Acts 20:25-28

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 13, 1998

Introduction

On his way back to Jerusalem, Paul meets with the elders from the church of Ephesus. This group of elders is from the church that is probably dearest to Paul's heart. He's spent more time with the Ephesians than anybody else. And he has this sense that he's on his way to his death. He expects to never see them again. This is going to be an important message.

Weíve seen over the last few weeks how Paul starts his address by reminding these men of his style of ministry, the content of his message, and then the strength of his commitment.

:25-27 pure from the blood Ö

:25 Ö shall see my face no more.

As we saw last week, in every place that Paul had been visiting on his way back to Jerusalem there was a word from the Holy Spirit saying that "bonds and afflictions" were waiting for him in Jerusalem. He did not expect to see them again.

Did he see them again? Luke doesnít record any more visits in the book of Acts, church history tradition has it that after arriving at Rome, Paul was released for a few more years during which he traveled back to Ephesus among other places. He would then be re-arrested and beheaded in Rome by Nero.

:26 I am pure from the blood of all men.

Paul is referring to Ezekielís teaching on the "watchman":

Ezek 3:17-19 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. {18} When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. {19} Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. (see also Eze 33:1-6)

These are quite sobering verses. To think that the blood of others might be required of us if we do not warn them.

Paul is declaring that heís done his part. Heís given them plenty of warnings. Heís free from their blood.

Lesson:

Speak up.

Why is it at times that I donít speak up when I should?

1. Misgauging the danger.

I think sometimes we donít warn people because we donít understand just how dangerous a particular situation might be.

Illustration

I saw a picture in the paper yesterday showing the flooding thatís occurred around the city of Houston. They showed a picture of a freeway coming to a standstill, with a few cars stranded a little further ahead of the rest, water going over the hood of the car. Why did the people drive into such deep water? Probably because they couldnít tell how deep it was. If they knew it was so deep, and that theyíd get stranded, they would have done something a little differently.

I think that perhaps we donít warn people at times because weíve somehow not realized the incredible danger up ahead.

There is judgment coming.

The Bible says that we will all face judgment before God. We will all be held accountable for the lives weíve led (Heb.9:27). Someone has said, "It's not the pace of life that concerns me, it's the sudden stop at the end."

Think of the pictures of the deputies wheeling in box after box of materials from Judge Starrís office to the House of Representatives. Huge amounts of material all pertaining to only one batch of the President Clintonís sins. Think of the massive amounts of evidence that will available to judge an entire personís life as they stand before God!

(Rev 20:12 KJV) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Another Scripture that had been ringing in my ears has been:

(Luke 12:2-3 KJV) For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. {3} Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

Do you think the President ever expected that the things he did secretly would be broadcast to the whole world, detail by detail? Yet arenít there plenty of shameful secrets in our lives too? We may get through this life with our secrets intact, but nothing is hidden from God.

There is a judgment that we all must face.

The penalty for our sins isnít merely impeachment, itís death (Rom.6:23). Someone has to pay the price. You can pay it yourself, or you can let someone else. Jesus died on the cross, in order to take my place in judgment.

(John 3:16-18 KJV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. {17} For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. {18} He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

2. Lack of love.

If I really understand the danger, why donít I warn them? Perhaps itís because I donít really love them.

Illustration

If my son Timothy is playing in the YMCA parking lot, and I see a car coming behind him, will I warn him? Of course.

But the guy at work that has been giving me a hard time, always riding me, making false accusations against me to the boss, stealing my commissions, am I going to say something if I see some kids trying to steal the stereo out of his car? I might be tempted to help them.

What can I do if I realize I donít love people like I should?

Pray for them. Every day. Ask God to break your heart for them.

:28-31 Warnings for the elders

We now move into a section where Paul gets direct with these men who are the leadership of the church at Ephesus.

:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock

Take heed Ė prosecho Ėto turn the mind to, to be attentive to; to give heed to one's self

Lesson:

A leader has his eyes open.

You canít go through life with your eyes closed and your head in the sand.

As a leader you must have your eyes open first to yourself, then to others. If youíre going to be in the business of picking specks out of peoplesí eyes, you had better deal with the logs in your own first. A danger we face is watching out for others while ignoring our own spiritual condition.

Illustration

The passengers on a commercial airliner have been seated and are awaiting the cockpit crew to get them under way. A murmur is heard in the back of the plane, and a few passengers on the aisle glance back to see the pilot and copilot, both wearing large, dark sunglasses, making their way up to the cockpit. However, the pilot is using a white cane, bumping into passengers right & left as he stumbles down the aisle, and the copilot is using a seeing-eye guide dog. As they pass by the rows of passengers there are nervous giggles heard, as people are thinking that it must be some sort of practical joke. But a few minutes after the cockpit door has closed behind them the engines start spooling up and the airplane taxis out to the runway.

The passengers look at each other with some uneasiness, whispering among themselves and shifting uneasily or gripping the armrests more tightly. As the airplane starts accelerating rapidly, people begin panicking. Some passengers are praying, and as the plane gets closer and closer to the end of the runway, passengers become more and more hysterical! Finally, when the airplane has less only a few seconds of runway left, the shouts of horror fill the cabin as everyone screams at once, but at the very last moment the airplane lifts off and is airborne!!!

...Up in the cockpit, the copilot breathes a sigh of relief and turns to the Captain: "You know, one of these days the passengers are going to scream too late, and we're gonna get killed!"

A real leader isnít going to wait for everyone to scream. Heíll realize his own problems first and deal with it.

:28 to feed the church of God

feed Ė poimaino (from poimen, shepherd)Ė to feed, to tend a flock, keep sheep. Itís about being a shepherd.

Lesson:

A leader is a shepherd.

(Psa 23:1) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

1. A leader meets needs.

That means he has to know what the needs are.

The shepherd in the Middle East knew his flock. He lived with them. At night he would put them into an open pen and sleep across the doorway, acting as the only way in and the only way out.

Obviously no one is going to be the kind of shepherd that the Lord is. Only He can meet all of our needs. But part of the concept of being a shepherd is being a part of Godís work to meet the needs of others.

:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

2. A leader gives direction.

The Middle Eastern shepherds are different from our western sheep-herders. In the west, sheep-herders ride horses and use dogs to push the sheep where they are to go. In the Middle East, shepherds know their sheep by name. They go before the sheep. They call them, each by name. And the sheep follow. The sheep donít go anywhere the shepherd hasnít already been.

Itís not just giving direction, itís leading the way.

:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

restoreth Ė shuwb Ė turn back; to bring back; to restore, refresh, repair

3. A leader recycles, not discards.

Godís picture of leadership is to help people be restored when they fall. Itís all about running a recycling plant, not a garbage dump. We donít get rid of the "trash-people", we recycle.

(Gal 6:1-2 KJV) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. {2} Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

4. A leader protects.

A flock was safe with its shepherd. A good shepherd would protect his flock if a wolf or a lion attacked. A good shepherd has the right weapons to fight the enemy with.

This is part of what Paul is addressing to the Ephesian elders.

:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

5. A leader feeds.

As a pastor, part of my responsibility is to prepare a supper table for you each time we meet.

(Psa 78:70-72 KJV) He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: {71} From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. {72} So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.

Illustration

This is a true story. A man owned a flock of sheep that he kept in an area on the other side of the valley about 50 to 60 miles from his home. The pasture land was wild out there but very good, and very few predators.

When the snow falls the wild grasses often vanish beneath the white blanket sometimes for all the winter months. That makes for awfully hungry sheep. The man realized this and decided to pack up a wagon load of hay for his flock and make the day's trip to make sure they were fed. When he got there, there was six inches of snow on the ground, and the sheep were all huddled together in a clump with the grass was almost completely gone right where the sheep were standing. Once the snow fell they didn't move. They just stood there and ate up all the grass around them because that was all they saw. They didn't realize there was a lot more under the snow. He was glad he came out. He unloaded the hay and left.

Six weeks later, since the snow hadn't melted, he thought the sheep might need some more hay. He packed up his big wagon with another load and made off for the other side of the valley. When he got there he was horrified to find all his sheep dead and the first wagon load of hay untouched. The sheep didn't know they could walk across the snow so they just stood there where they were when the first snow fell. They all died in sight of their food not knowing they could just walk over and eat freely. The man lost his whole flock because he wasn't close enough to them to know they were in distress. He provided food but didn't feed.

:5 thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6. A leader anoints.

Oil in the Bible is a picture of the Holy Spirit.

A leader is one who will be anointing others with the Holy Spirit, drawing them closer to Jesus, helping them to receive more and more from the Lord.

Itís only from the Lord that we can receive a "running over" of our cups.

If you get too much of me, it will only make you sick.

You can NEVER get too much of the Lord.

:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

:28 which he hath purchased with his own blood.

purchased Ė peripoieomai Ė to make to remain over; to reserve, to leave or keep safe, lay by; to get for one's self, purchase. God owns the flock because He paid for it.

Lesson:

Itís Godís flock, not yours.

There is a sense in ministry in which I need to take what has been entrusted to me seriously. And so in that sense I can call it "my ministry".

But I need to be careful that I donít ever make it too much "mine".

The most I can ever be is just an "under shepherd" under the Chief Shepherd:

(1 Pet 5:2-4 KJV) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; {3} Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. {4} And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.