Acts Devotionals

Obey the Leader

I have been reading through a sermon preached by Lemuel Haynes, an African American pastor. This sermon was delivered at the ordination service of the Rev. Reuben Parmelee on 23 February 1791. His text was:

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The main focus was:

He 13:17 They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.

One of the issues he raised was how can a preacher care for God’s flock if he does not present God as Holy, whist holding the reality of hell before them. In expounding that preachers will give an account to God for the flock, so the flock shall also give and account of themselves and their pastor to God. There shall be a Judgment Day where the spectators will be believers and unbelievers as well as angels and God shall either declare one approved or disapproved. Can you imagine the great task of a pastor, preacher, evangelist, elder … this is why Paul is so very serious in the way he spends time on the sea shore ministering to the elders of the Church at Ephesus. Please read again what we covered yesterday before continuing … remembering he is in a hurry to reach Jerusalem before Pentecost:

Ac 20:16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. 17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia.

Yesterday we saw how Paul held up his lifestyle to these elders as an example. Today we press on with …

1) The way he served.

Ac 20:19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.

(1) He served the Lord. In the context here, the word “served” means to “obey one’s commands and render to him the service due”. The root of the Greek implies “servant”.

(2) The “Lord” is the resurrected Jesus who is seated at the Father’s right hand in glory, from where He reigns. The picture presented here is of one who submits to and serves his Master with a deep sense of his smallness as he faces trials from Alexander and his fellow Jews and Demetrius and his unionists that brought tears. These elders would have experienced firsthand the pain and suffering Paul went through serving the Lord Jesus. It was not a onetime attack … it was ongoing. All elders serve the Lord Jesus first and foremost. Before they serve the Church session or council and before they serve the body … they serve Jesus. He alone is Lord. It is His Church. Elders, like Paul are servants and irrespective of the onslaughts brought about by the enemy, even if those trials bring on pain to the point of tears, they serve the Lord Jesus first. This calls for congregational prayer for the elders as they rule and educate the Church of God. Their task is the most important task on earth because it has eternal value. When God’s people realize who the spiritual leaders serve and why they serve as they do, a loving response will be offered to make their ministry easier.

2) The way he preached.

Ac 20:20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.

Paul was a preacher teacher par excellence. When you read the Pauline epistles you see how God used him to explain the deepest doctrines, point out the range of wickedness in man, the majesty of God as well as profound application of his teaching in the face of eternity. He reminded them that his preaching was only that which was valuable to their souls. What is the use of cleverly crafted motivational talks or lift me up speeches that stimulate the intellect, yet leave the soul dead in sin? Surely, like Paul, every sermon or Bible Study must touch the soul, stir the spiritual dimension and convict the will to respond! Falling short of this, the soul will not be helped! How did Paul go about his preaching?

(1) Publically. This word means his preaching was in the open arena where anyone could hear.

(2) Privately. From house to house implies going fom one house to the next to teach God’s Word. As mentioned before, a pastor (as well as the elders of the Church) ought to be engaged in formal public preaching in the Church Building … but here it seems as though Paul went to where people were … the town square and gathering places where he would have an audience. I admire those who create a hearing by starting to preach at a public place and draw people as well as those who do street work and knock on doors. It takes courage … but we do have a wonderful Lord to stand by us supporting and empowering His servants. Often we argue against this because in a democracy everyone has rights and might be offended by public preaching and door to door evangelism. Apart from the fact that little gets said when the cults do this, Paul was arrested and beaten and needed to leave a city because of his evangelism. It’s not new to have opposition. It’s also not new to have the Lord Jesus by your side as you serve Him.

3) His declaration.

Ac 20:21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

To “declare” as used here means to “solemnly affirm or testify to”. In other words what he says to both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) is a serious matter and must not be ignored. Two things need to be done. It is not one or the other! Both are vital for without it nothing is gained.

(1) Turn to God in repentance. Jews need to turn away from the Old Covenant, Greeks need to turn away from their idol gods and together need to turn towards the true God of the Gospel Paul preaches. This turning includes confessing all known sin, seeking pardon as well as leaving those past idols or dead religions for a new way of life in Jesus Christ. One of the lacking movements from the pulpits today is that of repentance. Repentance means a change of mind, but includes hating the past life of sin, seeking a better one following Jesus.

(2) Faith in our Lord Jesus. Very carefully Paul places the movement of repentance before that of faith. The reason for this is that there cannot be true and real faith unless there is first true and real repentance! In other words, faith is not cheap. You see, the faith here is saving faith. It is faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord that requires personal knowledge, belief and surrender. Paul holds the Father up by saying sin was committed against Him and therefore repentance needs to be to Him … and he holds up the Lord Jesus who alone is the Savior King and as He alone saves through His Blood Sacrifice, faith needs to be in Him and His meritorious works at Calvary.

O God our Lord, thank You that even though the Gospel of Saving Grace is intricate in its workings, it is easy in believing and receiving. May grace abound with many souls being saved all around us as we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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