A Sober Farewell, part 1
Paul Reflects on His Ministry
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders is remarkable for several reasons, one of which is the relevance of his remarks for those of us who are leaders in the church of our own day. For some of you who read these remarks and follow along with me here, you know that you are a leader in some way or fashion; some of you are paid ministers, other teachers or ministry leaders in your home congregations. Yet for others, you might think that you are not leaders, in fact that might be the case for most of you dear readers. I hope you’ll consider something for a moment before you read on today, for if you are a blogger who writes a Christian blog, you are a leader in the church by virtue of the fact that your words of instruction or encouragement or devotion… are being made available to the entire word here on WordPress, and that makes you a leader, for your potential influence on those who read your blogs is tremendous… so you too might want to reflect upon Paul’s message to these elders.
As Paul began his farewell remarks to the elders of Ephesus, he does so by reminding them of his approach to ministry and of the style of ministry that he exhibited in their midst for an extended period of time. He reminds them that his ministry was a ministry of humility, of service and not of haughtiness, pride or exalted position or high status, which of course is quite a contrast to that of the Pharisees, or even to some leaders in today’s church. He also mentions something that might strike us as strange here, for he mentions the “severe testing” brought about by his “Jewish opponents”. I say this is odd because while in Ephesus, Luke really didn’t mention much about opposition from Jewish sources, other than the fact that after three months of teaching in the synagogue, some spoke openly against him; his last recorded close call from Jewish opposition was in Corinth.
Of course, it is possible that there was behind the scenes opposition that Luke did not describe in his narrative.
Paul goes on to remind them of how he was always available, either in public or private to teach, instruct and encourage anyone who needed his help, with the implication that he didn’t consider his own needs when called upon: He demonstrated selflessness in his ministry. His ministry and teaching was always available to all peoples, and in everything he did, he brought his listeners face-to-face with the Lord Jesus Christ, whose servant he always was.
There is a great deal here to reflect upon, so we’ll pick up next time with the next “chunk” of his remarks; I am sure that all us might want to consider how our own efforts reflect Paul’s approach, for surely Paul’s approach to service mirrored that of Jesus Himself.