So far we have taken to memory a wonderful promise of the perfection of the work of the promised Messiah; we have also helped to prepare ourselves for almost every apologetic encounter by familiarizing ourselves with one of the key passages where the Word testifies to its own nature as God-breathed revelation. Next I thought we would consider a passage that is not directly apologetic in flavor, but is still vitally important in today’s situation:
“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)
Once again the context makes all the difference: Paul has called the elders (please note the plural) of the church at Ephesus to him as he is traveling to Jerusalem. He had spent a great deal of time planting their church and undoubtedly in training them as a body. He is going to warn them of their upcoming trials and challenges (20:28ff) and that he will never see them again. And in the midst of this vital passage, we find these words. I have chosen this verse because it speaks to an attitude toward the Christian ministry and life that is so rare today, yet so important. Paul has not embraced Christianity to meet his “felt needs.” He sees himself as one to whom a “course” and “ministry” have been entrusted, as precious gifts, gifts given to one uttelry unworthy of them. The Lord Jesus is the one who gave these to him. What is involved? “To testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” If you missed the “entertain lost folks with stories about Jesus” in there, so did I. One testifies solemnly. One realizes the importance of the subject matter, the dignity of the topic, the weight of the substance of one’s proclamation. It is the gospel of the grace of God, not the gospel of man’s sovereignty, the gospel of the frustrated Trinity, the gospel of self-esteem and human fulfillment. To conflate one statement from Steve Camp with one from John Dominic Crossan (now there’s a mixture for you!), “It’s about God, dummy.”
So let’s put Paul’s words to memory this week…Acts 20:24.