We had a problem with recording the past couple of weeks but it now seems to be rectified – so we managed to record Andrew Robertson’s first sermon after his ordination on Friday. This is a tremendous sermon which teaches the Word of God in the context of today’s culture – what encouraged me was the look on the faces of a couple of teenagers who sat and listened transfixed. This is a great sermon to share with non-Christians and Christians alike.
Here is another song from St Peters – one of our favourite Psalms – Ps 62 – a real handraiser!
Because we were not able to record the morning sermon – where we ordained four new elders and two new deacons, in a packed church – I thought I would share with you my basic notes for that sermon from Acts 20. Please note that my practice is to write what I call 3/4 notes – with all the main points, quotes etc.
Acts 20:13-38 – “Pauls Charge to the Elders of St Peters”
St Peters – Ordination of four elders and two deacons – 3rd September 2017
1) Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
2) Joy to the World
3) Ps 66:1-9
4) Pour Out Your Spirit From on High
5) The Churches One Foundation
Reading: Acts 20:13-38
What is the church? When we use that word there are all kinds of images that come up. Some of you have had very negative experiences and are very wary. Others have no experience and wonder what is going on? The Free Church – aren’t you all black suits and misery? What about what we are doing today – ordaining elders and deacons? What does it mean? Why is it important? Lets turn to the Word of God to see why. We come into the story where Paul is heading to Jerusalem – just after raising a young man from the dead who had fallen asleep during one of this sermons – lets read Acts 20:13-38
Farewells are difficult. They are upset when Paul says he is leaving and they will never see his face again.
Why bother with the church? Do you want to know what the church is like? Look at the leadership – they are to reflect Christ.
“Do you accept the office of an elder, Deacon of this congregation and promise, through grace, faithfully, diligently, and cheerfully, to discharge all the duties thereof?”
John Owen – The ministry of the church “are not appointed to be lords of their faith, but helpers of their joy”
First of all we are told the background of Paul’s journey.
from Miletus sends for the elders in Ephesus – as the crow flies only about 30 miles, but a much more circuitous road. It probably took about three days for them to arrive.
This is an unusual speech because it’s the only one we have on record of Paul addressing people who are already Christians.
Pauls Example – v.18-21
note that it is an example of service. Not status. The days are largely gone in Scotland when being an elder was considered some kind of social status.
Lifestyle – 18 – he is saying you know how I have lived. Because there was a vicious smear campaign against him from Thessalonica. Brothers and sisters there is always going to be trouble and fighting within the Christian church. They’ll know we are Christians by our love!
Character –19 – humility. How can you talk about humility – especially your own? Humility is not thinking little of ourselves – it is not thinking of ourselves at all! Paul wants them to see Christ not him. SCrewtape letters where Screwtape tells Wormwood. “I see only one thing to do at the moment. Your patient has become humble. Have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them. But this is especially true of humility. You must, therefore, conceal from the patient, the true end of humility. Let him think of it, not as self forgetfulness, but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt, they are less valuable than he believes. But that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth. Thus, introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method, thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe that they are ugly, and clever men trying to believe they are fools. The enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact without being any more or less or otherwise glad at having done it, that he would be if it had been done by another. The enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents.” Paul was concerned that Christ was preached….
Passion Matters – v. 19 – tears. Return to this.
Perseverance – v. 19 – Severe testing – there will be great opposition…you will notice the theme in Paul how he is determined to finish his course. I run the race I have kept the faith. What you are beginning here today is something that is very serious and must last. You are not like a football player being signed for a 10 month trial. You don’t retire from Christian work!
Doctrine Matters – v.20-21 – he taught publicly at the University at the lecture hall of Tyrannus and from house to house. He did not hesitate to teach anything that was the will of God even though that may not have been welcomed by his hearers.
Evangelism – v.21 – To Jews and Greeks – he ministered beyond his comfort zone. You don’t just gather around you a group of people you like.
Pauls Energy v.22-25
By this we really mean motivation. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Gods energy working in me? What Scripture?
The Spirit 22 – Paul struggled with guidance as well. He was warned about the hardships that would come – but he did know exactly what was going to happen. The elders were called by the Holy Spirit – this does not mean that there was a prophetic utterance which identified them – like our own elders! Rather that they were manifestly seen as men on whom the Holy Spirit had bestowed the relevant qualifications for the work.
Christ – v.23 – here we come back to the humility. This ministry is not about Paul it’s about Christ. He was not in the business of building a great name for himself. Far too many ministries are about empire building and looking after our own interests
God the Father – v. v.24 The gospel is the Gospel of his grace. The Gospel is Trinitarian. The Father, Son and Spirit working together for our salvation.
Pauls Exhortation – v.28-35
having proclaimed the whole of God he now exhorts the overseers, the elders, bishops. The church did not have the hierarchical structure that both the Anglican and the Catholic Churches now do – there was a plurality of leadership – the notion of pastoral teams is not one that has been invented in the 21st-century – it is one that comes direct from the New Testament.
There is equality. There should not be such a thing as Presbyterian popes! Christ is the head of the church and he governs it through his word and Spirit. This is not to say that the elders and deacons are not important – it is to say that they are under Shepherds -Following the one Shepherd!
He addresses them with the most passionate exhortation – when he says that he is innocent of the blood of any of them, he is reflecting the teaching of Ezekiel, that there is a judgement coming and they will be found guilty if they do not heed his warning, just as he would have been found guilty if he had not given a warning.
Watch- over yourselves you cannot look after others if you do not watch out for your own soul. 1 Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will savea both yourself and your hearers. Tozer – “do you know who gives me the most trouble? Do you know who I pray for the most in my pastoral work? Just myself.”
Shepherd – tend, feed and protect. The term Paul uses here is Guardian. You need to know. Richard Baxter – The Reformed Pastor – “it is you see, all the flock, or every individual member of our charge. To this end it is necessary, we should know every person that belongs to our charge; for how can we take heed to them, if we do not know them? Does not a careful Shepherd look after every individual sheep? A good schoolmaster after every individual student? A good physician after every particular patient? Paul taught his hearers not only publicly but from house to house and in another place he tells us that he warned everyone, and taught everyone, in all wisdom, that he might present everyone perfect in Christ Jesus. Many other passages of Scripture make it evident that it is our duty to take heed to every individual or flock.”
Value – the church this is the Church of God which he bought with his own blood. Look around you. This is how we are to see one another – to regard one another. Richard Baxter – The Reformed Pastor – “ oh then, let us hear these arguments of Christ, whenever we feel ourselves grow dull and careless: “did I die for them, and will you not look after them? Were they worth my blood and are they not worth your labour? Did I come down from heaven to earth, to seek and to save that which was lost; will you not go to the next door, street or village to seek them? How small is your labour and condescension compared with mine? I debase myself to this, it is your honour to be so employed. Have I suffered so much for their salvation; was I willing to make you a co-worker with me, and will you refuse the little that lies upon your hands?”
Notice that you are always bringing people to the Cross. That is the centre of our ministry. We preach Christ crucified. The atoning blood of Christ that cleanses from all sin.
Protect – Watch out for the savage wolves wolves were the chief enemies of sheep sometimes individually, sometimes in they hunted in packs – they were a constant danger to sheep in the Middle East . What is incredible here is that some of these would come from their own number.
Build up – we are to share together in the inheritance of God’s kingdom – notice again the emphasis on the word – the word of God’s grace. We do not stand over the word – we stand under it. This is how we build up.
Be Content – Paul had a right to earn an income, but in Ephesus he did not use that right. he cites the words of Jesus – these are words that are not recorded in the Gospels. The act of giving is itself a blessing.
Work hard Paul had just been at Troas where the young man Eutychus fellfrom the third floor to his death and then was raised from the dead. Paul continues to speak until daybreak – a witness to the priority of the world. Then he set off on this journey. He did not shy away from hard work.. 1 Thessalonians 5 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idlea and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak,b be patient with everyone.
Pauls Emotion – v.36-38
Weeping – v. 31 and v. 19 there are many tears in this work. Ministry in the church ought always to be like this. We share the joy and the sorrows of our people.
Prayer v. 36 He knelt and prayed with all of them. The best thing you will ever do for your people.
Love – v.38 Kissing – a display of affection. Elders don’t be cold. even with the prospect of eternity together, there is no doubt that farewells on earth are difficult.
What a Community! It’s a community of grace see verse 24. The task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace
“To the angela of the church in Ephesusa write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right handb and walks among the seven golden lampstands.c
2 I know your deeds,a your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have testedb those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.c
3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name,a and have not grown weary.
Rev. 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.a
5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repenta and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstandb from its place.
6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans,a which I also hate.
We exist to proclaim the whole will of God. We are not here for ourselves. We are not here on a power trip. We are not building our own wee empires! We are here to take care of the flock of God, to proclaim the whole will of God.
Derek Thomas – “this is a passage that speaks to the need for elders and ministers of the church who will pastor the flock, imitating not just the apostle Paul, but the Lord Jesus himself. Ultimately, it is a call to be ready to die for the flock of Jesus Christ. It is a call to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Christ’s body, the church. Are you praying for elders of this quality? As an elder, are you demonstrating this kind of love and sacrifice? This passage is a challenge that will continually make us run to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and help.”
Not Lords of your faith, but helpers of your joy….
You can’t have that joy unless you come to Christ first.