Grace For The Journey
Today we look at the second part of what the Bible teaches regarding the mission and message of the church for our world today. Yesterday we looked at the first two aspects of this topic: (1) The church’s mission and ministry was a helpful ministry; and (2) The church mission and ministry was a Gospel ministry. We took an indepth look at what the Bible teaching us about these two important and essential truths. Today, we will look at the final principles taught in Acts 20:
(3) Paul’s ministry was a teaching ministry.
In verse 27, Paul reminds the Ephesian elders that he had “not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” In his book, Evangelism in the Early Church, Michael Green emphasizes the importance of “teaching evangelism’” (pp. 204-206). At the very beginning of the book, he speaks of his own commitment to both evangelism and teaching. His words, written in 1970, are still very relevant to our 21st century Church. This is what he says,
“Most evangelists are not very interested in theology;
Most theologians are not very interested in evangelism.
I am deeply committed to both” (p. 7)
Deeply committed to both evangelism and teaching – what a good description of the church’s mission and ministry! His ministry was a Gospel ministry, announcing the Good News of Jesus death and resurrection, calling on men and women to come to Christ in repentance, to come to Christ in faith.
Paul’s ministry was also a teaching ministry. He did not rest content with inviting people to make a new beginning with Christ . . . He called them to go on with the Lord . . . He called them to press on to maturity. God has so much to say to us. There is so much more than the call for conversion. The Lord is calling us to walk with Him and grow in our faith all the days of our life.
True conversion is not just a one-and-done event. It is a lifelong experience of divine grace, a lifelong experience of turning to God in repentance, a lifelong experience of learning to trust in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and living in His power and grace. If this lifelong experience of God’s salvation is to grow strong in our hearts and lives, we need “the whole counsel of God.”
We need solid teaching from the Word of God. We need teaching which rebukes us when we move away from the paths of righteousness, teaching which corrects us, calling us back into the paths of righteousness. We need teaching which will lead us in the paths of righteousness, teaching which will keep us walking in the paths of righteousness.
The Christian life is a journey. On this journey, we are travelling with God and we are travelling in faith. On this journey, God has a plan for us. It is His perfect plan. He wants us to grow – in our knowledge of Him, in our faith in Him, in our love for Him, in our surrender to Him God does not want us to remain “babes in Christ.” He does not want us to remain content with “the milk of the Word”’ (1 Peter 2:2). He wants us to move on to “solid food” (Hebrews 5:12,14). He has given us “the whole counsel of God” so that we can grow more and more like Christ, so that we can bring more and more glory to God.
We must never rest on our laurels. When the challenge of God’s Word comes to us, calling us on to maturity, we dare not say, “I’m a believer,” as if that was the end of the matter. When God is calling us on to maturity, He is not asking, “Are you a believer?” He is asking, “Are you a growing believer? Are you growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?”
On this journey with God, this journey of faith, this journey of spiritual growth, the church’s mission ad ministry is to help their members be a living echo of this great prayer from the 13th century: “‘Day, by day, O dear Lord, three things I pray, to see You more clearly, to love You more dearly, to follow You more nearly, day by day.”
(4) Paul’s ministry was a prayerful ministry.
The church’s mission and ministry is not only speak to the people. It also speak to God.
The believers of the first century church spoke to the people for God and they spoke to God for the people. In his message to the Ephesian elders, Paul said, in verse 32, “So now, I commend you to God.” At the end of his message, ‘he knelt down and prayed them all” (verse.36).
Paul was a preacher. Paul was a pastor. Paul was a man of prayer. He prayed for the people. He prayed with the people. He prayed that they would receive God’s grace. He prayed that they would know that all of their sins had been forgiven. He prayed that they would grow strong in their faith. He prayed that they would be sanctified, that they would live a Godly life, a Christ-like life, a Spirit-filled life, a life which brings glory to God.
How are we to live the kind of life which brings glory to God? In his prayer for the Ephesians, Paul points us in the direction of a life that is full of God’s blessing:
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17,19).
The church’s message and ministry involves praying that God’s people will get to know how much the Lord loves them and how much they can be changed by His power. As they think of the Lord’s great love for them, they will want to love Him more. The church’s prayer is that The story of their member’s lives will be “Loving Him who first loved us.”
God calls us to worship Him.
He calls us to walk with Him.
He calls us to be His witnesses.
He calls us to be His workers.
Can we ever hope to live such a God-centered life? We cannot do so in our strength. Without Christ, we can do nothing. With Christ, everything changes. We become a new creation in Christ Jesus. We receive new strength. Paul speaks about this strengthening when he prays for the Ephesians: “For this reason I kneel before the Father … I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 4:14,16).
Paul was a man of action. He travelled from place to place, preaching here and preaching there. This is not, however, the full story of Paul’s life. We must always remember that he was also a man of prayer. From Paul’s ministry, we learn this great lesson: “The fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (is powerful and effective)” (James 5:16).
There is such a clear connection in Scripture between prayer and power. We ask, ‘Why is there not much power?’ James tells us – “‘You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). We wonder, “How can we receive more of God’s power?” Jesus tells us – “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7).
If we are to see God’s power in our worship and witness, in our walk with God and our work for God, we must come to the Lord with this request, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
We have looked together at the message and ministry of the 1st century church as seen in the Apostle Paul’s message to the church leaders in Ephesus in Acts 20. It was to be a helpful ministry, a Gospel ministry, a teaching ministry, a prayerful ministry. My desire and prayer is that God will help us to learn from this truth. May we learn the great lesson contained in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”