Saturday 03 June 2017

Bible Book:

“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)

Acts 20:17-38 Saturday 3 June 2017

Psalm: Psalm 19


Today's passage is an account of the final event in Paul'smission in the Aegean, and includes his farewell sermon. At the endof his time in Ephesus he had been caught up in a riot and when ithad subsided he left and travelled around the Aegean, beforeheading for Jerusalem, where he wanted to celebrate Pentecost. Thisitinerary did not allow him time to visit Ephesus again, but hewanted to say goodbye to the leaders of the church with whom he hadspent three years, so he summoned them to meet him at Miletus,about 30 miles from the Ephesus.

Paul used the opportunity to set out how he wanted to beremembered for his work in Ephesus, giving an account of hismission there, stressing his absolute commitment to the gospel,suffering humiliations and plots, and preaching both publicly andprivately to Jews and to Greeks (verses 19-21). He then lookedahead to his future travels and seems to have shown a remarkabledegree of prescience in anticipating that "imprisonment andpersecutions are waiting for me" (v. 23). Indeed, Paul did notreturn to Ephesus, for he was arrested and tried in Jerusalem andsent to Rome, where he eventually arrived a free man, following ashipwreck on Malta. He was last heard of in Rome where, it isassumed, he was eventually martyred. Both Paul and his audiencewere convinced that this was their final goodbye and it was anemotional occasion (verses 37-38).

But Paul was aware of being part of something much greater thanhimself, and that his own mission was but a small part of "thewhole purpose of God" (v. 27). This confidence released Paul fromthe tyranny of the all-too-human instinct to survive at all costs;instead, his drive was to fulfil that part of God's mission thathad been entrusted to him, and from that he derived his sense ofpurpose and his satisfaction (verse 24).

As part of something larger, he was also concerned to pass onthe torch to those who would continue the ministry in Ephesus, andso offered some instruction and encouragement to the churchleaders. Paul advised them to "keep watch" over themselves firstand then over "all the flock" (v. 28), for they could not nurturethe spiritual lives of others without tending and extending theirown. They are to "be alert" (v. 31) to the presence of God in orderto protect themselves and the rest of the flock from distortions ofthe truth (verse 30), which might savage the faith of the youngchurch. But the strength for such alertness will come from the Godto whom Paul commends them (verse 32).

To Ponder

  • If you were saying your final goodbye to those you love, whatwould you want to say to them? How would you want them to rememberyou?
  • Take time to step back and reflect on your church. To whatextent do you see a desperation to survive at all costs, or awillingness to be used up in fulfilling its own particular part ofGod's mission?
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