Acts 20:28 - Be On Guard
Welcome to our Bible Study! We are studying Spiritual Applications from the Book of Acts. My text is Acts 20:28. Our text says, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." NAU
The apostle Paul is on his way to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey. He stops in Miletus and calls for the elders of the church in Ephesus to visit him. When they arrive, he gives his farewell speech to the elders from the church. It may be that Paul returned to Ephesus after his first Roman imprisonment, but in this text he believes that he will not see the elders again. At this time, Paul is very concerned for the church. This concern is expressed in the title of my message, which is "Be On Guard." Several points attract our attention.
1. Paul exhorts the elders to be on guard for themselves and for all the flock.
Paul called for them to be on guard because of his concern about distortions of the gospel. Expressing his concern, he said (Acts 20:29-30), "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." The elders must be concerned for themselves and for all the people they lead-the flock. Even the elders themselves must be aware that they face dangers from false teachers.
The church has always faced the problem of false teachers, heretical views, and opponents to the truth. It was true then, and it is true today. So it is important that the leaders of the church stay on guard for themselves and for the flock. They have a responsibility to protect the people of God. This is getting more difficult in our time because of the availability of information, both true and false. Vast amounts of data are readily available. Very often people do not rely on others to help them sort out what is true from what is false. More than ever, we must be on guard.
2. The Holy Spirit makes you a leader.
During his farewell speech, Paul tells the elders that the Holy Spirit "has made you overseers." Whatever human process was involved in their rising to leadership, the real appointment was made by the Spirit. We have seen the Holy Spirit at work selecting leaders before. It was the Holy Spirit who said (Acts 13:2) to the church at Antioch, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
It is important for us to know that the Holy Spirit is the One who makes us leaders. All of our training, all of our skills, gifts, and understanding are important, but ultimately the Holy Spirit enables us to lead. Without Him, we will not be effective.
The leaders of the church at Ephesus had a crucial role. Paul uses three different terms to identify the men Paul called to see him. In Acts 20:17, Luke says that Paul called for the "elders" of the church. Then (verse 28), in our text, Paul says these leaders have been made "overseers." Next, using a verb, he says these men are "to shepherd the church of God." Thus, the same men are elders, overseers, and shepherds. They had a great responsibility to guard the church.
3. God purchased the church with His own blood.
In our text Luke calls Jesus "God." We believe in the Trinity-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three Persons of the Godhead are individually and collectively God. Jesus Christ died on the cross, shedding His very blood for our redemption. He atoned for our sins by dying for us. And He is God. So it is perfectly in order for Luke to say that God purchased the church with His own blood. We have been bought with God's blood. Because His blood atones, He forgives our sins and restores our fellowship with Him.
This is the astonishing truth of our faith. Christ is the only way of salvation not because of pride of place, but because He alone was qualified to atone for our sins. He alone was morally perfect. Only His blood, God's blood, was a sufficient sacrifice for our sins. Our appropriate reaction is to believe in Him and to be eternally grateful for what He has done for us.
4. Paul entrusts the leaders to God.
Although Paul was concerned about the elders and the church, he did not despair about their future. He went on to say (Acts 20:32), "I commend [entrust] 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." He has complete confidence in God, in His grace, and His Word. Paul knows that God will protect and sustain the elders and the church.
We must be on guard, but we must also be convinced that God will guide, protect, and sustain His church. Jesus declared (Mt. 16:18), "I will build My church; and the gates of Hades [hell] will not overpower it." Thousands of false teachers have sought to destroy the church, but the church lives on, and the truth lives on with it. We can be confident of God's sustaining grace.
In summary, Paul exhorts the elders of the church at Ephesus to be on guard for themselves and all the church. The Holy Spirit has made them overseers or leaders in the church. God has purchased the church with His own blood. Knowing all this Paul entrusts the leaders to God. As a result we have a church that will live on. Let us rejoice!