Open your bibles to the book of Acts chapter 20, verses 28 through 32 and stand with me as I read this passage of Scripture.
Acts 20:28-32 28 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. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. ESV
· The subject is ‘care for the church of God’.
· Listen to the entire context of this passage Acts 20:17-38.
Acts 20:17-38 17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 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. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” 36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship. ESV
· Now listen my brothers and sisters of New Hope Baptist Church to a small part of our history (read this from the sheets)
o In the three-year time, Paul had built up a trust with the saints of Ephesus.
o From January 1999 to January 2007 during this eight year period, New Hope,
§ You yourselves know our ups and our downs.
§ You yourselves know our weak moments and our strong moments
§ You yourselves know our bad times and our good times
§ You yourselves know how we live among you
§ You yourselves know that our hands ministered to our necessities and to those who were with us, our families
§ You yourselves know that we coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel
§ If you have walked with us and talked with us, during these eight years, then you yourself know these things – Amen!
· Therefore, it is a good question to ask and to ask it again this week; “do you trust your overseers (your pastors)?” Do you trust Brothers Brad, Brother Willie and I?
· I also said then that it is not a simple question nor is it a rhetorical question. It was not directed to you as an individual but as a fellowship
· Even though it must be answered individually by each of you, there is unity in your diversity.
· If there is just one member of this fellowship who can say, ‘I do not trust one of the overseers of New Hope, (and note well, it does not matter which one of the three of us it is), then it can be said that the fellowship of New Hope does not trust the overseers of New Hope.
· Why would I make such a statement like that?
o 1 Corinthians 5:6 says 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? ESV
o Or as older people would sometimes say, “it takes just one bad apple to make the entire bushel bad.
o Just one individual can stir up enough to have the fellowship upset. Then;
· The equipping is not complete or there is no equipping at all because the one who is being equipped does not trust the one who does the equipping
· And this leads to a flaw in the work of the ministry whereby we have some who are overworked, some who are under worked and others not working at all.
· You have enough general knowledge of machines and moving things, mechanical, electrical, or even biological to know that if the working is not proper, balanced and correct, then the timing is off, too fast in one place, barely moving in another or not moving, recording, programming, digesting, blood pumping, etc.
· Over time or in a short time, this leads to shut down, overloads, heart attacks, brain strokes, which is actually the de-edification of the body, the breakdown of the body, instead of the edification or building up of the body.
· In addition, where there should be unity, we find disunity, division, clicks, and splits and in a large enough scale, we find the birth of another association, group, fellowship, or even a denomination.
· This developed from the lack of trust for the overseer.
· Now I traveled from the specific to the general, so let me come back to specifics, very specific.
· My brothers and sisters of New Hope if you for whatever reason mistrust or have a lack of trust for one of us, I will even add this;
o if there is disagreement about the doctrine that we hold to and teach here at New Hope, then New Hope as a local fellowship suffers and is weakened. It may not be evident in our faces but in the hidden recesses of this fellowship body there is an illness that will surface over time.
o And the prediction that Paul makes in Acts 20:30 (and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them) speaks about us, New Hope.
o And the work of Ephesians 4:14; is reversed you are still children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes, this becomes a fact for this fellowship. All because the work of verse 12 did not take place and that work is the equipping of the saints
Paul makes a point earlier by stating that there is an outside influence as well as an inside influence. He speaks of fierce wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock.
· One wolf can be identified and has been allowed in because we don’t think it’s that dangerous or deadly
· That wolf is the erosion of authority. Just stop look and listen
o We can go on the air and make fun of and disrespect our leadership all in the name of freedom of speech
o Solders can be court marshaled for killing in times of war
o Police officers can be sued for arresting an individual
o Teachers and school districts can be sued for giving out too much punishment
o They are trying to pass a law in California that ban spanking your own children
o Say what I want to say, do what I want to do and if it seems right in my eyes than you have nothing to say about it
o There is an erosion of authority all around us
o And it has not snuck in but it has walked in boldly through the front door
· How much authority does the church has in your life?
· How do you respond to that authority?
o Can the church tell you how to live in your house?
o Can the church inform you as to how to handle your money?
o How about your family? Your marriage? Your health?
· How much authority does Scripture have in your life?
o What happens when you disagree with what the Scripture says?
o How do you react when the Scripture does not make sense?
o How do you react when you think and feel that you got it, you learned it, or you know it and others around you do not have it?
· How much authority does the preached Word have in your life?
o When you do not agree with the style of preaching?
o When you do not like the topic of the sermon?
o When you may say to yourself, I have been there and I know that?
o When you say; that’s too simple or that’s too complicated?
· That wolf, the erosion of authority, is in our midst and it is feeding and getting fat
· Now to properly care for the church, there must be solutions is to these external and internal attacks
· Listen again to Paul; “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
· Through out the entire Scriptures you find the same answer to trouble, temptation, trials, tribulations and even sin. Return to God and return to His Word!
· And the overseer, the bishop, the pastor, has a unique responsibility with the Word of God. They are to preach this Word of God.
· As a side note this is one of the three characteristics of a true local church (some authors call it the marks of the church). So the preaching of the Word identifies us as the church of God with Jesus Christ as Lord.
· By the preaching of the Word, the lost are saved, listen
o Romans 10:13-1513 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” ESV
· What is the answer for the nonbeliever who may be involved with the visible church or even a visitor?
· The answer is the preached Word for it is by the preached Word that one can be truly converted, that is repent of their sins and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior listen;
· 1 Corinthians 1:18-2518 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
· But also by the preached Word the saints are sanctified and equipped, listen;
o 2 Timothy 4:1-5 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ESV
· This charge to Timothy is also a charge to every pastor who has been called after Timothy. It a charge to me, to Brad and to Willie. Notice
· This is a serious charge; ‘in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom.
· This is not a plaything or something to joke about.
· James tells us this; “not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
· You may not like what is preached or even the style of preaching rather it is expository, topical, and textual preaching. Your preference may be the short sermon, the long sermon, preaching through a book of the bible, doctrinal preaching or end times preaching
· But know this my brothers and sisters, it is not bad to have your preference, and there is nothing wrong with expressing that preference to us. But you also need to know that;
o We do not take standing in this pulpit for granted (for I feel that when we stand here we stand on holy ground and we who are preachers are looking eternity in the face, in other words this is a life or death situation and nothing short of it)
o Much study and much prayer goes into sermon preparation because we will give a full account one day to the almighty God and Jesus Christ for ourselves and also for your souls
· The charge is clear ‘preach the word!’
· The scope is clear always be ready in season and out of season
o To reprove prove again or correct
o To rebuke to disapprove
o To exhort to urge advise
o But do this with patience and teaching – instruction and modeling
· Notice that there is an urgency just like in Acts 20
o For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
o Some will leave the fellowship because of this and their concept of authority and others will stay and stir up stuff
o Either way the overseer must remain patient and teach by being a good role model to the entire fellowship.
o Saying follow me as I follow Jesus
· Still trusting in the Lord with all of our heart and leaning not on our own understanding; in all our ways especially preaching the Word of God and especially in the care of the church, acknowledging Him and He shall direct our paths.
· Yes I will trust in the Lord until I die!
· Let us pray!