Reading: Acts Chapter 20
By Pastor Jason
“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 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. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:22-27)
In Acts 20, Paul is speaking to the Ephesian Elders. He is explaining the primary responsibility of an elder or pastor is to teach the Scriptures, to feed the flock. If he is not doing that, he is failing in his job. It is the truth that changes people. Even more so, one who not only teaches, but also lives the truth. If the Scriptures are not being taught, then people are not being changed. They are struggling in their own futile ways and nothing is being accomplished. So, the primary job of elders and pastors is to set the whole counsel of God before the people.
Paul was “constrained by the Spirit” (Acts 20:22), therefore, he knew those he was speaking to would never see him again. What sadness and emotion must have filled his heart to hear this from the Holy Spirit: “that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:23). Nevertheless, no matter the affliction that may await, elders and pastors are to begin with themselves, says Paul. They are to obey the truth which they themselves learn. This is where their authority comes from. It is only as they are obedient to the truth which they teach that they have any right to say anything to anyone else. Even the Lord Jesus operated on that basis. He said to his disciples on one occasion, “If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me” (John 10:37). That is, if what I am doing is not in exact accord with what I am saying, then don't believe me!
Would you say that to your children? Or to your Sunday school class? Would you say that to others who observe you as a Christian? If what I am doing is not in line with what I teach, then don't believe me. I have no authority over you; I have no power over you. But if your actions are in accord with your teaching then power is inherent in that obedience.
So, these pastors and elders are to begin with themselves, obey, and teach the Word. Their responsibility is first to the Holy Spirit, not to the denomination, nor to the congregation. It is the Spirit who has set them in that office and has equipped them with gifts. This is why Paul could lovingly say, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26). He who reads the heart is judging their lives, so it does not make any difference what anybody else thinks. They are responsible to follow the Holy Spirit in what he has given them to do, which is to, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Notice how Paul emphasizes the fact that theirs is a very precious ministry. It is to feed the church of the Lord. Nothing is more precious to God in all the world than the people of Christ, the body of Christ. The most valuable thing on earth, in God's sight, is his church. He gave himself for it, he loves it earnestly, he purchased it with his own blood. Therefore, it has highest priority in his schedule and emphasis.
Paul did not take unnecessary risks in his witness as a Christian, but he never shied away from publicly declaring his faith in Jesus Christ. His goal was not to play it safe and protect himself. Instead, he lived to finish his spiritual race with joy, and to complete God’s task for him.
Paul’s obedience and courage challenges us to live for Christ with selfless abandon, not apprehension.
Do we need to reassess what is “the main thing” in both our walk and our talk? My prayer for us all is that we too can be “constrained by the Spirit” and receive this same revelation as the apostle Paul understood it!