My time in Acts has been such a learning process. I have enjoyed reading about the start of the early church and the pains it took to fight for the true Gospel of Christ. Over and over as I have read I have gained a greater realization that things haven’t changed much.
Yes, technology has changed how are are able to share the gospel. But the gospel is still met with resistance. Disciples are still being persecuted. The church is being attacked and there are those who continue to distort the truth. Our pastor is doing an excellent series right now on the book of Jude and as I began reading Acts 20 today I was struck by Paul’s exhortation to the Elders at Ephesus and how it fits with Jude’s charge to “contend for the faith”. (Jude 1:3)
Paul was about to go to Jerusalem and believed he would face hardships there. (Acts 20:22-23) Before going he was compelled to share four things with the elders that also give us much to consider today as we face trials and tribulation while we contend for the true gospel of Christ.
Do Not Shrink Back: (Acts 20:19-27)
Using himself as an example he reminds the elders that he has served the Lord with “great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested” (20:19). Paul did not hesitate to preach truth regardless of the cost. He didn’t consider his life worth anything apart from Christ and completing the task that was given to him. The task of sharing the gospel of God’s grace.
Paul reminds them that he did not shrink back from sharing the whole truth of God. He did not let tribulations and suffering keep him from sharing the whole purposes of God.
Be Alert: (Acts 20:28-32)
Paul exhorts the elders to watch over themselves and all the flock which God has given them. His exhortation was to the elders first and then to the flock. Why must they be alert? What must they watch for?
Paul warns them that savage wolves will come in among them and will not spare the flock. They have enemies that will come into the flock in order to seek and destroy. There will be those within that distort the truth in order to draw disciples away.
We have an enemy to seeks to destroy the truth of God’s word, so be on your guard. Be alert to those that silently come in to distort truth.
Work Hard: (Acts 20:33-36)
Paul supported himself and those who traveled with him. They supplied their own needs so that they would not have to take provisions from others. By doing this he was showing that we must work to help those who are in need.
In other words, be men that would rather help others than help themselves. Remember the truth that Jesus spoke when he said “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Pray (Acts 20:36-38)
The final thing Paul did was pray with this group of elders. Although their prayer is not mentioned I can only imagine what was spoken. Fervent prayers of protection from the enemy. Prayers that they would remain in the truth of God’s word. Prayers for the church, the disciples and for safety and so much more.
Shepherds of the flock must be men of prayer. The flock itself must be people of prayer. Praying that they would recognize the wolves among them, that they would know truth, speak it, live it.
Paul exhorts these men and us to stay true to the word of God. We should not shrink back from spreading the gospel because hard times come against us. Be alert to those that would distort the gospel and be willing to defend the gospel of Christ . Work hard so that you can help those who are less fortunate then you. And finally, PRAY!
As I was writing this I was reminded of something our Pastor said in light of Jude 1:3 which says “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith…” which I believe would be very beneficial to close today with.
“He’s not calling us to physically battle those who commit evil, but to step up and fight, contend, guard the faith, the body of knowledge of God’s redemptive message! Not hide, or compromise, or duck out of conversations when they turn against Christianity, or stay silent when professors and classroom teachers rail against the Bible We are called to lovingly and boldly defend the gospel against any and all who attack it. To battle and war and struggle and grapple, not for our reputations, or our very lives, but for the faith!” (Tim Ackley- sermon from 9/7/13)