Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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EASTER 4 – May 12, 2019 – Acts 20:17-35 “A FINAL WORD FOR MINISTRY”

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the First Reading, from Acts 20.  We begin with prayer.

Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • The apostle Paul didn’t know exactly what would happen to him when he journeyed to Jerusalem. He knew that it would involve imprisonment and afflictions.  It might very well also have resulted in his death.  The Jewish leaders did their utmost to accomplish this, until Paul appealed to Caesar, for Paul was a Roman citizen.
  • Because of this uncertainty, Paul called the pastors of the churches in Ephesus to visit him at Miletus. Although this was a lengthy and difficult trip, they did come.  Paul wanted to provide them with one last session of instruction for their ongoing ministry.  Since it is recorded in Scripture, God’s Own Word, it is instruction for us as well.
  • What Paul says to them is precious. His ministry to the church was precious.  It is obvious that the church was also precious to him.   He provides us with warnings, and encouragement in regard to the nature of the pastoral office.  There are duties that must be undertaken, and “oversight” of the church, of believers in Christ. 
  • The last three verses of this 20th chapter of Acts read thus: “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.  And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.”
  • So Paul assuredly chose his words carefully, being the last instructions he would be able to give these pastors! And we do well to also take them with the utmost seriousness.  First of all Paul encourages the preaching and teaching of God’s Word!  He urges is to:


I.  Keep On Testifying – Preaching Repentance Toward God And Faith In Jesus


Text:  “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  . . . to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. . . . I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God . . .  I now commend you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” 


Statement:  This is the critical thing, that everything in the church be done in accord with the Word of God, the Holy Scripture.  It is a Word of repentance and faith in the grace and mercy of God.  It speaks of what Christ has accomplished for us in His suffering, death, and resurrection.  It also tells us the truth about how to live, how to please God, and what is “profitable” for us as children of God. 


Application:  This is what the ministry of the church is to be to this very day.  It is not about the person who has been made “overseer” of the congregation; it is about the Word of God and the Gospel, it is about faith in Christ and a life of love – as defined and described by God!  This is of paramount importance, and absolutely critical – for the people to remain firm and built up in faith, and for the pastor be “innocent” of ever misleading and spiritually murdering people with false doctrine and false teaching.  Paul says it:  “I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”  In fact, Paul encourages us:


II.  Do Not Consider Your Life More Precious Than The Gospel And The Ministry And The Church


Text:  “I do not account my life of any value or as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus.”


Statement:  This is certainly hard to do, and it requires time to transition from interest in self – esteem, and self – preservation to laying down one’s life for Christ and His people, the church!  But this is what Paul encourages all pastors, and all Christians, to consider doing.


Application:  And ministry in the church involves more than just making sure that the right teaching is maintained, for there is danger always that must be resisted and rebutted.  So Paul warns us:


III.  Watch Yourself!


A.  Wolves Are Coming, Fierce Wolves


Text:  “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.  I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.  Therefore be alert!”     


B.  We Are To Continue Proclaiming The Whole Counsel Of God


Text:  “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”


C.  We Are To Be Living And Teaching In Accord With Gospel Principles, The Love Of Our Lord Jesus And Our Heavenly Father


Text:  “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the Words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”


Statement:  While life in the church, within the kingdom of God, is the most blessed life mankind can live, it is also fraught with potential danger.  It is no fun to beat down heretics and errorists; they have fastened upon evil, and are cynical of God and His Word, and so they are all the more emboldened and brave.  They must be chased away and kept out of the church, just as James wrote:  “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” [James 4:7]  So we are indeed committed to the whole counsel of God, every Word of Holy Scripture.


Application:  In this way we are kept firm and steadfast in our life of repentance and faith in Jesus.  And as we grow in our knowledge of and trust in God’s love, we will learn and then yearn to follow Jesus – to give rather than to receive, to serve rather than to be served!  So, let us also remember these Words of Jesus – working hard and helping the weak!


Conclusion:  With these words, these instructions, these encouragements, Paul has wonderfully blessed the church and the ministry!  These are the things that we also are bound to, what we most desire to do to this day.  It is always a dangerous shame when “fierce wolves,” heretics, are allowed any place in the church.  It is not hate or spite that moves us to drive them out, but rather love – love for the flock, and care to admonish the heretic.  What becomes of those who would destroy the flock of God must surely be horrific!


So let us rejoice in the jobs and responsibilities that God has given us, and let us do them well.  This is the great blessedness that God desires for His dear people on earth!  Amen. 


Votum:  And the peace of  God, which surpasses all human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.