Paul is constantly strategic about reaching the lost. He’s aways looking for creative ways to get into peoples lives and creative ways to get them the Gospel but he’s also strategic about the function of the church.
In the verse right before the one we’re in today: Acts 2:16 16 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.
Paul knows that he wants to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost, where he’s going to update the leaders of the church on how the Gentile church is going, and he knows he's heading to his death, but he also wants to invest in the leaders of Ephesus.
This section of Acts 20 is a literal quote of his teaching to these leaders… and it’s only 406 words. I have to imagine that he was thinking, how do I give them the biggest bang for their buck in the time I have with them knowing that it might be my last chance?
1. He Models How to Finish Well
Acts 20:18-25 "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia,19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul served the Lord in all humility, with tears and with trials that happened to him because of the people that came against him. But, even in those issues, Paul did not shrink back from telling them anything that was profitable for them to hear, no matter how hard it was to hear.
Francis Chan: I would say to leaders out there, we’ve got to stop playing this game of trying to please everyone, and just say it like it is, because that is our legacy. This (the Bible) is what has been left to us. There have been men and women who have died for the truths in this book, and they weren't thinking, will everyone like me, and who's gonna leave my gathering, who is going to stop following me, who's gonna cancel me? This is what we signed up for.
Jesus himself said, if the world hates you keep in mind it hated me first. So, we’ve got to stop playing this game of me right now thinking well, “if I say this just right, maybe I can still get everyone to like me.
(Using the example of abortion) No, if you kill that life inside of you, you will answer to a holy God one day for that, and out of love I've got to say, “don’t do it.” There are other options, and this is far bigger than maybe you realize and it would be so unloving for me to not say that and just let you come before this God at the end of your life. But also to say to those who have done this, there is forgiveness.
22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 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.
25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.
2. Have No Regrets
Acts 20:26-27 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Live a life that is so holy and radical that you don’t have regrets about how you shared Jesus.
The heart of this is not that nothing saddens you, it’s not that you did everything perfectly... It’s that you didn’t shrink back, you didn’t wimp-out, and you said whatever had to be said even if the person was angry at the end.
3. Look Out For Wolves
Acts 20:28-29 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. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
Paul is warning the leaders of the Ephesian church, to look out for wolves who come into the church and who seek to destroy it.
I think this is one of those things that is specifically for the elders (or pastors) of the church, but as a part of the flock that is under the oversight of the pastors in the church, I would ask you this:
Know that there WILL BE wolves in the church
Don’t think that everything is falling apart when it happens
Serve alongside the overseers and support them in the process
Pray like crazy that God protects us from them
4. Look Out For Leaders Who Lead AWAY From Jesus
Acts 20:30-31 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.
Again, this is generally something FOR the overseers (or Pastors) of the church, so, what is our role in this?
Know scripture, so you know when teaching is off.
Like Paul, admonish (which means “warn or reprimand”) people who fall into this. ( ONLY when it’s something unbiblical and not just a preference, because then you might become the Wolf mentioned in the previous verse.)
5. Stay close to God and His Word
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.
Stick to God and to the word of his grace because THAT is what will get you to the end and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
6. Help the Weak and Give to Those in Need
Acts 20:33-35 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.’”
So, at the end, he uses himself as a study of what happens when you serve the weakest and most needy in the church.
Don’t forget that we are in a family for a reason, so take care of each other. You never know what’ll happen when we take care of the weak and poor in our church. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
I will commit like Paul to live in a way where I have no regrets looking back.
I will keep my eyes open for false doctrine from outside and inside the church.
I will live a lifestyle of giving, not looking to receive from others, but to invest in them.