Yesterday we looked at the example of Paul's Life (here).
Paul is giving his farewell charge to the elders of the church at Ephesus. He has challenged them by reminding them of his transparent life. Now he calls to their memory his 3 years of passionate preaching and teaching.
Paul had something many today lack: Backbone. He was truly courageous with the word. He did not change it, he proclaimed it. Paul knew, and wrote to the Roman church that it is the message itself, the gospel, that is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Because of this, he was "not ashamed" of it (Rom 1:16).
1. I did not shrink... (v20, 27). Twice Paul uses this phrase with the church elders. He says he did not shrink from "declaring to you anything that was profitable" (v20), and later, that he did not shrink from "declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (v27). He did not shrink. He did not draw back in fear of man. He did not neglect or fall short of this most important task. He "declared." Preached. Made clear. He refused to omit anything that was profitable for their edification, and he did not shy away from preaching to them all of God's gracious purpose. Jesus sent out the church to make disciple and baptize them and teach them "to observe ALL that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:20). What a charge to these shepherds of God's church in Ephesus! It was now their task to faithfully "declare" God's word to the church, and Paul solemnly calls them not to leave any part of the word - any controversial subject - untouched.
2. Teaching you... (v20). Not only fearless preaching, but pastoral teaching. Not only an example of how to live, but patiently teaching doctrine.
3. In public and from house to house... (v20). For 2 years the church had met at the hall, or school, of Tyranus (Acts 19:9). They also met in homes. What was happening in these house gatherings of the church? A man was fearlessly and faithfully preaching the word!
4. Testifying both to Jews and to Greeks... (v21). Paul preached to all, no matter their background or ethnic or cultural distinction.
5. Repentance toward God and faith in Christ... (v21). What is this message that Paul did not shrink from declaring? What did he preach to people of all ethnicities, in public and house to house? He tells us.
Repentance toward God. To faithfully preach the whole counself of God we must not shy away from repentance. This involves declaring to men that we are sinners, who stand condemned before a holy God, with judgment quickly approaching. This is why Paul charges the elders so solemnly, for preachers are tempted to sweep the subject of sin and repentance under the rug in order to be more popular with the people. But Paul did not shrink from this subject, and neither can we. That is, if we desire to be faithful.
Notice that repentance is "toward God." King David committed adultery with a woman and had her husband killed. Certianly he sinned against them both. But when the Lord confronted him with the sin and broke his heart, he realized that his sin was primarily "toward God" ("Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.." Psalm 51:4, ESV). Faithfulness to the message means we call men to repent toward God.
But Paul also mentions faith in Christ. As men turn away from their sins, they must turn toward something. Ours is not just a message of "do better." Paul informs us that as we turn away from our sins in repentance, we are turning toward Jesus Christ in faith. We are casting away our sins and embracing Jesus Christ. This part of the message also calls for courage, for it involves declaring that salvation is only in the name of Jesus. All other religions and paths to God are insufficient and will not save. Paul charges the Ephesian elders to boldly command men to repent of sins and courageously call them to trust in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins on the cross and rose from the grave.
6. I am innocent of your blood... (v26). Because Paul did not shrink back from the truth he can say that he is innocent of their blood! What a statement! This implies that when we water down the message - if we neglect repentance of sin or faith in Christ or chip off the 'rough edges' of any part of the 'whole counsel of God' - that we are guilty of the blood of the people. What a charge to these Asian church leaders!
What a charge to us.
Lord, make us faithful to your truth.