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Tyrannus Apostolic Church Choir

Final words are cherished. On November 5, 1994, President Reagan wrote a farewell address to the nation, announcing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. He characterized the diagnosis by saying, “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.” Sometimes, we don’t have the chance to say goodbye.

Contemplate your life. What would you say to your Christian family if you had reason to believe that you would never meet again this side of heaven?

Paul’s meeting with the Ephesian elders at Miletus was a moment like that.

At the center of Paul’s farewell was the importance of the church. The Holy Spirit had made these elders overseers of it; Christ had purchased the church with his blood. These facts moved Paul to stress the necessity of spiritual shepherding for the flock.

The keynote of his final remarks was supported by the recollection of Paul’s own life and work when he lived in Ephesus. His example should be followed; his encouragement was credible.

Paul reminded them of how he lived. For about three years (Acts 20:31), Paul worked in Ephesus—first in the synagogue for three months and then in the school of Tyrannus. He lived “among them.” They knew how Paul behaved. They saw him frequently for several years. His life was consistent, for his spiritual interest in them was evident from the first day and all the time he was in Ephesus. Paul did not get on a spiritual hot streak only to cool off when wind blew another direction. He was solid as a rock—consistent.

Paul rehearsed how he served the Lord. The apostle knew that his teaching to the Ephesians was a service to Christ. He discharged his apostolic duties with humility, with tears, and with trials. These three traits are worthy of elaboration.

Humility

Paul served with humility. This was no boast. It was a true statement. Paul’s former life kept him from boasting (1 Tim. 1:12-16). His thorn in the flesh kept him from inappropriate pride (2 Cor. 12:7). And Paul’s understanding of the gospel of grace helped him stay humble, having a proper view of himself, others, and God (Eph. 3:7-12).

Tears

Paul served with tears. The apostle agonized for the lost and for his stubborn kinsmen (Rom. 9:2-3). He wept at the sins of brethren and the spiritual apathy of some churches (2 Cor. 2:4). Paul lamented because of insincere preachers (Phil. 3:18). He cried when he departed from Miletus as well (Acts 20:37). Paul served with tears because he loved the souls of men, especially those of the household of faith. One who is more concerned about his own skin, rather than the souls of men and women, is a mere hireling (cf. Jn. 10:12-13).

Trials

Paul served in spite of trials from the Jews. Paul was a wanted man, hounded by the Jews much of the time. The unbelieving Jews pursued him in Damascus, after his conversion (Acts 9:23), in Iconium (14:5), in Lystra where he was stoned (14:19), in Thessalonica (17:5), in Berea (17:13), in Corinth (18:12), and also in Ephesus (20:18-19; cf. 2 Cor. 1:8-10). And more persecution was on the way (20:23).

Paul’s success and timeless influence were not the results of a problem-free ministry. We learn that faithfulness cannot be postponed until we have all our problems sorted out. We need to glorify God by serving him in good times and bad, like the beloved apostle.

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