A Sober Farewell, part 4

 

 

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ 

Acts 20:32-35

With these words, Paul concludes his farewell to the elders of Ephesus. By committing them to God and “the word of his grace”, Paul is reminding them that it is only through their relationship with God and the truth of His gospel that they will grow and prosper spiritually and thus be sustained through the challenges they will face. So it is with us today…

Then he turns to an area of temptation that cannot be avoided for those who find themselves in a position of leadership; he reminds them of the fact that at no time over the past three years has Paul of his companions ever asked for any enrichment financially. Rather, he reminds them that it was by the work of his own hands that all of his party was sustained. Notice that he says that it is by “hard work” that they help the weak. In this, Paul is not referring to those who are poor or disadvantaged in monetary terms, but rather it was the elders themselves who were the “weak” ones, for this is not a monetary admonition as much as it is a spiritual one. In fact, the really interesting, and frankly significant aspect of this admonition is that it was by his hard work to pay his way that he supplied the spiritual needs of his (spiritually) weak brothers, for he took the earthly element of money completely out of the picture by hard work.

I mention this because it is entirely counter-intuitive for most of us today, for so great is our attention to money and material things. Once again, notice that throughout the entire farewell, Paul’s emphasis has been entirely on spiritual concerns, and not those of this world.

Luke ends the section in vv. 36-38 with their last tearful moments together, and then Paul heads for his ship, never again to see these dear ones. Luke picks up in chapter 21 with Paul’s journey to Jerusalem, where a whole new set of adventures await his arrival.

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