The Main Thing
A daily devotion for July 17th
Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders
13 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. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 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.
17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 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. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 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. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 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.
25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 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. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
32 “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. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 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.’ ”
36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28
The primary responsibility of an elder or pastor is to teach the Scriptures, to feed the flock. If he is not doing that, he is failing in his job, miserably. It is the truth that changes people. If the Scriptures are not being taught then people are not being changed. They are struggling in their own futile ways and nothing is being accomplished. So the primary job of elders and pastors is to set the whole counsel of God before the people.
They are to begin with themselves, says the apostle, i.e., they are to obey the truth which they themselves learn. This is where their authority comes from. It is only as they are obedient to the truth which they teach that they have any right to say anything to anyone else. Even the Lord Jesus operated on that basis. He said to his disciples on one occasion,
If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me... (John 10:37). That is, if what I am doing is not in exact accord with what I am saying, then don't believe me!
Would you dare say that to your children? Or to your Sunday school class? Or to others who observe you as a Christian?
If what I am doing is not in line with what I teach, then don't believe me. I have no authority over you; I have no power over you. But if your actions are in accord with your teaching then power is inherent in that obedience.
So these pastors and elders are to begin with themselves, and to teach the Word. Their responsibility is to the Holy Spirit, not to the denomination, nor to the congregation. It is the Spirit who has set them in that office and has equipped them with gifts. He who reads the heart is judging their lives, so it does not make any difference what anybody else thinks. They are responsible to follow the Holy Spirit in what he has given them to do.
Notice how he underscores the fact that theirs is a very precious ministry. It is to feed the church of the Lord. Nothing is more precious to God in all the world than the people of Christ, the body of Christ. The most valuable thing on earth, in God's sight, is his church. He gave himself for it, he loves it earnestly,
he purchased it with his own blood. Therefore it has highest priority in his schedule and emphasis. What concerns the church is the most important thing in the world today. I wish we could catch that picture as the apostle understood it.
Father, how grateful I am for your Word. How graciously it teaches me, especially through the other members of the body. Please protect and encourage all those you have called to teach your word.
Life Application: The emphasis on teaching and obeying God's Word is critical to both private and public Christian witness. Are we instead trying to impress people with our credentials and skills? Do we need to reassess what is 'the main thing' in both our walk and our talk?
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