Paul's Farewell Message: Part 2

Acts 20:20‑38  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 5
In the 20th verse of our chapter, the Apostle says: "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house." The Apostle Paul was no man's hired servant; he was not in the field of God's husbandry on a monthly salary basis. He was there as sent of God; he was there to speak forth the mind of Christ, so he can say, "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you."
Brethren, do we desire teachers that will speak to us smooth things, things that tickle our ears? If we do, we are not in the mind of the Spirit of God. In second Timothy we read of a time "when they will not endure sound doctrine; but... heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth." What is the penalty for such an attitude? They "shall be turned unto fables." If we resist the truth of God—if we say, "I'll not have that"—then we shall have to have Satan's substitute. We shall be turned aside to something that is not the truth of God.
The dear, faithful Apostle Paul, wherever he went, held back nothing profitable for the saints. We are now living in a day of compromise; the desire is for big things; the sights are set high, with the end result being that the truth suffers. "Truth is fallen in the street," because men have set certain goals that they are determined to reach. Sad to say, the result is often spiritual bankruptcy. Which do we value more? the great, big, powerful assemblages of Christian profession, or the plain, precious remnant path as marked out in the Word. You know, it costs something to walk in the path of the truth of God. Indeed it does! "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." S a t a n would always lead us into the path of compromise if he can not make total unbelievers of us. He would tell us, "Why do you have to be so different from everybody else? Why do you not conform to the accepted pattern of the day?" Now suppose we hearken to his suggestion; why not conform, and thus accomplish more for God? Wherein lies the fallacy of this attitude? Is it not in the all too patent fact that the "accepted pattern" is forever changing? It is like the sand dunes, forever shifting and changing shape. There is no solidity. If you try to keep up with the popular standards in the religious world you will discover that you are just drifting, drifting, drifting. Where will it all end? The Word tells us in no uncertain terms; it will all culminate in Laodicea.
What is Laodicea? It is the last of the seven churches as described in the second and third chapters of the Revelation. Laodicea is the professing church of God, having become such a nauseous thing that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, has to say, "I will spue thee out of My mouth." The great ecumenical buildup that is in progress today, whether in Protestantism or in Catholicism, is all headed for the same divine repudiation at the hands of Christ. Meanwhile, the Lord knoweth them that are His. They are all, every one, individualized before Him; and each is precious in His sight. One of these days the redeemed will hear the shout in the air, and we shall all be caught out of this world to meet the Lord in the air.
Is it not a sad thing to think that the apostate church will continue to function here on the earth after the true Church is removed? The preacher may be there the next Sunday to give his usual sermon; the unsaved church members will be there to listen to it; the elders and the deacons may applaud the effort. How can this be? Because it is an unsaved preacher; unsaved deacons and elders; and unsaved church members. This may be an extreme illustration, but it carries the point. The Lord is going to take out all that are real, born again, those who have a vital link with a living Christ. When He removes them, the lifeless profession will be left behind.
No, beloved, we can not afford to take the road of compromise. Woe be to the man who reads his Bible to find in it that which pleases his particular prejudice. Every word of God is pure. You and I have no right to discount one verse within the pages of God's revelation.
What was the burden of Paul's ministry? As for the gospel, it was, testifying to the Jews and to the Greeks, "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." You can never improve on that. If you haven't started with "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," you haven't started at all. That is fundamental; that lies at the basis of all blessing for your soul and mine. Have you taken sides with God against yourself? Have you taken your place in the dust of repentance, and has Christ become your all in all for salvation? Have you said, "Yes" to the pleadings of the Spirit of God? The only Object for your faith is Christ Himself.
Today there are many false Christs. Such are peddled from door to door. Maybe on your answering the door bell you are offered a copy of the magazine, "Awake." The more appropriate name for that periodical would be, "Go to Sleep." It is a total denial of God's Christ. Yes, Satan is busy; he would rob you of Christ. Oh, he sure that the Christ in whom you are trusting is God's Christ. The religious world today is infiltrated with many antichrists. The number is ever increasing. One of these days (and it is not far off) the antichrist is going to appear in person on the scene, and the world that has turned its back on God's Christ will welcome Satan's antichrist. Oh, what a world it is! No wonder the heart of the Christian cries, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Now verses 26 and 27: "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." What a far cry this is from the present day notion that the gospel is all that need concern us in our preaching. The popular idea seems to be, just get people saved and let it go at that. What a misrepresentation of the heart of our blessed Lord! The Apostle Paul in his ministry had it ever upon his heart to "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." That is, Paul would have the believer to be full grown, to be mature. Let us never be satisfied with our present development in the Christian life. There will always be vast depths yet to be explored in God's Word, so let us ever seek to be "reaching forth unto those things which are before." Some day we shall be welcomed into the privilege of knowing even as we are known. But until that day dawn, let us be diligent in the daily searching of the Word, both for our own souls, and for those unto whom we would minister.
Paul says, "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men." What does he mean? I believe he had a clear conscience before God that he had never knowingly misrepresented the truth of God. The saints would never be able to say, "Why, Paul, you never taught us that; you never ministered that truth; you kept it from us." Can we imagine Paul replying something like this: "Well, I feared if I ministered such truth among you it might cause trouble; or, at least, some of you would not accept it." No! No! There was no such evasion with the Apostle. He can say, "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you."
Brethren, do we desire less than the full truth? Do we prefer to fellowship with some company of believers who only desire 50% or 75% of the truth? Some today are content to go on with even less than this. Rather let us seek to be in the good of the whole counsel of God.
Now the dear Apostle comes near the end of his address to the elders. No doubt the tears ran down his cheeks as he told them the sad news as to what would happen after he was no longer among them. Satan was busy himself in dividing and scattering them. This dispersion was going to take place in two ways. First, evil teachers such as Judge Rutherford of Jehovah Witnesses, Joseph Smith of Mormonism, and their kind, would arise as grievous wolves and tear the flock to pieces if possible. But the second danger of which the Apostle warned them was more serious than the first. The second scattering would be those of their own number who would form parties and divide the flock. "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." Ah, that was what made Paul weep. That was the reason he said, "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." Oh, how sad it is when a brother assumes the responsibility for dividing the saints of God. They speak perverse things; headstrong things; self-willed things. What for? "To draw disciples after them." The Church of God has suffered under that scourge all down through its history. The spirit of the thing was already abroad in Paul's day, so that some were saying, "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ." But it is just as heinous in God's sight today as it was then. God's estimate has not changed in the least.
One of the saddest tragedies that can possibly come into the life of a servant of the Lord is that of being guilty of leading a portion of the Church of God away from Christ the Center. How contrary to the heart of Christ for one to seek a following after himself! The Good Shepherd desires to see the flock kept together. He loves them every one. Dear old brother P used to say, "Remember, our Lord Jesus has shepherds who tend the flock, but He does not have any shepherd dogs." In what spirit do I yearn after those whom I may see straying? Is my concern a self-righteous, pharisaical one, or do I have the heart of Christ, the Chief Shepherd? Do I long to see these scattered sheep gathered back to Christ the Center, that they may again be happy in His presence?
"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace." Notice, the Apostle did not say, "I commend you to the elders" or "to the deacons." He commended them to no earthly authority whatsoever. He commended them to two unchanging and unchangable objects: God and the Word. Can God change? No. Can the Word change? No. "Forever, 0 LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven." He commended them "to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." Such is the wish of God for all of us today, that we might be built up in the faith; that we might be readied for the grand inheritance that awaits us. God's people are a sanctified people; a separated people; a gathered out people. Paul knows that the will of God as expressed in His Word would be realized among a separated and holy people. When we see saints of God seeking to commingle the holy things of God with the trash of the world, what an insult it is to the blessed Lord! This spirit of admixture of the holy and the profane is all about us today. Let us avoid it as we would a plague. Oh, beloved, let us wake up! Let us remember how near we are to the end. Are our associations those which God can call sanctified? Are our relaxations from time to time sanctified relaxations? "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while." God has no objections to our coming apart to rest and relax, but are such periods in disharmony with His will for us?
Now the 36th verse: "And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all." Prayed with them, not at them. No, nor over them. They all knelt together, and he prayed with them all. "And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him." Haw lovely are the affections of the people of God! Do not ever seek for anything like it in the world, for you will never find it. This wonderful fellowship into which you and I have been brought is the fruit of Calvary. It comes down from above, from the Head of the Church. "They fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him." How they loved him! Was he an unfaithful shepherd? Had he always spoken smooth things to them? Was he always trying to conform them to his personal comfort? Absolutely no! But when it came to the farewell their hearts and consciences told them that that dear man of God had told them the truth. And the Spirit of God caused their tears and his to be mingled, as they parted for the last time on earth.
"They should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship." They watched him board the boat, and I can see them waving their farewells as the ship sails away. How well I remember parting from a dear old servant of the Lord some fifty years ago. As our boat left the wharf, this old veteran servant stood on the shore; and as long as we could see him he was waving his kerchief at us. That was our last sight of him in this world. Our next meeting will be the one "in the air" when the Lord comes for His Church. Oh, beloved, how real are the affections of Christ! Let us not betray them. Let us not seek a substitute. Let us come closer together. We need one another. I need your encouragement. I know I would love to be a little encouragement to you, while together we await His coming.
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