Summary: Paul ended his statement to the Ephesian elders with some intensely personal remarks. They are applicable to every church and every believer down through the centuries.
Passage: Acts 20:28-38
Intro: There are statements people make that are listened to very carefully.
1. some of the most powerful are departing statements.
Il) “dying declaration” definition.
2. now Paul is not dying here, but he will never see these men again on earth.
3. and so he is “passing the mantle” of leadership to them.
4. so they listened intently, and so should we.
5. because he is speaking about the foundational things, the truths upon which the church will either be built powerfully or fail miserably.
6. because the church is a family built of people, these remarks are very personal.
7. and every person here can take them to heart for our lives.
I. A Warning
1. the warning comes in the form of a command.
Il) “use carseats”, “lock your doors and windows at night”, “stay in groups” All these imply danger.
2. Paul tells these elders to “keep watch”
3. word means to pay attention to something. Vigilance
4. notice refers not just to flock, but to themselves.
5. leadership can be positive or negative. But either way, it is powerful.
6. they are “overseers”, whose job it is not to do everything, but to make sure that the work being done and its result meets the Masters standards.
7. this is why elders are to be “apt to teach”.
8. you have to know the standard if you are responsible for “quality control.”
9. after all, they are “shepherds”, and feeding the sheep is a critical task.
Il) we are incredibly concerned about what we eat physically, but sometimes very unconcerned about spiritual food.
10. the warning gets very personal in v29
11. “your own number”=church leaders.
12. leaders/teachers must be even more careful.
13. if the shepherd eats garbage, the sheep will eat it too.
14. v29 gets very personal, “savage wolves” will come in and do great damage.
15. it will not be physical; it will be spiritual, and focus on the foundations of the church.
16. it will deny the truth, distort the truth,
17. word means “to twist, distort”
Il) went to a conference this week to discuss the fine points of eschatology. It was important.
18. there is a purpose here in v30, “to draw away disciples…
19. and by implication in v33, to be enriched by their following.
Il) saw a book this week, “Millenium Meltdown” written in 1998 about the coming Y2K crisis. Sure the author made a ton of $, but he was dead wrong in what he assured us would happen.
20. leaders need to stick to the truth, and sheep need to find shepherds who stick to the truth.
21. v31. Is there any doubt that Paul feels that this is important?
22. guard the doctrine above all else.
II. An Encouragement
1. As Paul is leaving, he is clearly anxious about what will happen to them.
2. so he applies Philippians 4:6
3. he is at peace because they have two guardians.
4. “to God”, and the Bible makes it clear that the particular person of the trinity here is the Holy Spirit.
PP John 16:7
5. Jesus left, Paul left, leaders leave.
6. but the Holy Spirit remains.
7. and Paul can go on board this ship and sail off to his ultimate arrest and imprisonment knowing that the Holy Spirit who indwells these believers will remain.
8. in addition, they have “the word of his grace”. Clearly this is the Bible.
9. what a wonderful gift of God, and to these men, it was still in the works.
10. but it was finished, and the wonderful word of God has been our unfailing guide for almost 2000 years.
11. and when you put these two together, the Holy Spirit of God teaching us the very word of God, we are equipped.
PP) 1 John 2:20 scholars argue, but I believe it refers to Spirit and Word.
12. this dual anointing is what Paul commits his friends to, and us as well.
13. look at history. Whenever churches walk away from the Word of God, they walk away from the Spirit of God.
14. we have the tools to do it right! (build you up) v32
15. and when the leaders keep their eyes on the word in submission to the Spirit, the flock will prosper.
III. An Example
1. as Paul leaves, he leaves something behind.
2. that is, he leaves a three year example of how he lived.
3. v33, while he was there he clearly was not in it for the money.
4. make no mistake, some of these churches he left behind were wealthy.
5. instead, v34, he was a giver of time and energy and wealth.
6. as a shepherd, he came to give and not to get.