The Book of Acts: Chapter 20 (pt 12 of 15)

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Once again, Paul compares his ministry with those who will arise in Ephesus as false teachers. These men would try to develop allegiance to themselves by tailoring their message and their methods to suit the whims of their followers.

“For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things [and this is certainly happening today . . . if you have gathered you stable of preachers, you better open the stable doors a little and listen to other preachers]. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths” —II Timothy 4:3-4

Paul knows that God’s will for his life will prevent him from seeing the faces of these beloved men and of the sheep under their care. Instead of trying to create an undue devotion to himself, Paul turns these devote believers to what will sustain them—the Word of God. He entrusts them to God, and to the gospel, the “message of His grace.” It’s God’s Word that Paul preached, resulting in their salvation. It’s God’s Word—all of it—that Paul taught them to protect and to sustain them. It’s God’s Word that will build them up (bring them to maturity). It’s God’s Word that will bring about an eternal inheritance among those who are sanctified.

The sufficiency of the Scriptures is also Peter’s theme as he shares these final words in his second letter:

“Therefore, I intend to remind you constantly of these things even though you know them and are well established in the truth that you now have. Indeed, as long as I am in this tabernacle, I consider it right to stir you up by way of a reminder, since I know that my tabernacle will soon be removed, because our Lord Jesus Christ revealed this to me.

“Indeed, I will also make every effort that, after my departure, you have a testimony of these things. For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were eyewitnesses of his grandeur. For he received honor and glory from God the Father, when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory: ‘his is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted.’ When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God—II Peter 1:12-21

What amazing revelations are in those few verses! Even though they knew the Word of God—in fact, they were well established in the Truth—Peter is inspired to “stir them up” with a reminder. In a study I posted online recently, I showed how Elijah and Jeremiah were really downcast so much so, they wanted to die. Ever been there? But how did the Lord deal with them? Did he strike them with a bolt of lightning to get their attention? No, the Lord understood their condition and pointed them to their way out. In the midst of their afflictions the Holy Spirit turned on the light for them.

Consider Jeremiah’s testimony: “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty” (Jeremiah 15:16). “The word of the Lord came to [Elijah]” (I Kings 19:9). At some point, each of them remembered God’s Word. And it became the joy and delight of their lives, which pulled them out of the pit.

The truth is, the whole time these people were struggling, the Lord was sitting by, waiting. He heard their cries, their anguish and all they had to do was again, go to His Word.

I have been obsessed with God’s Word ever since I’ve met him back in 1979. I love the Scriptures. I have been reading them and studying them for almost 32 years . . . but even I need to be reminded of God’s Word. If you haven’t discovered Brian Kinnett, look for him. Each morning he sends out messages from his Facebook group: Living Like Jesus. I encourage you to find it and join to receive the messages; look for my dear friend Miles T. Fitzpatrick and asked to be “tagged” on his messages; hook up with my friend Lyle Dorr. He doesn’t send out daily messages, but he is a brother with great wisdom. He used to call me his Pastor, but he was more a dear friend to me.  Seek out men who will “stir you up” with reminders of God’s Word. Let his Word be your guide and comfort.

Regarding Paul, there is one more thing I should point out before pressing on. Notice the way Paul describes the church at Ephesus. It is “the church of God,” the “flock” which God purchased at the cost of the blood of His Son. Elders need to be reminded that their leadership role isn’t a matter of their seeking and striving, but a matter of divine appointment. It is the Holy Spirit who has made them overseers. The church doesn’t belong to the elders (plural), and not to any one elder. These are the sheep of God’s flock, which they have been appointed to serve as shepherds. John R.W. Stott cites these words from Richard Baxter, which applies the fact that the church was purchased by the shed blood of God’s precious Son:

“Oh then, let us hear these arguments of Christ, whenever we feel ourselves grow dull and careless: ‘Did I die for them, and wilt not thou look after them? Were they worth my blood and are they not worth thy labour? Did I come down from heaven to earth, to seek and to save that which was lost; and wilt thou not go to the next door or street or village to seek them? How small is thy labour and condescension as to mine? I debased myself to this, but it is thy honour to be so employed. Have I done and suffered so much for their salvation; and was I willing to make thee a co-worker with me, and wilt thou refuse that little that lieth upon thy hands?’” (Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor)

That is worth pondering . . .

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