And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
We too have loved and have said farewell. Yes, we know. Paul is one of us. This touch of nature makes us kin.
I. THE DUTIES OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Paul's address is primarily applicable to officers in the Christian Church, yet most of the matters treated of concern all who are trying to do any work for the Lord.
1. The first duty which, as our passage suggests, is expected of a servant of Christ is to endure hardness. Wherever Paul went the Holy Ghost testified to him through some of his fellow Christians that he was to find bonds and afflictions (ver. 23). The thorn road and none other is the way we must go. Courage is one of the most essential Christian virtues.
2. It is a Christian's duty to live faithfully in the present (ver. 22). Paul knew not what was in store for him beyond the general fact that it was trial. But his ignorance of the future did not trouble him. He had been through a stormy past and had found God in it, and he knew he would find Him in the future. Therefore he had no need to worry.
3. It is our duty to accomplish our appointed work (ver. 24). The important matter to Paul was not whether he had "a good time," whether he suffered or not, but whether he did the Lord's work set for him to do. Paul's work was "to testify the gospel of the grace of God." Is that not the sum and substance of the life work of every true Christian? What is Christian experience but an increasingly deeper appropriation of the truth of God in Christ? And what is Christian activity but an increasing manifestation in conduct of the fact that we have so received Christ? And we must not put God off by contenting ourselves with the silent testimony of good Christian lives. This is much as an offering to Christ. But He expects also the testimony of the lips, and this especially Paul had in mind when he spoke of his ministry. When last did we testify openly for Christ?
4. In testifying or teaching it is our duty to declare the whole counsel of God (ver. 27). This is something one may hesitate to do, but Paul did not shrink from it. He let God decide what truth is, and on his part accepted it, all of it, and proclaimed it, all of it.
5. It is our duty to feed the flock (ver. 28). If God gives us anything that is good, shall we keep it to ourselves? How much Christian experience is wasted, that is, how much knowledge of His grace God is giving us all the time, in our trials and joys, in our study and in our business, which we do not impart to anyone else, but keep wholly to ourselves.
6. We are to watch against the enemy (vers. 29-31). The destroyer of souls never deserts his office. Paul is not referring here to those Jews and heathen who antagonised the gospel wherever it went. He refers to evil men who hypocritically came into the Church (vers. 29, 30) with the deliberate purpose of doing harm. Any man who knows more about truth than the Bible, or can show a better way than the way of Christ, or tries to weaken the uprightness of his fellows, had better be watched and guarded against.
7. A Christian ought to be unselfish (vers. 33-35).
8. It is our duty to help the weak (ver. 35).
9. In all our doing we should remember the words and example of our Lord (ver. 35). He is our pattern.
II. We turn now to THE BLESSINGS OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Duty is not for blessing's sake, it is for its own sake. But according to a beneficent arrangement of God, it is never without its blessing.
1. It is a blessing to suffer for Christ (ver. 23). It is not blessed in itself to suffer. Pain is painful everywhere and always. But "for Christ" transforms pain into joy. This is Christianity's triumph. Life brings its agonies to God's people as well as to others; but they have the joy, which no others have, of being able to say truthfully to themselves, "I know that all things work together for good."
2. The love of Christian fellowship (vers. 25, 31). We can almost imagine we hear Paul's voice trembling with emotion, as we can see the tears springing to his eyes while he tells these Ephesian friends how he has tried to serve them. There are many pleasant relations possible in this life, through God's kindness to us, but none is more lofty, more wholly worthy, than that of friendship in Jesus Christ. Other friendships are sweet while they last, but these alone are eternal.
3. A good conscience (ver, 26). There is no peace of mind to him who, when he thinks at all, must remember duties unaccomplished.
4. Helping others spiritually (ver. 28). If one has money, it is pleasant to use it in relieving others' sufferings. If he has ability of mind, it is a joy to help others in the difficulties of their thinking. But better than these is it to know Jesus Christ and lead others to accept Him as their Saviour.
5. It is a blessing to know that we are carrying on the worthy work of the past (ver. 31). Paul had laboured among the Ephesians. He had done a good work. These elders were to have the privilege of carrying it on after he was gone.
6. We are specially under God's care (ver. 32). Paul commended his dear friends at Ephesus to God, and he knew God would take care of them. Surely they were comforted by this when the perplexing hours came when they missed Paul most. They knew a better friend even than Paul was with them.
7. One blessing of the Christian life is to be built up in all that is good (ver. 32). God is able to do this, and we believe, nay, we know, He does it. We feel as felt, that poor as his life Was, whatever good there was in it was due to the grace of God.
8. We have an inheritance among all them that are sanctified (ver. 32). This may refer to the reward of Heaven. But it is likely that it refers to the reward of earth also (similarly Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:18). In both respects we have a blessed estate.
9. Last of all, but not least, comes the blessedness of self-denial (ver. 35).
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.