I dislike performance evaluations. (Performance Evaluation Dictionary). Giving or getting employee evaluations are a little like going to dentist, but without the Novocain. I like coaching better. I took golf lessons as a youngster. I really liked it when the coach would come over and put his hands on mine and actually show me how to swing better. He stuck with me over the long haul until I actually got better.
Wouldn’t it be great to get a coaching session from Paul the Apostle? That’s we get in chapter 20. In addition to Luke’s travelogue through Greece, Macedonia and Asia, we get this incredible self-evaluation and pep talk from Paul as he puts the final words on a three year investment into the Ephesians.
Paul decided that it was time to move on from Ephesus. He goes north, trying to find Titus, who he had sent to Corinth to deal with the difficulties that had arisen there (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). He doesn’t find him so he moves on to Macedonia
Paul probably went to Philippi where he met Titus who reassured him about Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:15-16). Paul then sent him back to Corinth with the letter we know as 2 Corinthians. He probably stayed a while here, until the latter part of A.D. 57, preaching into the Balkan peninsula (Albania and Croatia). Here Paul collected money for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-32, 1 Cor 16:1-4, 2 Cor 8-9). This comes into play later in the chapter.
Paul then travelled to Corinth, where he stayed for three months. Here is where Paul wrote Romans. Paul was determined to spread the gospel into the Latin world as far as Spain (Romans 15:24) but instead of going to Rome and using that as his HQ (as he did in Antioch) he returned to Jerusalem so that the gift would have tremendous meaning.
4 – 6
Representatives of all the main Gentile outreaches were there, with perhaps Luke representing Corinth. Aristarchus and Gaius we remember from last time – the Ephesian mob drug them out as Paul’s traveling companions. Timothy, of course, was Paul’s protégée. Aristarchus, by the way, got jailed with Paul later on (Colossians 4:10). Tychicus becomes a messenger for Paul, whom the Apostle called “beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant” (Col 4:7). Trophimus was the one who traveled with Paul to Jerusalem and when the crowds saw this Gentile, they thought he had brought him to the temple and that’s what caused the uproar that got Paul arrested in Acts 21:29)
7 – 12
“The first day of the week” is the first real evidence we have that Christians met on Sundays. They met in the evening—after work. The idea of not working on Sunday (or Saturday for that matter) came much later. Was Eutychus just bored to death? Likely Dr. Luke notes for us the cause of his fall—the heat in the upper room caused by the lamps, added to the late hour. Paul took the young man in his arms reminiscent of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:21, 2 Kings 4:34-35). This was further affirmation of the apostolic authority of Paul
13 – 16
Troas is in the northern part of Asia Minor. Paul’s companions, including Luke, take a coastal ship that stopped at ports along the way south. Paul stayed at Troas, then walked to meet them at Assos. Paul didn’t stop at Ephesus perhaps to avoid another emotional parting from the entire church, or to avoid more trouble there.
17 – 35
As Paul says goodbye, we get what is as close to one of his letters in the book of Acts that we can find. No longer preaching to non-Christians, Paul addresses the church. This is a prime opportunity for us to receive encouragement and a real pep talk from Paul. I want to point out nine things that Paul says—nine “coaching tips” for living a life of meaning and fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
19 – Serve the Lord in all humility no matter the effect on you
No matter what great things you do for God, all glory goes back to Him—showing faithfulness no matter what difficulties come along with those great things.
20 – Testify of repentance and faith in Jesus no matter what anyone else says
It really is all about the gospel—make your life one that constantly reflects the grace of God and be ready to share the hope that is in you.
22 – Go where the Spirit leads to go no matter the consequence
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, even when we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Life is often hard, but the more we are willing to go into the trials the more God can work through us.
24 – Consider your life as not precious to yourself no matter what the world tells you
Self-preservation should take a backseat to serving the Lord. It doesn’t mean we purposefully mess up our lives—not at all. It means that if called to give up our life for the Lord we do it without hesitation.
24 – Finish the course and ministry no matter how discouraged you might feel sometimes
Each of us has a course and ministry. Our job is to prayerfully consider that course (and it can change) and finish it. I know it’s hard sometimes, but it’s worth it to go all the way where God takes you.
Now Paul moves into four encouragements for the character of a Christian
28 – Pay careful attention to your walk and that of the flock (which belongs to Jesus)
Don’t let your walk suffer, nor those over whom God has placed you. Specifically here it refers to the church elders. The words “flock” and “feed” are from the same word—to shepherd or provide for. We do that by providing a safe feeding place for the flock to grow. It involves teaching and discipling and then protecting from ungodly influences that would seek to destroy the “called out ones” – the church. But we also can’t let our own relationship with God suffer. If you are a person of responsibility in the church (or at home for that matter) make sure you tend to your relationship too.
29 – 31 Remain alert to outside threats and inside sedition – through solid teaching
You know a counterfeit by becoming intimately familiar with the real thing. “Grievous” comes from a word that means “weighty.” Opposition to the church will not be “light” and “easy.” We need to stand firm, surrounding the flock by prayer and encouragement. But sometimes the threat is from inside—look for those who are looking after only themselves, and teaching “distorted” things about God’s Word.
32 Steep yourself in a relationship to God and His word
It builds up (“house-builder”) and provides an inheritance for us.
33 – 35 Be selfless, work hard, give liberally
Contentment in circumstance, diligence in mission, outward in focus. These are the marks of a maturing believer who wants to serve God. Are you in it for yourself? Are you in it for the easy road? Are you willing to lay it down for others?
36 – 38
You can just tell how close Paul had gotten to these people. There have been times when I have had to part from dear believers, not knowing if I’d ever see them this side of heaven.
Summing up Paul’s pep talk, I’d say it this way:
- Love God
- Learn from God
- Serve God
- Love & protect & communicate God’s love to those around you
Notice verse 28: “I did not shrink back from proclaiming to you the whole counsel of God.” This is one of the verses that we rely on as an encouragement to teach verse by verse through the Bible. We don’t want to cherry pick what we feel like teaching. By going verse by verse we get the “whole counsel.”
Benediction: verse 32
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