INTRO: This morning we will continue our look at the book of Acts in chapter 20, and the portion we will look at is in verses 17-38. I find sermons like this, Bible study sermons if you will, very interesting. Because unlike topic sermons which can go into detail on a topic, these study sermons often touch on several topics and will often bring up things we desire to look at in more depth within the rest of the scriptures.
After the miraculous event in Troas, the raising of Eutychus from the dead, we left the apostle Paul in Miletus. [my-lee-tus] You may recall that Paul intended to sail by Ephesus in the hope of reaching Jerusalem before Pentecost. While he was in Miletus, he called for the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him there.
We catch up with him in Acts 20:17-21 – “17. And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. 18. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, 19. Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: 20. And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, 21. Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”[KJV]
When Luke tells us that the elders from Ephesus arrived to meet Paul, he reminded them of the struggles he faced while in he was in Asia. Paul had served the Lord with a humble attitude, even to the point of being moved to tears at times and surviving more than one Jewish plot against his life.
Despite all the heartaches and tears he continued faithfully to declare the truth to them, both publicly in the synagogue and in the school of Tyrannus, and teaching in the houses. We saw also that his preaching had extended to the Jews as well as the Greeks.
I. Like we have seen before, his preaching included the need for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Let me ask you, what is faith? I have heard it said there is faith and there is faith. I believe the best way to answer the question about genuine faith is to go to the Bible.
A. In Hebrews 11, which is commonly called the “Hall of Faith” we find the writer explaining just exactly what genuine faith is.
B. First is your faith logical? In Hebrews 11:3 the writer says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Or to paraphrase in part; “By faith we understand... that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Genuine faith “understands” that the universe is not self-existent; rather, it was designed by the Creator and so what we see is that logic and faith are companions.
C. Second, is your faith dependent upon revelation? In Hebrews 11:4-6 the writer says, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
1. It was by faith, illustrated in obedience, that Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.
2. By faith he was commended as a righteous man when God spoke well of his offerings. By faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
3. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death. God took him away. And before he was taken he was commended as one who pleased God. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
4. In the scriptures, the writers tells us that God has, “witnessed,” “testified,” “warned” or “commended.” Why did He do that? Because mankind, left to his own devising, does not know how to serve God.
5. The blood of Abel says that faith is the key to true and acceptable worship. In other words, genuine faith sees faith like the writer says in Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” [KJV] Genuine faith understands that God has revealed His will for mankind within the Holy Scriptures.
D. Third, does your faith involve trusting our Maker? The writer says in Hebrews 11:7-8 – “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
1. When Noah was warned by God, though he had never seen a flood, he by faith prepared the ark.
2. Abraham by faith left Chaldea even though he didn’t know where he was going. In other words... genuine faith clearly trusts the unseen God.
E. Fourth, does your faith have actions with your words? So many people in the religious world today seem to entertain the notion that faith is merely a mental conviction. Hebrews 11 tells us quite clearly that genuine faith must act with actions.
1. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that by faith Abel “offered” a sacrifice.
2. Hebrews 11:7 tells us that by faith Noah “prepared” an ark.
3. Hebrews 11:8 tells us that Abraham “obeyed” the Lord.
4. You see folks, faith without any actions attached is not a genuine faith. As James tells us in James 2:26 – “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
F. Finally, does your faith discriminate? Hebrews 11:26 – “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Moses, (being a type of Christ) considered the rebuke he would suffer for his faithful obedience to God to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
1. The writer tells us that Moses valued righteousness greater then the treasures of this world.
2. Why? Because Moses understood that genuine faith chooses the spiritual over the material, genuine faith chooses the eternal over the temporal.
3. Folks, I hope and pray that when you examine your faith, you find it is a genuine faith because there really is a difference between faith and genuine faith.
4. We all know the truth of the matter is that this is a personal examination, and only you can answer that question for yourself.
II. Luke carries on telling of Paul’s discussion with the Ephesians elders in Acts 20:22-27 - “22. "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23. "except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24. "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25. "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26. "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27. "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”[NKJV]
A. Paul after reminding them of his time working among them, goes on tells the elders that he was compelled to go to Jerusalem, despite the knowledge of what awaited him there.
1. It is one thing not knowing what lies ahead of us, but it’s another knowing exactly what lies ahead.
2. You’re at the doctors awaiting some results from a blood test to find out if you have serious kidney problems.
3. You have family members in the armed forces, you know there’s been a bombing in the area where they are assigned, and you’re waiting to hear if you’re loved ones are all right.
4. You’re heading towards the hospital in an ambulance, and you don’t know whether you’re going to survive to see your family again.
B. It is during those difficult times of uncertainty about what lies ahead, that things like worry and anxiety creep into our lives. It’s usually not until after the event, or until after you have been diagnosed with an illness, that you start to deal with it.
1. Folks, that’s when genuine faith in God helps us get through. Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit had testified to Paul, through the voices of prophets and other inspired men, concerning his impending arrest and the other trials he would confront in Jerusalem.
2. In other words, Paul knew what was going to happen in his life, he knew what lay around the corner.
C. Most of us want to run away from difficult times and we try to avoid those times at any cost.
1. The reason we do that is because we are concerned with ourselves.
2. We’re afraid that we might get hurt.
3. We’re afraid that we might be slandered.
4. We’re afraid that if we go there, people might think we have an alternative motive.
5. There are many things that can make us afraid. Instead of embracing those times when they come, and seeing them as an opportunity to grow in our faith, we try very hard to avoid them.
D. James says in James 1:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”[NKJV]
1. Paul’s greatest concern was not for his own personal safety. Paul’s greatest concern was with completing the special ministry Jesus had given him, the preaching of the kingdom.
2. Scripture is clear, and there is no mistake about it, Paul knew what lay ahead of him. He did not expect to ever see the faces of those elders again. That’s why he called upon them to faithfully witness the content of his preaching among those at Ephesus.
3. He knew within himself, that because he had preached the whole truth, he was free from any responsibility for those who might have remained in their sin. In other words, his job was finished in Ephesus. Like we looked at a few weeks ago, he was not responsible for those who didn’t respond to the good news.
E. Someone once said, “Christians don’t have problems, Christians have challenges.” A commentator, talking about the soul that is mature in their understanding, said that;
1. The mature soul prays, "Lord, make me as big as my problem." While the immature soul prays, "Lord, let me off easy."
2. The mature soul asks, "Lord, give me strength sufficient for a hard day." While the immature begs, "Lord, let me have a lighter load."
3. The mature soul prays, "Lord, stand with me until I finish my task." While the immature soul says, "I am tired, and I want to quit."
F. Paul didn’t see his mission with Christ as a problem, he saw it as a challenge. Yes, there were times when he was beaten and flogged. Yes, there were times when he was tired, thirsty, and hungry. His real challenge was to simply trust His God with that genuine faith we looked at earlier.
III. Before Paul leaves the Ephesian elders, he warns them by saying the following in Acts 20:28-31 – “28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one, night and day with tears.”
A. Paul, because he did not anticipate seeing them again, charged those elders, who had been selected based on the qualifications listed by the Holy Spirit, to watch out for their own spiritual well being. And he also reminds them that they were commanded to watch out for every sheep in God’s flock at Ephesus. Why? Because they had been given the oversight, they were elders over the flock which was purchased with Jesus’ blood.
B. Make no mistake about it folks, being watchful was, and still is, necessary today because false teachers, even from within the eldership, would draw away disciples. Paul urged the elders to remember his own watchful service of three years as he had been warning them day and night, even with tears in his eyes.
C. We have said before false teachers are still a real problem in the world today, and I believe it’s necessary for all of us to be able to identify them.
1. A young preacher of a little church complained to Charles H. Spurgeon, about the smallness of his church and its few members. Spurgeon asked him, "How many members do you have?" "Fifty," replied the preacher. "Ah," exclaimed Spurgeon, "that is more than you will want to account for on the Day of Judgment."
2. You see, preaching or teaching is one of those God given positions within the Lord’s church which needs to be prayed about carefully before taking on the responsibility. It’s also the responsibility of every member of the Lord’s church to be on their guard against false teachers.
D. The power of the public speaker is enormous. So today is the power of those who speak in other kinds of public forums.
1. There are many historic examples of this, some for good and some for evil. One comes to mind: On June 14th, 1940, when the British were in the dark days of WWII, Churchill said, “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
2. Public speakers have a lot of influence and those who have been called to be preachers or teachers within the Lord’s church need to be aware of that. James warns us in James 3:1 – “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”[NKJV]
3. It is also why Paul cautioned young Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 – “2. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
4. John warns us in 1 John 4:1 – “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”[KJV]
5. Teaching is a very responsible job at any time. Just as teachers in schools and universities will shape young minds, teaching within the Lord’s church will shape the maturing souls and we know that there are false teachers out there.
E. How do we know the difference between a teacher and false teacher? Again, if we allow the Bible to tell us we will find the answer.
1. John tells us there are at least two tests you can do and the first one is this: If they deny any gospel accounts or anything revealed within the gospel accounts concerning Jesus Christ, they are false teachers.
a. 1 John 4:2-3 – “2. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3. and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”[NKJV]
b. Any spirit (or person) who denies the facts revealed in the New Testament regarding the life of Christ is under satanic influence and is antichrist.
c. This would include those who deny the details of His birth to the virgin Mary; His miraculous ministry; His innocence; His death, burial, and bodily resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God.
2. The second test is this, is what they are teaching Bible based? 1 John 4:6 – and I paraphrase, “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”[para]
a. Remember that John was dealing with a particular problem that was developing.
b. As already indicated, there were those who denied that Jesus came in the flesh, but the Holy Spirit, being omniscient, looked across the centuries and saw the damage of false and novel doctrines that would develop from the wicked hearts of men.
c. Here John says that “we.” Who are the “we”? He’s referring to the inspired men who recorded the very message of the Holy Spirit and he says that those inspired men are of God.
d. The second test is simple, those who “know God” are those who demonstrate through their words and deeds that they are receiving their information from the only source of divine truth, and for us that is the Bible.
e. Those who “don’t know” God are those who don’t listen to Christ’s apostles and inspired teachers. These are the teachers who modify the scripture.
3. That’s one good reason why we need to get back to what people used to know us by, “the people of the Book.”
F. All of us need to be like the Bereans about whom Luke says in Acts 17:11 – “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”[KJV] They examined the Scriptures every day to see if the message was true or false.
IV. Paul has warned the Ephesian elders to watch out for false teachers, but he wasn’t finished with them just yet. Paul goes on and tells them in Acts 20:32-38 – “32. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. 33. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. 34. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. 36. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. 37. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, 38. Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.”
A. After kneeling with them in prayer, Paul with more tears in his eyes left their company.
B. Before he left, Paul recommended that the shepherds trust God and His word, which would help them grow stronger and inherit eternal life.
C. He reminded them how he worked with his own hands to support himself and did not covet anyone’s money.
D. He urged them to also labor to support themselves and help the weak, while reminding them that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
As I read those familiar words something struck me. Let me ask you, do you believe that? Do you believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive? How opposite are these words to the thoughts of people today where the purpose of living is in the “getting”.
There’s a story from many years ago that a benevolent doctor heard of a preacher who was sick, poor, and had a large family. That evening he gave a friend a sum of money, requesting him to deliver it in the most delicate manner, and as from an unknown person.
The friend said, "I will go see him early in the morning." The doctor then said, "Would you please do so today instead? Think of what importance a good night's rest may be to that poor man."
I was reading a poem the other day which I would like to share with you just before we finish. It’s called, ‘Let Me Give’.
I do not know how long I'll live
But while I live, Lord, let me give
Some comfort to someone in need
By smile or nod, kind word or deed.
And let me do what ever I can
To ease things for my fellow man.
I want naught but to do my part
To "lift" a tired or weary heart.
To change folks' frowns to smiles again.
Then I will not have lived in vain
And I'll not care how long I'll live
If I can give ... and give ... and give.
When we think of giving, we often only think of giving money. But giving money isn’t going help the man who has just lost his wife in an accident. Giving him of your time and a shoulder to cry on will. Giving money isn’t going to help the women whose husband has just walked out on her for someone else. Giving your time and understanding will. Giving money isn’t going help the child who’s just failed one of their exams at school but giving them encouragement to keep going will.
We all feel blessed when we receive encouraging messages but not nearly as blessed as we feel when we send one and receive a reply back saying ‘God bless you and thank you for thinking about me’.
It’s more blessed to give than to receive because genuine faith has learned to trust that God will meet all our needs.
It’s more blessed to give than to receive because genuine faith has learned to put other people first.
It’s more blessed to give than to receive because genuine faith has learned that giving really does bring happiness into someone else’s life.
It’s more blessed to give than to receive because genuine faith has learned that when you give, you’re giving on behalf of God.
Proverbs 21:25-26 – “The desire of the slothful kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare.” Paul gave everything he had to bless others, and we should be encouraged to think about what we can give to someone this week. Whether it is time,
money, food, or a shoulder to cry on. The greatest gift that we can give is sharing the gospel. We do not want to hear someone say on that day, you never mentioned Him to me.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Taken from sermon by Mike Glover
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