Summary: Exposition of Acts 20:28-31 about the last two of four charges that Paul gives the Ephesian elders about how to pastor
D. Opening Ill: tell a story about Fred Osgood, the only person who ever questioned anything I did…
B. Background to passage: the setting is Miletus where Paul has decided to stay, not going to Ephesus because there is not enough time on his way to Jerusalem to carry the offering to the church there. This is Paul’s only recorded speech strictly to believers. He has called the elders of the Ephesian church (explain the elder, shepherd, overseer terminology) for a farewell address. Also make the case for a plurality of elders as the NT model. So after Paul gives his exhortation for them to remember the way that he lived among them, he turns to the charge that he will give them. Lord willing we will look at them all.
C. Main thought: in this text we will see the last two of four charges that shepherds are given in relation to the flock
E. Shepherd as Spirit-appointed overseers (v. 28b)
1. Next Paul tells them to shepherd the flock as overseers. Note the reference to who made them overseers reflexive verb, “the Spirit himself placed.” The early church saw themselves as affirming the Spirit’s choices for leadership, not strictly the choice of the people. The verb in this part of the command is to shepherd, from where we get pastor. It primarily means to feed and lead a flock of sheep, but also had the connotation of governing. And he says to do it as one who is an overseer, or possibly translated “bishop.” This was a word used of superintendents that were given charge over something to see that things were done right and well.
2. Philip 1:1, 1 Pet 5:2-3, 1 Tim 5:17, Heb 13:17, Titus 2:15, 1 Thess 5:12, Ps 78:72, Num 14:9,
3. Illustration: John MacArthur observes that “sheep are the most helpless, defenseless, straying, and dirty of animals. They require constant oversight, leading, rescue, and cleaning or they will die. Being a shepherd was good training for leading people.” leadership quote on bottom of p. 25 from Charles Jefferson about sheep not knowing where to go, in Biblical Eldership, "Sheep require more attention than any other livestock. They just can’t take care of themselves. Unless their shepherd makes them move on, sheep will actually ruin a pasture, eating every blade of grass, until finally a fertile pasture is nothing but barren soil. Sheep are near-sighted and very stubborn, but easily frightened. An entire flock can be stampeded by a jack rabbit. They have little means of defense. They’re timid, feeble creatures. Their only recourse is to run if no shepherd is there to protect them. Sheep have no homing instincts. A dog, horse, cat, or a bird can find its way home, but when a sheep gets lost, it’s a goner unless someone rescues it. So the over-riding principle of Psalm 23 is that sheep can’t make it without a shepherd."-Phillip Keller, how it bothers some to disagree with the direction of the pastor, and others it bothers them if they don’t, “Never confuse the will of the majority with the will of God”,
4. Pastor-elders are commanded here to lead the flock. Another reason to have multiple elders. The flock is never commanded to lead the shepherd. Just as children are never commanded to lead the parents. The shepherd never polls the sheep to see where they want to go. Pastors are set in charge over the church to oversee that everything happens according to the Owner’s plans. But in our day many flocks do not want leaders to lead, they want hirelings who fill the pulpit and do what they are told. And when they don’t they fire them and find them another who they think will do what they want. Now some argue that the NT knows nothing of congregational church government. I disagree, however I do think that the NT gives pastors the commission to lead the congregation and that congregations should follow. I do believe that God holds the pastors accountable, and the congregation does too. I believe in congregational polity but not necessarily in a pure democracy within the church. You can’t find that in the NT. No votes anywhere, consensus is reached among the church, and decisions are made among the elders. And if that makes you mad, you must take it up with scripture, not with me. And some of you need to repent for not being obedient to God and following the pastor. Shepherds also must remember that their authority is given to them by God, and valid so long as they are acting on his behalf. So, no, you shouldn’t follow a pastor who is unbiblical in his method, theology, or action. It is not sheep’s job to keep the shepherd in line—it is the Owner’s, the Chief Shepherd. And the plurality of elders should be sufficient to keep crazy shepherds in line. The main application question is: if we are doing it wrong, are we going to submit to scripture and make difficult changes, or are we going to continue to rebel in ease and comfort? Will true repentance take place? For you and I must realize the majority of churches do not operate this way. But you will not be held accountable by the Owner for the majority, but only for what happens at New River.