07 June 2011

"But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God's grace." (v. 24)


These words are part of a message sent by Paul back to the community of Christians at Ephesus, when he was no longer able to be present with them in person. His own journey of faith was taking him into ever more risky situations. He would have known that by responding to the call of God on his life, imprisonment and persecutions were awaiting him in every city, as he set his face towards Jerusalem, just as Jesus his Lord had done before him. Yet still he felt impelled to 'finish the course' in continuing to testify to the good news of God's grace. This was a man whose whole life and outlook had been dramatically changed by his 'conversion' experience. Before he was overcome by his mystic encounter with Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-19), Paul had used his considerable religious status and learning as a Pharisee to persecute those who were followers of the Way of Jesus (Acts 8:1-3). In his new life he displayed the same degree of passion and zeal, in support of their cause. In fact he was determined to be second to none in his whole-hearted commitment to proclaiming the gospel (good news).

For the Christians in Ephesus, there was the need to remain faithful in staying where they were. They had been greatly encouraged by Paul in the time he spent with them, but now they had to take responsibility for their own continuing witness to the good news of God's grace.

To Ponder

In your discipleship, how do you respond to the challenges of moving on to an unknown place, or remaining where you are already known? Which do you think is easier? Why?

How do you hear Paul's commitment to 'finish the course'? Is it the commitment of an athlete, the diligence of a student, or the obstinacy of a fool? And what about your commitment?

To what extent is your testimony to the good news of God's grace primarily spoken or lived out where you find yourself?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Liz Smith

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