In Acts 19 we read about the uproar and riot at Ephesus when the silversmiths were angry at Paul. Many people were accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. They had turned away from worshipping the silver idols of Diana to serving Jesus. This was affecting the sale of the silver idols and putting the silversmiths out of work! Paul was the object of the tradesmen's anger. Paul left Ephesus for a while and preached in other places. In verse 7 of Acts 20 we read of Paul preaching on the Lord's Day in Troas. We've probably all heard how Paul preached all night at Troas and a young man named Eutychus fell asleep and fell off the window ledge where he was sitting in the open window and fell and hit the ground and died. Paul went to him and the young man was brought to life again. The mention of the many lamps in that room (in verse 8) was possibly written by Dr. Luke to indicate there was some effect from the lamps on the young man and that it was not just Paul's long sermon that affected him! It didn't stop Paul from continuing to preach on until daybreak!
Then Paul returns to Ephesus to give his farewell message to the leaders of the church there. What things would you say if you knew that this was your last opportunity to speak?
(Illustration) At Christmas '98 when all of my husband's family was together, we had a time of singing and sharing together. During that time, the grandmother of the family spoke to all of us as we sat in the lounge room together. For someone who says she is shy of public speaking, she spoke very boldly to us and reminded all of us to always love and serve the Lord. She gave praise to God for all the ways He had helped her and the family down through the years. Her own ill health in the months prior to that time reminded all of us that life is short and we need to be ready to meet God at any time.
What did Paul say to his dear Ephesian friends that can also help us today in our lives to know how to live?
Paul said he had served the Lord with all humility, with tears and trials. Do you and I serve God humbly, not expecting praise or honour from people, but from God alone? We all like to be appreciated for what we do, don't we? But what if no one understands, no one says "thank you"? Do you still serve the Lord because you love HIM?
Paul said, "I kept back nothing that was helpful." (He was speaking about sharing Jesus with Jews and Greeks alike). He now faced an uncertain future, going to Jerusalem "not knowing the things that will happen to me there." Do you share the good news about Jesus even at the risk of being mistreated and misunderstood by others? There are many in our world today that risk their very lives to come to church as we are today. When is the last time you risked anything for Jesus? Have you ever been really mistreated or misunderstood because you follow Jesus? Do you share with others about Jesus even at the risk of being hurt?
Even though facing possible imprisonment and even death for sharing about Jesus with others, Paul said, "none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself so that I may finish my race with JOY." (v.24a) Are you serving the Lord with joy? It doesn't mean that all that happens to us is joyful. But we can have His joy in the midst of our painful situation. If we wait till life is "smooth" before we follow Jesus - we will NEVER follow Him! Life is NOT smooth, is it? Even in those times when things are going on an even "keel" it seems like before long, there is something more that comes up in our lives to face. That is part of living in this sin-cursed world. Our joy must be based on His love in and through us - not on our circumstances.
(Illustration) As a child, one of the best things we can be taught is to finish what we start. Children allowed to go from activity to activity without learning to finish, set a pattern for life. We see so much of this today, don't we? "Johnny" wanders from the book to the puzzle to run outside, to eat, to this, to that, etc. etc. Even from a young age, it is important to give a child something he can cope with finishing (as, obviously, attention spans grow with their years). But, within that attention span, see that they complete what they do. Put away the book before they get out another toy. Finish that bit of food before they reach for another, etc. It's a lot of work at the time for the parents - but in the long run - there is great reward.
Paul here reminds us to finish what we started spiritually. He shared the good news of Jesus Christ and says in verse 26 " I am innocent of the blood of all men." Are you using the opportunities God gives to you to serve Jesus? Or, are you waiting for "ideal circumstances?" What if Paul had taken the riots and attacks against him as "signs" that he should stop preaching? Read the book of Ephesians and see what else he wrote to these Ephesian believers. Or read what he said in his final words recorded in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."
No, I don't mean for you to go out and buy a flock of sheep and look after them! I mean - be a good shepherd to your fellow Christians. Care for one another. We need love and care in this world that is so selfish and ME oriented. Remember, the good shepherd will even lay down his life for the sheep. Do you and I truly care for each other as we walk in the Christian faith? Would we lay down your life for a fellow Christian? Sobering words to think about!
Paul ends with a warning
a) Be careful of those from amongst you who will mislead you (verse 30).
Scary, isn't it? To think that in our own circle of Christian friends we could be misled.
Watch out for those who say things to divide the church (verse 30).
We are careful to not get our directions from the world around us. But, when someone we know, love and admire misleads us it is so subtle. Always come back to God's Word for your guidance, not the word of a friend, no matter how much you love that person. Paul said, "I commend you to God and to the WORD of HIS grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified."
The key to living like we should is in this word "sanctified." Remember Paul in chapter 19 asked the Ephesian Christians "Did you receive the Holy Spirit, having believed?" (This is the literal meaning from the Greek). When they said they didn't even so much as know there was the Holy Spirit, Paul told them of the coming of the Holy Spirit and they accepted his teaching and were filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 19:6)
b) Don't be sidetracked (verse 31) Paul reminds the Ephesians that for approximately 3 years he warned them, "night and day with tears" (verse 31). (The Greek use of 3 years can mean a few months more or less.)
Are you being sidetracked from serving Jesus? Do you let other things, even good things, sidetrack you? Do you use your job as an excuse for not serving Jesus? Or, your family? Or, your possessions or desires? Paul during his time there had to provide for his own living by working as a tent maker. "Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by labouring like this, that you must support the weak." (verses 34-35)
c) You must have the right attitude toward money.
Paul said he worked to provide for himself and others, to support the weak, and he reminds us of the words of Jesus "it is more blessed to GIVE than to receive." (verse 35) After all the things he said - Be humble, share, be joyful, finish what you start, be a shepherd, watch out, then he ends these words with warning about MONEY! Why would he do this? Could it be that he knows that, then, as well as today, MONEY traps people? We all need some source of income to survive, but so quickly money can become our god. There are many warnings regarding money in Scripture. "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."(1 Timothy 6:10). The love of money can entrap even godly people. Is there anything you cannot give up for Jesus? Let Him examine your heart.
What are the guidelines from Acts 20 for living our lives?
What is the key to living this way? Verse 32 says, "be sanctified." The infilling of the Holy Spirit is for you and me. His Spirit filling us is the key to living life for Him the way He wants us to live.
Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
Holiness, godliness, righteousness, and Christ-likeness in personal and church life