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A Faithful Farewell (Acts 20:13-38)

July 15, 2015

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon illustrates the emotional experience of saying farewell. Pastor Duncanson explains the significance of setting a godly example in speech and conduct. The focus of this sermon is on three key lessons from Paul’s farewell address to the elders at Ephesus: self-deprivation, self-control, and self-sacrifice.

Self-Deprivation: Counting Your Life as Nothing

20140311-184658.jpgNow from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them:

You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how 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. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 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 20:17-24;ESV).

Paul was not a distant missionary to the Ephesian believers, he walked with those he lead; wept with them; and set an example for them with his speech and conduct. Thus, when he told them to count their lives as nothing, they knew this charge came from a man who lived out what he preached to others (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:27). Once he had an encounter with the living God on the road to Damascus, He never turned back, as he considered the message and mission he had received from His Lord.

Self-Control: Declaring the Whole Counsel of God

And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:25-27; ESV).”

A messenger or envoy often has the temptation of changing the message to make it more agreeable to the recipient, in order to avoid persecution or death. However, Paul reminded the Ephesian believers of his determination to teach them the whole counsel of God, regardless of any resulting consequences. He could do so because he realize that the Gospel message belonged to God, therefore, he had no right to alter it in any way.

Self-Sacrifice: Shepherding the Flock of God

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, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:28-32; ESV).”

Paul charged the elders in Ephesus to pay close attention to their lives. He also charged them to care for the flock lovingly, for this was the ministry to which they had been called. Above all, they needed to pay attention to their lives and care for the flock in order to protect them from them ravenous wolves by entrusting themselves to the grace of God.

Why should we count our life as lost?

When you count your life as nothing, you are able to persevere in the trials. Although Paul faced real persecution and tribulation, he counted his life as nothing, because he realized it was better to suffer with Christ than having a life without Christ or trials. Do you see your life as better in the midst of trials because of Jesus Christ?

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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