Sermon Summary - How To Persevere To The End - Acts 20:22-27
How To Persevere To The End
Every single Christian has been given gifts, talents, and abilities and is called to minister to others (Rom. 12:6). If we’ve been called to Christ, we’ve been called to ministry. What’s the key to persevere in this and to not make shipwreck of your faith? Christianity is a marathon, not a sprint. For those who are older in the faith, how can we finish the race well? If anyone had obstacles to his race, it had to be the apostle Paul. The key to finishing well, which Paul encourages the Ephesian elders with, is found in Acts 20:24 (Cf. 2 Tim. 4:7). Paul did not consider this temporal life as more important than faithfulness to his Savior, and the ministry to which he was called. In our increasingly anti-Christian culture, this same attitude Paul had is how we will finish well.
As Paul continues his speech to the elders of the church, he lets them know that he knows the road ahead of him is going to get really brutal (Acts 20:23). Notice first that Paul knew he was entrusted with ministry to do, just as each one of us has been. It is unbiblical to think that there are only a few Christians who are called to ministry while the rest just get ministered to. Every time spiritual gifts are mentioned in the New Testament, the gifts are stated as given to “each” and “every” Christian (Cf. 1 Peter 4:10). Secondly, we see Paul’s mentality was like one of a soldier who has been drafted into war. He was “constrained by the Spirit” (Acts 20:22). The Holy Spirit impresses upon fellow Chistians in the churches in every city Paul had visited that he would face imprisonment and afflictions. Third, we must learn from Paul to cultivate a mindset that hardship will come. In the midst of trials, we know we can trust God because we know our future inheritance. This is what enables us to not consider this temporal life as more precious than the life to come (Cf. Phil. 3:7-9). Paul was willing to suffer and die for Jesus and the gospel. We must be careful not to put Paul on a pedestal. We see Jesus calling all disciples, not just a special brand of Christians, to self-denial and cross-bearing in Mark 8:34-35. The persecution we face in America has not reached the point of being put to death (yet); the reality is that the worst we face may be not wanting anyone to think we are unloving or bigoted.
Why would Paul or any of us choose this path of suffering? The only other option is to live for yourself (Cf. Mark 8:34-35 again). Paul’s trust in the gospel was the key to his faithfulness. Notice how Paul kept his eyes on finishing the course and the ministry he received from the Lord Jesus. We see that Paul has finished his ministry to the church and leaders of Ephesus (Acts 20:25). Paul declared himself innocent of the blood of all (Acts 20:26), since he preached and taught God’s entire plan of salvation (Acts 20:27). Paul was surely calling to mind passages from Ezekiel in saying he was innocent of the blood of all (Cf. Ezek. 3:17-21, 33:7-8).
If we betray the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we may be guilty of the blood of those who are confused about the gospel, by our failure to make it clear. If however, we live repentant lives, continue to trust in Jesus and hold to the truth of the gospel, we are innocent of the blood of all. This brings up a question: could Ezekiel, Paul, or any genuine Christian be guilty before God by this type of failure when it comes to our eternal destiny? No, because of the gospel. But is there another sense in which we could be guilty before God as a child is guilty of some infraction before a loving father who disciplines him? Yes. So let us go on pursuing a life that is innocent of the blood of all.