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Acts 20:7-38 Paul's Address to the Ephesian Elders

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Acts 20:7–16 ESV
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted. But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
Acts 20:7–38 ESV
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted. But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 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. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 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. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 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.’ ” And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 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.

Main Point

Paul’s first recorded address to Christians in Acts is an encouragement in authentic Christianity

Introduction

Eutychus
Paul preached past midnight!
Eutychus fell asleep
Paul is now in his way back to Jerusalem
Ephesus -> Macedonia -> Troas-> Miletus ->
Addresses Ephesian elders
An encouragement in authentic Christianity and leading the church
Pray for your elders
example for us to follow

1. Live by Example (Lead the Flock)

Acts 20:18–21 ESV
And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 20:18-21
Paul reflects on the example of his own ministry
Follow

1a) Serve the Lord

a servant
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus”
a servant of the Lord
every trial, every plot, every point of suffering,....he did it for God
its not about you, its not about this church - we serve God
everything you do - you do for the Lord - motivation
Ephesians 6:5–8 ESV
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
Eph

1b) Serve with humility

there is a way in which we can serve sinfully - by being prideful (serving our own ends)
we serve with humility not pride
If Paul was self-serving, there’s no way he would have endured
People pull out of ministry all the time for selfish reasons - (I was hurt, offended)
Authentic Christianity is serving the Lord not just when its easy
Serving is a joy - but sometimes its done with tears and with trials
Sometimes the very people you’re serving for Jesus sake don’t want it
Eph 4:1

1c) Serve with courage

Ephesians 4:1–2 ESV
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

1c) Serve with courage

Sometimes humility is confused with being spineless
Being humble doesn’t mean
running from a challenge,
or backing down from confrontation,
or avoiding controversy
In spite of the trials and plots, Paul did not shrink from his mission
or from declaring the whole counsel of God
It takes courage to minister to people who are opposed to you
It takes courage to stand up for truth
It takes courage to declare things are biblical when they are offensive to people
Paul suffered because he stuck courageously to his mission among people who denied the gospel of grace

1d) Serve with love

We don’t only serve among those in opposition - but also in equipping the saints
Paul taught in public and house to house
You don’t go house to house unless you love, and you can’t enter a house without love
Home visits will continue to be a major role in pastoral care

1d) Serve with focus

Testified to both Jew and Greek repentance and faith in Jesus Christ
Paul’s main focus wasn’t to be a servant, or to be humble, or to be courageous, or to be loving
Keep the main thing the main thing - remember your why
Your why for everything is the glory of God
We should desire that the Lord receive the glory and worship due
That is our why for everything
The goal that motivates our service - why we serve him, with humility, with courage, with love
Because the gospel is our focus
We are here to give testimony - to be his witnesses

2. Testify to the Gospel (Teach the Flock)

Acts 20:22–27 ESV
And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Acts

2a) A Spirit-inspired Compulsion

Constrained - a compulsion - also carries a sense of accountability
One does not desire to become an elder unless you feel this sort of compulsion
a Spirit given desire to glorify God
to see His kingdom grow
To teach true doctrine
to testify to the truth
So much so that you can’t rest…
… and nothing - not even the imminent threat of suffering - can stop you from finishing your course
Such resolve and constraint can’t come from love of self or even love of people
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;”
… he went ahead anyway
2 Corinthians 5:14 ESV
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;

2b) A Precious Testimony

The compulsion that every elder (and every Christian) should feel is a compulsion to spread a message - a testimony
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
An authentic compulsion to be an elder and to serve God can never be self-serving or to elevate yourself...
Acts 20:24 ESV
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
… if that were the case you would stop at the first hurdle, first threat, first offense
But Paul counts his life of no value nor as precious, compared to the need to serve Christ by testifying to the gospel and God’s grace
Acts
NOT saying his life has no value and not precious - but in comparison

2c) A Serious Stake

2c) A Serious Stake

There is something serious at stake - elders are called to a serious task with great responsibility
“Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
“I am innocent of the blood of all.... because I didn’t shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God”
Elders will be held accountable for the flock that has been placed under their care
The eternal destination of souls is at stake

3. Beware of Wolves (Protect the Flock)

Acts 20:28–31 ESV
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. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
Acts 20:
Paul’s message to the elders thus far:
Follow my example as I follow Christ’s example
Serve the Lord with humility, courage and love
Teach truth
When you shine a light, the things that were covered by darkness become exposed
When you teach truth, error and danger is exposed
The responsibility given to elders by the Holy Spirit is not only to teach truth but to protect the flock from error
In today’s world you are seen as judgmental if you preach about error
Don’t talk badly about this ministry or that preacher...
You can’t preach truth without exposing error

3a) A Precious Flock

Because it is after all a precious flock
Paul reminds the elders that the flock is extremely precious
They were bought with a high price - the blood of Jesus
Could there be a higher calling in the world than being made responsible to care for those for whom Christ paid the highest price?
Imagine being given the responsibility of taking care of a R5million Ferrari Berlinetta and for delivering it to its owner
But you have to drive it through 500km of war zone and you will be held accountable for getting it to its owner in mint condition
But thats just machinery… its just money… how about something of real value
Imagine being given the responsibility of caring for and protecting all of your friends’ children and walking them through that war zone to get them home?
Now imagine the awesome responsibility of being called to care for and protect God’s children in a lost and evil world, who have been bought with the body and blood of God’s own Son...

3b) A Significant Danger

First of all, the flock keeps wandering off
Like that beautiful song we sing - Come Thou Fount...
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it Prone to leave the God I love Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above
There is no shortage
So the undershepherd or elder has to keep watch on the church that they don’t keep wandering off after every dynamic and exciting new teacher or teaching
But on top of that he has to fend off fierce wolves that are going to come into the flock - and they won’t treat the flock with love and kindness. they won’t spare the flock
Take note of the fact that Paul says the wolves will come in among them, and from among their own selves men will arise speaking twisted things
The wolves aren’t going to wear a badge that says “I’m a wolf”
But as Jesus promised - they will be in sheep’s clothing
This is a very real threat facing the Church today -
made more dangerous by the fact that the people in the church deny that there are wolves
made most dangerous by elders and pastors who refuse to warn about the wolves.
They find it easier to tickle itching ears instead
Warning the sheep about wolves doesn’t make you popular
I have by far gotten into the most trouble and been called the worst things when I have been warning about false teachers teaching false doctrine
In today’s age of universal acceptance and tolerance, even people in the church get upset with their pastor or the preacher when he warns them that their favourite TV evangelists or authors are false teachers
If you do that today, you’re labelled a pharisee and condemned as judgmental
I have been called both quite a few times
There may be people in this room who still love to read and listen to the likes of
There are people in this room, who in spite of being members here for years who love to read and listen to the likes
Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joseph Prince, Rob Bell, Bill Johnson, and even bands like Jesus Culture...
who still love to read and listen to the likes of Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joseph Prince, Rob Bell, Bill Johnson, and even bands like Jesus Culture...
and having heard sound biblical teaching for years
still love to read and listen to the likes of Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joseph Prince, Rob Bell, Bill Johnson, and even bands like Jesus Culture...
All of these teach serious error that is either outright heresy or at the very least highly dangerous to your understanding of the true gospel
And some of you are probably very offended that I have just said that
The fact of the matter is, elders are called to:
lead the flock
Teach the flock
Protect the flock
But that is a highly difficult calling because
the flock is extremely precious to Jesus
the flock is surrounded by wolves
the flock itself is prone to wander towards the wolves
the flock sometimes don’t trust their elders judgment when it comes to warning of the wolves
Sometimes when the elders see a wolf among the sheep and chase it out, the sheep get angry
or sometimes we see a wolf trying to get in among the sheep and we don’t allow it in
People say you’re legalists, pharisees, judgmental, you lack grace, you hate unity, you’re so unloving, etc
which is the same as saying why don’t you just let the wolf come in and lick the blood off our children’s faces
You wouldn’t let your children play in traffic would you?
Why? Because you’re a legalistic parent? You lack grace? You lack love?
No - it is exactly because you love them that you will keep them from danger
The warning Paul gave to the Ephesian elders came true
Later on when Paul writes to Timothy, who was one of the elders in Ephesus, we see that wolves had indeed come up among the sheep
Turn to 1 Timothy, you will see that the first heading is a Warning Against False Teachers
Paul writes: “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”
It was happening.
1 Timothy 1:3–4 ESV
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
There were people who were going back to their pagan roots and trying to mix their magic with Christianity
Acts 20:
Later when Jesus appears to John in the Revelation he dictates a letter to the church in Ephesus:
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Rev 2:
They had lost their love of Jesus and wandered back to from where they had fallen. Back to paganism, back to magic. They followed the wolves.
Revelation 2:4–5 ESV
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
We need to take heed of Scripture’s warning that there will be wolves among the sheep
We need to take heed of Scripture’s warning that there will be wolves among the sheep
Matthew 7:15 ESV
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 7:13 ESV
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
And what Paul warned would happen, did happen.
2 Peter 2:1–3 ESV
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
1 Peter 2:1–3 ESV
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Not that long after, Paul writes to one of the elders at Ephesus, Timothy,
And then some time down the road when Paul writes to Timothy, one of the elders of the church in Ephesus, he warns him again...
2 Timothy 4:1–5 ESV
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 tim 4:1-
4. Help the Weak (Don’t Fleece the Flock)
Out of self-service, pride and self-preservation, many will shy away from warning about the wolves
And out of worldly passions and pride, many refuse to heed the warnings and choose rather to follow the teachings of those who tickle their ears with what they want to hear
And out of worldly passions and pride, many refuse to heed the warnings and choose rather to follow the teachings of those who tickle their ears with what they want to hear
And one of the things people most like to hear others preach, is that God wants all of us to be wealthy
And of course many of the false teachers who teach this are wealthy - but they have made that wealth off the back of manipulating and fleecing the flock

4. Help the Weak (Don’t Fleece the Flock)

Acts 20:32–35 ESV
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. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 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.’ ”
Acts 20:
And out of worldly passions and pride, many refuse to heed the warnings and choose rather to follow the teachings of those who tickle their ears with what they want to hear
And of course,

4a) Trust God and His Word

4a)

Trust God and His Word

You can imagine that everything Paul has said so far sounded very daunting
But Paul commends them to God and to His word
Trust God… Trust the word
Let these guide you
And trust that difficult though the task may be, Jesus is ultimately the great Shepherd of the Church
He will ultimately build up the Church,
He will
He is ultimately our great example
He ultimately teaches us truth and leads us to truth in the word
He ultimately protects His Church and keeps her safe
He will ultimately build up the Church
Many of us - in fact all of us, have got these things wrong
In as much as the elders of this church feel the constraint and desire to lead by example, we fail
As much as we desire to teach truth, we don’t do enough teaching
As much as we desire to teach truth, we don’t do enough teaching
As much as we desire to protect the church, sometimes we don’t spot the danger - or we do, but don’t do enough to warn you
As much as we desire to protect the church, sometimes we don’t spot the danger - or we do, but don’t do enough to warn you
In as much as we are called to these responsibilities by God, we are not perfect. Only Jesus is.
Among all of us...
we often fail to live out what we believe
to live out the gospel we are supposed to be proclaiming
to be the example of authentic Christianity
to serve God and not self
to serve with humility rather than pride
to be courageous in our witness
to love
to chase hard after truth
to desire growth in our own knowledge of God and his word
to heed the warnings around us
or we are just straight out ignorant of danger because we don’t know God’s word well enough
But praise God!
for ultimately being the One who builds His Church - using imperfect people
for sanctification and for so working in our hearts that though we are not as perfect as we’d like to be, we are no longer what we used to be
for His word which tells us with all authority what truth is and exposes what is false
for gifting and using teachers, preachers, pastors and evangelists to explain and proclaim his word
and for his promise of the eternal inheritance for all of us who are being sanctified

4b) Praise God for the Eternal Inheritance

4b) Work hard to Help the Weak

Paul says that he never coveted anyone else’s wealth or stuff.
Rather, he worked hard as a tent maker to see to his own necessities - as well as to be able to afford to help others who were weaker than him
and that our inheritance cannot be taken away from us
No…
That is because he understood that he already had his eternal inheritance in Christ, and that it could never be taken from him
Though elders cannot fulfill all that God has given them perfectly, they must take the personal responsibility seriously and fulfill their ministry
because in fact Jesus Himself promises to see his work of sanctifying us to completion until we receive the inheritance...
If you truly understand that, you know that it truly is more blessed it be able to work to give to others in need, than to accumulate temporal wealth to yourself.
it should free us to truly live the authentic Christian lifestyle of service and love
Though we all fail to live a perfectly authentic Christian lifestyle by following Jesus’ example, we are called to strive for obedience
Those who preach a false gospel promising health and wealth just don’t get this.
And all of us are called to
We can stop stressing about worldly possessions and our own physical needs
Instead of working hard to strengthen the flock, they fleece the flock by making false promises that God never gave
And we will see that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive
Not because of how good it makes us feel to give our possessions away...
And in the process of giving their money to the evangelist with the hope it will return to them tenfold, the weaker Christians become weaker.
Our hope is not to be rich in this world, or to have more than our neighbour
but because it is a blessing to bless others out of love and service
We are already eternally rich in Jesus
Lets work hard to help the weak among us - not just the elders, but all of us
Lets give generously of what we have - our time, our treasures, our talents
Lets give generously to the church’s work without any anxiety about ourselves

Conclusion

Because we have the security of having a King who bought us with his own blood
Acts 20:36–38 ESV
And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 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.
Acts 20:
A Great Shepherd who loves us and cares for us
And who promises to keep us safe until He returns for us.
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