Skip Heitzig - Acts 20:17-21:14
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Father, we feel it important to pause and to address the author of scripture itself, the divine author. Yes, we know that Luke penned this book. John wrote other books, as did Paul, as did Peter, and so many others. 66 different books, so many different human authors from different walks of life in different eras. But all superintended by you, the divine author. We believe this to be your word, and it's your word via poetry, examples, parable, narrative, all to bless us, to instruct us that we might live and lead godly lives. So we commit this time to you, pray that you would instruct us, we would be inspired, so that we might know how to put into practice those principles we read and see. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Now lately, and it's not just lately, but it's often on Wednesday nights, I will end the study, right in the middle of a chapter, and then pick up the next week right in the middle of the chapter. And so I'm not always following chapters. And you might be thinking, gosh, can't this guy get through a chapter or two? And there was a time when I could. And I've just found that as I go through the Bible a little bit more, and maybe it's age, I slow down a little bit, I see more I feel like I want to plumb some of the depths and not just skip over them.
And so we don't always end, nor begin, exactly at the beginning or end of each chapter. And partly because we run out of time, and we're going to be here the following week, Lord willing. Unless Jesus comes back, which, that's a welcome interruption. But other than that, we just plow through. Now, I have to say this, I make no apologies for doing that. For stopping in the middle of a chapter and then picking up the following week. And here's why. The chapter in your Bible and the verses in your Bible were not in the oldest copies of the manuscript. There were no numbers, there were no chapters. It wasn't until the year 1227 that they first appeared.
And they first appeared because the guy who was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Stephen Langton decided that there should be an easier way for people to make reference to their bibles, to find where things are. So he came up with chapter divisions and verses. So they're not inspired by the Holy Spirit as the text is inspired by the Holy Spirit. They're inspired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton.
I think he did a good job, but certainly he is not infallible. And I disagree with some places that he has ended a chapter and began another one. I think he missed some of the context or the flow. That's just my opinion. I'm not going to try to rewrite what he has done, it's done. But 1227 is when they first appeared, that's when he first started it.
But they first appeared in a Bible in 1382, the Wycliffe translation into English was the first public Bible that had chapters and verses. So because of that, I make no apologies. I just sort of flow with the story and end at the appropriate moment. And I think we appropriately ended last time, and are appropriately picking it up this time.
So we're in Acts, chapter 20, we're going to begin in verse 17. Let me just catch us up to speed if we're not caught up to speed. The book of Acts was written by whom? Luke. It is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It is volume 2 of Luke's historic writings. Luke, a Gentile doctor, he writes probably for his master named Theophilus. He mentions him in chapter one, verse one and two of Luke, and he mentions him again in the beginning of the book of Acts.
And so Luke makes reference in the first chapter of Acts, saying the former account, or the former treatise that I wrote to you, O, Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day he was taken out. He is referring to the Gospel of Luke, and the Gospel of Luke ends in the city of Jerusalem. The book of Acts begins in the city of Jerusalem, where Luke ends. But Acts ends in the city of Rome, where Paul is a prisoner for two years under house arrest. That's where it ends.
And Luke, I believe, has a method to his madness, if you will. He has a plan. He wants to show how the hope of the world that was centered in Jerusalem, moved from Jerusalem to the center of the world, which is Rome. The events that happened in Jerusalem, at a place just outside the city walls, is the pinnacle of redemptive history. Jesus died on a cross as a common criminal, was taken down and placed in a tomb. Three days later he rose from the dead, and the hope of life change began in Jerusalem, outside the walls of Jerusalem that day.
Luke picks up in Jerusalem, and shows how the Holy Spirit is moving continually through the people of God once Jesus has ascended into heaven. So he wants to show how that hope that changes lives in Jerusalem can also change lives in different parts of the world, and in Rome itself, the very heart and center of the world at the time. Thus, the theme of the book of Acts could be stated in a little phrase, "From Jerusalem to Rome." "From Jerusalem to Rome." We're right in the middle of the narrative.
We've been looking at, for several weeks, the ministry of God's ambassador, Paul Saul, AKA Paul, Saul of Tarsus, now Paul the great Apostle. He is on his third and his final missionary journey. Paul took his first journey. His second journey, he went over the same area and then expanded it. His third journey, he did the same thing, went over some of the same areas and then expanded it a little bit more.
But here he wants to go to Jerusalem. He purposed in his spirit to go to Jerusalem. So he begins his journey, he goes back over the area of Galatia, Phrygia, some of the same areas. Goes, stops at Ephesus, doesn't spend much time there, goes through Macedonia, goes through Troas. And remember the story last time of Eutychus sitting in the window at Troas, and Paul just goes on, and on, and on, and on.
Some people think I'm long winded, Paul preached all night until midnight. Little Eutychus is up in the upstairs room, and he's falling asleep, falls out the window, is pronounced dead by Doctor Luke. Paul goes down on the street as if to say, "Don't trouble yourself, this is no problem for God," and raises him from the dead. Gives the kid a meal. Paul goes back upstairs and teaches until daybreak.
Then he sends everybody off to Miletus, that's where we're going to pick it up, and he himself goes on foot, walking to Miletus, probably to spend yet more time with the leadership of Troas, and maybe even to witness along the way. He knows he needs to speak to the elders of the church at Ephesus. But he doesn't want to go directly to Ephesus, that would take more time out of his journey. He wants to make it to Jerusalem by Pentecost.
So he's on a tight schedule, he's looking at his watch every few minutes, or his sundial every few minutes, like, "I got to get going." So he wants to give an address to the church leadership at Ephesus. His plan is to stop at the coastal town of Miletus, a town we have been to, some of us. And he has the Ephesian elders meet him there, so they have to take about a 50 mile walk, leaving Ephesus, going to Miletus to meet Paul for this very important journey.
Now something else about the book of Acts you have noticed, I hope, and you will notice again here. The Holy Spirit is mentioned here 42 times in this book. It could aptly be called not the Acts of the Apostles, but it could be named the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. The Holy Spirit is moving. I'm bringing this up, I'm underscoring this because it might appear, and it would only be an appearance, it might appear that Paul is fighting the leading of the Holy Spirit. Something I want you to see as we cover this section. So we're beginning in the middle of a chapter, we're going to end probably, Lord willing, in the middle of the next chapter, because I want you to see the flow of that.
Now he's speaking to the leadership. And when he does, there are three words that he uses to speak to these pastors, these leaders. And he uses all three in this sermon, in this message. He uses the word elder, he calls them elders. That's the word in Greek, presbuteros, elder. And he uses the term overseer, it's the Greek word episkopos. You've heard of episcopal, the Episcopal church speaks of a bishop-run church.
So he uses elder, that comes from the Jewish community. He uses episkopos, overseer, or bishop, that comes from the Greek community. And he uses the term shepherd, or pastor, poimonos, which comes from the rural community, the life of breeding and watching sheep. So they're all used interchangeably here in this chapter, as he feels compelled to give them this message.
Something else, there's always something else with me. This is, in the book of Acts, the only message that is given to a Christian audience. That's an interesting thing to note. All the other messages in the past, as far as recorded messages where you have kind of the outline or the wording of the message itself, is given to unbelieving Jews, unbelieving Gentiles, or used as a defense in a trial, like he will before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa later on.
This is the only message in the book of Acts addressed to a Christian audience, and it's an audience of church leadership. So I wanted to stop last week, and reserve this section for this week. And something you might look at as attributes of effective ministry, attributes of effective ministry. So let's just go through some of these verses, and we'll consider them. From Melitus, verse 17.
"He sent to Ephesus, and called for the elders," presbuteros, "of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them, 'You know from the first day that I came to Asia in what manner I have always lived among you. Serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews. How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you and taught you publicly and from house to house. Testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And see now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there. Except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city that chains and tribulation await me.'"
Let's stop there and go back a couple verses. He says in verse 18, "You know from the first day that I came to Asia," that is Asia Minor, "in what manner I have always lived among you." There's the first mark of effective ministry, an open life. You've watched me, you've seen me. And boy they did, three years he taught them in the in the School of Tyrannus for a couple of years, and stayed a total of three years.
So they not only heard him, but they were able to have lunch with him, they were able to meet and pray with him. They interfaced with Paul, and they were able to not just listen to his messages, but watch his life. He lived an open life. It's been said that most people would rather see a sermon than hear one, because that's the one they'll remember. And anyone who steps into public ministry knows this. If you're in the worship team, you go into a restaurant, or you're a leader at the church, or you're the pastor of their, you walk into a place, people recognize you. And you can always tell they recognize you, because they'll turn to someone and go...
So you know they're looking, you know they're saying, and you know they're watching. And they'll watch you like a hawk. Public ministry is somewhat of a fishbowl. And I have people all the time that'll see me in a restaurant, or at a coffee shop, or at a place of business, and they'll walk up to me without even introducing themselves and say, "You can't go anywhere in this town without being recognized, can you?" And you are, what's your name, and love to meet you, and let's have a conversation.
But Paul was with them for three years. They watched him, they studied his life as well as heard his messages. And the next one is found in the next verse, verse 19. "Serving the Lord with all humility." That's the second mark right there. Second mark of an effective ministry is to be humble. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes you watch this unfortunate trajectory as the Lord begins to place his spirit upon some person and use that person.
And if they're very young, I'm always on the lookout for this, because notoriety can go to somebody's head. The Lord begins to use a person, the power of the Lord works through someone, and they begin to inflate. They get big-headed instead of big-hearted. And they can, not always, but they can become like little tyrants, little despots.
There's an unfortunate passage in the Book of Third John, there's only one chapter to that book, Third John, verse 9, about a guy named Diotrephis. And John writes this, "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephis, who loves to have the preeminence among them, would not receive us." there are those who, like Diotrephis, feel like they always want to be in the limelight, they always want to be the ones in charge, they don't want to collaborate. And that's dangerous.
An open life, number one. Humility, number two. I don't know if I've told you this story, but no doubt I have, because I've been doing this a long time, and I've probably told every story. But many years ago, when I was in a band, a Maranatha! band from Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. We were going out and doing little circuits, and playing for whoever would ask us to play.
So this church called and said, could you send a band, and so we went out, and we were to be part of a church service. And the guy in charge, and I recall he was, how do I put this? A wee little fellow, a short, diminutive kind of a guy. But boy, you would think he was eight feet tall. And he kind of was very commanding and demanding on how the band set up, and where the amplifier's go, and where the drums should go, and he had no musical background.
But we warmed up and did a song, and he listened to the levels of it, and he goes, "You need to turn those drums down." Drummer said, "Well, I can't turn them down, I'm not plugged into anything, but I'll play lighter." He said, "Good, play lighter." So we did another rehearsal, he goes, "Still too loud, and that guitar is too loud."
And so my drummer Jack said, "Well, I can play with brushes instead of drumsticks, that'll lighten it up." "Yeah, play with brushes." And so we kept doing it, and kept rehearsing, and he found one thing wrong after another. Wouldn't even let us go through a song. So finally, the leader was the drummer, and he said, "You know what? I don't think we're going to be playing here tonight." "Well, you have to play, we've set it all up." "No, I don't think it would be good for us to get behind your ministry, because it just seems you have a real heavy hand. We would rather go out to the park, and just whoever would listen to us, we'll do evangelism out there." So we didn't. We didn't play that night, we walked down to the park, got someone to turn on the electricity, and just did an open air concert.
But this guy was like a little Diotrephis, he loved to have the preeminence among them. And we felt if we were to play, we would be endorsing that shenanigans. So we refused to do that, and just played for whoever would come, and we saw people come to Christ. Paul was humble. Verse 19 continues, he says, "Serving the Lord with all humility," but watch this, "with many tears and trials, which happen to me by the plotting of the Jews." A third mark of effective ministry, or at least mature ministry, is hardships. If you're going to be worth your salt in serving the Lord, you must face difficulty. It's what hones you. It's what God uses as sandpaper to knock off your rough edges.
And you might be thinking, I don't have any rough edges. Really, I'd love to talk to your wife about that, or your husband about that. Lord knows you do. That's why you have so many trials and hardships. Now notice the trials and hardships, where they came from. They came from people. "Which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews."
Some people get into the ministry because they love to be in front of people, and they love people to approve what they do. They seek for human approval. And if that is the motivation, all I can say is, be prepared to be disappointed.
A friend of mine wrote a book on the ministry and he has a rule he calls the 10/10/80 rule. He said, if you go into a new place of ministry, 10% of the people are going to love you just as soon as you show up. They'll like the way you look, they'll like the way you sound, they're going to love you no matter what. Another 10% will hate you automatically. They just don't like the way you look, they don't like the way you sound, they don't like your family, they don't like your dog.
They don't like you. They're determined not to like you. He said 80% of the people, the jury's still out. They want to see if you are going to feed them, teach them, love them, be humble, and so feed them the truth of the word of God, et cetera. The 10/10/80. He said that is very helpful in conditioning a person for serving the Lord. Paul said, I serve the Lord in humility but that came with hardships, trials.
And I said they hone you. They make you more valuable. They make you better equipped for ministry. So if you are serving the Lord, if you've gone through life track, you're now plugged into a place where you're getting to serve, and you're getting some blowback and stuff, don't worry of that. "Oh, I quit, I'm going to just quit." Don't quit. Find out where you fit, but keep going ahead.
I love this illustration, it's years old, but you could take a bar of steel that is worth $5, but if you convert the steel and make horseshoes out of it, they'll be worth $20. If you take the same bar of steel and you make scalpels for surgical implements, surgical scalpels, blades for surgical scalpels, they're worth $350. If you convert that bar of steel in to make springs, tiny little springs for pens, you can make so many springs they would be worth, that one $5 bar of steel is now worth $250,000.
The point is this, to get more value, you have to heat it up, shape it, beat it, heat it some more, beat it some more heat it some, more beat it some more. Get the picture? So if you wonder, why am I getting beat up so much? Why is the temp rising in my life? More value, baby. God's honing you, strengthening you, using you. So don't bypass it. Let the Lord do his thing.
Verse 20, "How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you and taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." I would sum these two versus up in a fourth principle of effective ministry, balance. Balance. Now, look at those verses and notice how you have a couple of things that work together with each other. He says, "I proclaimed it to you," verse 20, "and taught you publicly, and from house to house." I preached and I taught. I proclaimed it and I taught it. And I think that there needs to be in ministry, especially pulpit ministry, a balance. Preaching is necessary, proclaiming is necessary, but so is teaching.
If every week you just get preached to, but you don't get instructed how to, you won't grow. If every week, "You need to love more, you need to serve more you, need to do this more." You can preach and exhort all day long, but the poor sheep are wondering, "How do I love more? How do I serve more? Show me how to do it." That's where teaching comes in.
And so sometimes we go, "That'll preach," or "Preach it." Well, sometimes. But other times, teach it. Show us the principle from God's word. So he proclaimed, there's the balance, and he taught. Something else in the balance. "I taught you publicly, and from house to house." The large group environment, the small group environment. There's the balance.
Not only that, but verse 21, "Testifying to Jews," that's one group of people, "and also to Greeks," that's another group of people. There's balance. Secular audience, more of a sacred audience. And notice this, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. You see all those couplets? That speaks of balance. Balance in ministry.
Verse 22, "And see now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that are going to happen to be there. Except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulation await me." I'm going to call this sensitivity. I'm going to say that's the fifth mark of effective ministry, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit saying?
Now, as I bring this up, I am aware that there are some people, some good people, some godly people, some awesome anointed preachers, who believe that Paul made a mistake in going to Jerusalem. He's bent on going there. They say, well, he made a mistake, because that's where he gets arrested. Goes to Jerusalem, he's going to get arrested, he's going to go be taken to Caesarea for two years, have a mistrial, appeal to Caesar, then go to Rome for two more years. So he'll be in jail four years, he'll be confined. He made a mistake, he was fighting the Holy Spirit, who was trying to tell him not to go.
If you believe that, all I can tell you is you're going to have to tell that to Paul the Apostle when you see him in heaven. I think he's going to have a different story for you. In fact, I know what he's going to say, because he already said it. When he's sitting in jail, because he goes to Jerusalem, he writes Philippians 1, and he says, I want you to know, brethren, that the things which have happened to me, have actually happened for the furtherance of the gospel. Gospel has not been hindered while I've been here in jail, it has been furthered while I've been here in jail. I'm seeing God's hand in this, I'm seeing his plan in this. So I don't think Paul would agree that he made a mistake. I believe he was sensitive to the Holy Spirit when he's making this claim.
Now if you go back one chapter, where we were last time, I want to show you a verse, verse 21. Chapter 19, verse 21. He's in Ephesus, but he's, it says, "When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, notice the word Spirit there is capitalized, is it capitalized in your Bible? It is in mine. So that's the translators saying, we believe he's referring to the Holy Spirit here. That Paul purposed in the Holy Spirit, that he felt the Holy Spirit was leading him, and he made a commitment at that point. He wrestled before the Lord, and came out the other end of that wrestling match going, "I believe the Holy Spirit wants me to go."
"He purposed in the Spirit when he passed through Macedonia and Achaia to go to Jerusalem, saying, 'After I've been there, I must also see Rome.'" Which he will go see, but not how he thought. Compare that verse with the verses we just looked at in chapter 20. Verse 22, "See, now I go bound in the spirit," small s this time, that would, refer the translators believed, to his own personal spirit, right?
But then look at verse 23, "Except the Holy Spirit testifies in every city that chains and tribulation await me." What does all this mean? How do we put all this together? How do we make sense of this? Paul took it before the Lord, believed God wanted him to go to Jerusalem. So he, in his own spirit, purpose, "I'm going there." Realizing the Holy Spirit was warning him, if you go to Jerusalem, you're going to get beat up. You're going to suffer.
But here's what I want you to see. Paul the Apostle never confused a prediction with a prohibition. A prediction given by the Holy Spirit was not necessarily a prohibition by the Holy Spirit. He didn't take this as the Holy Spirit is closing the door, saying no. And why is this important, and how do I know this? Don't you think God is big enough to keep Paul out of a place God doesn't want him to go? Hasn't he done this so far? Didn't Paul want to go to a few different places, but it says, the Holy Spirit forbade him, wouldn't let him go? Even though he was bent on going, doors were closed, he couldn't make it.
Whatever those circumstances were, God closed the doors, didn't let him go. Made him go to Macedonia after giving him a vision. That same God is preparing Paul, not prohibiting Paul, for what lies ahead. That's how he views it. And now, it's going to get worse. The warnings are going to get worse and worse as he gets closer and closer.
Now, I'm bringing this up because I think there's a practical application. You and I are sometimes very reluctant to ask the Lord to direct our lives. Oh, I know we say we are. "Oh Lord, bless me, and direct me in whatever your will is." But if we're honest, we're banking on the Lord taking us to a comfortable, nice place, a beautiful place. Why wouldn't he? He's the giver of all good gifts, and I'm his awesome servant.
So we're reluctant in letting go completely until, we hope, that God will tell us where he wants us to go first, and then we'll go, "OK, that's good, I surrender." When you step into ministry, no, let me rephrase that. When you step into the Christian life, you relinquish all control. You relinquish all control. You don't have rights over your life anymore.
I remember before I moved here, I lived at the beach, and I would walk back and forth on the beach and ask the Lord to use me. And I remember having this conversation with him. I said, "Lord," I distinctly remember the afternoon, "you know I love it right here. This is where I was born and raised, and I love this place, and I love what I do in this place. But I realize when I surrender to you, I abdicate control of my life to you. You're in charge, not me." So that's how Paul lived his life. He viewed his life honestly. This is what I believe God wants me to do, OK, I might suffer. But I'm purposing in the Holy Spirit to do it, even though the Holy Spirit is testifying that these things await me.
Now watch his response to this. Verse 24, back in chapter 20, verse 24. After saying that the Holy Spirit says chains and tribulation await me, "But none of these things move me. Nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify of the gospel, of the grace of God." How do you stop a dude like that? Answer, you don't. Only God can, and will if need be.
So I'm going to say then that the sixth the characteristic of an effective ministry is this characteristic as seen in this verse, and that is determination. He's sensitive to the Holy Spirit, but he's determined that God is leading him, and he steps boldly into the future. Now, he wants to go to Jerusalem, wants to go to Jerusalem, why? Why?
Two reasons, one we talked about last time. Anybody know, remember? An offering. He took an offering from Macedonian churches to support the poor saints in Jerusalem. That's number one. Number two, and this is the real heart of it, because he loved them. He was Jewish, he studied in Jerusalem, he sat at the feet of Gamaliel, he knew the blindness of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the Jewish people who crucified Christ, along with the crowds and the Romans. He knew that. He was one of them, he himself was blind.
Let me read this to you. Romans, chapter 9. "I tell you the truth in Christ. I'm not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren and my countrymen, according to the flesh who are Israelites." That's an amazing statement. Chapter 10, verse 1, "Bretheren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved."
Can you imagine making the statements that Paul made? I've come to satisfaction in Jesus Christ. I know salvation, I know truth, but I am willing to see my own life separated eternally from God if that means salvation for my brethren, the Jewish people. What a heart, what a heart of love.
The only parallel I find is that is Moses. Moses coming down from the mountain, looks in the camp, sees them committing idolatry with a golden calf, smashes those tablets, you know the story. God says to Moses, Moses move aside, I'm just going to wipe all these people out. Start with you, and start all over again. Now, I don't think God really wanted to do that. He was drawing out the spirit of intercession in Moses, which worked.
Because Moses said, "Lord, please forgive the sin of these people. But if not, blot my name out of your book." That's how much he identified with them, that's how much he loved them, that he begged for their forgiveness, and was willing himself to be separate. So Paul was bringing a financial offering, but he had a heart of love for these people. Broke his heart to see his own people who were supposedly waiting for the Messiah to come, not get excited that Jesus, their Messiah came.
He saw it, he knew he was blind once, he wants their eyes open. And so he mourned for them, and he loved them. There's a great story about DL Moody, you've heard me talk about him, the founder of Moody Bible Church in Chicago, years ago, 1800's. Another preacher who knew him from Birmingham, England, was RW Dale, another one that I respect, and I've read Dale's writings.
He said this, concerning DL Moody. He said, "DL Moody is the only person I know who's qualified to preach about hell. Because when Moody preaches on hell, there are tears in his eyes." When Paul preached to the Jews, he had a broken heart, there were tears in his eyes. So I'm going to Jerusalem, none of these things move me, move aside. I'm heading out by the will of God. Verse 25. "And indeed now, I know that you all", he was Southern...
"And indeed I know that y'all, among whom I have gone preaching the Kingdom of God, will see my face no more." He knows what is coming, he has an inkling. He doesn't know the details exactly, but he knows it's not going to be pretty. "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."
Ooh, that is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture. It shows me that I wasn't the first one to take people from through the whole Bible. Paul did in Ephesus. For three years he taught them the word of God, all of it. The full counsel of God. And I don't have lots of respect for preachers who don't give their congregations the full counsel of God. All the word of God. And here's why it's important to do so. Preachers have pet topics they like, and they will often just zero in and hover on those.
When you teach through the Bible, you cover things that aren't that exciting to you. Other things are, but you can't ride a hobbyhorse, you have to deal with uncomfortable topics, and you have to do them in their context. That's where the balance comes from. Sometimes people will say, well, you ought to preach more about the family. Or, you ought to speak more and more on prophecy.
And yet, I've never heard somebody say you know you ought to preach more on tithing. It's selective, what we want to hear about. My answer is the same. I will tell you about the family, I will tell you about prophecy, and I will tell you about tithing when they arise in the course of going through the text of scripture. We'll get what God says about all those topics eventually, and you'll get them with the emphasis God has on them, not yours, not mine, his emphasis and frequency and balance. And you'll get it all with God's emphasis and God's balance.
"I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore," now he gets direct, now there's a warning, "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit made you episkopoi," bishops, overseers, "to shepherd," that's the word poimonos, pastoral. It means pastoral oversight. "Shepard the Church of God which he purchased with his own blood."
This is not my church. "Oh, I go to Skip's church." Skip doesn't have one. Skip goes to this church. It's Jesus' church, he purchased you with his blood. I didn't. We're all part of his body.
The reason for the warning verse 29, "For I know this, after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock." And I wonder if he knew, I bet he did, some of the troubled people in Ephesus that were going to take advantage of Paul not being there any longer. The leadership vacuum is gone, he knew the personalities will arise and create havoc.
Because look, at verse 30, "Also from among yourselves, men will rise up speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years, I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." I'm gonna add this as number seven in attributes of effective, healthy ministry. And that is protection.
Paul is warning them of wolves, because he loves sheep. He wants to protect them. Because this is God's flock, this flock is valuable to me. And anyone who will serve alongside me must make this flock valuable to them as well. Remember Psalm 23? David said, "The Lord is my shepherd." And then he said, "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
Now the staff, we understand why that would bring comfort, because the shepherd would use the staff to direct the sheep, gently pushing them or tugging them with that staff, on the neck, or on the body to get them to move. So he would take them on the right path. However, a rod is something that a shepherd wore on his belt. It was a club that had sometimes nails at the end of it, and it was used to beat, not sheep, to beat predators, wolves.
How is it that a club would comfort the sheep? Easy. This shepherd's got my back. This shepherd's going to guide me and lead me, but he's going to beat up any predators who are coming my way. That's a great comfort to a sheep. Shepherds have to be willing to say things that might alienate some people. Might have to warn about a false prophet that is on the current landscape.
"Oh, why did he mentioned that person? I like that person's radio or TV ministry." If the shepherd feels that damage can be done, it's incumbent upon the shepherd to warn. That's part of being a shepherd, protection. "Your rod and your staff they comfort me." Jesus said, "I am the door to the sheepfold. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and the sheep will go in and come out and find pasture."
When he said, "I am the door," he was using a motif in illustration that people in that era understood. When a shepherd would leave the city and take the flock out into the country, there were sheep pens, or sheepfolds that were enclosures without a door. The sheep would be gathered at night into that enclosure, and the door would be this, the shepherd would lay his body over the entrance and sleep at the entrance of the sheepfold.
When Jesus said, "I am the door," means a wolf is not going to get to the sheep unless he crosses over me. And I got a club to beat him up if he comes. And you know, Jesus could get pretty testy, couldn't he? How I love that passage when the Pharisees are having a, they think, a private conversation with the disciples.
Jesus comes walking up sees, them talking to the disciples, and he says, what are you talking to them about? That's a good shepherd. What is it you're discussing? I want to find out what you've been telling my disciples. Not that he didn't know, but he was calling them into account. That's a good shepherd.
Martin Luther wrote something I brought a little copy of, a paragraph. He said, "Even if I preach correctly, and shepherd the flock with sound doctrine, I neglect my duty if I do not warn the sheep against the wolves. For what kind of builder would I be if I were to pile up masonry and then stand by while another tears it down? The wolf does not object to our leading the sheep to good pastures. The sheep that have been fattened are the more eagerly sought by him. What he cannot tolerate is that watchdogs stand on guard ready to give him battle."
And he also said, "A preacher must be both a soldier and a shepherd. He must nourish, defend, and teach. He must have teeth in his mouth and be able to bite and fight." That's a good shepherd. Jesus was like that, Paul was like that. He warned them, he protected them.
Verse 32. "So now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands, my own hands, have provided for my necessities and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way by laboring like this that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
Now, in my Bible it's in red, because I have a red letter Bible. If you have one, I bet it's in red. Is it? That means Jesus said it. The Lord Jesus, Paul said, said these words. Here's the problem. We have no record of Jesus saying these words in Matthew, in Mark, in Luke, or in John. And so the question is, well, when did Jesus say them? I don't know.
Where did Jesus say them? I don't know. Did Jesus say them? Well, yes. How do you know? Well, Paul said. Well, that's circular reasoning. Now, be careful. Because John, when he wrote what Jesus said and did, toward the end of his book he said, many other things Jesus did which are not recorded in this book. And he said, I suppose if they were all recorded, the world couldn't contain all the books that could be written.
So Jesus said other things and did other things which weren't recorded by the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. This is one of these things, obviously, he said, passed on by tradition. The Gospel writers didn't find the context to put that in there, but Paul knew he said that, the Church knew he said that. "And when he said these things, he knelt down and he prayed," verse 36, "with them all. Then they all wept freely, and they fell on Paul's neck and kissed him. Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke that they would see his face no more, and they accompanied him to the ship."
I've always found it interesting that though Paul said and predicted, soon as I leave, wolves are going to come in, tear this block apart, he left anyway. You think, he'd say, well, you know, the Lord's revealed this to me, so I'm going to stay. He didn't stay, because he believed the Lord would take care of that as well. That he is not the be-all and end-all, and the only person God could ever use, that God would easily replace him and eventually, he did.
Timothy will pastor in Ephesus, he will be sent there. Paul will send him a letter, First Timothy, Second Timothy. So he commends them to God's grace and he leaves. After the tears, he gets aboard the ship. Verse 21, "Now it came to pass when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course, we came to Kos, and the following day to Rhodes, an island we'd been to, some of us. And from there to Patara, and finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia," modern day Lebanon, "we went aboard and set sail.
When we sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailing to Syria, and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to undergo cargo." Verse 4, "And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through this Spirit not to go to Jerusalem." There it is again. "When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went our way. And they all accompanied us with wives and children until we were out of the city, and we knelt down on the shore and we prayed. When we had taken leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home."
In the next few verses, quickly, you're going to see three groups of people that tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem. He believes the Holy Spirit led him, the Holy Spirit's testified, chains and tribulation await me. He's on the way there, first group are Christians in Tyre. And it says, "They told Paul through the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem." In the Greek language, it's in the present tense. Let me translate it. They told Paul, again and again, over and over, and over again, not to go to Jerusalem. It was in the continuous form. So you just have to imagine, at breakfast, "Paul, don't go." At lunch, "Paul, Holy Spirit telling us what's going happen. Don't go."
Now, he was there it says, seven days. It was a hard week for Paul. He's got all these Christians in Tyre hearing this message, and it says, "They told Paul," it says, "through the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem." The New American Standard Bible has a marginal note that says, because of impressions given by the Holy Spirit. So I'm going to guess they receive a word of knowledge, a spiritual gift.
The word of knowledge was that Paul, if he goes to Jerusalem, is going to have hardship. They interpret this as meaning, don't go. Paul's response to that is verse 5. "When we came to an end of those days, we departed." See you later, alligator. I'm boarding this ship. Bye-bye. Verse 7, second group. First it was Christians in Tyre, these are clergymen in Judea. "When we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren," that's the modern city of Akko, up by Haifa, "greeted the brethren and stayed with them one day." Smart. "On the next day, we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philipp, the evangelist." Remember him?
"Who was one of the seven," the seven servants in Jerusalem, "and stayed with him." Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. What are the odds of that? You have four girls and they all have the gift of prophecy in the same house. And you know, prophets of a feather flock together, because watch this. No, seriously, watch this, verse 10. "And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And when he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet and said, 'Thus says the Holy Spirit. So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him to the hands of the Gentiles.'"
Now, this cat is dramatic. He's not a little guy going, you know, the Lord spoke to me, and I have a little word. He just gets dramatic, and takes a belt, and stands up, everybody's looking at this dude with the belt going, "Whoever owns this belt." Well, everybody knows it's Paul's belt, hello. "Is going to be bound in Jerusalem."
Now, don't freak out, some people are a little more dramatic than others. But he's sort of following the style of some Old Testament prophets. I mean, Isaiah walked barefoot and naked for three years because God told him to do that. It'd be hard to convince people, "God told me." Jeremiah put a wooden yoke on his neck, and then broke pots to get people's attention. Ezekiel took a clay tablet, drew Jerusalem on it, then beat it up, laid siege to it. Right, remember all those cases? Josiah, the prophet, married a prostitute. I mean, there were some dramatic ways these prophets acted. Agabus is in that style.
Now, verse 12. "When we heard these things, both we and those," notice that now. It's not just they said, "we and they." So now Paul is completely outnumbered, and even his traveling companions are on this train. "When we heard these things, both we and they from that place pleaded with him," that's Luke also, and Silas, all of them, "pleaded with him not to go to Jerusalem." What's Paul's response? Paul answered and said, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem in the name of the Lord Jesus. So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying the will of the Lord be done."
Once again, prediction to Paul did not mean prohibition. Were these words from the Holy Spirit? Yes, they were. Words of knowledge, prophecy? Absolutely, it was from the Holy Spirit. Paul believed that these were infallible messages from God. What he disputed was the infallibility of the messengers in their interpretation of the message. They applied this as meaning, "Don't go."
Paul sees it as preparation. OK, now I know what I'm up against. I'm ready to go, be bound, and get killed. I'm going to Jerusalem. I purposed in the Holy Spirit to do so. So they concluded, "The will of the Lord be done." So we made it, really, where we wanted to make it. There was more things I had to share, but I'll have to wait till next time, as Paul indeed does go up to Jerusalem, trouble begins. He's going to take another journey, but not as a free preacher, but as a bound prisoner. And yet, Paul will say, "The word of God is not bound." You can't incarcerate God's truth. He'll preach in prison, as well as on the street corner in Jerusalem or Rome.
Father, thank you for the example and the testimony of this radical rabbi from Tarsus, schooled in Jerusalem, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, concerning the law, perfect blameless. But he counted all those things as dung, in his words, that he might know Christ. The power of his Resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering being made, conformed, in his own words, even to his death. So Lord, what an example to us. That sometimes well-meaning people who love us may be hearing from you, and we need to weigh out what, at the same time, you're telling us in our own hearts ought to be done. Father, we surrender to you our lives. We relinquish the rights over our lives. And we just want to say, send us where you want us to be. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.