Paul’s Emotional Goodbye to the Elders of Ephesus – Acts 20

English: Photograph of the Theater at Ephesus

English: Photograph of the Theater at Ephesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While at Miletus, Paul called the elders at Ephesus to come to him, a journey of perhaps 30 miles or so. Verses 18-37 end with a tearful goodbye, as he tells them that he knows he will never see their faces again. He tells them that he is going to Jerusalem and that he does not know what will happen to him “except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.” He recounts his faithfulness to preaching and teaching the word in the three years that he had spent with them, declaring that he was “innocent of the blood of all.”

These very emotional parting words have an important point besides the obvious. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul had stressed the importance of the local church members having respect for those who had been appointed as elders of their congregation (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Here in Acts 20, he is making it clear to these elders – and to all elders of the church everywhere – that they have the responsibility to shepherd the flock among them. Fierce wolves, he says, will come in “not sparing the flock,” and that “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” The elders of the local church everywhere have an awesome responsibility, and must always be on guard for the souls of those in their midst. It was true then, as it is now.

In the middle of all this, Paul quotes to these elders one of Jesus’ most famous sayings in verse 35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The words are actually not found in any of the gospels. But it is good to remember the words that John wrote in John 21:25. Jesus did and said so much more in His time on earth than what was written in the gospels. It is appropriate that some words the Lord used in His teachings are reported to us by Paul – who wrote so much of the Bible!


Schedule for this week

Read or listen to audio of this week’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of this weeks selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

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All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

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Proverbs 11:14 – Guidance

Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety

Everyone at some time in their life needs guidance from others.  When we are children, we need the guidance of our parents, of course (though we often begin to think otherwise as teenagers).  It is often desirable to obtain the guidance of counselors at school or the guidance for planning our education that can be provided at college.  We often seek guidance from professionals who are experts in various fields, such as financial planners, attorneys, and accountants.  And sometimes we merely need the advice of a trusted friend.

Ephesus, in modern Turkey, is the best-preserved classical city on the Mediterranean, and one of the best places in the world to get the feeling for what life was like for early Christians in Roman times.

Ephesus, in modern Turkey, is the best-preserved classical city on the Mediterranean, and one of the best places in the world to get the feeling for what life was like for early Christians in Roman times.

God, in His wisdom, has always known what is best for us; and He certainly knows the value that other people with experience in different matters bring to our lives when we need them.  Though not the only reason, this is one good reason that God’s word is so full of admonishment about the commandments to listen to the elders of our congregation – those whose job it is to “shepherd the flock” (1 Peter 5:2).

The scriptures list some specific qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 that those who are to serve as elders should have.  Many of these qualifications have to do with how he is thought of by others in the community, which is not surprising, since one’s reputation is most often a product of his behavior. The result of experience combined with admirable behavior is the sort of wisdom that God’s word teaches throughout the Book of Proverbs.

The leadership of our shepherds  is one that comes with an awesome responsibility, for they will be held accountable for their failure to lead the flock in a manner that is responsible in the Lord’s eyes.  They must constantly be on guard to ensure the scriptural teaching of God’s word, and for seeing to the spiritual well-being of His sheep.  Paul considered this responsibility so great that he summoned the Ephesian elders to meet with him over many miles journey as he bid them farewell in Acts 20:18-35.

It is absolutely true that many small but strong congregations function well without the benefit of qualified elders.  But where there are sufficient numbers in a congregation that qualified men are available to serve, it is imperative that such men are carefully chosen so that the souls of the local people are well nurtured and protected from false teaching which may lead to apostasy.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

1 Thessalonians 5 – Final Instructions and Benediction

In this portion of Paul’s first letter, he continues speaking of the Lord’s return by reminding them that they already have been taught that the time is unknown and will come like a “thief in the night,” catching the unrighteous unaware and unready.  Paul refers to them in verse 5 as “children of light” (some translations say “sons of light”) and “children of the day.”  Jesus refers to believers as “sons of light” in a parable in Luke 16:8 and in John 12:35-36, as He is “the light.”  As Paul speaks here of the difference between they who know the Lord and the unrighteous, his words about not being “of the darkness,” along with those about the sins that take place at night, obviously show that being “of the light” has  other meaning as well (verses 6-7).  But his military imagery in verse 8 , is in the context of always being ready – which is the main point he is driving home.

Paul’s message of faith, hope, and love continues as he admonishes them to encourage and build one another up.  But in the middle of this, in verses 12-13, he says “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”   This is clearly a reference to elders of the church; and we know from Acts 14:23 that he and Barnabas had appointed elders in every church on their journey through the area.  These verses and those following may have been to address specific concerns Paul had for signs of turmoil to which he was made aware (“be at peace among yourselves”).  But as “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), the commands and principles through verse 22 apply to Christians everywhere (“Admonish the idle, the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all”).

Thessalonica Arch of Galerius

Not repaying evil for evil (verse 15) is not a mandate against punishment by the justice system, but a limit that a Christian has to put on his personal life, difficult as it may be – instead, we must “seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” are the will of the Father through Christ Jesus.  “Do not quench the Spirit” and “Do not despise prophecies” would appear to be speaking to the Spiritual gifts that were to end after the apostolic age, but the Spirit that one acquires from baptism can also be quenched by false teaching, and by the sins of not following these important principles.  “Abstain from every form of evil” ( the KJV incorrectly asserts “the appearance of evil”) in this context , as Coffman comments is: “having tested what is true and false, the believer should cling to the true and abstain from the false.”

He closes, wishing them the peace and grace of the Lord, exhorting them to keep their  “whole spirit and soul and body” blameless, looking toward the coming of the Lord.  He then charges them to have this circular letter read to all the brethren.

Side note: Good information and photos of Thessalonica (Thessaloniki) in this article at BiblePlaces.com.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.