Practical Lessons From Acts 20
In Acts 20:17-38, Paul speaks to the Ephesian elders before heading back to Jerusalem where he knew he would be persecuted by the Jewish leaders. In this emotional sermon, he reveals many things to us and enlightens our mind to the hardship, glory, and freedom of following Christ.
1. Hardship – In v. 22, Paul says that he is going to Jerusalem constrained by the Spirit. He knows imprisonment awaits him there, but he is obedient even in suffering. In v. 24 he reflects on the value of his physical life, seeing the disparity between the glory of self and the glory of Jesus. For this reason he gladly suffers all things. His life is modeled after the hardships and suffering of Jesus and so should ours. Not that we look for suffering, but we approach life with such a humility (v. 19) that we stand firm in suffering knowing that it brings Christ more glory.
2. Glory – In v. 32, Paul says that as he leaves the Ephesian elders that he “commends them to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build them up and give them the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (tense change mine) Paul is able to leave the Ephesian elders because he is confident that the glory of God is greater than his own glory. He knows that it is Christ alone who sustains the church. How often we as pastors and church leaders are tempted to think that the church is built on our backs when the Lord sustains his bride and prepares for her a glorious inheritance.
3. Freedom – In v. 28 Paul tells is that the elders are overseers of the flock which God bought with his own blood. All of us stand on a level playing field in this regard. Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, rich, poor, lawyers, janitors, white, black, hispanic….we all stand washed by the blood of the Lamb. None of us has a corner on the Gospel. None of us can be exclusionary to someone because they do not look like us. Revelation 5:9-10 says, “by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God and they shall reign on earth.” The blood of Christ frees us from our tendency to compare ourselves to others, to put ourselves on a pedestal, and to think deplorable thoughts of other people. The blood of Christ puts us all in a place of need and frees us from self-righteousness.