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Outline: Paul’s Farewell Message to the Ephesian Elders (Acts 20:18-38)

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1. Paul Summons the Elders of the Church in Ephesus

“Now from Miletus he (Paul) sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.”

2. Paul Presents His Life and Ministry As an Example for the Elders to Follow (Acts 20:18-21)

A. You Know My Life and Trials, v. 19

“…serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.”

(1) Serving with All Humility

(2) Serving with Tears

(3) Serving while Persecuted

B. You Know My In-Depth Method of Teaching and Evangelism, vv. 20-21

(1) Teaching, v. 20

“…teaching you in public and from house to house,”

(2) Testifying, v. 21

“...testifying… of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

3. Paul Declares His Total Dedication to the Gospel Mission (Acts 20:22-24)

4. Paul Relinquishes His Responsibility As Their Teacher and Leader, (Acts 20:25-27)

5. Paul Charges the Ephesian Elders to Guard the Church from Wolves (Acts 20:28)

  • Soul Care

“Pay careful attention to yourselves…”

“Those are not likely to be skillful or faithful keepers of the vineyards of others who do not keep their own.”
- Matthew Henry

Take heed to yourselves because the tempter will make his first and sharpest attack on you....  He knows what devastation he is likely to make among the rest if he can make the leaders fall before their eyes. He has long practiced fighting, neither against great nor small, comparatively, but against the shepherds--that he might scatter the flock....  Take heed, then, for the enemy has a special eye on you.  You are sure to have his most subtle insinuations, incessant solicitations and violent assaults.  Take heed to yourselves, lest he outwit you.  The devil is a greater scholar than you are, and a more nimble disputant....  And whenever he prevails against you, he will make you the instrument of your own ruin....  Do not allow him to use you as the Philistines used Samson--first to deprive you of your strength, then put out your eyes, and finally to make you the subject of his triumph and derision.
- Richard Baxter

“Error has many attractive faces by which even the most experienced may be beguiled.”
- Michael Green

  • All the Flock

“Pay careful attention…to all the flock”

  • The Elders’ Divine Placement by the Holy Spirit

“all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…”

(1) The Spirit’s sovereign will

(2) The immense value of the Church and the Cross of Jesus Christ

(3) The inevitable onslaught of false teachers

  • Made You Overseers

“… the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…”

The word “overseer” indicates supervision, protection, management, guarding, and care of the flock of God.

  • Overseers to Shepherd the Flock

“overseers, to care for the church of God…”

“To shepherd” means to govern the church of God, to provide leadership and guidance for the church, to teach and correct from God’s Word, and to provide protection from all dangers that threaten the life of the church.

  • The Church of God, which He Obtained with His Own Blood

“the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

“With this we touch the mainspring of all true defense and shepherding of the church: the cost at which God bought it.”
- David Gooding

Can you not hear [Christ] saying, “Did I die for these people, and will you then refuse to look after them?  Were they worth My blood, and are they not worth your labor?  Did I come down from Heaven to seek and to save that which was lost, and will you refuse to go next door, or to the next street or village to seek them?  How small is your labor or condescension compared to Mine!  I debased Myself to do this, but it is your honor to be so employed.  Have I done and suffered so much for their salvation, and will you refuse that little that lies upon your hands?”

Every time we look out upon our congregations, let us believingly remember that they are purchased by Christ’s blood, and that therefore they should be highly regarded by us.

- Richard Baxter

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
- Isaac Watts

6. Paul Warns the Elders That Fierce Wolves Are Coming from Without and from Within (Acts 20:29-31)

  • Fierce Wolves Are Coming

“I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”

2 Peter 2:1 – “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, brining upon themselves swift destruction.”

  • False Teachers from Within the Flock

“And from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things,

  • To Draw in Disciples after Them

“… fierce wolves will come in among you… to draw away the disciples after them.”

  • Be Alert

“Therefore be alert…”

  • Paul’s Personal Example of Vigilance

“… remembering that for three years I did not cease night and day to admonish everyone with tears.”

“Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders is remarkable for this, that his exhortation to defend the church of God occupies scarcely more than four verses; but the model he offers of how the defense should be conducted occupies at least thirteen.  The model he offers is of course himself and his behaviour towards the church during the years he was with them.”
- David Gooding

  • Admonished Everyone
  • Tears

Philippians 3:18 - “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ.”

  • Each One
  • Alertness, Watchfulness

7. Paul Entrusts the Elders to God and His Word (Acts 20:32)

A. Entrusted to God

“And now I commend you to God...”

Deuteronomy 8:15,16 – “He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint.  In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.”

Deuteronomy 2:7 – “For the Lord your God has blessed you...He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness.  These years the Lord your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.”

2 Corinthians 1:9 – “Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”

2 Corinthians 3:5 – “We are [not] adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”

B. Entrusted to the Word of His Grace

“I commend you... to the word of his grace,”

Deuteronomy 8:3b – “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”

    Here [Deut. 8] we have the only true, the only safe, the only happy attitude for man, namely, hanging in earnest dependence upon “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord...”  We may well say there is nothing like it in all this world.  It brings the soul into direct, living, personal contact with the Lord Himself....  It makes the Word so absolutely essential to us, in every thing; we cannot do without it.

    There is not a single crisis occurring in the entire history of the Church of God, not a single difficulty in the entire path of any individual believer, from beginning to end, which has not been perfectly provided for in the Bible.  We have all we want in that blessed volume, and hence we should be ever seeking to make ourselves more and more acquainted with what that volume contains, so as to be “thoroughly furnished” for whatever may arise, whether it be temptation of the devil, an allurement of the world, or a lust of the flesh; or, on the other hand, for equipment for that path of good works which God has afore prepared that we should walk in it.

    And it never fails those who simply cleave to it and confide in it.  We may trust Scripture without a single shade of misgiving.  Go to it when we will, we shall always find what we want...A few sentences of holy Scripture will pour in a flood of divine light upon the heart and conscience, and set us at perfect rest, answering every question, solving every difficulty, removing every doubt, chasing away every cloud, giving us to know the mind of God, putting an end to conflicting opinions by the one divinely competent authority.

    What a boon, therefore, is holy Scripture!  What a precious treasure we possess in the Word of God!  How we should bless His holy name for having given it to us!  Yes?  And bless Him, too, for everything that tends to make us more fully acquainted with the depth, fullness, and power of those words of our chapter, “Man shall not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”
- C. H. Mackintosh (1820-1896)

8. Paul States His Example of Selflessness, Hard Work, and Compassion (Acts 20:33-35)

A. Not Covetous

“I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.”

B. Hard Work

“You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.”

C. Help the Weak

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak.”

D. Generosity

“‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

9. Paul Bids the Elders Farewell (Acts 20:36-38)

“And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.”

1 Peter 5:4 – “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines