|Vol. 16 No. 8 August 2014||
Gary C. Hampton
Paul wanted to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost, so he called for the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him at Miletus. He reminded them of the struggles he faced while in Asia. He had served the Lord with a humble attitude, even being moved to tears at times and surviving more than one Jewish plot against his life. Yet, he had faithfully declared the truth to them publicly, in the synagogue and the school of Tyrannus and teaching in one house, then another. His preaching extended to Jews as well as to Greeks regarding the need for repentance and faith.
The apostle told them he was compelled to go on to Jerusalem, despite knowing he would be arrested and trials would follow. Paul’s greatest concern was not for his safety but with completing the special ministry Jesus had given him, preaching the kingdom. He never expected to see the faces of those elders again. He called them to faithfully witness the content of his preaching at Ephesus. He had preached the whole truth, thus relieving himself of any responsibility for those who might have remained in sin.
He charged them to watch out for their own spiritual wellbeing, as well as watching out for every sheep in God’s flock at Ephesus. This was specifically because they had been given oversight, or made bishops, over the flock purchased with Jesus’ blood. False teachers, even from within the eldership, would draw away disciples, thus watchfulness was imperative. Paul urged the elders to remember his own watchful service of three years, during which he warned them day and night, even with crying.
Paul recommended that they trust God and His Word, which would help them grow stronger and inherit eternal life. He reminded them that he worked with his own hands to support himself and did not covet anyone’s money. He urged them to labor to support themselves and help the weak, while reminding them that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” After kneeling with them in prayer, Paul tearfully departed (Acts 20:13-38).
[Editor’s Note: Like the apostle Paul, every Christian today ought to make the Gospel come alive in his or her life, as well as be willing to provide an answer regarding true Christianity to all who will hear (Acts 8:4; 1 Peter 3:15). As the apostle charged the Ephesian elders, contemporary Christians need to watch out for each other, too (James 5:19-20; Galatians 6:1-2). We are not homesteaders on God’s green earth, but we Christians are pilgrims on the march to a city whose builder and maker is God. Let’s make the journey together and take as many along with us as we possibly can. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
I Wouldn’t Expect You to Understand
One of the sentries who stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns when Hurricane Isabel slammed the Atlantic coast in 2003 was later asked by a reporter why he didn’t seek shelter from the storm. The reporter asked a question about his “silly, purposeless, personal risk” to which the valiant soldier replied, “I wouldn’t expect you to understand. It’s an enlisted man’s thing.” “When practically every government employee in Washington was beating a hasty retreat to avoid the aftereffects of Hurricane Isabel, a small group of men decided their commitment to duty, honor and country was more important than personal safety or comfort” (Texarkana Gazette).
People around us, be it family, close friends or neighbors, often do not understand. They can’t understand our thought processes as our hearts are internally developing “the mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 2:16). They can’t understand the radically different way we approach life with new values and priorities. They can’t understand our calm in the midst of the storms of life. They can’t understand the peace and confidence with which we approach death (Psalm 23:4; Philippians 4:7). They can’t understand why we rise early on Sunday morning with our families to go to Sunday School and worship our Father above (John 4:23). They can’t understand why we return on Sunday evening for worship and fellowship with the saints. They can’t understand why we go to midweek Bible Study on Wednesday, or why we would assemble three or four week nights for an hour for a Gospel meeting. They can’t understand why we are watching vigilantly and busying ourselves in kingdom tasks (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:37).
What we understand is that our great, gracious, omnibenevolent Father, who gave us the greatest gift to redeem and free us from our sins and deliver us from eternal death, is worthy of far greater honor, glory and service than those men interred at the Tomb of the Unknowns. When others ask us about such “silly, purposeless inconvenience,” we simply reply, “I wouldn’t expect you to understand. It’s an enlisted man’s thing” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).