Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/30/16 Sermon - To the Elders

“To the Elders”

Acts 20:17-38

 

Most of the time when we read about Paul, we read how he spent his time evangelizing and preaching the gospel. He has always seemed to be the typical A-type personality, who took his job seriously and diligently. Ever since we first read about him as a Pharisee and top notch student of the Jewish faith, while he was defending his Jewish faith against those who called themselves Christians, by persecuting them. Then God caught a hold of him on the road to Damascus and Paul A-type personality was used to zealously go anywhere and everywhere to preach the gospel, to both Jew and Greek. Yet in today’s Scripture we get a glimpse of the pastoral side of Paul. Today’s reading tells us what was important to him as a leader and how deep down inside he desired to shepherd God’s people. This speech of Paul’s to the Elders of the Ephesian church is the only Pauline speech delivered to Christians that Luke has recorded and when we examine it we find that it closely resembles the thoughts and words Paul wrote in his letters to the churches.

Paul began his speech reminding the Elders that since the first time he came into their lives he has lived and worked among them. He did not come as a religious celebrity and seek special treatment, expecting people to serve and honor him. No, he reminded them that he came to serve the Lord with humility and to be an example of what it should look like for someone to follow Jesus. Even though the Jews were plotting against him, Paul remained true to the gospel message he had been given, and presented that same message to those around him. He did not choose to only preach and teach the “easy” things, but taught everything that was needed to follow Jesus. Paul did not limit what he was saying, and he did not limit his audience either. He testified to both Jews and Greeks. He did everything 100%. He preached all of the Word of God to all people. We read that Paul preached both in public and house to house. This implies that the Ephesian church was lacking a central building and was organized in different house-churches. Each elder would have been an overseer of a particular house church.

Paul told the Elders he was on his way to Jerusalem because the Holy Spirit was leading him there and he was bound to go. He had reason to believe that troubles and difficulties were in store for him. Paul’s response was interesting, he said, “But none of these things move me,” Paul was not worried. He had given it all over to God. Even his own life was not of worry to him. What was most important to Paul was how he finished the race. He was determined to finish it with joy and while testifying to the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul then stated that he would not be seeing any of these Elders again. This really was Paul’s farewell speech to these men. Paul’s words to the leaders of his next generation of believers are just as important today as they were then. The following words should give us insight on what is really important for all church leaders.

First, Paul professed his innocence and spoke straight from the counsel of God. Paul understood that ultimately, the men to whom he was speaking, were in God’s hands, not his. His heart was clear. Paul had shared the entire council of God.

He had told them everything they would need to know to follow Christ. And some of that information was not easy, especially the parts about carrying one’s own cross and that persecution was inevitable. Paul did not water down the gospel and he encouraged his Elders not to do so as well.

In 2 Timothy 4:3 Paul advised that in the last days, people would not endure sound doctrine, but would look for teachers who would tell them what they wanted to hear, teachers who will scratch their itching ears.

It is sad, but that is so prevalent in churches today. Many preachers have a point they want to make so they find a Bible quotation that fits their quote, or preach only what they know their congregation wants to hear.

When we share only the easy parts of the gospel, the parts where God is love and how He loves everyone, but fail to share the difficult parts, like the need for recognizing our sin and repenting of that sin and seeking forgiveness, we hurt others and ourselves.

Next, Paul encouraged the Ephesian Elders to continue in their godly ministry. Paul knew that in order for the message of the gospel to be heard and change lives, people needed to see Christians living like Christians not just talking like Christians. The Elders also needed to remember that God was the one who owned the church, not the Elders. The people of the church belonged to God, not to the pastor, or leaders.

The Elders had a responsibility to feed the people and lead the people, but ultimately they belonged to God. Feeding and protecting are still two things the elders in the church are called to do.

The whole idea behind being a shepherd is to tend a flock and in particular to lead a flock to pasture and feed it. Paul also warned the Elders that just as there were wolves out in the pasture there were also wolves in the world and in the church seeking to devour those in the church. It is often easier to spot the wolves that are on the outside of the church and not so obvious to spot them on the inside of the church. Yet Paul, reminded the elders to keep a watch in both places.

Paul gave his life for all the Christians in Ephesus and he desired that those whom he had taught and had given so much to would follow his example. Ultimately, Paul knew that in reality, it wasn’t about Paul’s sermons, it wasn’t about how entertained they were, the reality was and still is, only God and the Word of His grace can build us up and give us an inheritance in heaven.

Paul, also reminded them that he did not receive any money for the work he had done among them. Paul emphasized that his only motive in ministry was to build up God’s people for the glory of God, not the glory of Paul. How many evangelists have we heard about that lose their focus on God and feel that they are the important one. Then the glory starts going to the human effort rather than to God.

For those who are serving God it is always more important to be concerned with what can be given to the flock than what the flock can give to you.

Paul then quotes Jesus himself by saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

The Sermon on the Mount is where Jesus told us how to be blessed, with this Beatitude, Jesus tells us how to be MORE blessed!

Paul ends his talk with the Elders by kneeling down and praying. We then read that there was much weeping because they had been told they would not see Paul again, this side of heaven. These men had come to love Paul, and we get a glimpse of the warm pastoral man Paul must have been to these men.

Paul lived his life as best he could as an example of how to live the Christian life.

1st He taught everything the Bible had to say, the easy and the difficult. He didn’t sugar coat anything, but stated what God had said because he knew that the message was from God and not from Paul. Paul was just the messenger and ultimately the message was to bring others to God, not to Paul, for worship.

2nd Paul spent his entire Christian life feeding and protecting his flock. He expected the leaders in the church to do the same. He also expected the leaders to be looking outside and inside the church for wolves who would come to take over.

3rd Paul’s sole motive for everything he did was to present the gospel of Christ so others would follow Jesus. Paul never wanted others to follow him. God was to receive the glory. He encouraged his Elders to do the same.

Luke has written how Paul reviewed his past as a model for the Ephesian Elders future work and then charged them to be Spirit-appointed pastoral leaders.

I believe this message is meant for each of us Christians today. We should be the example of how to live the Christian life for those around us. Hopefully we have seen it in those Christians that have gone before us, and hopefully we will pass it on to those after us.

Let’s pray.