“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself,
if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from
the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
“…and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth
boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).
What comes to mind when you hear the words “To boldly go?” Thinking about this question, takes me back to the 70’s when the sci-fi TV show, Star Trek was popular. Each episode would begin with William Shatner saying: “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” The Enterprise and her crew willing traveled through space risking their lives to seek out life and new civilizations. In much the same way, the Apostle Paul was a man on such a mission. Commissioned by Jesus, Paul traveled to establish the new frontier of the early church. Paul’s specific frontier included a group of people historically alienated from God’s kingdom; the gentiles. Instead of seeking out new civilizations, Paul proclaimed the gospel to build a new society, the church!
Acts chapter 20 brings us to the ‘final leg’ of Paul’s third missionary journey. Paul is now on his way back to Jerusalem for the last time. To simplify, I will breakdown Acts 20 into three parts. First, Paul and his team traveled the area (Macedonia and Greece) and encouraged the disciples. Second, Paul spoke to the Sunday gathering in Troas. Third, Paul addressed the Ephesian elders.
In the first six verses of Acts chapter 20, we find Paul and his team departing Ephesus. Biblical scholars believe he desired to travel directly to Corinth, but hesitated due to the backlash from their ‘harsh’ letter (1st Corinthians) he wrote to the church. Instead he traveled north hoping to meet Titus in Macedonia to get a report on the church’s progress. Paul met Titus and received a report that the Corinthian church had reconciled to Paul’s leadership. Paul then writes 2nd Corinthians. Paul eventually came to Corinth and spent three months there and wrote the Roman epistle. Paul completes his ministry in Greece and heads north back through Macedonia on his journey to Jerusalem (because he desired to return by the feast of Pentecost).
In Acts 20: 7-16, we find Paul and his team in Troas. This is the first mention of a worship gathering on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) in Acts. During this meeting, a young man (Eutychus) falls asleep during Paul’s sermon! While sleeping in the window sill, he falls to his death from three stories high! We can’t be too hard on this young man for sleeping during a sermon. Eutychus fell asleep at midnight. How many of us have fallen asleep during a Sunday morning sermon after having a good night’s sleep? Anyway, the Lord (and Paul) must have forgiven him since the Lord raised Eutychus back from the dead!
On his return voyage to Jerusalem, Paul decided to sail past Ephesus (perhaps to keep from delaying his return to Jerusalem). He called for the church elders of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus. The meeting was an emotional one (verse 37) and in true Pauline fashion, he exhorted the elders. He begins by reminding them about the time he had spent with them and all God accomplished.
- Serving in humility and tears; even through trials
- Public and house to house profitable teaching
- Testifying repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ
- Declared the whole counsel of God
Paul also informs them the Holy Spirit revealed to him that imprisonment and affliction awaits him in Jerusalem; he shared the sad news that he would not see them again. Paul then admonishes the elders to care for the flock whom the Holy Spirit made them overseers. He then warns them to watch for “fierce wolves”, those from within proclaiming (or ‘twisting’ speech) a different gospel. Paul then concludes their time with a reminder of how he served them with hard work, and he closed in prayer. Just like in the Star Trek series, the Apostle Paul and his team went where no one went before, boldly paving the way with the gospel!
In conclusion, I want to thank all those who have and currently serve as elder/pastor in our churches. As in the Apostle Paul’s epistles (Eph. 4), I use the words ‘elder’ and ‘pastor’ interchangeably. It’s a tough and sometimes thankless calling; but joy comes when the fruit of gospel ministry changes people’s lives to the glory to God! I so appreciate my pastors (past and current) and their gospel investment into my life.
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.
Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.