“Paul’s Farewell, Pts. 1 & 2” – Acts 20:18-27
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Paul's farewell message was given to Christians, the Ephesian elders whom he had called to Miletus (vs. 17).
Paul's messages were recorded by Dr. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, many to the Jews, Gentiles and government officials.
But this address is unique; it is the only example we have of Paul speaking as a pastor, rather than an evangelist or defender of the faith, to other Christian church leaders.
Elder" is "presbutos" in Greek (presbyter) which refers to a mature person who was selected to serve in the church or synagogue (Acts 14:23).
These same people were called "overseers" (vs. 28), which is "epsikopos" (Gk.) or bishop. They were to feed the church.
Paul called the local church "the flock" (vs. 28-29) requiring one to lead and protect (tend) the sheep, to shepherd, or pastor "poimen" (Gk.).
In the New Testament church, the titles; Elder, Bishop and Pastor are synonymous. The qualifications for the office are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.
Paul's farewell here, and the directions he wrote to Timothy and Titus, are the foundation for pastoral leadership.
Paul's message to the Ephesian elders is easily divided into three parts:
1. The past, a review of his ministry (vs. 18-21).
2. The present, his testimony (vs. 22-27).
3. The future, a warning of trials to come (vs. 28-38).
In the first part, he speaks of his faithfulness to the Lord and His Church in Ephesus, where he ministered for three years.
The second section reveals Paul's personal feelings about the past and the future.
In the third part, he warns them of the dangers they can expect.
Let's review verses 16 and 17 for context.
A Review of the Past (Part 1)
"...you know, from the first day..."
* Paul gave himself completely to the ministry of the Gospel as soon as his feet hit the ground in Ephesus.
"...in what manner I lived among you."
* Paul started as an itinerant evangelist, but stayed with them three years as their pastor.
* "Manner" - His "manner," or lifestyle and ministry were exemplary for they came from his motivation:
"SERVING THE LORD"
* His motives for serving the Lord were spiritual, not selfish.
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
"...serving the Lord with all humility..."
* For he was "a bond slave to Christ" and not a "religious celebrity"
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God ...
* He knew that his Lord was the greatest humble Servant.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
"...with many tears and trials...by the plotting of the Jews..."
* "Tears and trials" - Always a part of pastoral ministry. The Gospel of Christ offends the unbeliever and believer alike (Jn. 6:61).
"The world...hates Me because I testify of it that it's works are evil."
Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus and received "many tears and trials."
So will we if we do the same. Learn to expect it, and rejoice in it (Jn. 16:33, Acts 5:40-42).
"...by the plotting of the Jews."
* In Ephesus and every time he preached Jesus to the Jews. (Acts 20:3).
"...I kept back nothing that was helpful..."
* Paul didn't keep back any teaching that was "helpful," even if it was painful to hear (vs. 27).
"...but proclaimed it to you..."
* "Proclaimed" - Preached it with power, truth and compassion.
"...taught you publicly..."
* Teaching doctrine, the truth of the Scripture.
* "Publicly" - In "the school of Tyrannus" (Acts 19:8-10).
"...from house to house..."
* Personally, individually and intimately.
"...testifying to Jews, and also Greeks."
* Paul's method was always to the Jews first in the synagogues that "Jesus is the Christ," and when rejected, to the Gentiles (Acts 18:5-6, 19:10).
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
"...repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
...and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
A Testimony of the Present (Part 2)
"...I go bound in the Spirit..."
* Paul knew that he was led by the Spirit of God and it didn't matter to him where or what the consequences would be.
* He would go to "Jerusalem" and ultimately to Rome and death for the Gospel (Acts 19:21, Phil. 1:12-18).
"...the Holy Spirit testifies...that chains and tribulations await me."
* In every city of this journey, Paul knew by the Spirit of his future.
* He was warned by "disciples" and the prophet Agabus not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4, 11).
"But none of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself..."
* A lesser man would have been moved to find a way out or quit, but Paul had one primary desire:
"...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Phil. 3:10-11)
For he was a minister of Christ and ready to die for Him (Acts 21:13).
I wonder, at times, if this is my primary desire and strength.
Is it yours?
"...so that I may finish my race with joy..."
* Paul's greatest joy was to be pleasing to Christ and not stop seeking this joy until the end.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
"...the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus..."
* Paul (Gal. 1:1, 11-12), and we have all received a ministry from the Lord.
The question is: Will we be obedient to Him and His call?
"...to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God."
* We, like Paul, as part of our "ministry," are commanded to witness (testify) of the grace of God in our lives (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8).
"Freely you have received, freely give."
"...preaching the kingdom of God..."
* "Preaching" - The word "preaching" means to proclaim, or declare a message as a herald of the King.
When we "testify" or witness, we tell of what happened to us.
But when we preach, we proclaim that which the King has commanded us! (Matt. 4:23)
"...I am innocent of the blood of all men..."
* As a shepherd of God's flock, we are called to be alert for danger to the sheep, the greatest of which is sin (Ez. 3:17-21, 33:1-9).
"For I have not shunned to declare to you..."
* "Shunned" - Avoided
* "Declare" - To preach and teach.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
"...the whole counsel of God."
* The entire body of Scripture, all of God's truth, verse to verse, chapter to chapter, book to book. From Genesis to Revelation.
The only way to receive and learn "the whole counsel of God" is in this manner.
We have much to think about and absorb from the first two parts of Paul's farewell message to the church elders in Ephesus.
We need to reflect on how Paul lived, ministered, taught and preached Christ among them during the three years he was there.
There's an old saying in ministry, we've probably heard it often:
"The best sermon that I ever heard was the one I saw."
Let Paul's life and ministry be our example also!