When they arrived he declared, “You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.
“And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
“And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.
“And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”Acts 20:18-35
We have already noted how Paul faced tremendous opposition when he was in Ephesus. We have spent time looking at the nature of that opposition and Paul’s approach to handle it. I have highlighted above the parts of Paul’s speech that give little hints to things he taught the Ephesian church in the letter he sent them. We can only assume the letter (the Book of Ephesians) was a summary of the teaching Paul gave to the Christians in Ephesus while he was with them. If Christ faced opposition, so too Paul. If Paul faced opposition, so too the church in Ephesus. The book of Ephesians is written around the idea of God’s will being that all be submitted to the will of God. If all are submitted to the will of God then God’s kingdom has come, here on earth as it is in heaven. But to the degree to which there are unsubmitted ones, that is the degree which God’s kingdom hasn’t yet come. If we as Christians have secret agendas, political agendas, the desire to work out our will, then to that degree the will of God doesn’t become a reality because there are unsubmitted ones who continue to insist on their own way.
Paul tells the Ephesians elders, “I have done the Lord’s work humbly” – in submission to His will. “I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, I finished the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus. I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault. I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.” We can only assume the content of the book of Ephesians is God’s inspired message that God taught Paul and then inspired Paul to pass on to the Ephesians and the other churches and you and I. I believe Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is filled with God’s inspiration of spiritual truth. It is nothing short of amazing – emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and in all other ways. In terms of the understanding of the way we are created and how we humans act and think. It not only addresses the matter of Jews and Gentiles and their place in Redemptive History but it gives insights into spiritual realities that are mind boggling. It has insights into the workings of male and female and sets both in the context of submission to the will of God. It has amazing psychological insights regarding how men and women think that were centuries ahead of Paul’s time in the first century AD. Things that modern day psychologists are only now just understanding. Yes without a doubt the letter has been written under the inspiration of God.
But notice too how the opposition of the Jews to Paul’s message is couched in terms of the overall spiritual battle which the Bible makes clear for us in its all-encompassing panorama of human history and the reason why we were created. It is a truly global perspective or perhaps I should say UNIVERSE-al. All of that is set in the context of man’s creation under the headship of God. But of course mankind doesn’t want that. We want to be the masters of our own destiny and therein lies the problem. That’s why Jew rebels against Gentile, why the Jews hated Paul, why wives and husbands fall out, why children rebel against parents and slaves rise up against their masters. It reminds me of the Genesis refrain – you will desire to control your husband and he will rule over you (Gen 3:16); sin is crouching at the door eager to control you but you must subdue it and master it (Gen 4:7). Do you see the mirrored nature of these two verses? You ought to. They are exactly the same Hebrew statement – applied to the woman (read women & men) and applied to all of mankind. That is the brilliance of what Paul is telling the Ephesians in his letter to them.
He understood the all-encompassing nature of the rebellion and gives us the panorama of the battle in the book of Ephesians – all the way up to the grand perspective of the spiritual world. The fact that all of it is subject or in submission to Him, the One who created it all and now holds it all together by the word of His Power. Do you catch the hint of Colossians in that comment? Now perhaps you realise the fuller nature of the parallel between Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and why it mirrors the letter to the Colossians so much. It comes from the same source. No not Paul, God.
As I said in earlier Gems, Paul is also warning the Ephesian elders of the coming battle for them. They will have to contend against the spiritual forces as well as they seek to lead the Ephesian believers in the Way after Paul has gone. Why? Because false teachers will arise and seek to lead the flock astray. It is inevitable. Just read the Corinthian letters if you are in doubt. Because the world (in the true biblical use of that word) is set diametrically opposed to the things of God. God wants the world he created to be submitted to Him. But as I said over and over in previous Gems (and I am not going to go looking for the references) God will not force it upon us. He wants us to choose His rule over us. Forced love is rape just as forced religion is spiritual abuse. Like Bob Dylan once sang – you gotta serve somebody. Oh, it maybe the devil or it maybe the Lord, but you still gotta serve somebody. Choose you this day whom you will serve – but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. I know full well I am mixing up Dylan and Joshua but it’s the truth.
Learn to submit to the One who made you, now while you still can. Because the time is coming when choice and free-will will no longer be an option.
And apart from the global nature of the realizations you need to make I trust you see the book of Acts, the speech of Paul to the Ephesian elders and the letter he wrote to the Ephesian church are all part of the one glorious whole.
Most women set out to try to change a man, and when they have changed him, they don’t like him.Marlene Dietrich
We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.Oscar Wilde
There is a support group for messed up people who don’t understand why they are the way they are. It’s called the church and they meet on Sunday mornings!Anon
Christ was crucified before the world was born. God orchestrated every moment of history necessary to lead Him to the Cross. God hasn’t lost the plot on your story, either.Anon
You can spend a lifetime to build a good reputation and then ruin your efforts with less than 280 characters. (Just ask Donald Trump)Anon
Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about finding your Creator.Ian Vail
You need to gain a global perspective.Ian Vail