In our last time, we saw how Paul addressed a Christian audience – this was the only speech he gave to this kind of audience. Commentators have mentioned that this was probably Paul’s Last Will and Testament.
He reminded them that he’d served with humility and tears, he’d been severely tested, but had not hesitated to proclaim to them the gospel – he proclaimed to Jews and Gentiles – “you must repent and turn to Christ” – his key message.
v.22 – “and now, compelled by the Spirit, I go to Jerusalem – don’t know what will happen, but in every city, the Spirit warns me that prison and hardship await me – but I consider nothing valuable except that I can finish the race well and testify to God’s grace.”
We don’t know when he started receiving these messages from the Spirit, but it must have been some time earlier. During his third missionary tour, Romans 15:31 – “Pray that I may be kept safe…and that the contribution I take may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there.” So this is a hint he may have known something was coming.
v. 24 – he is determined to “finish the race” and go on to Jerusalem despite the dangers.
Paul in this instance is the sun setting, Timothy, the sun rising
2 Timothy 4:7 – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Metaphor of fight, struggle, victory.
1 Cor 9:24-27 ‘Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who goes into the games goes into strict training – for a crown that will fade. But we do it for a crown that will never fade. Therefore, I’m not doing this for nothing, I beat my body, make it my slave, so that in the end I will not be disqualified for the prize.’
Athletes know (even we know) what it’s like to train, get into shape.
Chariots of Fire – Best Picture 1981 – Eric Little, 1924 Olympics, he went on to be a missionary in China – rugby player at first, moved on to running, won a tremendous victory in Paris for England.
The story shows the trial of his faith, he’d vowed not to run on a Sunday – found that he’d been picked to run on a Sunday. So he went to the leaders and said he couldn’t run Sunday. The Lord honored that, because another runner who’d already won, bowed out of a race, so that he could run, and he won!
Rocky – the boxer (not terribly good) who always rises to fight again
I went into revelation and set out to preach the gospel to the leaders (privately) for fear that I was running (had run) in vain.
Phil 3:12-14 (10) “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, sharing his sufferings, his death, to somehow obtain resurrection with him – not that I’ve already obtained it, but I press on to take hold of it, since Christ took hold of me – press on, forgetting what is behind, to win the prize that God has called me heavenward for.”
So in Acts 20:24, here is the goal of Paul’s task – testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Paul HAD been responsible for persecuting the church and helping murder Christians – so he could have been in despair for his past sins, but instead, he pressed on, looked forward to the prize, tried to strain and work hard, enjoyed God’s grace.
God’s purpose in Paul was to show how he’d transformed him dramatically – from murderer to very much like Jesus.
2 Cor – “we are hard-pressed on every side, struck down but not destroyed – we always carry around in us the death of Jesus, so that we can reveal his life in us. We always die, so that he can live in us.”
Phil 1:19-21 “For I know that through your prayers and help, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance – I pray for courage so that Christ will be exalted in my body – I don’t care of life or death – just that Christ would be glorified in my life.”
Paul used the protection of the Roman govt and other means to escape death – not to avoid death – but to continue preaching.
“He who runs away, lives to fight (preach) another day.”
Paul’s final journey to Jerusalem is similar to Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem.
Luke emphasizes common elements.
Both were preceded by suffering.
(Paul didn’t die in Jerusalem – but many elements are similar)
Both were prophecied (predicted)
Both suffered a conspiracy by the Jews there.
They hoped to catch Jesus in something he did – to hand him over to the governor – “Jesus, should we pay taxes???”
If he said “yes” Jews won’t like it.
If he said “no” Romans won’t like it.
“Show me a coin. Who’s image is that? Give it back to him, it’s his! Give to God what’s his!”
The Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves not to eat or drink until they’d killed Paul – 40 men were involved.
The Sanhedrin and others wanted more accurate info on his case, and wanted to kill him even before he arrived – but info leaked out and he escaped.
Guess those guys had a long diet…
Jesus before Pilate
He opposes payment of taxes (lie)
He claims to be a King (truth)
Paul was also handed over to the Gentiles
The whole city was roused and dragged him from the temple and the gates were shut. The whole city was in an uproar, the Romans came and bound him.
Jesus = a defense?
In both cases, the people said, “Get rid of him!” And in both cases, the men were declared “innocent” by the Romans.
Luke was intrigued by the similarities, and through his writing, attempted to show this as well.
Jesus mourned for Jerusalem as the city that killed prophets – he was killed. And Paul was also captured.
Only about 10 years after these things were written, there was a war with the Romans and the temple was destroyed.
Paul was (here) bidding farewell to the elders – he knew he would never be back. If he wasn’t captured, he’d proceed onward with a fourth missionary journey. So, he justified his ministry, that he’d warned and admonished others to repent, turn, keep watch over their own spirit condition, shepherd the flock well.
“Be shepherds of the church of God which he’s bought with his own blood.”
OR “Be shepherds of the church of God which he’s bought with the blood of his Own.”
(God is Spirit – has no blood – but the blood of Jesus makes atonement for sin.)
The overseers must nurture and feed the flock with good spiritual food, providing care, it’s a metaphorical flock.
Ps. 100:3 “Know that the Lord is God, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”
Jesus is saying “don’t worry, you’re so much more valuable than all these things on earth that God provides for.”
Jehovah Jirah – he provides all things to all men everywhere.
The imagery of the watchmen is reflected in Ezekiel 33
(Watchmen = if you go and see the danger, and warn them, their blood is on their own heads / if you go and see the danger, and DON’T warn them, their blood is on YOUR hands)
So, Paul says, “I’ve warned everyone – I’m innocent of all blood.”
Paul also warned of the wolves who would try to eat the flock.
He looked toward the future and painted a sorrowful picture of the church “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come and distort the truth, and draw away others after them.”
These things happened even in Paul’s lifetime – 1 Timothy 1:3-5 “As I urged you, stay in Ephesus, so that you can tell them NOT to teach myths, endless genealogies, etc, the command of this goal is love, which comes from a sincere faith.”
1 Timothy 4:1-3 “In latter times, some will depart from the faith, giving heed to doctrines of demons.”
2 Timothy 1 “All those in Asia have turned away from me.”
Wow – he’d preached in all of Asia and only a generation later, they’d become loveless
Rev. 2:4-5 Commended them for their work, “Nevertheless, I have this against you, you’ve rejected your first love. So turn back, repent, or I’ll come and remove your lamp stand.”
We all, when first forgiven, feel loved, and love Him, but after a while, we may forget, so we’re urged to return to it.
Apostasy ran rampant through Asia – even likely as Luke wrote Acts. Luke wrote in this way to give comfort to those who would be dismayed at the apostasy.
Yet, Paul concludes his speech with a blessing, his commitment to the elders was total, he’d not desired or coveted anything – he wasn’t a “prosperity preacher.” He commends them to have that same spirit.
Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The spirit of that pervades the New Testament (though those exact words of his are not recorded elsewhere – but much Jesus said wasn’t recorded).
LOTR – departing scene, Frodo isn’t going to be with them any longer. So, these war-hardened Hobbits cried realizing they would never see him again.
Same story here, tough guys weeping that they won’t see Paul again.
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
But for the Christian, it isn’t permanent.
Christmas is coming, “more blessed to give than receive.” Remember that.