This is the last part of the New Ethos series from Acts 20:17-38, and this last part gives some really clear direction for the church, it’s pastors, ministry leaders, and volunteers. So this will be our focus tonight.
v. 25: “none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again” means 2 things to me:
Paul knows his end is near and is pressing in to God’s will still (last week…if only I may finish my course, faithful to God in testifying to the gospel of God’s grace!); Paul is gonna make sure that these elders here what it is that is most important.
So with that, I want to outline what Paul addresses with an emphasis on the responsibility of church leaders since that’s who he’s addressing in this text:
vv. 26-27: I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Not only are they all completely accountable for believing the truth of the Gospel, but they are also accountable to being the leader that God has entrusted them to be and to teach the same “counsel” and not “false counsel”.
Galatians 1:9: As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
James 3:1: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
We cannot just say whatever we would like to say. We are accountable to God and will pay for misleading His children.
v. 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.
Yourselves: Watch yourself first, lest you fall into temptation and bear a false witness as to the testimony of Christ and forfeit your ability to shepherd God’s people. How can a shepherd protect the flock if he does not watch himself (unrepentant sin, hypocrisy, judgmentalism, self-righteousness, love of church or position more than God, gossip, slander, envy, jealousy, lust, etc… We must watch ourselves!) Ask trusted and loved people in your life to point out areas of your life that are hurtful, destructive, annoying, etc..
Galatians 3:5-10: 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
The flock: Shepherd God’s people because Jesus purchased the church with the price of His own life and blood. You want to be a leader (in ministry), pay careful attention to God’s people and don’t play games with them….these are real lives and stake and Jesus spent His life on His kids….don’t jack around with that!
1 Peter 5:2-3: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
God’s Church: Why pay careful attention to yourself and the flock? Because he obtained it with his own blood! It’s God’s church, not ours! Treat it that way. Don’t slander and gossip about leadership. Do something about it. Offer yourself to it, rebuke in love, be slow to anger, speak carefully about the things you don;t like about it, etc… The corporate testimony of the church is a huge element of evangelism.
Eph. 1:22-23: 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
vv. 29-30: I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Wolves will come, even from among some of you whom I speak to, so be ready to protect the sheep even if it means you have to hurt or slay the wolf. Do not be patient with wolves, they mean to harm the sheep! This is why he says in the previous verse, “pay careful attention” (talk about the job of a real shepherd; he lays his life down for the sheep).
John 10:10-12: 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
If we are commanded by Peter to shepherd the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:2), then we are indeed to act like shepherds and not hired hands. We are under-shepherds of the chief shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4: and when the chief Shepherd appears…). Remove the wolves!! Let’s read the words of Jesus when speaking about church discipline and then we’ll read what Paul says:
Matthew 18:15-17: 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13: 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Don’t miss these passages. Jesus and Paul are not out to hurt these people, they are out to protect the church from those who are unwilling to repent of their sin or admit that their actions are sinful and destructive. They are out to boldly love the wayward sinner. The biggest misunderstanding about judging those inside the church is that we all say, “Well how can I judge, I’m a sinner and in need of God’s grace too. Jesus says if you look at a woman with lust, then you’ve committed adultery…so I’m an adulterer.”
Well let me ask you a question. Are you justifying (making excuses for) your sin (lust, greed, pride, jealousy, gossip)?… If so, repent if it is brought to your attention. If you do not think you need to repent of this sin, then you have a rebellious heart that needs to be disciplined because it will bring about pain, destruction and eventual death to God’s church if not addressed, not mention death to you. You tracking with me? Moving on…
v. 31: Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.
Paul says “for three years I did not cease”: In all that you do, do it with diligence (for 3 years I did not cease) and with tears (admonish everyone with tears). Commit to a church, stop being a flake or non-committal or a fair-weather church goer. This is God’s bride that He loves and purchased with is own blood. Give yourself to her. There will never be a perfect church, so stop complaining about all things that are wrong and commit to one and labor to make it better.
2 Timothy 2:1-2: 1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Faithful men and women are the ones God is looking for. They are also the ones who leaders are looking. Many people come and go from church to church and say, “well, I just can’t get plugged in there” or “there’s no place for me to serve there” or “they never pursued me”. Most of the time, the people saying this are those who have never committed or been faithful. Commit yourself, be faithful, and you WILL be used for God’s glory!
Love God and people. Loving people isn’t throwing them a bone every now and then…that’s called loving pets. Loving people looks very costly, messy, uncomfortable, and abnormal. It looks like community that looks different than the worlds idea of it!
Admonish with tears: 1 Peter 5:5: Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Here we go back to the humility talk…leaders who are not humble do not weep over the lost and the broken. Humility is the fertile ground that God uses to minister and care for His people. When humility is lacking, so is empathy and the necessary ingredients for a godly leader/pastor. Also, when humility is lacking, we admonish with a revengeful, selfish or angry heart/motives. Remember that you were far off from God when He saved you! Preach the Gospel to yourself.
Isaiah 42:3: A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. Be gentle, tender, but tough!
v. 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.
Commend (paratíthēmi): entrust, deliver, commit, hand over, turn over. Jesus, our Savior entrusted His own soul to the Father: Luke 23:46: “Father, into your hands I commit (paratíthēmi) my spirit!”
This is the same language Paul used earlier in verse 22 when Paul commended himself to the Lord (v. 22: constrained by the Spirit), he is urging the elders to do likewise. Now I place you in God’s Sovereign hands and trust Him to guard and protect you with His Word (Scripture and Spirit). Only He (Spirit) and it (His Word) is able to build you up, promise you an inheritance, and sanctify (set you apart) you.
vv. 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.’ ”
Now, work hard, don’t be a blood sucker. Don’t be a taker. Always leave something on the table when you go to someone’s house. I can’t tell you how many people in ministry use their position as a poor minister expecting people to pay for them, or give them special attention or privileges. That was not what Christ or Paul modeled. I don’t care how poor you are, don’t do it. God will provide for you!
That’s why in the verse before this Paul says “I commend you to God” (v. 32). He will provide for all your needs. If He doesn’t, then you either get out of the ministry because He isn’t blessing it or you need to get another job!
Also, be a giver. A giver to the poor and weak, and those who are broken. Pour yourself out (2 Tim. 4:6: 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.)
vv. 36-38: 36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 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.
Model this kind of transparency, openness, community. This is where real life is lived. Many of us are spent and feel torn in all directions and have no time for community… usually it’s because we try to have a foot in a little of every community as possible and never give of ourselves fully to anyone or anything. This happens in marriage a lot too. Slow down, plug in where God has you and give of yourself. That’s living life!
Know the truth and faithfully proclaim it
Watch yourself so you can faithfully shepherd the flock of God
Wolves will come…REMOVE them! They mean to harm the sheep!
Be diligent, faithful and humble towards those God has entrusted to you; teach and admonish with tears
Surrender your will to God’s will (Spirit and Word)
Work hard, don’t be a taker. Instead, be a giver…to the poor and broken.
Give yourself over to community where God has you. Give all, not a little here and a little there.