Monday, September 3, 2018

2018.09.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:16-24

Questions for Littles: Where couldn’t Paul visit, since he was in a hurry (v16-17)? What did he ask for their elders to do instead? What was the first thing that Paul reminded them about in v18? How had he served the Lord (v19)? How had many tears and trials happened to him? What did he keep back from them (v20)? What had he done instead? In what two settings did he teach them? To which groups of church members did he conduct such a ministry (v21)? What were the two primary things that he preached? Where is he going now (v22)? What has the Holy Spirit said awaits him there (v23)? What does he care about more than what happens to himself (v24)? What two things does he want to finish? With what attitude? And what is the ministry that he received, and from whom?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, Paul establish the top priority for the Ephesian church going forward: preaching and teaching ministry in public and from house to house.

How high a priority is this? Paul is in a great hurry to get to Jerusalem—such a hurry that he can’t spare the time to go into Ephesus. Instead, he sends word ahead, and the Ephesian elders come meet him on the coast. As the elders are on their way to Miletus, they (and we) are primed to expect something very important indeed.

This is only heightened, with Paul’s introduction about how they knew his devotion to the ministry, despite the many hardships that he faced. What was so important that he had them come out to them now? What was so important that he had been willing to suffer so many tears and trials.

The ministry of the Word. In public. And from house to house.

Notice the way he puts it: he had kept back nothing that was helpful. What is it that God uses to help us? The proclamation of the Word. This is what we need more than anything else. Preaching and teaching the Word must be our elders’ priority, and hearing and heeding that preaching and teaching must be our congregation’s priority.

Two more things to note, briefly, about this preaching ministry (1) its location: in public and from house to house; (2) its content: repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ.

In public+households is a simple recipe, but sadly not always followed. In fact, rather few churches in our time have this from-house-to-house pastoral ministry of the elders. One would think that the biblical term “shepherd” would be clear enough in implying that the elders need to be spending time out among and directing the sheep. Even so, here we have clear teaching that this ought to be so. Let us make this a priority for the kind of ministry that we seek from them!

Finally, repentance and faith both need to be preached. The whole of Scripture needs to be preached. The law needs to be preached—not just to unbelievers but to believers who need to know how to go about living unto God. But a ministry that only preaches this will lead people either into pride or despair over how they think they are doing.

The gospel, faith toward Jesus Christ, must also be preached: not only is He the only righteous standing we can ever have before God, but His life is also the only spiritual life that we can ever have for living unto our God who has saved us. Similarly, if this is the only thing that is preached, then we leave out much of Scripture. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that he had proclaimed both, that they must proclaim both, and so must we have both proclaimed.
Where do your elders pastor you? How are you responding to each type of preaching (repentance and faith)?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH175 “Your Law, O God, Is Our Delight”

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