We have been following Paul as he lives a life on mission, seeking to fulfill the calling of Christ to make disciples. Our journey has been awesome. We first met Saul the bully in Acts 7-9. Then, we see Saul encountering Jesus Christ and being born again. Saul marks this event in his life by changing his name to Paul. This is an outward sign of an inward, spiritual reality. Then, Paul is trained by Jesus Christ. He begins to minister in the local church. While ministering in the local church, God calls him and Barnabas to go out to the Gentiles and make disciples. This begins his first missionary journey. After the first trip of making many disciples, churches were formed and Paul and Barnabas return to the local church and give testimony of what the Lord is doing among the Gentiles and Jews. A couple of weeks ago, we began to look at the second missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas go out again and begin to make more disciples. More churches are formed as a result of making disciples. A church is formed in Philippi. Then, another church is formed in Thessalonica and yet another in Berea. All of this happens in the midst of heavy persecution. Paul would gather people together and reason from the Scriptures. People would repent, believe in Jesus Christ, and be equipped to serve the local church and make more disciples among their own people, both Jews and Gentiles. This week, we are going to journey with Paul on his third missionary journey. We pick up the story in Acts 20.
I. Paul recounts his holy calling
As we have learned in the previous lessons, Paul was on a mission to make disciples. This is the calling of every follower of Jesus Christ.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28)
After Jesus trained His disciples thoroughly with theoretical teaching from the Word of God and practical application, He sends them out to reproduce. They are to make disciples. In order to make disciples, they were to preach and teach the Word of God, the same way that they had been taught. There was to be a calling to follow Christ by repentance, faith, and dedication to a life of discipleship.
14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,
15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
16 As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.
17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (Mark 1)
The Apostle Paul received this same calling when he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; (Acts 9)
We saw the Apostle Paul do this while on his first missionary journey.
21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, (Acts 14)
The disciples of Ephesus were benefactors of Paul fulfilling his holy calling. He reminds the Ephesian disciples of this calling and challenges them to follow his example.
18 And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time,
19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews;
20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house,
21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20)
The Apostle Paul invested his life in pouring himself out into the lives of others. He spent time with them, investing the Word of God in them. While with them, seeking to make disciples, he taught them publicly. Paul went to where they were, he met them where they were and taught them the Word of God. He reasoned with them from the Scriptures. As they understood the message of the Gospel, they repented and placed their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Then Paul would meet them in their homes and continue teaching them the Word of God, equipping them to serve and make more disciples.
27 “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. (Acts 20)
Paul wanted to equip the disciples fully so that they could carry on the torch of discipleship. That is why he did not just teach his favorite passages of Scripture. He taught them the whole purpose of God from the Word of God. We get a brief picture of this in his epistles.
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,
2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? (II Thessalonians 2)
When Paul was in Thessalonica, over a period of 3 weeks, he was able to teach them about:
- The rapture
- the man of lawlessness
- The Day of the Lord
- The Second coming of Christ
Paul tells them, “don’t you remember that I taught these things to you when I was with you”? Paul sought to fulfill Matthew 28 while he was on mission. He went out to make disciples. He preached the message of the Gospel. He taught the new disciples day and night with humility and tears.
II. Paul gives his final teachings to the disciples
We see that Paul mirrored Jesus when, after fully equipping the disciples, he gives the final charge to the disciples.
28 “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.
29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
31 “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20)
As a leader who trains other leaders, Paul realizes that teaching is a must because, the flock is always going to be under attack on two fronts, from outside the flock and, more dangerous, from within the flock. Not all leaders are leaders because they have a genuine desire to serve. Many want to become leaders for the position, power, and prestige that comes along with the title. Paul uses his own example in contrast to the wolves who will come from the outside and from within to attain position in order to have people follow them.
24 “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
25 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.
26 “Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.
27 “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
33 “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.
34 “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.
35 “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20)
They do it for monetary purposes. Paul was not motivated by money, wealth, or possessions. He did not covet the gold and silver of others. In fact, while among the Ephesians, he did not receive money from them for his services. He could have been paid for his services but he chose to work with his own hands, along with the ministry that he performed day and night so that he could set an example. Another reason that some want the position of leadership is because they are lazy and do not want to work hard. They want to have the title to be able to be served by others. Jesus, the King of kings, did not come to be served but to served. He was Paul’s primary example and He should be all leaders’ example. Unfortunately, over the years, I have met many, many lazy people who are in the ministry. They want to put forth minimal effort in order to keep the wheels turning and give the appearance of work being done. We can easily go through the motions and keep the ball rolling, making it look like we are working but not really doing much or accomplishing much. This is a terrible reason to be in leadership but, I have seen it too many times. Paul saw it during his lifetime and he warned the Ephesian elders of this problem. It is a result of our sin nature. In Thessaloniki, this was a major problem, people acting like busybodies yet never actually doing anything or accomplishing anything. Paul warns of this and as leaders, we need to examine our motives for leadership. In order to keep these bad leaders from leading people from the flock astray, the Ephesian elders needed to teach sound doctrine constantly, day and night, both publicly and privately. This mirrors what we saw in Acts 2 when the apostles were teaching the people day and night.
42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
In fact, the leaders realized that their calling was to teach constantly. This is what the phrase in Acts 6 means when the apostles stated:
2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.
They did not want to lock themselves in rooms to study and pray all day. They were so busy teaching and they could not keep up with it. If they were to begin to serve the tables, a great need at the time, then they would not be able to equip the saints with the Word of God. The Ephesian disciples were aware of this teaching because Paul wrote to them about it.
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4)
As leaders in the church today, how often do we teach the flock? In an old school church, 3 times a week is the norm. In many of our modern churches, once a week is the norm. If the church is in between modern and old school, we teach twice a week. How many leaders in our churches today teach both publicly and privately? How many leaders open their homes up to the flock? How many have never set foot in a church members home? How many of us compartmentalize our public and private lives? Then, we wonder why things are the way that they are and people just do not seem to be as faithful as they used to be. When are we going to stop blaming others and take a long, hard look in the mirror at our own selves and really take notice of what we see?
May the Lord help us understand our holy calling to make disciples and may He motivate leaders to follow the model set by Paul, who learned from Christ, Himself!