead (20:22-24). Having enough illumination to decide on an action does not guarantee enough information to know how things will turn out. In this case he knows only that he is promised “prison and hardships”—and all he wants for himself is to complete the task the Lord Jesus has given him, “the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”