1. What was the most difficult goal you ever accomplished that was completely worth the effort and sacrifice? (The Winter Olympics will start next month. These athletes train for years for this one opportunity to be the best in the world at their specific event. It take more sacrifice than most of us can imagine. That is one reason we see tears on the victor’s stand and on the sidelines for those who didn’t quite make it.)
Goals can push us to achieve great things. A worthy goal is not accomplished unless we apply consistent effort and make sacrifices. We have to be diligent to meet our goals. Anyone we would call successful has sacrificed and achieved goals. It may be in education, the workplace, sports, marriage, or as we will see today, the Christian life.
2. If you had to say what the Apostle Paul’s goal was in his life, what would it be? (See Phil. 3:12-14.)
The Apostle Paul considered sharing the gospel a primary goal for his life. He was willing to endure sacrifice, hardships, and imprisonment for the sake of telling others about Jesus.
Paul never did stay at one place very long for a variety of reasons. But Paul stayed at Ephesus three years.
3. What happens to relationships when we stay at one location for an extended period of time? (Love and appreciation for each other grows! So there developed a strong relationship between Paul and the church at Ephesus.)
In our study today Paul will say, what he believes to be, his final goodbye to the elders in the church in Ephesus. He tells them that he won’t see them again in this life. His final message to the believers provides a warning and a challenge.
Paul is at the end of his third missionary journey as he heads toward Jerusalem and then on to Rome.
Paul’s Commitment! Read Acts 20:22-24
Paul was convinced that God’s plan for him was to go to Jerusalem and ultimately on to Rome.
1. What did the Holy Spirit affirm to Paul in town after town? (That “chains and afflictions” were waiting for him.) Gal. 2:20
2. What motivated Paul to endure the potential dangers? (Paul knew that sharing the gospel of God’s grace through Jesus Christ was the one thing he must do until God called him home.)
Believers face countless distractions and deterrents, but the one thing that matters most is how we represent Christ to those around us. Sharing the gospel with one more person should be the desire of a believer’s heart.
I found out how we, as believers, can without question have the desire of their heart. Read Psalm 37:4.
3. What was Paul’s attitude about his call and commitment to follow Christ? (Paul had a steadfast trust in the Lord no matter what happened to him. He was willing to serve Christ regardless of the cost. He did whatever it took to be obedient to his calling in Christ Jesus!)
Paul compared his pursuit to follow Christ to a race to run and a task to complete. He was resolved to find contentment in being faithful to God despite his circumstances.
Our attitude to follow Christ must demonstrate a willingness to respond to whatever the Lord commands. We need to be resolved to follow Him faithfully in every assignment and at every opportunity. We have all seen movies or actual film clips of our troops storming the beaches at Normandy! That is what Christians sharing the gospel should look like! We should storm the gates of hell for Christ.
4. How does understanding the value of the gospel give a person the strength to endure difficulties that result from the gospel?
5. It seems that the more Paul was persecuted the more fervently he shared the gospel. Why do you think that was the case?
Paul’s race to share the gospel would continue, but first he had a message to share with the elders from Ephesus.
Paul’s Concern! Read Acts 20:25-31
1. What was Paul’s specific message to the church in this passage? (Be on guard for those who would preach false doctrine. They become like wolves, scattering the flock. One lone wolf can’t do too much damage but when they run in packs they are very dangerous. When they attack the flock the goal is to get one of the sheep separated from the flock. Then it is easy for them to take that sheep by itself. Stay true to the doctrine you were taught, get rid of wolves early on and stay in the flock!)
Paul had spent three years in Ephesus, and the news that they would not see him again was very difficult for his fellow believers. Knowing his departure was at hand, Paul had a warning and a challenge for the leaders in the Ephesus church. This message is the only recorded talk of Paul’s in Acts directed specifically to believers.
2. What was Paul’s challenge to the elders in verses 28-31?
3. What responsibility do we have to warn others who already know the truth? (Here Paul was the mature missionary pointing out to the elders, who were not as spiritually mature as Paul, what was sure to happen as soon as he was gone.)
Knowing the truth and guarding against error are two different things. Paul wanted the Ephesian leaders to guard against the potential dangers of false teachings that would distort God’s truth. Leaders have an obligation to protect their congregations from divisive people!
4. What is dangerous about false teachers that should concern us? (Unlike Paul, who taught the Ephesians the whole counsel of God, the false teachers distorted the truth. For this reason, the Ephesian believers needed to be on guard against any error. Teach the whole truth of God; don’t go to seed on just one aspect of the Scripture!)
The most destructive goal false teachers accomplish is the following they obtain. Paul warned the Ephesians about false teachers who would arise to draw away disciples after themselves. Beware of any teacher who distorts the truth and draws people away from God and toward themselves.
Paul closed his message by relating how he worked among the church and challenged them to follow his example. He let them know that he had shown them everything needed to continue the work of sharing the gospel.
Paul’s Commendation! Read Acts 20:32-35
1. What kind of example did Paul set for these elders in the church? (Paul appealed to his work ethic and willingness to serve the needs of others as an example for them to follow.)
Paul did not covet others people’s possessions. On the contrary, he worked to meet his own needs. He also modeled giving to others and referred to the words of Jesus.
2. How do the actions listed here by Paul relate to the motivation for service?
3. Why would it have been important for these church leaders to be aware of their motives for ministry?
Paul shared his testimony, addressed what would happen when he was gone, and committed the ongoing ministry in Ephesus to the church leaders. He encouraged them to focus on others by being generous in both thought and action.
Summarize and Challenge!
What compelling reasons did Paul provide to make sharing the gospel worth the sacrifice and effort?
· First, Paul felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to be a faithful witness and possessed a deep trust in the Lord regardless of the outcome.
· Second, Paul considered his life’s calling to finish the race and share his gospel testimony.
· Third, Paul was faithful to declare the gospel and the teaching of God’s Word to them over a period of three years.
This week ask God to give you His love for people. Ask Him also for opportunities to share the gospel and show His love to the people around you. Remember the words of Jesus as you go: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (v. 35).
Read Acts 20:36-38.