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Paul and the Ephesian Elders

May 2, 2018

“How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house,” (Acts 20:21, NASB).

In Acts 20, we read about Paul’s farewell meeting with the elders at Ephesus. We should understand that the things Paul says here are those things he feels most important for the Church. Let’s examine what some of those things are.

First, we read the verse above. Here we see that Paul exclaims that he was willing to tell people anything that they needed to hear in order to grow. The language he uses is intriguing. He says that he did not, “shrink” from declaring to the people those needful things. Is this not an apt picture of why we often do not say what we think may need to be said? We shrink from it. We retreat to our corner, being afraid of offending, or being afraid of being rejected. Paul recognized that key to the work of God was telling people what they needed to hear. In Leviticus 19, we read an interesting contrast: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him,” (Lev. 19:17, ESV). Moses sets in contrast the idea of hating someone, and the reasoning frankly with them. If we love someone, we will want to tell them what they may need to hear. If we hate someone, we will not reprove them and will allow them to continue on into destruction. We must pray for the power of the Spirit to not shrink from saying anything that is profitable to our friends and fellow believers.

Second, Paul says, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God,” (Acts 20:27, NASB). Sometimes, certain portions of Scripture, or certain doctrines, are difficult and offensive. It can be easy to avoid talking about those things out of an unhealthy fear of what people may think. Paul pushed past this fear and spoke everything contained in the Scriptures. He was not intimidated by difficult concepts and controversial truths. The whole purpose of God was needful for the Church, so he taught the whole purpose of God.

Third, Paul warns them that false teachers will arise and attempt to drag believers away after themselves (Acts 20:29-32). There is a connection between Paul’s declaration that he did not shrink from teaching anything profitable, and did not shrink from teaching the whole purpose of God, and his exhortation about false teaching. If we are not reproved where we need to be reproved, or if we only understand a few disparate doctrines of Scripture, how will we stand when false teaching attacks the Church? How is it that even leaders in the Church start to assert false doctrines? It is because someone did not tell them everything that they needed to hear, and they were not familiar with the whole purpose of God. Because of this, false teaching was presented and it was wrongfully believed.

If we want to avoid being led astray, we must love to be corrected and even reproved. We must not get angry if someone tells us we are going astray. We must recognize that they are telling us because they love us. If they hated us, they would simply let us go our way. Why then do we get offended if someone tries to correct us? This should not be the case. We also must pray that God produce in us a love for the whole purpose of God. We must love the Word of God so much that we rejoice in learning the various aspects of its teachings. It is only in this way that we will be strong enough to stand against the false teachers that make their way into, and come from, the Church. May God grant us these things.

From → Theology

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