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Another Journey through Macedonia
(Acts 20:1a…1c…2b, NIV)
“When the uproar had ended, Paul…
set out for Macedonia…
and finally arrived in Greece.”
During our last lesson from the Book of Acts, God used a pagan “city clerk” to calm a financially and religiously motivated riot in the city of Ephesus and thereby saved the lives of Paul and others on his missionary team. That’s what Luke was referring to when he began Acts chapter 20 by writing, “When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia” (Acts 20:1, NIV).
Paul evidently did not think it wise to depart from Ephesus until the riot had subsided. There were probably two reasons for his drawing this conclusion. First, he may have wanted to avoid any suspicion that he was abandoning the Ephesian Church, leaving them in the midst of grave danger, which might have been viewed as an act of cowardice on his part. To avoid that “appearance of evil,” he stayed until the riot was over. Earlier, during his ministry in the city of Corinth, Paul had written to the church at Thessalonica, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22, KJV). Now in Ephesus, he was putting this advice into practice in his own life!
Second, Paul took seriously his responsibility to provide “care” for the churches he had planted. In his second letter to the Corinthians, after listing numerous dangers and trials he faced during the course of his missionary ministry, he wrote, “Beside those things that are without [the dangers and trials of his ministry], that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (II Corinthians 11:28, KJV). Obviously, he considered the dangers and trials of ministry a serious matter, but he also considered “the care of all the churches” a serious responsibility. Therefore, he would never consider running out on a church when its members were facing life-threatening persecution! So he wouldn’t leave Ephesus until “the uproar had ended.”
II. Encouraging the Disciples
Paul wouldn’t leave Ephesus without a final farewell meeting with the disciples there. Luke wrote, “Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good bye and set out for Macedonia” (Acts 20:1b, NIV).
According to Luke, Paul’s purpose for this final meeting with the disciples at Ephesus was to “encourage” them. Luke wrote, “After encouraging them, [he] said good bye” (Acts 20:1b, NIV). No doubt, after experiencing the intensity of the financially and religiously motivated riot that had just occurred at Ephesus, the disciples of that city needed “encouraging.” Without it, the disciples there may very well have given up their pursuit of Christ.
However, Luke’s record of a speech Paul made later to the elders of the Ephesian Church clearly indicated that Paul’s “encouraging” was so effective that the church survived and was under the care of devoted “elders.” Luke wrote, “Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents… I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:17-19…27-28, NIV).
Two important aspects of effectively “encouraging” disciples are:  Living a godly life before them. Paul said, “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you” (Acts 20:18b, NIV). And  clearly explaining the whole will of God. Paul said, “I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27, NIV).
After adequately “encouraging” his disciples at Ephesus, Paul left the city. Luke wrote, “After encouraging them, [Paul] said goodbye and set out for Macedonia” (Acts 20:1, NIV). From Ephesus Paul would have travelled overland to Troas where he would have boarded ship and sailed across the Aegean Sea, landing at Neapolis in the province of “Macedonia.”
III. The Journey to Macedonia
This journey to “Macedonia” had been planned long before the riot broke out in Ephesus. Prior to the riot, there had been a revival. It’s amazing that a city can go from revival to riot in just a few short weeks. During the revival several witches and sorcerers had become believers and burned their books of black magic in the city square. In the aftermath of that sweeping revival Paul decided he would eventually leave Ephesus and travel to Macedonia. Luke wrote, “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. ‘After I have been there,’ he said, ‘I must visit Rome also.’ He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia [at Ephesus] a little longer” (Acts 19:19-22, NIV). One of Paul’s spiritual disciplines was to plan the work and then work the plan!
Luke wrote only a very brief description of Paul’s second missionary ministry in the province of Macedonia: “He traveled through that area [Macedonia], speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece” (Acts 20:2, NIV). The people to whom Paul spoke “many words of encouragement” were probably members of the churches at Thessalonica, Berea, and Philippi—churches he had established on his first missionary ministry in Macedonia.
It is interesting that Paul was able to encourage others when he himself was quite stressed-out. I know he was stressed-out because before he left Ephesus he had sent Titus to Corinth to deliver a letter to the church there because of problems they were having. He had instructed Titus, after delivering the letter, to meet him as soon as possible at Troas to report to him how the letter had affected the church, but Titus didn’t show up at Troas. When Paul wrote II Corinthians he explained, “When I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia” (II Corinthians 2:12-13, NKJV). When Paul arrived in Macedonia he was anxious about the whereabouts and well-being of Titus, yet he offered “many words of encouragement to the people.”
Evidently Paul’s focus wasn’t on himself, it was on others! He wasn’t absorbed in his own interests. He was concerned about the best interests of others. He later instructed the believers at Philippi to develop this same kind of others-centered-focus. He wrote, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, NKJV).
After his preaching tour through Macedonia, Paul set his sights on Greece. Luke summed up his ministry with this brief description: “Finally [Paul] arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia” (Acts 20:2b-3, NIV). In our next lesson from the Book of Acts we will examine Paul’s ministry in Greece in a little more detail.
Paul’s ministry to the Macedonians was a ministry of encouragement. Luke wrote, “He traveled through that area [Macedonia], speaking many words of encouragement to the people” (Acts 20:2a, NIV). Evidently, God’s people need “words of encouragement.”
The author of the Book of Hebrews clearly indicated that every time we come to church we should come on a mission of “encouragement.” He wrote, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV).
The Greek word Luke used that is translated “encouragement” was “parakaleo,” which is composed of two Greek words: “para” which means “beside,” and “kaleo” which means “to call.” So the word literally means “to call from beside.” It means coming close to someone’s life, his struggles, his story…and calling out to him. Encouragement isn’t distant, it’s close.
The Bible portrays the Christian life as a race we are to run to the finish. Paul wrote, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1b, NKJV). As we run “the race,” we should run it together, beside one another, and we should call out to one another to motivate one another to run the race all the way to the finish line.
So encouragement has different voices because what people will need to hear is different in different seasons:
I want to close by emphasizing that Biblical encouragement always motivates us to glorify God. Notice Paul’s prayer for the believers at Rome, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another…that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6, ESV).
Paul’s Ministry in Greece
(Acts 20:2-3a, NIV)
“He traveled through that area,
speaking many words of encouragement to the people,
and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months.”
After his preaching tour through Macedonia, Paul set his sights on Greece. Luke summed up his ministry with this brief description: “He traveled through that area [Macedonia], speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months” (Acts 20:2-3a, NIV).
Luke doesn’t give us much information regarding what Paul’s ministry involved while in Greece, but by searching through Paul’s own writings we can learn more about what he did there. As we shall see, his time was certainly not wasted. He was busy advancing God’s Kingdom. After all, that’s what Jesus said His people should do. The climax of His “Sermon on the Mount” was this statement: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV).
II. What Paul Did in Greece
So let’s examine what the Scriptures indicate Paul did while in Greece. First of all, let’s notice that he was there for “three months.” Luke wrote, “Finally [Paul] arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months” (Acts 20:2-3a, NIV). And a busy “three months” it was!
Before leaving Ephesus, Paul already had a plan for the next phase of his ministry. It included traveling through Macedonia and then on to “Greece,” a district of the ancient Roman Empire that included the province of Achaia where the city of Corinth was located. We can conclude from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that Corinth was his base of operations while in “Greece.” He wrote to the church at Corinth about his ministry plan, “After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits” (I Corinthians 16:5-7, NIV). Paul’s plan was to be stationed in Corinth during his ministry in “Greece,” which turned out to be “three months” long.
During his ministry in “Macedonia” as well as in “Greece” much of his time was spent collecting offerings from the churches of those areas to aid the poverty-stricken saints in Jerusalem. From Ephesus he wrote to the church at Corinth instructing them to have their relief offering ready when he arrived. He wrote, “Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me” (I Corinthians 16:1-4, NIV). He would either make arrangements for the offering to be transported to Jerusalem by others or he himself would take it to Jerusalem.
Paul had been planning to travel to Rome to minister to the believers there for some time, but had often been delayed. He had obviously been in communication with the church there about his plan, so he wrote to them from Corinth and explained the reason he had been delayed and included his immediate travel itinerary. He wrote, “I have often been hindered from coming to you. But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way” (Romans 15:22b-28, NIV). While in “Macedonia” and “Achaia” [Greece] Paul was busily collecting a relief offering for the poor believers of the Jerusalem church. When the offering was finally delivered to Jerusalem, he planned a journey to Rome and then to Spain.
In addition to this “relief offering ministry” in “Greece,” Paul also preached in every possible location in that province. He explained this fact to the Romans when he wrote to them from Corinth, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation…But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain (Romans 15:20…23-24a, NIV). When Paul wrote that “there is no more place for me to work in these regions,” he was saying that he had preached the “Good News” in every city and town in “Macedonia” and “Greece.” Wow, what an accomplishment!
So what did Paul do during his “three month” stay in “Greece?” He wrote the 16-chapter Book of Romans, he collected a relief offering for the saints at Jerusalem, and he preached the “Good News” in every city and town in “Macedonia” and “Greece.”
After Paul’s preaching had resulted in a sweeping revival in Ephesus, Paul decided to leave that city and travel to “Jerusalem.” Luke delineated Paul’s plan when he wrote, “After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia” (Acts 19:21a, NIV).
A student of geography would be puzzled by Luke’s phrase, “passing through Macedonia and Achaia,” because Jerusalem is south of Ephesus while Macedonia and Achaia are northwest of Ephesus. So Paul planned to travel northwest to get to a location in the south. The only reasonable explanation for his itinerary is that he was determined to collect the relief offering from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia before arriving at Jerusalem.
If helping the poor was so important to Paul that he would further delay his trips to Rome and Spain to do so, it should be important to us too! James indicated the importance of helping the poor when he wrote, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16, NIV).
The leaders of the Jerusalem Church encouraged Paul to make helping the poor a central part of his missionary ministry. He wrote, “After fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem… James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Galatians 2:1a…9-10, NIV).
If James, Peter, John, and Paul thought helping the poor should be a significant ministry among God’s people of their day, then it should certainly be a significant ministry among God’s people of our day. For that reason ODC operates our “Clothes Closet” and “Food Pantry” ministries; and we give you special opportunities to financially support those ministries six times during each year!
May we follow Paul’s example of preaching the “Good News” until as he put it, “There is no more place for me to work in these regions” (Romans 15:23a, NIV) and may we be, as Paul was, “eager” to help the poor!
Paul Changes His Plans
(Acts 20:3b, NIV)
“Because some Jews had plotted against him
just as he was about to sail for Syria,
he decided to go back through Macedonia.”
During our previous lesson from the Book of Acts we left Paul in the city of Corinth in “Greece,” a term commonly used to refer to the Roman province of Achaia of which Corinth was the capital city. Luke wrote, “He…arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months” (Acts 20:2b-3a, NIV).
His intention was to sail from Corinth and head back to “Syria,” probably to the city of Antioch where the church was located that God had chosen to send him on his missionary journeys. Luke wrote, “He was about to sail for Syria” (Acts 20:3b, NIV). His intention, as at the conclusion of his previous journeys, was probably to report to the church everything that God had accomplished through this latest journey.
However, an unexpected turn of events motivated Paul change his plans and take the overland route “back through Macedonia.” Luke wrote, “Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia” (Acts 20:3b, NIV).
We don’t know how Paul learned that “some Jews had plotted against him.” Their evil intentions could have been overheard by some of his travelling companions. Some unnamed member of the church at Corinth could have learned of the Jewish plot and informed Paul. It could have been made known to him by a direct revelation from God Himself. We really don’t know, but what we do know is this. God used this unexpected morsel of information for Paul’s “good.” Very probably he escaped serious injury or even death because God somehow made this information available to him. He had recently written in his letter to the Roman believers, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NKJV).
II. Paul’s Adjusted Itinerary
Paul had seven members of his missionary team with him at Corinth when he changed his travel plans. Luke listed them when he wrote, “He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia” (Acts 20:4, NIV). Paul understood the value of teamwork in God’s kingdom, and so should we! We should continually be attempting to recruit additional team members to help us advance God’s Kingdom.
When the team reached “Macedonia,” they evidently stayed at “Philippi” which was a major city in that Roman province. This was his second visit to Philippi. On his first visit to that city, Lydia was saved and baptized, the city jailer and his family were saved and baptized, and the Philippian Church was planted. As he began to describe Paul’s first visit to Philippi Luke wrote, “We traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days” (Acts 16:12, NIV).
Notice that Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, was with the missionary team when they reached Philippi. His use of the first person plural pronoun makes that fact clear. He wrote, “We traveled to Philippi” (Acts 16:12a, NIV). But when the team left Philippi, Luke evidently does not leave with them. Describing the missionary team’s departure from Philippi he wrote, “Then they left” (Acts 16:40b, NIV). He didn’t write, “Then we left.” He wrote, “Then they left.” He obviously stayed behind and took up residence at Philippi.
Luke does not begin to use the first person plural pronoun again in his historical record of Paul’s ministry until the team returned to Philippi for their second visit to that city. Paul sent the other seven team members from Philippi on to Troas. Luke wrote, “These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas” (Acts 20:5, NIV). Then notice his choice of pronouns in the next verse. He wrote, “We sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days” (Acts 20:6, NIV). Luke rejoined the team at Philippi and he and Paul travelled to Troas where they met the other seven team members who had arrived there five days earlier.
III. The Miracle at Troas
I’m rather certain that Paul and his team thought that the reason for changing their travel itinerary was that back at Corinth “Some Jews had plotted against him” (Acts 20:3b, NIV). But the real reason was that the Church at Troas needed a miracle and God was going to give them one through Paul and his original travel plans wouldn’t have taken him to Troas.
Let’s look at the story. Luke wrote, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight” (Acts 20:7, NIV). We don’t know what time church started, but we do know that they had a communion service and at “midnight” Paul was still preaching. But that’s not the half of it…he took a break to work a miracle…and then preached until daylight!
I love the fact that the Bible is so real! It is full of humorous real-life story details like this—“There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on” (Acts 20:8-9a, NIV). Don’t you just love that—“Eutychus…was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on!” When I read this I don’t feel so bad when I talk “on and on” and some of your fall into “a deep sleep!”
Luke continued to relate the story just as it happened. At this point the plot took an unexpected and tragic turn. You see, sometimes tragedy does happen to God’s people. Luke wrote, “When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead” (Acts 20:9b, NIV). What a tragedy! During a church service a young man fell three stories from a window to his death on the street below.
What I want you to notice is that when this tragedy occurred, nobody responded by placing blame. Nobody blamed the young man for falling asleep during Paul’s sermon. Nobody blamed Paul for preaching too long. Nobody blamed the elders for a lack of safety policies. Nobody blamed anybody. Luke described Paul’s response to the tragedy when he wrote, “Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!”(Acts 20:10, NIV). Too bad God’s people often respond to tragedy with blame rather than following Paul’s example of jumping into the middle of the tragedy and offering help!
It is so easy to respond to tragedy with blame. Jesus disciples demonstrated that human tendency when they began to question Jesus about the reason a middle-aged man had been born blind. John wrote, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” (John 9:1-2, NIV). In essence their question was, “Who is to blame for this tragedy—the blind man or his parents?” That’s why I say, “It is so easy to respond to tragedy with blame!”
God used Paul to work a notable miracle at this point at Troas. A young man was raised from death! Obviously the Church at Troas needed a miracle and God gave them one. No doubt, that caused quite a “buzz” around town! Luke wrote, “The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted” (Acts 20:11, NIV). The Greek word translated “comforted” literally means “encouraged.” It appears that God used this miracle to “encourage” a discouraged church!
Another thing to notice is that Paul refused to allow neither the tragedy nor the miracle to distract him from the business of the kingdom. The plan was to preach to the Church at Troas and have a communion service with them, and after the tragedy and the miracle that is exactly what he did. Luke wrote, “Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left” (Acts 20:11, NIV).
Sometimes God uses unexpected circumstances to change our plans. When He does so, we can rest assured that something “good” is about to happen! Paul’s travel plans were suddenly changed by circumstances beyond his control. Luke wrote, “Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia” (Acts 20:3b, NIV). As a result, Paul was in Troas just when the church there needed a miracle and God used Paul to provide one.
When a young man fell three stories to his death, Paul responded with a miracle. Luke wrote, “Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’…The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted” (Acts 20:10…12, NIV).
Paul’s Farewell to the Elders of Ephesus
(Acts 20:25, NIV)
“I know that none of you among whom I have gone about
preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.”
At the close of our previous lesson from the Book of Acts, Paul was preaching at the church at Troas when at about midnight a young man fell from his window seat to his death three stories below. Paul responded by raising him from death. He then participated in a Communion Service with that church, preached until daylight and then left the city. Luke wrote, “Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’ Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left” (Acts 20:10-11, NIV).
His missionary team now numbering eight travelled from Troas to Assos by ship while Paul made the journey alone on foot. Luke wrote, “We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot” (Acts 20:13, NIV). We really don’t know why Paul decided to send the team by ship while he himself made the journey alone on foot, but he did.
Maybe he needed some time alone to pray and meditate. Maybe he simply needed some solitude. After all, he had been traveling in close quarters with seven other men for months at this point and then at Philippi Luke rejoined the team. Maybe someone on the team had irritated him and he just needed to get away and get his heart right. We just don’t know…and that’s ok. We don’t have to know…if God wanted us to know He would have told us!
Assos was only 20 miles southeast of Troas by land, but 40 miles by ship. So Paul could have arrived at the port in Assos prior to the landing of the ship which transported the missionary team. Regardless of the logistics, the prearranged plan for Paul to rejoin the team at the port in Assos was accomplished. Luke wrote, “When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene” (Acts 20:14, NIV). From Assos they sailed to Mitylene, the capital city of the island of Lesbos which lay about 30 miles due south of Assos.
After spending the night at Mitylene, the missionary team again boarded ship and traveled 30 miles south to a point off the coast of the island of Chios where the ship anchored for the night. Luke wrote, “The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios” (Luke 20:15a, NIV). The following morning they sailed 25 miles southeast to the island of Samos and put in at a harbor there. After spending the night aboard ship in the harbor, the missionary team sailed 20 miles south to the city of Miletus. Luke wrote, “The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus” (Acts 20:15b, NIV).
II. A Creative Alternative
The direct voyage from Chios to Samos bypassed the coastal city of Ephesus where Paul had planted a church on his second missionary journey. His desire to arrive at Jerusalem prior to the festival of Pentecost motivated him to bypass Ephesus at this point, even though he longed to spend some time with the elders of Ephesus. Luke wrote, “Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16, NIV). An important spiritual lesson to learn from this episode in Paul’s life is: “You can’t always do everything you want to do when you want to do it!”
We know that Paul wanted to spend some time with the elders of Ephesus because when he reached Miletus, he sent a message asking them to join him for a conference there. Luke wrote, “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17, NIV). What a creative alternative to accomplish what he evidently believed to be God’s will—a meeting with the elders of Ephesus! Rather than go to them, he asked them to come to him.
The elders made the 18 mile trip from Ephesus southeast to Miletus to confer with Paul who gave them the most inspiring lesson on effective spiritual leadership ever recorded. He began by reminding them of his lifestyle while he was with them. Luke wrote, “When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus’” (Acts 20:18-21, NIV). He emphasized two primary personal characteristics: 1] He “served the Lord…in the midst of severe testing by…Jewish opponents” and 2] He was faithful “to preach anything that would be helpful” to them. An important spiritual lesson to learn from this section of Paul’s speech to the elders of Ephesus is: “Effective spiritual leadership demands a godly lifestyle!”
Next, he reminded them of God’s purpose in his life which he was willing to pursue regardless of the potential sacrifice involved. Luke wrote, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:22-24, NIV). An important spiritual lesson to learn from this section of Paul’s speech to the elders of Ephesus is: “Effective spiritual leadership requires a clear understanding of the leader’s God-given life purpose.” Paul’s life purpose was “the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
Next, Paul informed the elders of Ephesus that this would be his final meeting with them. He would never see them again. He said, “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God” (Acts 20:25-27, NIV).
Then in light of that fact he gave them the most significant and relevant ministry advice he could think of. He said, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (Acts 20:28-31, NIV). It is the responsibility of elders to “Keep watch over…all the flock…Be shepherds of the church of God!”
Paul’s final remarks to the elders of Ephesus contained some very personal advice for them. He said, “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ ” (Acts 20:32-35, NIV). Paul’s personal advice to these elders was set the example of working hard and giving generously!
As Paul concluded his lesson of effective spiritual leadership for the elders of Ephesus, a touching scene occurred that showed the depth of the relationship he had developed with them. Luke described the scene when he wrote, “When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:36-38, NIV). This part of the story illustrates the important spiritual lesson that: “The ability to spiritually impact the lives of others and inspire them to greater levels of spiritual leadership is in large part determined by one’s relational skills!”
The development of relational skills is the direct and practical result of loving people. That’s why Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to love people! When asked about the greatest command, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV).
Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.