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Acts #77 (chapter 20:28-38)
The Book of Acts
A Charge to New Testament Church Leaders
Acts 20:28-38
Last week we began a study of Acts 20:25-38 where Paul is underscoring to the elders from Miletas the importance of the church's teaching ministry. Paul believes this will be the last time he will see these church leaders, and he wants to make sure he has prepared them for the ministry they've been given. We'll begin reading in
verses 28-38
I pointed out to you last week that Paul shares five
five priorities for effective church leadership. We covered two of those last week.
First, make sure you're right with God. "Take heed to yourselves". Personal holiness is foundational. We can never be effective leaders until, first of all, we are right with God. The most important task we have as preachers and teachers is not to prepare a lesson or a sermon, but to prepare ourselves to be used by God.
In fact, if you're lesson teaches one thing and your life teaches something else, you have destroyed the meaning of your lesson. So Paul begins there. Take care of your own personal spiritual life.
Second, also in verse 28, "Feed and lead the flock". After you've taken care of yourself, then care for God's flock by leading them and feeding them. After all, they are purchased with God's own blood! Take care of them! Feed them well and lead them well!
Here's the third thing. Not only do shepherds feel and lead the flock, they,
3. Watch and Warn the Flock
verses 29-31
Just as important as is feeding and leading, which are both more positive in nature, we must also offer protection.
If anything is sure in the Christian life, it is that Satan will seek to destroy the flock of God. Notices what Paul says in verse 29.
"For I know this." This isn't a maybe. He says, "I know this." How does he know it? He knows it because he knows Satan and the way he works. And the warning is specifically in regard to false teachers. Paul describes them as "savage wolves".
Jesus used the same language in Matthew 7:15 when he described false prophets dressed in sheep's clothing, but inwardly were "ravenous wolves". So what do savage, ravenous wolves want to do? They want to destroy the flock. Paul says they come, "not sparing the flock."
So how do these savage wolves destroy God's flock?
verse 30
In other words, they show up with their Sunday School quarterly and Bible and twist and pervert the clear teaching of Scripture in an attempt to gather a follwoing.
By the way, Paul told these Ephesian elders they would come and they did. On two different occasions, Paul wrote to Timothy, who by the way, was an Ephesian elder, and warned him about the false teachers.
In 1 Timothy 4, he says, "The Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times . . . and the latter times had already begun, it began when Messiah came the first time . . . some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons."
You know what it means to seduce someone. It's exactly what Paul says here in Acts. Somebody is trying to lure someone away. They use all kinds of tactics. Paul says they will speak lies and they'll use hypocrisy or teachings about marriage. But then he says, verse 6, you bring to the mind of the brethren what they have been taught, and when you do, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ.
That's the point I want to make. A good under shepherd will warn the flock about false prophets and false doctrine and false teachers.
I've had people down through the years get upset with me because I mentioned by name people like Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn and T.D. Jakes and others. Instead of being thankful for the warning, they are offended by the warning.
I do that because the Bible condemns false prophets so strongly. By the way, do you know what God calls them in 2 Peter? He calls false teachers, "Spots and blemishes." We could translate that "scabs".
He says they are like wells without water and clouds thrown around by an unruly wind. They love money and take advantage of people. And what makes my blood boil is how they prey on people who are hurting and searching for God, looking for religious answers.
And my responsibility, and the responsibility of God's shepherds is to watch and warn the flock so they are not destroyed.
And not only is there a danger from those who are outside the flock, but in verse 30 it becomes even more insidious.
verse 30
  1. we are dealing a threat from inside the flock. Here are those that are trusted and loved and belong, but they speak twisted truths in an attempt to drag followers after themselves.
It's interesting to see how false teachers always want to gain a following. They want to brag about how popular they are and how many are embracing their teaching. Like that gives them some credibility. Mormons do that quite a lot. We now have this many million members.
So Paul says to these elders, you've got to watch and warn the flock about, not only the wolves on the outside, but the perverts on the inside.
So how do we do that? Paul called them by name!
In the first chapter of 1 Timothy, he says, "Some have made shipwreck of the faith."
"Of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme."
In 2 Timothy when he wrote the same kind of thing. In 2 Timothy 1:15, he wrote about "Phygelus and Hermogenes who have turned away from me".
And Paul's point to the Ephesian elders is they have to deal with this threat.
verse 31
If you know this threat is real and it's coming from both the inside and the outside, then you need to be on watch and warn those that you are caring for. By the way, that's exactly what Paul did for the three years he spent in Ephesus.
After you've taken care of your own life and relationship with God, then feed and lead the flock while you keep watch and warn them of any threats to their faith.
Fourth, to be an effective leader, we must
4. Study and Pray
While I don't find these specific words here in the text, I do find the results of these words. Notice
verse 32 " I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace"
Way back in Acts 6:4, the Apostles led the church to appoint some men over some ministry tasks and they said, "We'll give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word."
This is the heart of the leader’s life. Spending time with God in prayer and His Word so we can faithfully deliver God's message to His people and offer God's people into His presence.
So what does that have to do with verse 32? That's exactly what Paul instructs them to do. What does it mean to commend someone to God? It means to pray for them.
After we have delivered to God's flock the "word of His grace", we then commend, or we could use the word "commit" them to God. After all, a shepherd can only lead you so far. And after we have told you
the truth that's in our heart and done everything we can to make it understandable, we then commend you to God. After all, they're your flock, not mine.
Remember, you are God's flock. This is His church. And as under shepherds, we lead and feed and watch and warn. We study and teach. but then we commit it to God because if it's His, it's His to safeguard and care for.
The last priority for the elder Paul touches on is
5. Dependence on God
verses 33-35
Now obviously, Paul is talking about being more interested in giving than he is getting. So basically, he is telling them to not get all caught up in personal needs and being covetous. He certainly touches on the dignity of work and pulling your own weight, as well.
But more than that, he's talking about being generous. Paul worked and took care of himself, but he did it primarily so he could give and be like Jesus. See, we've got it all screwed up. We're always thinking about how much we make and how much we deserve and how much we're underpaid.
But Paul approached it from the opposite end of the spectrum. Paul would go do anything, for anybody, anytime, for nothing. And if God sent an offering along, fine.
But even when they did give an offering, such as happened with the Philippians, he said, "I'm so glad you sent your offering. That was great, but not because I needed it. It was great because you needed the lesson in giving."
So Paul says to these elders, "Just look at my hands. You know I've worked with these hands so I could provide for my needs. But I also did it so I could take care of others. I did that as an example because I want you to remember what the Lord taught about it being more blessed to give than to receive."
Now that is one of the most interesting quotes in the Bible because we have no record of that quote in the gospels.
You look for that in the gospels you won't find it. Someone says, "Well does that mean Jesus didn't say it?" Oh we know Jesus said it because Paul just quoted Him. It's just that nobody wrote it down. , but Jesus said it. You say, "You mean Jesus said things that aren't written in the gospel?" Oh, man, did He!
john said if everything were written down that He did and said, the world couldn't contain the volumes that would have to be written! And this is just one of those things that He said that wasn't written down in the gospels.
And what He said was, "It's more blessed to give than receive." And now Paul repeats this to these elders. "Men, remember, the Lord said the most important thing is not getting. It is giving. And you need to keep that in mind as you serve God's flock.
What are the priorities of the ministry: self-examination, feed and lead the flock, watch and warn, pray and study, and dependence on God.
verses 36-38
May God help us to serve well and to love much so that when the time comes for us to part, with do it with no regret.
Let's pray.
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