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24
Renewing Your Mind about Leadership. Acts 20:25-38
June 24, 2018

The crucial component in any organization, institution, or business is its leadership. Good leadership can lift an organization to the heights of success, whereas poor leadership can plunge it into the depths of ruin. Not surprisingly, a vast amount of material is available for those wishing to sharpen their leadership skills. Leadership is treated as an essential element because it is. God is even more concerned about leadership in His kingdom. The Bible, both in its teaching and the examples it presents, speaks about leadership.

 

The pastoral epistles set forth the high standards for leaders in the church (1 Tim. 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9). This should be your first question to a prospective pastor. Ask them how they specifically fulfill the biblical criteria for leadership. All of those requirements are summarized in the requirement that a leader be “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6). The standards are high because the responsibility is great. Before giving them the priorities for leading the church, Paul laid a foundation by summarizing his own ministry at Ephesus. Yet, he opened on a sad note, informing them in Acts 20:25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming/preaching the kingdom, will see my face again. The term kingdom encompasses God’s rule in the sphere of salvation(cf. Acts 28:31). Proclaiming/preaching the kingdom meant proclaiming the gospel, the good news that sinners in the realm of Satan, death, and destruction (“the kingdom of darkness”) could enter the realm of salvation, life, and glory (“the kingdom of God’s Son”). Paul preached this gospel thoroughly and clearly, as he indicated in verses 20 and 27. He had served with them for three years, and his work with them was done. Having been taught and discipled by the apostle, they were ready to minister on their own.

  • This is a sad time for me because today my 11 years with you is coming to an end. I leave knowing that the strength in this congregation, from the elders to fruit of the Holy Spirit evidenced among you, testify to God in your midst and His hand upon you for the future.

 

Because Paul thoroughly fulfilled his obligation to teach, he could testify to them in verse 26, that he was innocent of the blood of all of you—both Jews and Gentiles. He had not only taught the church but also evangelized the lost. He had not been unfaithful in any aspect of ministry. We see Paul toward the end of his ministry among these people looking back and pointing out, not in any boastful manner but rather in an honest way, what he considered to have been the important features of his work, those blessed by God and for which he praised God (Boice, J. M. (1997). Acts: an expositional commentary (p. 344). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)

  • I leave you today not because of failure, or conflict, but because I believe that I have fulfilled what God has called me to do here and He is calling me to minister another group of His flock

 

Paul declared himself innocent as he says in verse 27, because he did not shrink from declaring to them the whole counsel/purpose of God. The implication is that those elders must follow Paul’s example of preaching a complete gospel of God’s redemption of sinners or face God’s chastisement. That is still true for all pastors. Daily, for two years, Paul had faithfully preached and taught at the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9–10)! Why? Because he understood that there can be no growth in Christ without the transmission of truth. (Barton, B. B., & Osborne, G. R. (1999). Acts (p. 349). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.)

  • In my time here, I have endeavored to proclaim and call forth the breath of God’s expectations. I pray in your search for a new shepherd to consider the life and teaching of this man in detail. Is there a doctrine or biblical practice that he is reluctant to proclaim or call for? Resist the urge to decide on him from an initial impression but come to know in character and teaching where he stands. If a ministry is not from and on the word of God, then He will neither honor or use it.

 

As you now consider God’s will and direction for your future as a congregation, I present before you today God’s expectation for leadership. Although I wish to celebrate what God has done among you, I pray you go forth today with both excitement and clarity of purpose.

 

After that personal note from verses 25-27, in Acts 20:28-38, Paul charged the church leaders in Ephesus to maintain five priorities that should shape any godly ministry. Leaders must: 1) Be Right with God  (Acts 20:28a), 2) Shepherd the flock (Acts 20:28b), 3) Guard the flock (Acts 20:29–31), 4) Study and pray (Acts 20:32), and 5) Be free from self-interest.

 

God charges church leaders to:

1)      Be Right with God (Acts 20:28a)

Acts 20:28a 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves (and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood). (ESV)

 

The first priority for anyone involved in spiritual leadership is his own relationship with God, he needs to, as Paul instructs, “Pay careful attention to yourselves.  To “pay careful attention” is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. This is not an instruction of something to keep in mind, but a continual duty. (Utley, R. J. (2003). Luke the Historian: The Book of Acts (Vol. Volume 3B, p. 235). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.) The overseer of God’s flock is called to “pay careful attention to himself (“yourselves”). Effective ministry is not mere outward activity; it is the overflow of a rich, deep relationship with God. No one is ready to face the pressures and responsibilities of ministry who is not right with God. Those pressures, as well as the demand to set the example, require that leaders constantly be on guard (Mark 13:9; Luke 21:34). As John Owen wisely observed:A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more”. (Cited in I. D. E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977], 192)

  • If a prospective shepherd is just concerned about what he would outwardly do without an inward devotional life, then what comes out will be the shell of words, instead of the richness of a spirit-produced overflow. This also applies to the man’s family, as 1 Tim. 3:4–5 instructs. “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (ESV) How he cares for his wife, and shepherds his own family is indicative of how he will care for the saints of God.

 

Please turn to 2 Timothy 2 (p.996)

 

Paul summed up what he had said to Timothy by calling him to examine himself (1 Tim. 4:16): “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” He charged Timothy to scrutinize his life and doctrine to make sure both honored God. Such was crucial to his own perseverance and to the salvation and perseverance of others.

 

Paul expressed that same truth in his second letter to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:20–21 20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (ESV)

  • In a house there were vessels for dishonorable uses, such as garbage and other waste. There were also vessels for honorable uses, such as food and drink. Only clean ones of high quality were fit for honor. Since God uses clean and holy instruments, vessels of honor, self-examination and forsaking sin are essential for leaders. Although God does bless His truth in spite of the preacher, He does not bless the unholy leader, no matter what title, position, or office he might hold.

 

Quote:In a powerful passage from his classic work The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter gives a stirring call for elders to examine themselves: “Take heed to yourselves, lest you live in those sins which you preach against in others, and lest you be guilty of that which daily you condemn". (Richard Baxter: The Reformed Pastor [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1979], 67–68)

  • The world will not tolerate hypocrisy from those who claim to represent God. It brings a reproach upon His name and is a barrier in the call for repentance and faith. Unless a man is right with God first and willing to have his life scrutinized then he cannot properly lead God’s people.

 

God charges church leaders to:

2)   Shepherd the Flock (Acts 20:28b)

Acts 20:28b28 Pay careful attention to yourselves) and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (ESV)

After making sure that his own life (and consequently that of his family) is in order, a leader’s second priority is the spiritual care of his flock. Positively, that care involves the feeding and leading of all the flock. The metaphor of a flock and a shepherd is often used to describe God’s relationship to His people. It is an apt one, since sheep are helpless, timid, dirty, and in need of constant protection and care. The Old Testament frequently describes Israel as God’s flock (Pss. 77:20; 78:52; 80:1; Isa. 40:11; 63:11; Jer. 13:17; 23:2–3; 31:10; Ezek. 34:2ff.; Mic. 2:12; 5:4; 7:14; Zech. 10:3), and the New Testament pictures the church as a flock with the Lord Jesus Christ as its Shepherd (John 10:1ff.; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:2–4).

  • Ministry is a callingand not a job. A man who puts limit after limit on his service is a man who considers himself his own boss and not an undershepherd, answerable to Christ the chief shepherd.

 

Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), has taken His flock and divided it into many smaller flocks (cf. 1 Pet. 5:2, “the flock of God among [or apportioned to] you”; 1 Pet. 5:3,those allotted to your charge”). The Holy Spirit sovereignly raises up overseers, or undershepherds. In the early years of the church, there was no real distinction in office between the three terms for pastor: elder (presbuteros), a bishop or overseer (episkopos), or a shepherd or pastor (poimen)the distinctions occurred later in church history. (Barton, B. B., & Osborne, G. R. (1999). Acts (pp. 349–350). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.) The term “overseers” is the word Episkopos is composed of two parts: skopos, which is from the verb skopio (meaning “to look”) and epi (meaning “over”). So an episkopos is literally “one who looks over” or “keeps watch over” someone else.  (Boice, J. M. (1997). Acts: an expositional commentary (p. 349). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.).

 

The overseers are responsible to care for/shepherd their flocks. Care for/Shepherd is from poimainō, a comprehensive term encompassing the entire task of a shepherd. In means to ‘tend’ a flock and in particular ‘to lead a flock to pasture, and so to feed it’. This is the first duty of shepherds. In John 21:15–17, Jesus three times instructed Peter to care for His sheep in this way. (Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Acts: the Spirit, the church & the world (pp. 326–327). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)

 

The motive for such high standards of leadership lies in the fact that the church belongs not to congregations, but to God (cf. 1 Pet. 5:2). Church leaders have a stewardship over His property and must discharge that stewardship faithfully (cf. 1 Cor. 4:2). Further, the church is the most precious reality on earth, since the ultimate price was paid for it when the Lord Jesus Christ obtained/purchased it with His own blood (cf. 1 Pet. 1:18–19). That demands that every leader treat the church as the precious fellowship that it is.

  • It is vitally important that you consider a new shepherd to lead Christ’s churchand not primarily your church. Is this individual clearly called by the Holy Spirit, qualified as Christ specified and dedicated to first and foremost to shepherding God’s flock God’s way? If this perspective is not maintained then you will choose someone you want, to lead your church to achieve your desires. God will never honor or bless such a choice.

 

Please turn to Ephesians 5 (p.978)

 

The Lord Jesus Christ set the example of loving concern for the church that all leaders must follow. In Ephesians 5:25–27, Paul describes Christ’s sacrificial love for the church:

Ephesians 5:25-27 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (ESV)

  • The undershepherd must have the same concern for the purity of the churchas did the Great Shepherd. Paul certainly did. To the Corinthians he wrote, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (2 Cor. 11:2). Those undershepherds who truly value the church will shepherd their flocks by feeding them the Word of God and faithfully leading them.

 

Illustration:

During a recent conflict in the Middle East, two missionaries who serve in Israel wrote this interesting observation in their prayer letter: “The result of the fighting and killing has left a profound sense of discouragement that hovers over the country. Several times we have come into closer contact with this conflict than our comfort zone allowed. Yesterday a friend said she was watching a shepherd caring for his flock near the area where guns are fired. Every time the shots rang out, the sheep scattered in fright. The shepherd touched each of them with his staff and spoke calmly to them, and the sheep settled down because they trusted the shepherd. Then another shot sounded, and the same routine happened. Each time, the sheep needed the shepherd to orient them again and to reassure them they were safe.” We are like those sheep. When we are frightened, our Shepherd reaches out and touches us with his staff, speaking words of calm and comfort. (Ron and Joke Jones, who serve with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Israel as recorded in Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (p. 114). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.)

 

God charges church leaders to:

3)   Guard the Flock (Acts 20:29–31)

Acts 20:29–31 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. (ESV)

 

It is not enough for a faithful shepherd to feed and lead his flock, he must also protect it from predators. Paul had no doubt that after his departure false teachers would threaten the Ephesian church, as they already had entered the church at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:4) and the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:6). Whenever the truth is proclaimed, Satan can be expected to counter it with the lies of false doctrine. It has always been so. Paul’s striking description of false teachers as fierce/savage wolves … not sparing the flock echoes that of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:15; 10:16). The Lord Jesus and his apostles refuted error themselves and urged us to do the same. One wonders if it is the neglect of this obligation which is a major cause of today’s theological confusion. If, when false teaching arises, Christian leaders sit idly by and do nothing, or turn tail and flee, they will earn the terrible epithethirelings’ who care nothing for Christ’s flock. Then too it will be said of believers, as it was of Israel, in Ezekiel 34:5 that ‘they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and … they became food for all the wild animals’ (Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Acts: the Spirit, the church & the world (pp. 328–329). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).

  • False teachers can be highly skilled, knowing how to tell people what they want to hear. Without discernment and examination, they can seriously derail a faithful ministry like that of the one here.

 

True to Paul’s prediction in verse 30, false teachers did come from/in among the flock at Ephesus and attack it (cf. Rev. 2:2). Even more subtle than the attack of false teachers from outside the church, however, is the defection of those within. For this reason, every congregation must not only exercise care in choosing its leaders, and it must maintain constant vigilance to insure that those who are chosen remain faithful to their calling.(Wade, J. W. (1987). Acts: Unlocking the Scriptures for You (p. 219). Cincinnati, OH: Standard.)

 

Accordingly, Paul warned them that from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted/perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Twisted/Perverse is from diastrephō, which means “to distort” . False teachers twist God’s truth for their own perverted ends. Draw away is from apospaō and could be translated “to drag away” or “to tear away.” If the undershepherds are not vigilant, Paul warns, the wolves will drag their sheep away to devour them. Satan loves to subvert from within. Vigilance is ever the price of liberty. (Hughes, R. K. (1996). Acts: the church afire (p. 280). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.)

  • This is the most crucial time for extra vigilance. Without active discernment, people can undermine God’s ministry from within.

 

Please turn to the book of Jude (p.1027)

 

Tragically, even the Ephesian church, where Paul himself ministered for three years, saw such defections among its leadership. In his letters to Timothy (who was then the pastor of the Ephesian church), Paul condemned the false teachers who had arisen from within the Ephesian congregation (1 Tim. 1:3–7; 2 Tim. 3:1–9), even naming some of them (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17).

 

Jude also warned in his epistle of the insidious danger of false teachers who arise from within the church:

Jude 3-4 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (ESV)

  • People ask how these false teaches can become so popular? When there is a leadership vacuum they simply say that the ministry you had in the past was too restrictive, now I am going to free everyone to do what they want. This is how they v.4pervert the grace of God”. This sounds so freeing and liberating to people, for they often don’t consider why a directive was there in the first place. It’s like removing a supporting beam in a house without seeking to understand what is holding up. Often the result can bring everything crashing down.

 

To guard their flocks from attacks from both outside and inside the church, the undershepherds must do two things according to verse 31. First, they must be on the alert. Knowing that the savage wolves are awaiting an opening to attack their flocks, they must be vigilant. This as well is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE (cf. Mark 13:35), which is parallel to v. 28, “Be on guard for yourselves.” God’s leaders and God’s church must be on constant watch for false teachersnot those who disregard our personal preferences, but those who disregard the gospel and its lifestyle implications. ( Utley, R. J. (2003). Luke the Historian: The Book of Acts (Vol. Volume 3B, p. 236). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.)

 

Second, the faithful shepherd must also warn the flock. Paul had done so during his own ministry at Ephesus; he reminds the Ephesian elders that they must be “remembering that for three years (Paul) did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. Admonish is from noutheteō, which refers to giving counsel with a warning involved (cf. Col. 1:28). The pattern of Paul’s ministry shows the importance of warning believers about false teachers. He admonished the Ephesians for a period of three years, caring for everyone of the flock (cf. v. 20). So compelled was he to warn them that he hardly had time for sleep, ministering night and day (cf. 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8). Nor was it a mere academic exercise for Paulhe punctuated his warnings with his tears. He wept because he knew the terrible consequences when false teachers infiltrate. Only by following Paul’s example can the faithful undershepherd protect Christ’s flock from the savage wolves and diseased sheep who constantly threaten it.

 

Quote:Charles Jefferson described the importance of the shepherd’s vigilance: "The Eastern shepherd was, first of all, a watchman... It was his business to keep a wide-open eye, constantly searching the horizon for the possible approach of foes. He was bound to be circumspect and attentive. Vigilance was a cardinal virtue. An alert wakefulness was for him a necessity. He could not indulge in fits of drowsiness, for the foe was always near. Only by his alertness could the enemy be circumvented…. When Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Habakkuk talk about shepherds, they call them watchmen set to warn and save. Many a minister fails as a pastor because he is not vigilant. He allows his church to be torn to pieces because he is half asleep. He took it for granted that there were no wolves, no birds of prey, no robbers, and while he was drowsing the enemy arrived. False ideas, destructive interpretations, demoralizing teachings came into his group, and he never knew it. …There are errors which are as fierce as wolves and pitiless as hyenas; they tear faith and hope and love to pieces and leave churches, once prosperous, mangled and half dead". (Charles Jefferson The Minister as Shepherd [Hong Kong: Living Books for All, 1980], 41–42, 43–44)

 

God charges church leaders to:

4)      Study and Pray (Acts 20:32)

Acts 20:32 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (ESV)

 

Since an undershepherd is tasked with feeding and protecting God’s flock, he must be a student of the Scriptures and devoted to prayer. Only then will he have true knowledge and the wisdom to apply that knowledge. This dual priority of ministry goes back to the example of the apostles, who declared in Acts 6:4,We will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Those exercises are the heart of a leader’s effectiveness. Here in verse 32 is another illustration of Paul’s constant practice to commend believers to God in prayer (Rom. 1:9–10; Eph. 1:15–16; Phil. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:2–3; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:3; Philem. 4). Though not specifically a call for pastors to pray, it is surely a reminder of the centrality of prayer in Paul’s life. The church in Acts lived in a constant atmosphere of prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:42). There is no substitute for prayer, for prayer acknowledges dependence on God and lines us up with His purposes. Prayer also allows God to glorify Himself by answering (John 14:13). Without it the undershepherds’ attempts to feed, lead, and guard the flock will be in vain. Good intentions, good ideas, or good programs cannot overcome the effects of prayerlessness.

  • Although often overlooked, detailed questions about what, when and why a prospective leaders prays about, will tell you a lot about his concerns, priorities and understanding of how God designed the care of His flock.

 

Study of the Word is the other foundational pillar of ministry, since it is the word of His grace which is able to build believers up and to give them the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter echoed Paul’s thought: “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Paul told Timothy that the church wasthe pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), thus requiring that its leaders know that truth. The Word is the source of spiritual growth (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet. 3:18). The Word is also the source of assurance, convincing believers that they have an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Weak, struggling believers who lack assurance of salvation need to be fed the Word of God that they might “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

 

  • No amount of leadership training, innovate program ideas, charisma, or stamina will make up for a lack of functional biblical wisdom. To be able to discern the times, the saints and properly apply the word is crucial for an effective pastorate. Prayer and the ministry of the Word must be the main occupation of the shepherd. If the under shepherd ignores these elements, both he and his flock suffer greatly.

 

Quote:As A. W. Tozer so precisely observed,Do you know who gives me the most trouble? Do you know who I pray for the most in my pastoral work? Just myself.” Elders who say one thing and do another are untrustworthy and are in danger of being the cause of another’s stumbling. They will not be able to say, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you” (Acts 20:26). Elders should therefore be diligent in their attendance at the means of grace, be eager to uphold the Scriptures, be men of prayer, and have a love for the souls of men and women.” (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship? comp. and ed. Gerald B. Smith (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1985), 78..)

 

Finally, God charges church leaders to:

5)      Be Free from Self-Interest (Acts 20:33–38)

Acts 20:33–38 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” 36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship. (ESV)

Paul’s ministry was not characterized by self-seeking materialism. The apostle emphatically declared I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel/clothes. He then appealed to their firsthand observation of his three years of ministry at Ephesus. You yourselves know, he reminded them in verse 34, no doubt holding up his hands as he spoke, that these hands ministered to my necessities/own needs and to those who were with me. Although Paul had every right to receive support for his ministry (1 Cor. 9:3ff.) and sometimes did (2 Cor. 11:8–9; Phil. 4:10–19), it was his custom to support himself (2 Cor. 11:7; 12:13; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8). He did so that he might “offer the gospel without charge” (1 Cor. 9:18).

  • Although false teachers do seek the ministry for personal financial gain, a pastor needs the assurance that he and his family are coming to a congregation that genuinely care for his needs. This may require assistance and advice in schooling, housing or general personal support. It is a stressful and often daunting prospect to leave extended family, congregation and community to uproot to a new congregation.

 

Paul then appealed to them to follow his example in verse 35: In all things/everything I have shown you that by working hard in this way/manner we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ The apostle not only supported himself but also worked to help others in need. This quotation of Jesus is not recorded in the gospels but was nonetheless known among the early Christians.

  • The time of transition for a new pastor can be a great time of working together and reaching out to consider possibilities. From the upcoming VBS, to the outdoor service, use this time to minister to those in need. Don’t look for a minister, seek to all be ministers to meet genuine needs.

 

 

Having said these things in verse 36, Paul knelt down and prayed with them all. His exhortation was finished, and he had to leave, no doubt because his ship was ready to sail. When the time of prayer was over in verse 37, there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, verse 38, being sorrowful/grieving most of all/especially because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. The parting was an emotional one, reflecting the Ephesian elders’ deep love for Paul and their immense sorrow that they would never see him again. Even when the beloved apostle finally tore himself away, they could not bear to part with him and they accompanied him to the ship.

  • As this being my last Sunday with you as your pastor, although I have sorrow, I commend you to the word of God and to Him who guides, protects and instructs. You are neither alone or without the tools to accomplish what God has called you to do. Do not wait for a pastor to minister. Do not be hasty to lay hands on another who would be and undershepherd of your souls (1 Tim. 5:22). Be much in the word and prayer that you may be of one spirit, devoted to one purpose for the singular goal of glorifying God.

 

Paul’s ministry was successful because his life was right with God, he made it his priority to feed and guard the flock, he devoted himself to prayer and the ministry of the word, and he was totally free of self-interest. The result was the devoted love of his people and, more important, the approval of God.

  • I am blessed to have been your pastor for the last 11 years. I have experienced first hand your care and love. I have seen God work among you and as God has promised in Philippians 1: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

 

(Format Note: Outline & some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (Vol. 2, pp. 220–231). Chicago: Moody Press.)

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