Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A life forfeit to God's grace - Acts 20

(read Acts 20)

Acts 20:22-24 (ESV)
22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul's made a lot of stops on this, his third missionary journey. Luke records many of the cities he visited, but very little of why he did in each one. Paul also gathers many followers during this tour of the ancient Roman world.

Paul says in this chapter that he suspects these will be his last visits. The churches that were planted from his first and second journeys have grown and multiplied. Paul's focus has changed from preaching to mentoring. He wants the new communities to thrive in his absence, so he gives more attention to building up and strengthening them, and multiplying himself in the people that are joining his party. The job of further reaching the neighbourhoods of Rome with the blessings of the Kingdom is now in the hands of these new communities. It is from these new communities that new people will be sent, as Paul was sent from Antioch. Paul has eternity in mind, not his own fame.

The cost of traveling and speaking has only increased for Paul. Instead of the complaints and anger fits demonstrated in his second mission because of the frustration of ministry, Paul now speaks patiently and soberly of the persecution he knows he will experience. Paul has fully counted the cost. The Paul of this journey has completely sold out for the cause of the Kingdom. His life is forfeit.

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave himself for me.

Paul's sermons are long. They are probably his final words in the ears of the people who hear him, so he has a lot to say. In one city, Troas, he stops for only seven days. With only seven days to say the last words he'd ever speak to these believers, he make the most of every moment he has. One young man does not have the endurance for Paul's long preaching, and falls out the window where he sat to listen. Luke, a doctor, records that the man died, yet at Paul's word, he comes back to life (vv8-12).

This miracle demonstrates two of the most common reasons for miracles in the book of Acts.
(1) Healing and deliverance miracles dismantle any walls or hindrances to people being able to receive the Kingdom.
(2) The miracles in Acts serve as a sign for unbelievers that the Kingdom of God is real. They strengthen the faith of those who already believe.

In Miletus, Paul calls elders from surrounding regions to come to him for final encouragements. He speaks his intentions plainly. He tells them that he knows his life is coming to an end, so that they may be prepared and not discouraged after his passing. He encourages them to keep the faith and serve the church sacrificially, after his example, as he followed Jesus' example.

Acts 20:29-32 (ESV)
29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul commits them ultimately to God. He is faithful to serve and speak to them as God leads, but he knows it is ultimately God's work to build God's Kingdom. The cost for Paul has been high, and it will be costly for those that remain after he has gone. But all that it costs has been paid by Jesus, and it is God's grace that will complete it.


v3 – Things are heating up. He’s starting to tread carefully.
v9 – Paul was long winded. “on and on” – hilarious.
v16 – Paul is also becoming well known, something of a celebrity, which also hinders his movement.
vv22-24 – see 2 Timothy
vv28-29 – see 1 Peter 5
Paul enters a new chapter of his life – imprisonment and writing rather than missionary travels.

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