Acts 20:17-19

Sunday Morning Bible Study

August 30, 1998

Introduction

Paul is on his way back to Jerusalem. He has heard of the tremendous needs in the church in Israel, and has been collecting an offering from the Gentile churches to take back with him.

Heís on a time schedule. He left Philippi after Passover, and wants to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost. Heís already traveled some 350 miles in 24 days, and has only 26 days left to travel the remaining 650 miles. He was afraid that if he stopped at Ephesus, that heíd get delayed too much by all the people that would want to talk with him, so his ship has overshot Ephesus by 37 miles and landed in Miletus.

:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders

Paul is going to give what we call his "farewell to the Ephesian elders". He does not expect to ever see them again. (Acts 20:25)

This is Paulís last instructions to them, his last chance to give them one last word of encouragement, one last chance to help them finish their course as Christians well.

:18-19 The manner of Paulís ministry

:18 Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,

Paul starts by reminding them who he is. He wants them to remember exactly how heís lived while he was with them. How he lived ALL THE TIME

Lesson:

Donít be afraid to be an example.

Weíve all heard of people who claim that the reason they donít follow Jesus is because of some jerk of a Christian who offended them, and so they donít want anything to do with Christianity.

We often reply that they should put their eyes on Jesus and not on people.

But the truth is, we shouldnít back off from the power that comes by the example we set.

Paul was constantly telling people to follow his example:

(1 Cor 11:1 KJV) Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

(2 Th 3:7-9 NASB) For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, {8} nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; {9} not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example.

Lesson:

Be a consistent Christian.

Paul was the same guy all the time. He was consistent.

Paul gives us a description of what a practicing Christian ought to look like:

(Gal 5:22-23 NASB) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

The question is not whether or not you can plaster love, joy, and peace all over you just for Sundays, but whether or not itís a description of you during the week as well. What does your wife think of you? What does your husband think of you?

Illustration

Be Sincere Ė our word "sincere" comes from the Latin words which mean "without wax". When a sculpture or potter would put a piece of his work up for sale, one of the big selling points was whether or not it was "without wax". If a potter accidentally cracked a pot, if he was shrewd, heíd cover up the crack with wax. It would look nice on the outside, but if you started cooking your supper in it, it would fall apart.

Godís desire is that we be "sincere", without wax. We should have nothing to hide.

Donít get me wrong here, I donít mean that we should be comfortable being carnal Christians in front of each other. But it all starts with being real. Itís when you start admitting the truth that you start to grow up.

Itís when you admit your need to God that you receive help. Covering up only makes it worse.

:19 Serving the Lord

serving Ė douleuo Ė to be a slave, serve, to obey, submit to

Lesson:

Who is your Lord?

For some of us, we donít much like the idea of having to obey someone. We try everything we can to keep people from telling us what to do. We pride ourselves on being the master of our own ship. Weíre in control and nobodyís gonna tell us what to do.

The problem is, thatís totally bogus. Whether you like it or not, you are serving somebody.

Look at the contrast of the two real Masters:

(2 Tim 2:24-26 NLT) The Lord's servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. {25} They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will believe the truth. {26} Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

You are either serving the Lord, or youíre serving the devil. You may think youíre just "doiní your own thang" but if youíre not serving Jesus, youíre serving the devil. The devil is thrilled that youíre doing anything other than serving the Lord.

Bob Dylan actually had it correct in his song, "Gotta Serve Somebody", 1979,

You may be an ambassador to England or to France;

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance;

You may be the heavy-weight champion of the world;

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls;

But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Yes indeed you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Well it may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Lesson:

All the time serving the Lord.

This was part of Paulís testimony to the Ephesians. All the time he had been with them he had been serving the Lord.

:19 with all humility of mind

humility of mind Ė tapeinophrosune Ė (lowliness + mind) the having a humble opinion of one's self; a deep sense of one's (moral) littleness

Lesson:

All the time humble

By the time Paul had left Ephesus, after having been there three years, he had become quite an important figure in the city.

When the city had been stirred into a riot, it was basically against Paul and his preaching. Everybody knew that Paul was at the center of turning people from idols to Jesus. (Acts 19:26)

Even some of the leading men of the community had befriended Paul. (Acts 19:31)

But Paul didnít let this go to his head. Instead he had been able to keep his perspective and walk in humility.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

:19 with many tears

Is this big, bad Paul? A crybaby? No, a heís a tender man.

Paulís tears didnít seem to be for himself, but for others. Examples:

Disciplining with tears:

Paul had been dealing with a situation of immorality among the Corinthians. He had written some strong words, even delivering the offender over to Satan (1Cor.5). But what we donít often realize, is that they were tempered with tears:

2 Corinthians 2:4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.

I wonder if some of our discipline at home would be revolutionized if we saw some tears, our own.

Handling enemies with tears:

(Phil 3:17-19 KJV) Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. {18} (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: {19} Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

We know that Jesus taught us to love our enemies, but frankly, sometimes we Christians can be rather obnoxious towards those that oppose us.

Friday night at the Harvest Crusade, some guy was handing out literature and yelling out, "Greg Laurie is a false prophet!" At first the crowd was kind of timid towards the man, then a few people started yelling angrily back. When the police came and escorted the man away, the crowd cheered. Perhaps we should have been weeping for him.

Lesson:

All the time tender

Illustration

An example of a tough but tender man was seen when Barbara Walters interviewed real-life hero "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf, the four-star general who led the allied forces of Desert Storm to their Gulf War victory over Iraq. As this tough military man talked about the war, tears were in his eyes. His interviewer noticed, too, and in her classic style, Barbara Walters asked, "Why, General, aren't you afraid to cry?" General Schwarzkopf replied without hesitation, "No, Barbara. I'm afraid of a man who won't cry!"

This great man knows that being tough doesn't mean being insensitive or unfeeling or afraid to cry. No wonder soldiers gave their best when they served under his command. They knew the general cared about them; they could trust the man giving their orders. We want leaders whose hearts can be touched by our situations and who touch our hearts as well. -- Bob Banes, 15 Minutes Alone With God (Harvest House, 1995), p. 117.

:19 and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:

Or, "the trials that happened upon me through the plotting of the Jews"

When writing to the Corinthians, Paul had hinted at some of the troubles he had been having at the time in Ephesus:

1Cor. 15:32 Ė He talked about fighting the "beasts at Ephesus", which may have been a reference to these unbelieving Jews.

1Cor.16:8-9 Ė He had said that God had opened a great door for ministry at Ephesus, but that there were also "many adversaries".

Lesson:

All the time in trials

The bottom line is this. We live in a war zone. God offers a free gift of heaven to all who will follow, but Satan wants to send you to hell. When you decide to follow Jesus, Satan marks you as an enemy. If you decide to get radical and start leading others to Jesus, rescuing them from hell, then Satan gets really mad!

(2 Tim 3:12 KJV) Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

For the apostles, this was real life.

Illustration

Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia by having his hands and feet nailed to the ground, and then his head was cut off.

Mark died at Alexandria, after having been cruelly dragged through the streets of that city.

Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in Greece.

John was put into a caldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, and was afterwards banished to Patmos.

Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward.

James the Greater was beheaded at Jerusalem.

James the Less was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the temple, and then beaten to death with a club.

Philip was hanged up against a pillar in Phrygia.

Bartholomew was flayed alive.

Andrew was bound to a cross, where he preached to his persecutors until he died.

Thomas was run through the body with a lance in India.

Jude was shot to death with arrows.

Matthias was first stoned, and then beheaded.

Barnabas was stoned to death by the Jews at Thessalonica.

Paul after various tortures and persecutions, was beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero.

Illustration

When the bishop of Madras was touring India, he was introduced to a young slave girl who was an outstanding witness for the Lord. By her quiet persistence in telling others of Jesus and His love, she had won many to Christ. As the bishop looked at her, he saw that her face, neck, and arms were badly scarred. She had received many beatings for her faithful testimony. With tears in his eyes he asked, "Child, how could you bear this brutality?" Somewhat surprised, she replied, "Aren't you glad if you can suffer for Christ, sir?"

Are we? Are we willing to take a little discomfort for a Savior who willingly gave up His life for us? A Savior who willingly died a horrible death, shamed before the crowd, taking our sins on Himself?