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Paul's Farewell to the Ephesian Elders

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
September 18, 2020 8:00 am

Paul's Farewell to the Ephesian Elders

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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September 18, 2020 8:00 am

The book of Acts shows us the public Paulpreaching, debating, attracting crowds, causing a stir. But it also shows us Paul the personmeeting with a few intimate friends, sharing his testimony with them, counseling them, saying an emotional goodbye.

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The book of acts shows us the public Paul preaching, debating, attracting crowds, causing a stir, but it also shows us. Paul the person meeting with a few intimate friends, sharing his testimony with them counseling them saying an emotional goodbye. Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet program with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act quickly.

As Paul says goodbye to Ephesus in acts 20 meets one last time with the church leaders. He shares his testimony with them, charges them to keep watch over their flock and praise with them. Let's listen now to Dr. Boyce or anybody that has any interest at all in the apostle Paul as a person 20th chapter of the book of acts is a delight, is because we see him here in two different functions. We see him in public life, and throw as leading the worship of the church in that city where we are told meeting that began probably at the end of the workday on a certain evening and which contains a large amount of preaching on Paul's part. Perhaps four or five hours. Assuming it began around seven night went to midnight. I had a observance of the Lord's supper after that.

Then there was that time of informal dialogue and fellowship that went on the dawn. That's an interesting service in the middle of the night service 10 or 12 hours which the apostle Paul was very active and in which his spirits apparently did not flag so spirits of Utica's and then in the second half of this chapter we see the apostle Paul in quite a different setting body in public. This time leading the worship of the people of God but in private, as it were, my latest little town about 20 or 30 miles from Ephesus, to which he had called leaders of the elders of that Ephesian church community and in that passage of passage were going to look we see him ministering to them in the most intimate and most personal way. Now this farewell to the elders because it is generally known is that Paul's farewell to the Ephesian elders. This farewell has three parts were smart concerns Paul himself.

It's Paul's testimony before the elders second part is his specific words to them and that is his charge to the elders and then finally the very end and much briefer language. We have a reference to his prayer on behalf of the elders I'd like to look at each one of those in the time that we have the first is his testimony to them. You find it in this chapter.

In verses 18 to 24 and it's interrupted while he gives them his charge, and then he picks up again in a more personal vein in verses 33 to 35. This is a great passage for any minister of the gospel three or any aspiring minister good passage for seminarians to study and meditate on because here Paul now at the end of his time of ministry among these people people to me. Love look back over his life and his time among them, and pointed not in any way, self exaltation, but rather in an honest way of those things which it characterized his life and ministry among them, and for which he was quite willing and happy to praise God the things that should be in the life of any minister, and if that is true of those who exercise what we call an ordained capacity in the church. It should certainly be true of other Christians as well.

Look at some of these things first thing he mentions verse 19 and following his humility reminds them that while he was with them. He served the Lord with great humility. Interesting that he should mention this because when Paul comes to right as he later does in the pastoral epistles first Timothy and Titus giving the qualifications for the eldership. Although he touches upon the things that are to characterize those were leaders in the church and some of those things might just possibly have bearing on this matter. That humility doesn't actually mention that there matter of fact there is no other place of all his writings that he mentions this up himself.

Yet here as he looks back over his time among them, he reminds the Ephesian elders that while he was there he was there in great humility is important, of course, because this opposite danger. The danger of pride is a very great danger for those who are invisible positions within the church, I suppose.

Pride is a danger for all of us, particularly danger. Those who stand up and talk. At least if they are effective in any way because people will always come up afterwards decide no doubt, meaning quite well. All that was a wonderful message or oh, I was greatly blessed by that I don't want anybody to misunderstand what I'm saying if you feel like telling me of something I say has blessed you don't hold back by any means, but what I want to say is that that very situation as valuable as it is in some ways also at the same time presents a great danger because a dangerous for the minister to think that indeed he is rather wonderful because after all he has indeed himself in a source of such great blessing for death. In any blessing that comes to people at all comes from the Lord and that the Lord himself should be glorified minister repeat is to be effective in the ministry has to learn early on to deal with this matter of pride and grow in humility well. Bob is a sinner saved by grace that he had gifts God used in the ministry while they were gifts that had been given by God and as he said those who were under his care. Writing them about their gifts of the gift, why should you boast about it as if you had received it but rather if you received it and give honor to the one from whom it came. Let's first thing the second thing he says about himself in this testimony before the elders is that as he served the Lord among them in humility.

He also did so with tears all mentions in one other place in the same passage there in verse 19, but you also find it in verse 31. He repeats later on so obviously was something of great importance to far as I know this is not said elsewhere, and I don't think it really means that Paul was what we would call a weepy kind of person we know people like that people that run reason or another are emotionally inclined to burst into tears. I have generally found that that is not terribly effective in working with other people. Matter of fact and all my life I've only known one person who really did that and that was during my years in high school I still remember his name but I won't mention it out of deference to a survivors is now dead. No doubt of heartbreak.

This man taught romance languages in high school and he was so moved out of his compassion for the boys in the particular school that I attended that he would literally break into tears about us quite frequently we remember them crying in chapel, tears running down his cheeks as he tried to speak to us. Our general reaction was that was not terribly effective is not the way you generally communicate effectively with boys or for that matter with anybody else and I think as I say that when Paul says that he served the Lord in emphasis with tears. He does not mean necessarily that he was given the frequent outbursts of emotion, but it does mean something and it may well mean that he had tears at times it does mean it means nothing else is that he was what we would call a man of great empathy as he learned to identify with those to whom he ministered, told in the Old Testament that were to weep with those that we were to rejoice with those that rejoice. Paul was like that if somebody was happy he was happy with them because he was happy for them. Somebody was weeping. Paul could weep with them because the identified with them and to some extent could live himself what they were going through.

I know that Francis Schaeffer and his writings has made a great deal of this. Francis Schaeffer is one who spoke often of speaking the truth in love, is why do recognized the need times of separation, but Schaeffer always said if we separate it must be with tears, and if we speak the truth and love.

It must be at times with tears and he was absolutely right, and that meant we have to empathize. I learned an interesting lesson. I think when I was growing up and it was due in part to something my mother told me of something that I was taught by my aunt.

Teenagers are always very sensitive, you know, many of us remain sensitive very sensitive sometimes throughout our lives and I would be particularly worrying or shy about something you find it very hard to believe that I was ever shocked but I was in those years, and sometimes I would say to my mother or my aunt lived in our home, although I'm afraid what they will be thinking of me and these two wise women in my life always said to me you know you would learn a great deal of you would just realize that most people are thinking about you at all. Well I think I learned that as I look back on my life is one of the early lessons I really think I did learn. Maybe I learned other lessons besides maybe. I learned more important lessons.

Besides, at least as one I remember and help me through a lot of very difficult situations learned that other people basically just aren't thinking about you all, you don't have to be shy in front of them.

You can be yourself, and I think that help in the process of growing up I mentioned that here to say that while that is valuable wisdom. It is essentially no more than the wisdom of the world can easily get someone who supported non-Christian can tell other people that as well.

As a Christian I can say look, it's just psychological fact people are wrapped up in themselves. They're not thinking of you and you'll do very well in life if you can just remember that as Christians we go a step beyond this drill. We learned that other people are not thinking about us, but that is not Christianity. Christianity is to do the opposite thing which is namely, the think of them.

Think of them as Christ thinks about so identify with them in whatever it is they're going through Nebraska questioned why the apostle Paul was so effective she went throughout the Greek and Roman world of his day preaching the gospel, establishing churches and leaving behind Bonnie's of Christians which grow and thrive and prospered over many, many, decades long after Paul was gone. Was it his preaching ass. Of course it was his preaching going to come to that in the moment he taught them the whole counsel of God and God blessed them through his word. I sense it also had a great deal to do with the empathy that the plan for the really did weep with them when they were weeping, and he rejoice with them when they were rejoicing. He struggled with their struggles.

He grieved with their briefs and they remember that they recognized in him. There was something of the character of Christ that they did not see the world around them. And so the church prospered. So Paul mentions those two things is humility, and the fact that he was with the midtier spiders. The third thing.

It's his diligence in preaching that was is a great deal about that, and rightly so, because that's what he was chiefly called upon to do so. I look at this I see at least five things that he has to say about his preaching Africa briefly. First of all, it reminds him that he was engaged in public preaching. We know that because earlier in the book of acts we saw what he did when he was in Ephesus rented his college readiness and there he lectured every day from what one of the marginal references Telesis from 10 in the morning before the afternoon, six hours every day.

A lot of teaching that he did it publicly only did he do it publicly.

He says that in verse 20. He also did it privately as he went from house to house with his message. Some people commentators of study this and have said well when Paul says from house to house what is probably talking about their's house churches may well be.

Certainly there were gatherings of Christians in the houses not day where they could meet and so in addition to these public lectures that he gave public worship services like the one we saw Truax as Paul also went to places where these little gatherings.

The Christians were in there he ministered to them in a much more intimate fashion. I suppose that is true but at the same time as I read this I can't help but sensing the when he says from house to house. What Paul really says that he also engaged in personal house to house visitation is an interesting book that was written many years ago now in England by amending Richard Baxter install the reformed pastor, but it's not as you would think a book about Calvinism most certainly Baxter was a Calvinist, but rather it's a book about methodology for the ministry.

Baxter's chief points in that book something that he had developed in his own ministry in a rather backward and desolate section of England was the ministry of literally going from house to house visiting his parishioners and what he called catechizing no man is taking them as a family, and particularly the children through the questions of the Westminster shorter and longer catechisms that were theological basis of his church and under Baxter's ministry that community church prospered and grown. He said it came time as he walked through the streets of the city in any city street in that particular town in England.

The majority of the people were professing Christians because he administered to them in that way.

Well, Paul says he did that. I don't know exactly how that can be well done today churches which are large communities that are scattered certainly is one thing to do that in a relatively small town of England, where everybody knows everybody and do it in a large city like Philadelphia or New York, Los Angeles, Washington. But if this is something else deleted at least size lasted Paul was above doing that Paul did not say to himself well I am the great preacher. I'm the one who has to stand up lectured to the masses why it would be beneath me to take my time and visit in somebody's home try to help them on a one-to-one basis. All of the great people of God of always recognize that one happens one-on-one or in small groups and sometimes quite often in the province of God far more important than what happens in the large mass meetings. David Brainerd missionary to the Indians who got tuberculosis by the young agent's biography was written by Jonathan Edwards when he was on his deathbed ministered to a small young Indian child teaching them to read and he said he counted a great blessing from God that if he was laid aside from his preaching. He at least was able to do this he was able to teach one of God's children to read so he could read all the Scriptures. Paul had that attitude in God blessed the third characteristic of his preaching is that he preached everybody mentions that verse 21 he declared that councils of God. Most of the Jews and the Greeks we remember and in case we don't remember. Paul says that in this very paragraph the Jews gave him a very hard time I get Martine everywhere he went, and they particularly gave him a hard time in Ephesus and yet he ministered to them and Gentiles. Well they work much better. Remember there was a great why added Ephesus wasn't the Jews were rioting in the great amphitheater shouting great Diana of the Ephesians was the Gentiles. And yet, he ministered to them as well. The gospel he had to see was a universal gospel and the Savior he served was a universal savior and so we spoke about the Lord Jesus Christ. Everybody I see something else. Verse 21 you see it only that he speak to all people.

He spoke pointedly all people. I see that because he tells us that his message was this famous turn to God in repentance and have faith in the Lord Jesus repentance from sin turning from it and faith in Jesus and him alone. You have salvation. As pointed preaching say some preaching is so general and some references to center so indirect that hardly anybody can be offended when they can be offended again turn from it because they don't even recognize that they're guilty of its always like that Paul was pointed in his preaching. And God blessed us.

I notice in the fifth place that Paul's preaching was also comprehensive in the sense that it embraced, not just what we would call a simple gospel or an evangelistic message or the foreshortening of God's councils, but rather as he says in verse 27 the whole will of God say in Christian theology the whole councils of God, that's exactly what Paul preached all preached in Ephesus we have a summation of it in the book. He later wrote that city at church great great book that has to do with the sovereignty of God in salvation and the nature of the church in spiritual warfare and the other things besides preach the same message no doubt that he embodied in his letter to the Romans. That great letter takes councils of God all the way from our rebellion against God to God's redemption of his people, and preservation of them through this life to their glorification and then applies all about a very practical terms for the living lives in this most wicked world I was Paul's gospel. So as he speaks about himself. He shows how diligent she was in his preaching talks about priorities as well. That's the fourth of a number of things, but only the speaking humility and with tears. Not only was he diligent in his preaching. He also had right priorities. Verse 24 speaks about it.

There he is talking of his task and he says that as he looks at his task. He counted even his life at low account in order that he might finish his course proclaiming the gospel of God's grace. Everybody what I read that I think quite naturally. I'm sure you do as well. All that other place in which he gives similar personal testimony, namely the third chapter of the book of Philippians where he says that he had made it his goal to forget the things that were behind the failures and the achievements the temptations the weaknesses. All of those things, whatever it may be to forget the things that are behind in the press forward to the things that are before and is that he might do what God gave them to do so in the end obtain the prize, which God called him in Christ Jesus. One reason why many of us are more effective in our Christian lives as we don't have our priorities in order is in the truth. Most of his value are lying far more than our witness value the praise of men far more than the approbation of Almighty God. Those things are true. We know that is true of us and it's no wonder that our testimony is so weak.

What is one more thing Paul says about himself and that is the labor among them without read and that he demonstrated it by hard work.

Not only the work of the ministry, but even in earning a living. There in Ephesus. This is what he brings back again in verses 33, 35, saying, I have not comforted anyone's silver, gold or clothing but rather I work to supply my own needs and needs of my companions. I don't mind saying it. One of the great problems of the ministry. Is that so many ministers are lazy was ever job on earth in which one can be lazy. It's ministry and that's because generally speaking of most churches. You don't have anybody to supervise you, or at least not supervisor well you do with your time between you and God.

You're not thinking about God are not answerable to him. While it is very easy to waste a great deal of it always interruptions always things you can do always the easy way to take, rather than laboring heart.

I think it would be a great thing. In many cases those were in the ministry. In addition to laboring in the ministry would actually labor physically with her hands the way Paul did, because at least they would be working out of the work, sense of the value of work in the preciousness of time in the ministry would be commended in the lives of many people. Let's first part of this study. Paul's testimony before the division elders. The second part of it is his charge to them. You find that in verses 25 to 31 is a false charge to them because false charge is singular different ways he puts it, but one analyze what he saying it all boils down. The one thing he says to them, keep watch over the flock within your charge. All says, be diligent, says watch out for enemies says take heed of the wolves basically what is telling them is one thing, keep watch over those who are committed to your care. It's interesting that in this connection, the word he uses for the elders is not the word elder word presbyter awesome Greek, which literally means older people.

The older elder ones, and spiritually older ones of the congregation. Not that word but the word overseer you have in verse 28, which is the word at the stop us. That's an interesting word Ephesus compresses the word that is given us our word bishop you can almost hear how that has come at to stop us to stop us to stop us. Bishop that's all we got our word bishop, Bishop is an overseer. The way Paul uses the word here is not the way the word bishop is generally used in churches that have hierarchy is the basis of their organization is not speaking of a single nano as responsibility for the church, or even for district. Rather, he speaking of the elders.

All is bishop's why is he speaking of them as bishops well because he is not thinking about the later liturgical tradition of the church. Paul's day didn't even know about that, but rather because that word up to stop us means overseer composed of two parts stop ostriches the birds stop at all, which means the lookout for lookover and Appa which means over, so the word means to lookover keep watch upon or be careful for that's what it means. And Paul says look if you see yours you who have been elected responsible positions in the chart. Then make sure you do that for which you been elected begins to spell it out. They had said to him as perhaps they may have said one or more occasions. What is its way to look out for said first of all you have to look out for yourself your main one who is the lookout for the church says I'm in a talk about that in a moment before you lookout for others. You have to look out for yourself. You have to keep your life up right you have to keep your relationship to God.

Strong and secondly he says once you have done that. Be sure you lookout for the flock's matter of the flock and shepherds over the flock, which uses here is not a strong image in Paul's writings find it in other places.

It was a great image of Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke about himself as the shepherdess that I'm the good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. It was Jesus image in Sarah in the Old Testament as well in the Lord undoubtedly build upon it.

But it wasn't strong and Paul and yet here is Paul is a charge to these elders. He says to them what when I begin to think of your responsibility. There's nothing that really occurs to me in any more forceful way than this.

You have committed your care a little flock of God's people, lambs and sheep belong to God. Your task task is the task of the shepherd which is a take care of the shape to let them wonder away. Watch for their health to defend them from enemies to do all those things are easier to do that is because that flock is not your flock. It's God's flock that the flock that is so precious to him that he should his own precious blood in order to redeem it.

Elders have to remember that of course we all do the Lord Jesus in the New Testament is called a shepherd in three different ways. When he spoke of himself. He said on the good Shepherd because I give my life with a sheet speaks of himself that way.

In John 10 and then in the book of Hebrews. He's called the great Shepherd because he's the shepherd of died but he rose again. Then in first Peter in the fifth chapter verse two the Lord is called the chief Shepherd of the reason is called the chief Shepherd is that he is the chief Shepherd over other shepherds and other shepherds of the elders and the ministers in the church as Peter writes, as he does. There are those who have positions of leadership in the church. He says I want you to be shepherds want you to take charge of the flock.

I want to be responsible as you deal with those who are God's people. But as you do. I want you to remember that your nevertheless only under shepherds. Jesus is the chief Shepherd and he's the one ultimately, to whom you must answer and with whom you have to do may well of padded mind. What he says here explicitly that one dangers, they will come not only from without reverse those who, from without is wolves but also as he points out quite clearly from within the dangers from within those dangers that come largely from those who were leaders in the church. Those who because they hurt leaders in the church say to themselves well I later in the church ought means I know better what should be done.

Everybody has to do what I say when people won't do what they say or follow the particular shade of doctrine that they've invented they say well I'm going to take those who believe as I do know therefore obviously led by the Holy Spirit.

I'm going to go my own way so the church experiences divisions not what he saying in verse 30, even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

So what are they to do about that.

What there to do is exactly what he said in the beginning there to do verse 29 he says keep watch over yourselves in the flock when he gets to the end. He says in verse 31 so be on your guard, and it is exactly the same thing, watch out. He says make your calling and election sure the over cedar so that those without those within will not damage the flock which Jesus Christ shed his own blood as we began that there is 1/3 part to this farewell that the elders had is Paul's prayer for the we don't have in so many words, the essence of his prayer were only told verse 36 when he said this, he knelt down with all of them, and prayed look back carefully over the preceding paragraph, probably you have there.

The gist of what he prayed.

Certainly part of it. Robert told in verse 32.

Following is that he committed them to God and the word of his grace. How did he do that no doubt by praying for them would say Almighty God, I now commence to your care. These men, who were the leaders of the flock.

I am the flock that is committed to their care. I commit them to your word Scriptures by which alone you speak to the church and through which you have chosen to operate, to bless them to keep them from these dangers preserve this church dangers within a dangers without grant that it might be strong with people to know your word because I know your word live with you in close fellowship and grow in grace. So instead of succumbing increasingly to the temptations of the world become increasingly strong knowledge of who you are, your person, your will and your ways. Some who in the power of the Holy Spirit determine all their might to obey you and walk after you think God heard his prayer. I do when God heard at prayer and answered it blessed that church because it survived for many many decades how you conclude a study like this farewell which the apostle Paul gave his own personal testimony which he charged those he was leaving behind which he prayed for them while I think there's a suggestion here because in verse 32 the beginning of the final paragraph he spoke at least as that's recorded for us in acts.

He reminds them of their as an inheritance. God has prepared for them. All those who are sanctified as a good conclusion as a conclusion we should eat before our minds and inheritance inheritance spotlight up here on earth has some light up an inheritance where thieves break through and steal and moths radiant and corrupt but rather an inheritance it's laid up in heaven where thieves do not break through and steal and where monster not corrupt. I suppose as I look at that. That is why Paul goes on in what seems at first glance to be an unexpected way to speak about himself.

She's already given his testimony in the earlier portion of the charge that he spoken directly to the elders. Many commentators are set at this point.

Verse 33 that it is very strange.

The ball at this point. Once again begins to talk about himself saying I am not coveted anyone silver or gold clothing. While it may be strange but it's not hard to understand how he gets there he spoken to them, saying God can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified and then as he speaks to them, reminds them that he is telling them is no less true of himself says in effect, you know, I have not tried to build an earthly inheritance.

I'm not coveted silver or gold. I haven't been in this business of religion make it wealthy or perhaps you could have certainly people lab down through the centuries and are doing it on her own time mono. He said I didn't do that. The reason I didn't do that you say is that I have my eyes set upon that inheritance laid up for me by God in heaven all a difference it would make the church if we would really learn to think like that. I know it's hard.

The world just literally bombards us constantly with its values and philosophy that says you only go around once. Now is the time to make it your own land up now. You're never going to have its lesson.

The word of God says you can lay it up now and when you diet is gone, gone forever. It is literally true that you can take it with you in the heaven. Only thing that's going to be there waiting for you in heaven. As the treasures are laid up in heaven now those are spiritual treasures that which is material does not inherit heaven only that which is spiritual. All compared with spiritual treasures, which has to do with the eternal well-being of the soul eternal felicity in the presence of God forever more basking in his glory enjoying his favor. Compared with the things for which we sell our souls are worse trifles there. Nothing. They are the disgusting wealth and refuse of the world, we would be like Paul must learn to think like Paul, we must fix our minds on heavenly things for the spring.

Her father, that's what we want to do. We confess it is hard and we confess that we haven't done it. We do think like the world's we do treasure that which we can see and feel and count way up here.

Our father teaches things like Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him resigned. It all went to the cross, counting its joy to achieve our salvation help us think like Paul willingly gave up these things in order.

The mites one day in heaven have amassed company of those who would fountains salvation through his witness father helpless just to be spiritual for Jesus sake you are listening to the Bible study hour with a Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview.

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