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Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders November 1, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Acts 20:13-38.

Summary: In this passage, Paul and his companions sailed from Troas to Miletus, where they met the elders from the church in Ephesus. Paul then gave a valedictory to those elders, where he:

  • reminded them of his integrity during his stay in Ephesus
  • declared that his singular focus lay in fulfilling his apostolic calling
  • exhorted them to fulfill their calling regarding the church in Ephesus.

He departed from Miletus after praying with them.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Paul reminded the Ephesian elders of his integrity to bolster his presentation of the Gospel message. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 18:

This is the right way to censure people and to gain authority for teaching, when the teacher prescribes nothing that he has not done himself…He did, indeed, extol his labor, patience, courage, and other virtues, but not to win praise from his listeners; it was so his exhortation would stick in their minds. He also had another aim, that his integrity might afterwards reinforce his teaching.

After I read this passage, I mulled over my past experiences as a Sunday School teacher and a youth counselor. While I believe that God bore fruit through me in those capacities, I sense that He could have achieved even greater things through me had I not been struggling with several serious sins at that time. In particular, I believe that those hidden struggles hampered my ability to communicate with those whom God had placed under my care. Thus, my recollections of those experiences are tinged with regret. Somehow, though, I am confident that God will grant me additional opportunities to be a blessing to others. Consequently, I must redouble my efforts to battle my inherent sinfulness and maintain my trust in God as the One who will complete His good work in me.

We also see that Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to be faithful overseers of their church. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 28:

Surely there is nothing that ought to be more effective in motivating pastors to do their duty joyfully than considering that the price of the blood of Christ is committed to them. It follows that unless they take pains with the church, they will be responsible for lost souls and also will be guilty of sacrilege because they have profaned the holy blood of God’s Son and have, as far as they can, made useless the redemption he procured.

After I read this passage, I recalled the occasion when I delivered a sermon as a guest speaker at a church. The pastor at that church commended my message and mentioned that I should consider a ministerial career. At that time, the thought of serving as a pastor was rather appealing, especially since I enjoyed public speaking. As time has passed, though, I have grown in my understanding of that ministry. In particular, I have observed the difficulties that pastors experience in terms of building relationships with their congregations. A pastor’s personality may not be compatible with that of a sizable fraction of their congregation, hampering their effectiveness in terms of leading those believers closer to God. Also, many pastors agonize over the fact that they cannot control the process of sanctification. Perhaps those of us who happen to be lay members of churches should redouble our efforts to demonstrate our appreciation of our pastors.

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