08 June 2011

"And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified." (v. 32)


Paul, who by now was absent from the community for whom he had such a concern, knew that they could only survive and flourish by the grace of God, not by his own efforts. This did not mean they were helpless. On the contrary, they needed to be watchful over themselves and the flock for whom they carried the responsibility of oversight (verse 28). If they were to stay true to their calling, and be alert to the "savage wolves" (v. 29) who would distort the truth and endanger the community, they would need to remember his example among them.

For this early Christian community, the task of working out "the truth" (v. 30) of what it meant to walk in the Way of Jesus, must have been a daily task, amidst the many challenges presented by those who sought to hold on to the truth of Judaism, and those who held other religious and philosophical beliefs. This working out of truth had to be owned by the whole community and resonate with the experience of that community if it was to be any more than the latest fad or fashion.

Paul's presence with them had been a living illustration - an example embodied in word and deed - of being self-supporting, whilst also supporting the weak (verses 34-35). His presence had also been a prayerful one, and one of anguish and tears (verses 31, 36).

To Ponder

How do you work out your own truth while respecting the truths that others hold deeply, but are not your own?

Can church communities become too dependent upon their leaders? What might Paul say in a message to the community that you belong to?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Liz Smith

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