Sermon Notes: From Acts 20


Paul, having made himself sufficiently clear to his hearers at Ephesus to be near to being slaughtered, this apostle, so diligently diplomatic as to be described as one who set the world upside down (at Thessalonica, Acts 17:6), made the principles clear to the elders. Specially these had been called from the nearby Church in Ephesus, a city in which there had been a pandemonium about their goddess, because of the clarity of Paul's teaching.

In his earlier missionary tour into Greece, he  had needed to leave Thessalonica at night, such was the commotion, just as in Philippi before that, he had been put in prison, only to be delivered by an earthquake, which not only loosed him from bonds, but at length, his gaoler from the guilt of sin. That came when this officer was converted after Paul had acted as NOT OF THIS WORLD, in kindness and responsibility (Acts 16). Overcome, the man asked, What must I do to be saved! Paul told him, and saved he was. Persecution there was; but In all these places,  churches arose with strength!  On this occasion,  then, cited in Acts 20, he met with elders from areas about Ephesus,  at Miletus.

How did the apostle get there ? After the ministry at Ephesus, Paul had returned to Greece, and it was on his return from that mission work that he came to Miletus, after meeting with brethren at Troas, who as we learn from Acts 20, "came together to break bread."

When did they do this ? It was on "the first day of the week", just as the Corinthians took up their offerings on that self-same day (I Cor. 16), just as Christ gave peace on that very day, and Thomas came to the next gathering on the same day, and Pentecost occurred on the same triumphant day which of necessity was the R-day for resurrection-day of Christ, the greatest expression of love and power jointly, ever made!

It is of course the New Testament day of rest, and wise are they who rest in the Lord on His day, not occupied with normal necessities. It is a horror that Seventh Day Adventists so slight both the Bible and its Lord in this area.

Paul however had been unexceptionable with the Ephesians. He pointed out how he had been "serving the Lord with all humility, with many tear and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews" and how to them he had "kept back nothing that was helpful," and "taught you publicly and from house to house." He testified to Jew and Gentile "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Here was the climax of millenia, the Gospel of the grace of God with its own day of rest, its own day  of resurrection, its own Messiah, gloriously fulfilling what was old, and putting new wine in new wineskins. Paul preached with no little enthusiasm and skill, but with an awesome sense of responsibility, which did nothing to reduce his concern and kindness, as this culmination of the Ages was broadcast to mankind (cf. Titus 2-3).

. This personal example, which he set,  was intended to help them to be clear, unambiguous, unequivocal, to say what they meant, mean what they said and having faith, both to look like it and act like it, in word and in deed.  



As he rehearsed his challenge and doctrine, Paul intimated this: he was going to Jerusalem as one bound in spirit. He was quite well aware that this was what God wanted of him, and again, blessed are those who are NOT vague, but as needed, know what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:17, cf. Psalm 32, Acts 16, 13).

It was in fact to lead to his imprisonment, going to Rome under guard, becoming most notable in the imperial centre, and indeed, it was to those at Rome to which he had addressed his most famous epistle, that to the Romans.

Here then was a hinge in the door of open opportunity for Paul, though it was little short of amazing how the Lord worked these great things. A prisoner apostle to penetrate to the heights of Rome! But then, God is highly original, and it is best to wait on Him VERY CLOSELY (Psalm 27:14).

In fact, Paul EVEN KNEW that in going to Jerusalem as called by the Spirit of God within Him, the Spirit of Christ (Acts 20:23), "chains and tribulation await me." How is that for prosperity Christianity! He CHOSE to follow the Lord INTO both chains and tribulation. He was not secretly seeking vast returns on capital, elevation, acclaim or prosperity, except this last in one thing, getting the job done in the love of Christ. Why, it is the exact opposite of that foolish doctrine of material prosperity! (cf. James 4:4).

As to those at Ephesus, in summary, Paul declared this: "I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God." There is no question of leaving things to later!

He enjoined the elders therefore to "take heed to yourselves", to be diligent, to be watchful, to be alert, to be conscientious as he had been, to omit nothing, to secure the safety of the flock and to teach and preach diligently, as their gifts lay.



What made this the more urgent was a very practical fact, and it applies today even more than it did then (Jeremiah 23:2021, Matthew 24:24, II Peter 2:1ff.).

The special call for watchfulness was like one from a helicopter which had spotted submarines in the vicinity of an aircraft carrier. WOLVES, in this case (you even have a 'wolf pack' with submarines) were about to attack: that is, unspiritual people of subtlety and underlying ferocity, without heart, scavengers and assailants spiritually. These would disturb their peace and eat their lambs unless they showed watchfulness and diligence.

This is PRECISELY what is not now being shown in multiplied 'churches' which alas are in many cases becoming almost farcical in their treachery and false teaching, as if clowning their parts for amusement; though in fact, their conduct is deadly, moribund, mortal! The falling away foretold (II Thess. 2) is NOW so gross that it is almost the case that one looks ODD if one is not fallen! Churches that stand are now becoming so suave and sophisticated in their use


of ALPHA, the congregation with unbelievers fellowship mode
(Hapless Hitches and Holy Healings Ch. 3),


of the WCC, that erratic post-Christian array (cf. SMR pp. 743ff.),


of the United Religions Movement (News 121),


of theTemple of Understanding (, and


of the palsiness with the papacy (SMR pp. 911ff., 1032-1088H),

and with almost any other idolatry or heresy, that simple faith in the Lord's Christ (Luke 2:26) according to the Lord's Book is becoming much more rarefied in many nations. It is growing harder to find, like pure water on the planet, as seas and rivers pollute, lakes are affronted and water levels drop. Men are trying to unite the disparate, talk out the true, relativise the absolute, combine contradictories, and hence devalue realities and act in despite of the Bible, the only divinely authorised communication of God to man (cf. SMR, Reason, Revelation and the Redeemer, Light Dwells with the Lord's Christ, Design and Deity ...).

However, the Bible will not expand to include them, nor will the narrow path become a highway for them (cf. Highway to Hell, Aviary of Idolatry). In fact, a recent article in the Vol. 2, 2008 Journal of Creation exposes the fact that so far from leading on to greater things, mutations which are many, though small, in man, are deteriorative in overall resultant,  and the progress is in fact regress towards an ultimate extinction.

Far faster, however, than this is the downgrading that comes from wilful deterioration, not of genes but of morals, worship and society, and step by step we are moving towards the end of this world, as we find pointers coming in multiplied convulsions, military, social, psychological, geological, just as foretold. Man is asking for what he gets, and this so loudly, that only mercy has slowed the finale down, for the time.

Great now is the need to shepherd the church, God Himself our resource, with vigilance, fearlessness and immovability in doctrine.  

If then as Paul says, the elders should "shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood", they should be alive to the cost and sacrifice which may be needed, and compromise as much as does an athlete, when he is seeking the world record. Here, however, what one seeks to have recorded, is this, that this world's records are precisely, being evil, what one avoids, and Christ's call, what one fulfils with faithfulness, and not savvy, spiritual grace and not carnal place.



These hands, says Paul, "have provided for my necessities and for those who were with me" (Acts 20:34), this an example of the principle,

"You must support the weak!"

Indeed, there is a further principle, this:

"It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Then they all "wept freely" for there was one who lived much as he spoke, spoke much as he was commanded, went where he was sent, looked after them like a nurse (cf. I Thessalonians 2:7) and had them in his heart (Philippians 1:7). They went with him to the ship, as seeing off till the end of the Age, the apostle whose words would remain in abundance, to the extent of some 13 epistles, till Christ should Himself return.

Off he went to known tribulations and bonds, filled with the love of God, abiding in the presence of the Lord who had shone upon him, led him in the way from the time sent (Acts 13) and on through his pilgrimage (cf. Acts 16:6-9, 18:9). Notice how at an earlier time,  they were FORBIDDEN by the Spirit of God to go to Bithynia, but then given a vision for Macedonia! So in various ways, did the Lord guide him.

HOWEVER He guides any one of us, three things are clear. We need first by repentance and faith in the finished work of Christ, His present power through the resurrection of His body authenticating Him (Romans 1:4, 3:23-27, I Cor. 15:1-4), as likewise rest in His redemption and clear expectation of His return (Acts 1:7ff., Revelation 22, Psalm 37), to be operative Christians. Next, we need to follow His written word (Matthew 4:4) and test all things (I Thessalonians 5:21), bear all things and avoid the wolves and those who are devoured with curiosity concerning them.

May the good Lord give grace to all of His people, so to live, and let us be thankful for the example of Paul, and not deviate from the apostolic testimony, itself authorised by the Lord (II Peter 3:16), with the rest of the scriptures.

How simple it all is, when we are delivered from falling through weakness into this or that sin which so easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1); and how delightfully challenging to wait on Him with equal faith and relish, knowing that to serve the Lord's Christ is inestimable privilege.


¨   “Therefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,
and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
ooking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”