22 May 2015

Acts 20:17-38

“You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions.” (v. 34)

Psalm: Psalm 15


In this passage Paul is both looking into the future and reflecting on his past ministry as he prepares to travel to Jerusalem for Pentecost. He has no idea what might happen to him there but suspects that trouble is in store. So he wants to take the opportunity to give a sort of farewell address - that is why he has called some of the church members from Ephesus to Miletus.

Paul outlines his own practice as a guideline for what following Jesus Christ means and seeks to warn those who will have charge of Christian communities of the sort of difficulties they will face. Paul warns people against the "savage wolves" (v. 29) who will try to destroy the communities after he has gone, including some, even from within the communities, who will try to distort the truth.

As with Jesus in his high priestly prayer which we read on Sunday, Paul commits those who have been in his care to God. He then speaks about his own lifestyle as an apostle of the gospel - one in which he never coveted money or possessions but worked for his living, never being a burden on the church communities and always seeking to help the weak.

The end of this passage shows Paul on his knees in prayer and the gathered leaders distraught at the thought that they might not see him again.

To Ponder

  • Do we still need to be aware of "wolves" who may try to destroy our church community from without or within? Have you ever had experience of this, and what learning came out of it?
  • Paul was at pains to tell these church members that he had earned his own living (as a tentmaker as we learnt on Wednesday) and had not relied on collections from church communities. His practice has given rise to the term 'tent-making ministry' meaning self-supporting ministry. Should we be emphasising this more in preference to our supported, stipend-receiving ministry? Why?


Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.