Friday, January 16, 2015

Acts 20:17-36 Paul’s Missionary Zeal and Example

Acts 20:17-36 Paul’s Missionary Zeal and Example
Paul asks the elders of the church at Ephesus to gather one last time with him, and he gives an incredibly moving, heart-felt farewell speech.  Throughout the speech, Paul’s devotion to Christ, the community of believers, and mission are inspiring and give all believers a saintly example of true devotion to the gospel message, a message that we can carry into the simple, everyday spaces of our lives.
In verse 19, Paul makes a statement that models the humility to which all Christians should strive. Paul’s life example is to “[serve] the Lord with all humility and with tears, [and endure] the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews.” Paul, no matter what the obstacle, follows the will of God and serves Christ and community.  This model of discipleship is something all followers of Christ need to emulate.
In verse 24, Paul displays raw humility, a humility that we see modeled in the life of Christ.  Paul states, “But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.” Putting ourselves last and others first is a clear message in the gospels and modeled in the life of our Lord. Paul lives this message, too, for in verse 23, he acknowledges the dangers, divulged by the Holy Spirit, that lie ahead for him in Jerusalem.  This, however, does not deter Paul from his mission.   Suffering for the gospel and bringing the message of God’s grace to others strengthens Paul.
In verses 29-30, Paul warns the Ephesian elders about the threats to the gospel message from the “savage wolves” of non-believers and Judaizers. He further states that “some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them.” Paul reminds the community to be on the watch for false teachers, distorted messages, and to never forget the love and formation he shared with the community over the past three years.
At the end of the passage, Paul reminds the Ephesian elders to love others by not only preserving and teaching the gospel message, but by supporting the weak and destitute: “In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (verse 35).  Paul's life after his conversion at Damascus, was one of service to Jesus Christ and to others, no matter the circumstance. 
In essence, Paul sets the saintly example for us.  We, too, need this missionary zeal in all that we do for Christ and our neighbor.  We may not be, like Paul, traversing the world to spread the good news, but we serve Christ right where we are, in the common spaces of our everyday duties.  Our declaration of the Good News can come in the form of a smile, an attentive ear to others joys and complaints, or act of denying ourselves some comfort for the benefit of someone else.  Living the gospel can be deceptive in its simplicity; instead, many think it comes in dramatic form only. The opposite is true, though, and living the simple gospel message through small acts of loving-kindness is where we either most easily fail or succeed.  I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ grant us the peace and love of His grace so that we, too, can “[serve] the Lord with all humility.”