Dr. Luke, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, divides this chapter into four main sections: The first section (verses 1-6) takes us from Ephesus to Troas, the scene of Paul's ministry to the church there, and the raising of Eutychus, which is described in the second section (verses 7-12). The third section (verses 13-17) takes us from Troas down to Miletus, and finally our final section (verses 18-38) where Paul calls the Ephesian elders and gives them his parting words of instruction, exhortation and admonition. Paul's focus here is a call for ALL believers to grow in their faith and, in doing so, to "
step up and serve."
In terms of providing both a teaching op and life application for you here, let me suggest that you first take a look at how noted pastor and Bible commentator David Guzik broke down this chapter:
Study Guide for Acts 20
(Pastor David's commentaries are a great resource for your own studies and I use them regularly in my own teaching/preaching and writing).
Secondly, how are
you answering God's call to SERVE (aside for times of rest and growth, NONE of us are "called" to be "takers" and "pew warmers")? Brethren, we need to
step up! Yes, Paul tells us in
Ephesians 4:11-12 that, "...
He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ..." However, even if you're not called to be a pastor, God has still equipped
EVERY believer to serve in one capacity or other.
Teaching on this same chapter, Pastor Steven Cole shared about a cartoon that showed
a woman lying in her sick bed, obviously in misery. In the sink were stacked piles of dirty dishes. A huge basket of clothes to be ironed sat nearby. Two dirty children were fighting in one corner, and in the other a cat sat licking spilled milk. A smiling woman stood in the doorway and the caption had her saying, "Well, Florence, if there is anything I can do to help, don't hesitate to let me know."
What a picture of the local church and ministries (obvious needs). Being both a part of a new church plant and leading a national ministry, I can assure you that pastors, ministry leaders and staff are overwhelmed with work. More needy people cry out for our attention than we have time for. Our various ministries and programs consistently lack enough faithful workers (the word "ministry" or "minister" in the Greek is literally translated into English as "serve" or "servant"). At my church (
Truth Church Calvary
), Pastor Sam Park constantly reminds us that we are ALL to be "ushers and greeters." Moreover, at every church and ministry, visitors need a warm welcome; missions programs needs dedicated workers; church set-up and tear-down involves effort and frankly, some sweat; church safety is a MUST; etc. Yet sadly, even some who are involved seem to be committed only when it's convenient. Yet, like the cartoon Pastor Cole used to illustrate the problem, many continue to ask, "If there's anything I can do to help, let me know!" Folks,
I've now let you know
-- your help IS NEEDED, and God HAS called you to "
step up and serve
The fact is, God does not save us so we can sit, but so we can serve (we are not saved BY works, but we are saved FOR works). Just as there is no such thing as a non-functioning member of your human body, so there ought to be no such thing as a non-functioning member of the body of Christ. If God has saved you from your sin, He has called
you to share the Gospel with the lost and to serve Him and the body of believers in some way in accordance with the gifts and abilities He has given you.
Let's take a deeper look at verses 28 and 29 (aimed primarily at church pastors and elders, but with application for all believers):
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
The late pastor Ray Stedman correctly wrote that "the primary responsibility of an elder or pastor is to teach the Scriptures, to feed the flock. If he is not doing that, he is failing in his job, miserably. It is the truth that changes people. If the Scriptures are not being taught then people are not being changed. They are struggling in their own futile ways and nothing is being accomplished. So the primary job of elders and pastors is to set the whole counsel of God before the people." But this call also goes out to ALL true Christians in general: Husbands, are you "shepherding" your wife and kids (teaching them the Word, praying with them, protectecting them, [serving] by example)? Wives, are you teaching your children? Christian, are you discipling new or younger believers? Leading a Bible study? Earnestly praying for your pastors and ministry leaders in the face of extremely strong spiritual warfare? Actively stepping up to serve in the church or ministry?
NO, it is NOT "someone else's job!" It is YOUR job! Here's an example: Recently, a relatively new FCPO chapter was disbanded after the founder retired and left the state. Why? NONE of the other members of that chapter (whom this former chief had discipled) were willing to
step up and serve (LEAD)! Folks, that is pure disobedience to their call (and tragic on multiple levels), especially when the need is so very great.
As a new Christian, one of the greatest examples of what I'm talking about here was of retired cop-turned-chaplain and pastor Manny Hays and his late wife Angie serving together to clean our former church. I can still see Manny with a vacumn straped to his back and Angie with a rag and bottle of spray cleaner. What a powerful picture that was and is for me and ALL of us (and NO, just serving on "the job" in law enforcement is NOT fulfilling your biblical call to serve the body)!
Folks, the context here is that God will equip us...that He can and will "qualify the unqualified" if we will be earnestly seek Him and OBEY His calling(s) on your life (I'm living proof)! He alone is the source of any and all authority. Even the Lord Jesus operated on that basis. He said to his disciples on one occasion,
If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me...
(John 10:37). That is, if what I am doing is not in exact accord with what I am saying, then don't trust me!
Would you dare say that to your children? To your spouse? To your Sunday school class? To others who observe you as a Christian (especially in our God-ordained profession of law enforcement in which, sadly, true believers are few and far between and where many so-called "Christians" are "undercover" about their faith)?
Folks, God has a job(s) for YOU to do. Are you seeking Him for that call? It is the Holy Spirit who calls, sets us "in office" and will equip us with the right gifts if we will but humbly submit and obey. Will you do that? Will you be the radical servant and servant-leader God has called you to be?
In closing, understand the audience Dr. Luke is writing to in
Acts 20: believers (genuine Christians). God's call to serve the body is for those who have been truly born again in Christ. Is that you? Are you sure? If not, it is again with a "Code 3" (lights and siren) sense of urgency that I ask you to consider the following: