Famous Last Words is a series of posts consisting of the last words of some amazing men in the Word of God. These words were spoken to theGATHERING community before the Lucarelli family left Dallas/Fort Worth for our new ministry post in Tennessee. You can read Famous Last Words || Moses and Famous Last Words || Joshua to get caught up. There are two more posts, this one and then Famous Last Words || Paul to Timothy
First, the back-story:
Paul was a church planter.
He planted the gospel, raised up men, and then sent those men to plant the gospel and raise up other men who then planted the gospel to raise up... you get it.
In Acts 18, Paul rolls through Ephesus--a city built on the foundation of idolatry--on his way to Jerusalem. Though the Old Testament says that behind every idol is a demon, the light of the gospel turned this city upside down. How? Jesus. Paul left a husband and wife team to live in this city--he left Priscilla and Aquilla in Ephesus.
After returning to his sending church-Antioch, Paul comes back to Ephesus in Acts 19.
There are 12 men. Paul clarifies the gospel with them. There were now twelve men who were transformed by Jesus. The gospel was spreading. Paul then spends three months reasoning through the scriptures with the Jews in the synagogue. Paul makes a division between the disciples and those that continue in unbelief (v.8), withdrawing from the synagogue. He continues to reason with disciples in another venue. He ends up living in Ephesus for two more years and
"...all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord (v.10).
Planting the gospel in Ephesus was pretty crazy --demon possessed men whipping up on some Jewish boys, leaving them to run away naked, book burning, exorcism, and a big riot... yes, you need to read Acts 19.
After these two years, Paul leaves Ephesus again.
Because of Jesus:
This is a church he has planted.
This is a church that has transformed a city.
These men have been left to continue the work of grace in the city.
Famous Last Words || Paul to the Ephesian Elders
Fast-forward to Acts 20. Paul doesn't want to get back into Asia, so he asks the Ephesian elders to meet him in Miletus. Here are Paul's famous last words to these men that he had served with for over two years.
18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Paul echoed Moses, Joshua, and Jesus - the Word of God--the Gospel--is life. Paul labored to see the gospel take root in these men through tears and trials. The affliction didn't cause him to shrink back or to leave, getting the gospel planted in them was mission critical. He taught them in the public square and he taught them as they scattered among the city.
25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
How would you summarize Paul's last message to these men?
What are some points of application for us today?
Remember, though Paul knew he wasn't going to see these men again, though some would be thrashed by wolves, though some would see the other sheep thrashed by these wolves, though some of these very elders would veer away from the sound doctrine -- remember how Paul ends this section:
"I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up..."