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Presentation 42. Introduction How would you behave if you were saying goodbye to someone for what you knew was the last time? I imagine that you would.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation 42. Introduction How would you behave if you were saying goodbye to someone for what you knew was the last time? I imagine that you would."— Presentation transcript:

1 Presentation 42


3 Introduction How would you behave if you were saying goodbye to someone for what you knew was the last time? I imagine that you would experience some very powerful emotions but you would also want to make your last words count. You would want to say something of lasting value and not simply talk about the weather. With this in mind we examine what Paul had to say to the elders of the Ephesian church whom he summoned to Miletus to meet him for the last time. Presentation 42

4 Insight Into Paul’s Ministry In these verses Paul provides us with rare personal insights. And while it is true that they have a primary application for ministers of the gospel they also have much to teach every Christian, for all of us are engaged in Christian service. In v19 he speaks about serving the Lord in the environment of testing with ‘humility and tears’. As we have noted time and again he was brought to the brink of breaking point, which was of crucial significance since these death experiences opened the door to resurrection experiences of the life of Christ. Presentation 42

5 Insight Into Paul’s Ministry The kind of testing that Paul experienced can produce two quite different reactions. The first, is the one Paul identifies with, ‘humility and tears’. The testing experiences of life expose the vulnerability of our humanity. We find ourselves in situations from which we are incapable of delivering ourselves. What are we meant to do? To submit ourselves under ‘the mighty hand of God’! By so doing we acknowledge our need of God’s strength and intervention. This experience melts our hearts and we benefit as a result. Presentation 42

6 Insight Into Paul’s Ministry Secondly, we can fail to improve upon our sufferings, becoming arrogant rather than humble. We shake our fist heavenward and say, ‘How dare you allow something like this happen to me!’ We become self- assertive and rebellious and the whole process far from making our hearts more tender serves to hardens them. We steel ourselves against God to our great detriment and loss. Paul was never too proud to learn from his sore circumstances and that was part of the reason for his fruitfulness. Presentation 42

7 Insight Into Paul’s Ministry Secondly, Paul says that he had ‘no hesitation to preach what might be helpful’. And that, as we have already seen, incurred great cost. It meant telling people not necessarily what they wanted to hear but the message that God laid upon his heart. There is often a great gulf between what people want and what they need. At mealtimes some children constantly cry out for sweets. But the responsible parent replies, ‘I know that is what you want but trust me when I tell you that what you need is nutritious food to help you grow and give you energy’. Presentation 42

8 Insight Into Paul’s Ministry Or people go to the doctor and ask for a tonic, then the doctor says, ‘You may want a tonic but what you need is some radical surgery’. When Paul preached he did not seek to lull his hearers into a false sense of security about their relationship with God. He called people [v21] to repentance and faith. He told them they needed a change in their thinking about God and in the way they lived their lives before him. Again in v26 he told the elders that he had not ‘hesitated to declare the whole will of God’. Real faithfulness will not bury or dilute truth but applies it searchingly, even when we know our hearers might smart under it and remove us from our Christmas card list Presentation 42

9 Insight Into Paul’s Ministry Thirdly, note Paul’s sheer single- mindedness in v22-24. He makes it clear that it was becoming increasingly dangerous for him to be God’s man. His ministry had not only made its impact upon vested financial interests of the ancient world but an generated implacable opposition among the Jews who wanted to silence him for good. He tells his hearers that God’s Spirit had already given intimation of the danger that lay ahead. And yet he was determined to go where God was leading! Presentation 42

10 Insight Into Paul’s Ministry In 21v4, 10 we have further examples of this. Was Paul being foolhardy by walking into danger, by returning to Jerusalem at a time when it would be full of Jewish Pilgrims from all over Asia Such men could point the accusing finger at him as the one responsible for the conversion of many Jews? It would only be foolish to press on were he not convinced that it was God who was leading him into danger. Here is careless of life itself concerned only for the work to which God had called him! For him life was nothing in comparison with obeying God’s will. Presentation 42

11 Insight Into Paul’s Ministry A lack of persevering single-mindedness that more than anything else impoverishes fruitfulness? Jesus pointed out this danger in the parable of the sower. ‘Some seed fell among thorns… this is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it making it unfruitful.’ Paul chose the right kind of carelessness; nothing was allowed to stand in the way of obedience. The carelessness against which Jesus warned was that which erodes our commitment to God. As the compass needle always points north are we always moving towards the goal that God has laid out for our lives? Presentation 42

12 Insight Into Paul’s Ministry Finally, he points to his integrity. It was important to Paul that others should not think that he sought to profit from the gospel v33-35. Indeed, so intent was he in preserving his integrity that he did not claim legitimate expenses. Yes, he taught the church the importance of supporting her ministers, ‘The worker deserves his wages’ 1Tm.5.18 but he himself was reluctant to stretch his hand out. Once people are persuaded that the motivation behind our Christian service is that of personal gain then we cease to be effective communicators of the gospel. Presentation 42

13 Charge To The Elders It is important to grasp the connection between Paul’s review of his own ministry and the charge he gives to the Ephesian Elders. The personal qualities that Paul has disclosed contribute towards the vigilance over the flock of God for which Paul appeals. Note the order, first, vigilance is required over oneself and then, over the flock v28. If we fail to nurture our own walk with God we will have no success in helping others. Paul then provides the elders with encouragements towards being vigilant. Presentation 42

14 First, God has made them under shepherds and so the safety and wellbeing of the church is something for which they have a particular responsibility. The Middle Eastern shepherd was always on the lookout for wolves who could quickly decimate the flock. Now the value God placed upon his flock was far greater than that of shepherd. The church was so precious to him that he bought it with his own blood. Was Paul thinking of Jesus’ Good Shepherd address when he said the ‘I lay down his life for the sheep’ Jn.10v14? There is the measure of the church’s worth! Presentation 42 Charge To The Elders

15 Secondly, Paul urges vigilance because of the inevitability of conflict. He is not merely flagging up a possible danger, something that might or might not happen. He is saying, as sure as night follows day, the church will be caught up in conflict. His hearers knew that the wolf was the natural predator of sheep. Very well, says Paul, the church also has a natural predator, a whole kingdom of evil is at Satan’s behest and determined to destroy the church. This is explicitly stated in pictorial language in Rev.12v13-17… Presentation 42 Charge To The Elders

16 Next Paul tells the elders the form this attack will take. It will distort rather than deny the truth! More damage is done through distortion because it is more subtle, less easily identified and resisted. Men and women are won away from the truth by small degrees. In John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”, as Christian nears the gates of the Celestial City, he sees a slip- road that led all the way to hell. Many came near the gates, but because theirs was a distorted belief, they were diverted from glory. We too must beware of allowing our hearts to be drawn away from Christ by small degrees. Presentation 42 Charge To The Elders

17 Could this not produce a real climate of fear? Paul with great pastoral sensitivity anticipates this and first, commits his hearers to God, who alone can keep us from falling. Secondly, he commits them to the word of God’s grace which is able to build them up, producing a maturity that can recognise and reject error. There would be a struggle ahead but God would be with them in that struggle. And at the end of it, the promise of an eternal inheritance that would be theirs. ‘Live with this perspective on life’, he says. Presentation 42 Charge To The Elders

18 What happened to the church these elders represented? Cf. Rev 2v1-7 The church had been troubled by false apostles but was ‘intolerant of false teachers’. The church had heeded Paul’s warning in Acts 20v28-29. The Nicolatians, advocated compromise with paganism and taught that Christians should without embarrassment, be able to take part in the heathen social and religious activities on their doorstep- including pagan sexual laxity. This church is praised for resisting such teaching. Presentation 42 Charge To The Elders

19 But Ephesus is also accused of leaving her first love. This is not to be confused with losing the first emotional experience of conversion, that is almost inevitable for such loss weans us away from feelings and makes us more dependant upon God himself. What is in view here is a decay of internal heart commitment that can leave the external religious duties and doctrinal belief in place. The situation in Ephesus warns of the danger of being doctrinally correct but spiritually unhealthy. Presentation 42 Charge To The Elders

20 The church is exhorted to repent of its formalism lest her lamp stand be removed, i.e. a threat is made against her continued existence as a place of worship, where the blessing of God and the presence of God could be found. Sadly, it is possible for a group of Christians to meet regularly together but for the ‘glory and presence of God’ to have departed. And that departure can often take place unnoticed! The church is encouraged to reform with the promise to those who conquer that they would ‘eat of the tree of life’. To those who remain faithful to Christ there is the promise of eternal life in the paradise of heaven. Presentation 42 Charge To The Elders

21 Surely the challenge for us is to recognise that in a comparatively short period of time this once devoted fellowship of God’s people, while still preserving all of the outward trappings of orthodoxy has lost her love for Jesus. They were busy and involved in good Christian works but they had lost their love for Jesus. They had their theology right and knew what they ought to believe but they had lost their love for Jesus. They had failed to exercise the necessary vigilance over their own walk with God. This challenge is necessary in every age. Presentation 42 Charge To The Elders

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