Acts 20:17-19, 28, 33-35: Paul – a leader who walked the walk.
17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. 25 ‘Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.32 ‘Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’
‘’You know how I lived…’’ (18a) – this is the first thing Paul said to the Ephesians elders. He could appeal to his own life as an example. Here are a number of insights into Paul’s life:
- He was consistent: ‘’You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia’’ (18). One of the ways this consistency showed itself was in his response to trials. Paul did not have an easy life. He was ‘’severely tested’’ (19), but in everything he was a good example;
- He was a servant: ‘’I served the Lord…’’ (19a). One of Paul’s favourite descriptions of himself is that of a ‘’slave’’ (Greek: ‘doulos’). First and foremost he regarded himself as Christ’s slave, but he was also a lowly servant of the church;
- He was humble: ‘’I served the Lord with great humility…’’ He did not stand on his rights as an apostle but worked for a living;
- He was passionate: ‘’I served the Lord…with tears…’’ I will return to this thought tomorrow;
- He was hard working: (35a). It is a terrible thing for a servant of Christ to be lazy, or to have the reputation of being lazy;
- He was generous: (35b). He worked hard to help others and not just to supply his own needs. Paul quotes some words of Jesus we don’t recognise from the gospels, but they fit well with the Jesus of the gospels we have come to know: ‘’It is more blessed to give than to receive.’’ Paul did not fleece the sheep; he shepherded the flock
It’s interesting that the first thing Paul says about himself is: ‘’You know how I lived…’’ Then later, he says to the Ephesians elders: ‘’Keep watch over yourselves…’’ Yes, ‘’Keep watch over…the flock…’’ but first and foremost ‘’Keep watch over yourselves…’’ Self-leadership is important. Paul was also to say to Timothy: ‘’Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers’’ (1 Timothy 4:16). There’s a lot at stake in Christian ministry, and what does he mention first?
If there is a ‘credibility gap’ between our talk and our walk, our talk won’t count for very much.
PRAYER: I pray that the life I lead will commend the beauty of the gospel to others.