Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. Acts 20:28-31.
The book of Acts 20 is more like a farewell message to the church in Ephesus. Paul had spent 3 years there planting and offering discipleship to the church and now had to leave to Jerusalem. It is one place where we see Paul seriously worried about a looming danger he faced and would want these new church leaders to be constantly aware of. This is still very relevant for all church leaders as we face similar danger just as they faced it in the apostles’ days.
These are some of the Interesting aspects of these verses:
The audience of the message
This message was specifically to the elders of the church in Ephesus and Paul warned them to do as he did (feed the church of God). How are the elders of churches today feeding God’s church? Paul wasn’t feeding them by giving them motivational speeches, he fed them to understand the kingdom of God by exposing the scriptures to them. He wasn’t doing miracles and signs for 3 years but as vs 25 showed, he went around preaching the kingdom of God.
The core of the message
This message was to warn them of the reality of false teachers without and within. Paul realized that the most dangerous challenge for a shaky believer is falsehood! Then he proceeded to explain that there are two types of false hood:
The ones who are without(vs.29)
These are people who are not Christians. They might be atheist or some agnostic who don’t really believe in what the apostles taught but believe there is some god. They come challenging what the apostles taught. They didn’t just exist today; they have existed from the days of the apostles. Paul warned the elders to watch out for such by again feeding the flock healthily. As an elder, are there forums where hard biblical questions are discussed? Are there theological bible classes where the flocks can interact safely with their doubts? Are there apologetics forums where the flocks can build confidence in their faith? Remember, it is your duty to feed them. If you don’t, the false teachers from without will snatch them. Their target are ‘loose’ , nominal Christians. The ones who don’t study their bible; that just go to church ceremonially.
The ones within (vs. 30)
Paul didn’t cease to also warn of those people who believe everything you believe. They speak in tongues, they perform miracles in Jesus’ name, they teach about the Lordship of Jesus but underneath all these, their sole aim is to infiltrate the truth with little lumps that the un-discerning eyes will miss. Again, this is why you are an elder. To figure such out and warn against their antics. They existed in the days of Paul, fellow workers with him yet they had a different agenda; either to start their own thing or disagree with Paul on where he is leading the flocks. They exist today as well. Prayerfully find them because they are the bedbugs in your congregation; eating deeply into your flocks growth. Their target are the serious believers who are fervent for the Lord but have not grown into maturity. They are still young believers with promising future but since they are still babes, they become easy targets for these enemies within because of their enormous similarities in doctrines and outward saintly appearances.
The urgency of the message
Lastly Paul warns that this warning should be done just as he did it: warning them day and night. Do you constantly warn your flocks about false teachings? Do you take out time praying for the Lord to build you up theologically to identify these enemies? Do you take out time as an elder to equip yourself Biblically for the tough questions? These enemies are going to come at you with the Bible. It is only childish to not be prepared.
I do hope you will take Paul’s last warning to this church in Epheseus seriously today before the church of God, purchased by His own blood is snatched away due to your own negligence.