Paul’s Warning to the Ephesian Elders

"Worry is the warning light that God is really not first in my life.” (Rick Warren).

Warning

This was Paul’s last farewell to the Ephesian elders. As far as Ephesus was concerned he had done all he could to evangelize and warn the city (vv. 25-27). I wonder how many of us could make such a statement about the area we live in. It is so easy to become complacent about the lost all around us and become calloused to the spiritual condition of thousands who live in our Jerusalem.

Paul then shifted to warning these elders that they could expect danger from two sources. False teachers (wolves) would come to them from outside the church and place a greater importance on the teachings and traditions of men than on the Word of God (v.29). However the most dangerous attack would come from divisions within the church (v.30). These same two sources still exist today. We find cults on every hand who stand ready to snatch every person they can. On the other hand, it is easy to fall prey to the desire for numerical growth in our churches to the point that Scriptural standards and principles are simply set aside.

Just as the rabbinic tradition and laws became a substitute for Scripture, the same thing has happened in the Church today. In many Churches the traditions of men have assumed greater importance than the Word of God. For instance, under the fiction of “apostolic succession,” the Roman Catholic Church through its additions and traditions makes it so that what is called Christianity bears little or no resemblance to the Christianity of apostolic times. The same is true of the Greek and Coptic churches. Even in evangelical and fundamental circles we can develop our own system of burdens which we expect people to bear as the price for Church membership. Paul’s teaching was not just cold and factual, but he had a very caring heart and truly loved the people (v. 31). We can see from his example that leadership in the Church should not be a matter of position or power. Instead it is a matter of deep compassion and concern for the people, coupled with godly living and a knowledge of the Word of God.

Application

If you could give two warnings to a group of new Christians what would you say? Why? I need to keep in mind that the devil accomplishes his purpose from both within and without the Church. I just need to stay close to the Lord and not depend on people, who will disappoint me.

Acts 20:25-31 (English Standard Version)

And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 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. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.

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