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God's Appointment Fulfilled

Acts 20:17-21
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: 'You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (NIVUK)

When the Lord Jesus commissioned Paul, he was sent to preach the gospel to Gentiles, their kings, and the Jews; and to suffer (Acts 9:15-16). Coming towards the end of his third missionary journey, Paul had accomplished much of that – except direct witnessing to kings. That was to come after his arrest in Jerusalem. But this quayside meeting with the Ephesian elders marks the end of Paul's remarkable ministry of direct evangelism.

The apostle is not boasting. He simply affirmed that, unlike the travelling philosophers and religionists, he had no self-interest. He did not want to get anything from the converts; he just wanted to give to them what Christ Jesus had given to him. He was willing to pay the price of any suffering so that the message entrusted to him might travel freely to people who would otherwise never know.

Paul reminded them of his ministry methods. It started with a humble heart: he had nothing to give except what he had received from the Lord. His was not a professional job: he was fully immersed in gospel mission as shown by his tears. He was not a 'fair weather sailor': he persisted despite serious opposition. His preaching was both doctrinal and had practical application; and he taught in the public square, the meetings of the church and instructed families in their homes. Paul's objective was that people would repent of rebelling against the truth, which is in Jesus, and put their trust in Him.

Paul's ministry methods are just as important today. There is great joy in seeing God's hand at work, but suffering is also a normal part of ministry. So too is perseverance and the willingness to give yourself, whatever it may cost, and to preach the gospel and call people to repentance. If every believer, and certainly every minister, can honestly say what Paul said to the Ephesian elders, the church will surely grow in numbers and maturity. But if churches fail to love people sacrificially, or teach the gospel truthfully or call for repentance, then Christ's words in Revelation 2:1-5 should come as a serious warning.

Gracious God. Thank You for every good and perfect gift I receive from Your heart of love. Forgive me for being more interested in myself than in those You have sent me to serve and for my reluctance to persist when opposition comes. Please help me to love humbly, to speak truthfully and courageously to call people to put their trust in Jesus. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams