I love the smell of the New Testament! Today’s passage exudes a beautiful aroma of friends on mission together, encouraging one another, spurring one another on and praying and imparting courage for the tough times ahead. There’s no dull lifeless formality – there’s such camaraderie that elders will travel 50 miles to see Paul one last time in Miletus before he heads off.
Firstly there is encouragement. That is not a sentimental “there, there, it will be okay” – that’s comfort. Encouragement is about “putting courage in”. The uproar has died down, but the disciples in Ephesus will need courage to keep pressing on in the next season. So he sees about encouraging them and then giving much encouragement to the believers in Macedonia. We need courage – “We will stand firm, we will take courage, for our God has overcome!” as Tim Mann’s prophetic song exhorts us. Jesus has overcome the evil one, made a spectacle of him at the cross, so we can take courage. Paul has been around Barnabas enough to have learned to be a son of encouragement himself. Giving people courage to stand up and be all that God is calling them to be.
Secondly there is team. The smell of the New Testament is team work makes the dream work! Here there’s a team with Paul and some others going on ahead to prepare the way. When we get to Paul’s letters, we will see a lot of Paul thanking the teams he is working with. The recent ministry trip I went on to Stockholm and Helsinki was a team thing – I took three guys (because we were sharing a ship’s cabin for part of the journey!) and it was so much fun being team together, each one playing to strengths and covering weaknesses.
Another page, another miracle! Every page of Acts, it seems, has a miracle – here Paul preaches so long that Eutychus, sitting on the window sill fell asleep, fell out and died. Paul raises him from the dead and the people are comforted!
Last words to the Ephesian elders. Paul arrives at Miletus and calls for the elders in the Ephesus church to come to him – a journey of 50 miles. They do so, wanting another chance to be together. It’s a tearful gathering, as it is likely to be the last time together. So Paul’s last words are significant for them.
i) Pay attention to the flock – a key role of eldership is guiding.
ii) Watch out for wolves – people who will come in with evil intent to harm the flock. A key role of eldership is guarding.
iii) Commend God and his grace, which is able to build you up – a key role of eldership is teaching the flock, among others entrusted with the task. Paul’s not restricting teaching to elders, but elders have the responsibility of teaching the doctrine of the local church to protect from wolves.
Then they pray and weep together, embracing one another as Paul prepares to leave.
Let’s guard and preserve that sweet aroma of New Testament church life – encouraging one another and enjoying the journey and life together, as we serve our great God and bring many to know Him.