Summary: When Paul stopped at Miletus he gives us his perspective on his ministry.
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 35
Paul’s Perspective on Ministry
Acts 20: 17-38
Acts 20:17 (NKJV)
“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.”
Paul stopped at Miletus on his way to Jerusalem and asked the “elders” from Ephesus to meet him there. Among those who gathered to hear Paul were those whose live had been changed by the ministry of this man.
Before we get into the passage itself I want you to see with me that this passage includes all three New Testament words used to describe the job of the pastor. In verse seventeen it says that Paul called for the elders of the church. The word used here is (presbuteros). In verse 28 when he is cautioning these leaders he says that they have been made “overseers” of the flock, here the word used is (episkopas). And in the end of verse 28 these same men are told to “shepherd” the church and here the word is (poimein) and it means to pastor. This points out that there are no three separate offices (Bishop, Pastor, Elder) but three different aspects of the same office of pastor.
Paul’s Review of the Past 20:17-21
Any assessment of Paul’s past ministry will of necessity have to stress the word commitment. But the more you are around people the more you realize that the word “commitment” means different things to different people. “One young man waxed eloquent as poured out his heart’s devotion in a letter the girl of his dreams, saying, ‘My dear, I would climb the highest mountain, swim the widest stream, cross the burning desert, die at the stake for you. P.S. I will see you on Sunday if it doesn’t rain.” [R. Kent Hughes. Acts: The Church on Fire. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1996) pp. 276-277.}
Any True Ministry Involves a Commitment to Serving God’s People (18-19)
Paul was totally committed to his fellow believers, he was determined to seek their best at all times. His commitment to them was fueled by the conviction that in serving people he was serving God : “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, (19) serving the Lord …”
His commitment was carried out in great humility and tenderness. Verse nineteen goes on to say, “… serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and …..”
Any True Ministry Involves a Commitment to Sharing God’s Word (vv. 20-21)
“how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, (21) testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul tells them that he has not kept back anything but he has attempted to proclaim “the whole counsel of God.” (v. 27) That is that he has tried to be balanced in his preaching neither compromising or going to extremes.
Perspective on the Present 20:22-27
“And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, (23) except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. (24) But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (25) “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. (26) Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. (27) For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”
Paul lets his hearers know that he believes that this is the last time that he will get to see him this side of heaven. It is a final goodbye. In this final farewell he says that he has a clear conscience “innocent of the blood of men,” because he has always done his best to give them the truth. Perhaps Paul is thinking of the warning of the prophet Ezekiel of the blood on the hands of a sentry who fails to do his duty.
Listen to the words of the Prophet Ezekiel (3:18-21),
“When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. (19) Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. (20) “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. (21) Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”