As we have seen, Acts 20 is Paul's love in action, because he expresses his love for the Lord and his love for the church by the sacrifice of himself and his dedication to his ministry. What was his secret in being able to be so successful? The success of the apostle Paul has nothing to do with his methods directly. Indirectly the methods grew out of who he was. The one word that spells leadership success is the word, example.
The Lord Jesus Christ taught repeatedly by giving Himself as the example. Do to people what I have done to you. He expressed his love in service by washing their feet. Jesus manifested what they were to do by doing it himself. In Acts 1:1 Luke says, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach." So Jesus not only taught but he also set the example.
And the reason Paul was so successful was that he was a great example. There was no credibility gap between what he said and what he did, and people patterned their lives after him. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” The Christian life is imitating the example of Christ and Biblical leadership is what Paul exemplified.
And so as we study Acts 20, we are finding great insights into effective ministry, and they are not academically listed in a list. They are just there in his life, and they are the keys to his success. The Christian life is being what God wants you to be and then letting the Holy Spirit work through you. Paul was called by God, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that he lived an effective holy life.
Paul saw the outline of his ministry in four different dimensions: He saw his ministry as it related to God; to the saved; to the lost; and to himself. And they were all spiritual perspectives. Godly leadership is a question of giving the right example. In Romans 1:1, he says, "A servant of Christ," but in verse 9 he says, "God is my witness whom I serve with my spirit." He didn't just serve God externally but internally.
Now the mentality of a servant is to obey orders. Therefore, the mentality of Christian ministry should be obedience. God gives the orders and I carry them out, I don't worry about what the reaction is going to be, I don't worry about what people are going to say, I don't try to please men. In Galatians 1:10 Paul said, "If I try to please men I am not the servant of Jesus Christ." So he says, "I have got to serve God."
He says in Acts 20:19 that we need to "Serve the Lord." But with two characteristics, "With all humility of mind and many tears and trials from the plotting of the Jews." He said there are two things that have to go with service, humility and suffering. And the suffering comes from the inside in tears and from the outside in persecution.
Humility is basic to being a servant. You can't be effective as a servant unless you see yourself as lower than your master. Paul says, I am nothing, I am just there so God can get through to you. I am nothing but a channel, no glory in me. We were just there as servants, diochonos, it means service. We are servants, that's the only right way to look at our ministry.
Paul expressed this in 1 Corinthians 4:1, “Let a man so consider us." In other words, when the books are written and they write down our name, let it be said that we were like “as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” What is a mystery? It's something that was hidden and is now revealed. That is the Bible, where a whole lot of mysteries are revealed. We are stewards of the Bible.
What is a steward? Well, let us imagine you are a big house owner, and in order to keep the business alive you had to be on the move. You would turn over the running of your whole operation to a person called a steward. And this guy would direct everything. He would make sure that nobody overdid something so that they ran short. He managed the whole thing for you the owner.
As Christians we all are stewards and you are in a ministry. You may not be a pastor, but you are a servant of the Lord. Don't you have spiritual gifts? And the dispensing of those spiritual gifts is your stewardship, and if you don't do it faithfully you are an unfaithful steward. We all have been entrusted with goods to bring blessing to those who do not know God yet and those who are in our care.
That is why a good way to minister as a pastor is to preach expository, because then you are going to preach the whole word of God. That is what Paul said in Acts 20:27, “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” The more you do that, the less you are going to have factions, because the less people are going to misinterpret what you are teaching. Now this is the heart of Paul and this is what God desires.
There are only three possible sources of truth. What are they? Well, one is human speculation based on human science. That is the one most people believe in. They say that it has to be true if it can be repeated and humanly verified. And with more new information all that continually changes. Much of what is in the Bible cannot be repeated and humanly verified and is miraculous.
Then there are people who say, the truth is through the infallible institution of the church. And the Roman Catholics have been telling people that whatever the Pope states is true. But there is no such thing as an infallible perfect human being, except Christ. So many of their teachings have a human origin and are continually changed to the point that many teachings are in contrast to the Bible.
The only real source of infallible truth is in the Bible through biblical revelation. God is true and God speaks truth, so then when we have His truth, that's where we have what we need. And all that we know about truth is right here, in the Bible. But the devil is working hard to create unbelief in this spiritual warfare everywhere using the world, our flesh and himself spreading lies.
Paul's view of the ministry toward the lost is evangelism. Acts 20:21, “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” This was his obligation to the world. And here you have the gospel that he preached to Jew and Gentiles alike. 1 Corinthians 9:16 says, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”
The gospel relates directly to the plan of salvation, the work of Christ on the cross and the resurrection, and repentance from sin and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul's presentation of the gospel was always thorough, it was always complete, it was never shabby, and never was there missing ingredients. There are two sides to the gospel message, the negative side is this, repentance.
What does repentance mean? Well the word ‘metanoya’ means to change your mind. It doesn't mean, he repented by changing 10 degrees. No, it means turning 180 degrees, to go from one to the opposite, to make a valuation about Christ and reverse it. And this is the first aspect in man's experience of salvation. It is not the first aspect in salvation, the first aspect in salvation is the call of God, the decree of God.
Some people say that you can be saved without repenting of sin. This is not possible. Luke 24:47 tells us of the importance of repentance. Jesus says, “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in My name to all nations.” If it wasn't important, He wouldn't have it being preached to everybody. Repentance is just as much a part of salvation as forgiveness, otherwise He wouldn't have lumped it in the same context.
Jesus says in Luke 13:3, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” In 2 Peter 3:9 it says, “The Lord is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” There must be a turning from sin. Repentance is the conscious act of the sinner, whereby he turns from his sin and goes toward God. And it involves three things: Intellect, emotion and will.
First of all, repentance starts with the intellect, you have to change your mind, that's what the word means. As an illustration look at Acts 2:23, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” Because they had made a judgment, they were facing sin and they said, we judge Jesus to be a fraud, He is not our Messiah.
So Peter, in his sermon in Acts 2 says, I want you to change your mind about Jesus. And so he approaches them on an intellectual basis, and he gives them all the facts and all the fulfilled prophecies, so now it's an intellectual thing. And in Acts 2:36 he sums it up, “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
In other words, here are the facts people, summarizing it, he is Messiah whatever you think. That's intellectual. You can't repent until you know the facts. And so he says, intellectually, change your mind about Jesus. Change your evaluation, you said he was not the Messiah, the evidence says he is, intellectually change your mind. And that's where it all begins, repentance starts there, when you come exposed to the gospel to the place where you say, Christ is who he claimed to be.
Then there's the emotional part. Repentance there is an emotional response. Because, in the next verse, Acts 2:37, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They were torn up because they had executed their Messiah, they were standing in opposition to God and they knew it. Every honest repentance is an inside emotional reaction.
But then the third, and the key, is the will. Like the prodigal who said, I'm standing here in the pig slop, my father is home, he has everything I need, and he will accept me. So he had to activate his will. He had to get up and go. Do not be confused, repentance differs from remorse. Remorse is sorrow for the consequences of sin. But repentance is condemning the sin that brought the consequences. I'm sorry I got caught is different from I'm sorry I did it.
Well, true repentance is what we're talking about and that's what Paul preached. In order to be saved, you must show intellectually that you are living in rebellion against God. And then the spirit of God will convict your heart of sin and righteousness and judgment, and then by exercising an act of will you turn from sin toward God. So the negative of salvation is repentance. And that brings us to the positive side.
The positive side is expressed by Paul in Acts 20:21 as “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” You turn away from sin, you turn toward God, then you place your faith in Jesus Christ. What does faith in Christ mean? Well, it's recognizing that you are a sinner, Jesus is the Messiah, and He has made a claim on my life, and I'm going to exercise my will and turn to Christ. And when you turn, then you place your faith in Christ.
So Paul preached salvation, he felt it in his heart to preach it. Sometimes when we think about the sovereignty of God we think, well, I don't need to get too pushy with people, I'll let God do that. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul says, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” Paul pleaded with people, trying to get them to come to Christ.
Paul's view, then, of the ministry toward God, service; toward the church, teaching; toward the lost, evangelism; and lastly, toward himself, sacrifice. Look at Acts 20:22-23, “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.”
Paul only had one reason to live and that was to finish the work God gave him, and he just wanted to get it done. But, you know, the last thing on Paul's list of priorities was self-preservation. He says, "Don't worry about me getting picked up, I'll die if that's what the Lord wants, I just want to do what He wants anyway." That's a combination of faith and confidence.
Verse 24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” He says I'm here for one reason, that's to finish what the Lord gave me to do. The whole view toward self in the ministry for Paul was sacrifice.
Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:29-30, about Epaphroditus, “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; 30 because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.” People now say, oh, don't overdo it, we must eat and sleep properly.
When was the last time you made a sacrifice of anything? I mean comfort, money and time. We really live a life of leisure time in American Christianity. On Sunday we all get on our Sunday clothes and the high point of our Christianity is when we go to a retreat. If you are viewing Christianity as a vacation, you are in trouble.
Well Paul concludes with these words in verse 25, “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.” Hey, I have released my responsibility, whatever happens now is up to God. Verse 27, “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Let us pray.