Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Acts 20

May 23rd, 2010 by Vic

“Paul’s only sermon to Christians”

May 23, 2010

Paul had been in Ephesus 3 years.  He had set his heart on collecting an offering from all the churches to take back to the poor in Jerusalem.  He hoped this would help unite the churches.  Maybe it would help the Gentile churches realize their debt to the mother church in Jerusalem and also give the Jerusalem Christians an appreciation for the vitality of faith in the Gentile churches.  The summary in verses 1-2 took over a year, probably the summer of 56 through the fall of 57.

The 2nd letter to the Corinthian church tells us that when Paul arrived in Troas he had a great opportunity to preach the gospel, but his concern for the troubles in the Corinthian church made him restless.  He had sent Titus to Corinth and expected to meet him in Troas.  But Titus didn’t come so Paul headed for Macedonia and met Titus there.  Titus brought good news.  Paul wrote His 2nd letter to the Corinthian church and sent Titus back to Corinth with it.  Paul ministered in the Macedonian area for a while.  The letter says his visited the Illyricum area.

Then Paul went to Greece (Achaia) and stayed in Corinth for the winter.  During this time he wrote a letter to the Romans, informing the believers in Rome of his desire to visit Jerusalem and then he wanted to visit Rome on his way to Spain.

20:3-6

Apparently Paul was going to take one of the Jewish chartered ships that took pilgrims to Passover and Pentecost every year.  These ships usually made shorter port stops so they could get to Jerusalem before a set time.  It would have been an easy thing for the Jews on one of these ships to throw Paul overboard.  Those were the days before life jackets.

There are times to take a risk for Jesus’ sake and times to avoid troubling your guardian angel.  In this chapter Paul demonstrates both situations.  Here he avoids a threat on his life, but he does not heed the prophetic warnings about going to Jerusalem.

These men with Paul must have been delegates from the various churches taking the contribution of each church to Jerusalem for the relief fund.  All these men may have met Paul in Corinth and when Paul finished his letter to the Romans he could write in 16:16 “All the churches of Christ greet you.”

These delegates took the boat to Troas.  Paul walked to Philippi and met Luke.  They celebrated Passover together and then sailed to Troas where they met up with the delegates and stayed seven days.

20:7-13

The first day of the week was a work day.  The church service probably started after sunset.  Paul talked until sunrise.  His sermon was interrupted with a death and resurrection.

This gathering may have started with a potluck dinner followed by communion.  This was common in Christian homes.  We are not told when or how the practice of Sunday worship started in the church.  Verse 11 says they broke bread again and ate.  It is assumed they had a midnight snack and maybe they celebrated communion again to give thanks for Eutychus’ resurrection.

It was normal for larger rooms to be on the 3rd floor.  The window could have been full length or a balcony window.  Eutychus was 16-20 years old and had worked hard all day.  He felt himself getting sleepy so he moved to the window do get some fresh air.  That did not keep him awake.  He fell into the courtyard.  Confusion and wailing followed.  They picked him up and Luke says he was dead.  Paul came down and said, “Stop making a fuss.”  Then Paul embraced him just like Elijah and Elisha had done and the boys’ life returned to him.  This is the last of nine recorded resurrections in the Bible.

These Christians were willing to listen to Paul all night knowing they had to go to work the next day.  Have you noticed that God can give you the rest if you give Him the first?  You can’t out give God, even with your time.  This church was comforted after hearing God’s word and seeing God’s work.  This is the solution for depression: hearing God’s Word and seeing Him give life to people.

20:13-16

This is a travel journal.  Paul chose to walk the 20 miles to Assos while the rest of the group slept on the ship for that 30 mile sail.  Then Paul joined them on the ship and they sailed to Miletus.

20:17-21

Paul sent a runner to Ephesus to invite the elders to come and meet with him.  He did not want to go to Ephesus and miss his ship leaving port.  It was 30 miles to Ephesus so the runner probably made it in a day, but the elders would need 2 days to walk to Miletus.

In verse 17 Luke calls these elders “presbyters” and in verse 28 Paul calls them “episcopoi” which is usually translated bishop, overseer, or guardian.  It is clear that both words designate the same men.  When the elders arrived Paul reviewed his past ministry with them.

1. He did not claim to have any secret understanding on how to live (18).  His life was an open book.  He had no hidden agenda.  He lived the truth.

2. He said, “I considered myself a servant of the Lord.  I was not an agent of the Jerusalem church.  I did not present myself as a graduate of several prestigious schools.  I am a bondslave by choice (19).

3. I lived with humility of mind, not just an outward humility to impress people.  I do not think more highly of myself than I ought to think because everything I have is a gift from God (19).

4. I wept with those who wept.  I had a tear filled ministry with you and some of those tears were for the unbelieving Jews (19).

5. I was tested by those trying to destroy my ministry (19).

6. I preached the word.  I did not avoid preaching things that might offend you.  I preached the same thing in public that I preached in your homes.  God’s word is for our good.  God does not threaten us and punish us.  He gives us everything we need for life and godliness.  We self-destruct by ignoring God.  Self conceit is self deceit which leads to self destruction (20).

7. I declare the same 2 themes to everyone:  the repentance which is due to God and the faith which is due toward Christ as our advocate and mediator.”

Repentance literally is a change of mind.  It is a radical paradigm shift.  It is a turning around of controlling thoughts, desires, aims, and affections.  When we are overwhelmed with the thought that God is God and deserves our honor, our thanks, and our praise, then the direction of our life is changed.

Faith is faithing or acting on what you believe, accepting the Gift of God.

20:22-27

Paul shares his present thoughts of ministry.  Keep in mind that this is the only time in Acts that Paul is preaching exclusively to Christians.  This message shows us Paul as a pastor rather than an evangelist.  He summarized his ministry with 2 phrases, the gospel of the grace of God (24) and preaching the kingdom of God (25).  He considers these phrases synonymous.  For Paul the gospel is the kingdom of God.  Living with the mystery of majesty is OK.

Paul feels compelled by the Spirit to take the offering to Jerusalem, but he is warned by the Spirit that he will be imprisoned.  Direction for ministry is not always clear.  Paul uses 6 graphic picture words to explain his decision to go to Jerusalem.

1. “I consider my life” (24) is an accounting word.  He examined his assets and liabilities and decided to put Jesus ahead of everything else.  Paul was willing to take a risk in ministry.  It is risky to love some people, to help some people, to talk to some people.  There should be a little fear doing some things for the Lord.  To become a Christian you take a risk.  But in your heart you know it is the right thing to do.

2. He saw himself as a runner (24) who wanted to finish his course in joyful victory.

3. He was a steward of what he had received from the Lord (24).

4. He was a witness (martyr) testifying of the gospel of God’s grace (24).

5. He was a herald who declares the message of the king.  A witness tells what has happened to him, but the herald tells what the king tells him to declare.  He was sent with a message.

6. He considered himself a faithful watchman.  He had been faithful to sound the alarm of danger coming.  The wages of sin is death.

The commentary by W. W. Wiersbe gave this illustration.  “A group of servicemen asked their new chaplain if he believed in a real hell for lost sinners, and he smiled and told them he did not.  “Then you are wasting your time,” the men replied.  “If there is no hell, we don’t need you; and if there is a hell, you are leading us astray.  Either way, we’re better off without you!”

20:28-35

Paul points out the future responsibilities of the Christian leaders.  First (28) they were to guard (attend to, take care of) themselves and all the flock.  Significantly before they could provide for the flock they had to care for their own spiritual well-being.

The Holy Spirit had made them leaders so they are to be ‘shepherd kind’ of leaders (28).  Jesus called Himself a shepherd.  In the OT God is called a Shepherd.  A good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.  The shepherd does not scream and yell and try to drive the sheep.  The sheep know his voice and he leads the sheep.  Are you a shepherd kind of leader?  Are you a shepherd kind of parent?

This is the only verse in the Bible that suggests that the blood of Jesus was God’s blood.  God purchased us with His blood.  FF Bruce says this could be translated, “which He hath purchased with the blood of his Own.”

Do you remember the first thing you were able to buy with your own money?  It was very special.  You took good care of it.  You gave it special attention.  So God bought you with His own money.  Were you worth it?  He thinks you are.  If God thinks you are special and I think something else, who will you believe?

The shepherd is to guard the sheep against dangers from within and from without (29-31).

Wolves come with ulterior motives (29).  People join the church with their own agenda.

Christians can become ambitious for position and power (30).

Leaders can become careless (31), failing to stay alert, failing to weep for the lost and dying.

Leaders can become shallow (32), neglecting God’s word, becoming childish, forgetting our inheritance and living for the present.

Leaders can start focusing on finances (33) and quit trusting their future to God.

Leaders can get lazy (34) and start assuming the world owes them a living.  They become content to live on welfare.

Leaders can become selfish (35) forgetting that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  It is better to share with others than to keep what you have and collect more.  There is no blessing for accumulating wealth.

The saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” is not in the gospels.  That is a quote of Jesus that was passed on by word of mouth.

20:36-38

The church service closed with prayer.  They all knelt down and prayed.  It seems like we did that more when I was growing up.  I know God hears the prayer of the heart, but maybe kneeling puts my heart in a better attitude.  It is hard to be proud on my knees.

This farewell was a mutual expression of love.  The word for kiss is literally, to love against.  It was a common expression of love between friends more than between husband and wife.

So in our service today have we testified to what God has done in the past?

Have we considered taking a risk in our present ministry?

Are we guarding ourselves against wolves from without and bad attitudes within?

Let the word of God dwell in you richly.  Put on the armor of God.  Be Christian.

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