PO Box 3425
March/April Issue 2010 - Volume 29 Number 2
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to 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” Acts 20:28
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets,
some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the
saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of
Christ…” Ephesians 4:11-12
I received a
letter from The Shepherd Group that advertised, “Your Peace of Mind is
Our Business.” The letter stated: “It is no secret, violent acts at
places of worship are on the rise. Whether it is in the form of an active
shooter situation, armed robberies or protests from groups like ‘bash
back’, in 2009 there were one hundred (100) violent incidents occurring
at churches across the United States, compared to nine (9) such incidents
in 2005. As a result, many ministers, elders and church boards are asking
the following questions. How do we protect the flock? How do we maintain
the ‘openness’ of our church while ensuring the safety of our members
and guests? What is reasonable and where do we begin? Are there specific
threats we should attempt to mitigate? Have we done our due diligence?”
Group is a consulting firm that specializes in emergency preparedness for
places of worship. When Paul wrote to the Ephesian elders and warned them
that “after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not
sparing the flock,” I don’t believe he had four-footed wolves in mind.
In fact, Paul wasn’t warning the elders about the kinds of dangers that
The Shepherd Group has in mind. Paul was concerned with departures from
the faith that would split the body of Christ, and also with contentions
among men that would fracture the fellowship of the church. Paul was
warning about false doctrines and power struggles that would devour the
church just like a savage wolf gulps down a defenseless sheep.
While we may
have some different security concerns in our churches today, the kind that
Paul warned about are still prevalent also. We can’t barricade our
buildings to protect ourselves against these dangers.
Guns are not effective weapons of defense against false doctrine.
We can only defend against these enemies by staying close to God’s word
and effectively equipping ourselves to wage spiritual warfare. God’s
word promises that if we will seek them there are effective means of
deterring the enemies of the church. It is a matter of vigilance and
properly equipping ourselves for the work of ministry. The questions that
The Shepherd Group asked are good questions for the church to ask with
regard to spiritual enemies who threaten the church.
20:26-32 Paul tells the elders to be diligent in watching both themselves
and the flock. Some of the keys in this passage are Paul’s having
declared to them the “whole counsel of God (v 27), the fact that the
church was purchased by Christ’s blood (v 28), the fact that this is a
constant battle (v 31, he had been at it for 3 years already) and Paul’s
commending them to the only source that can protect the church (v 32), the
word of His grace. The church can only be secure when we have
knowledgeable, loving elders who are willing to take on the task of
watching out for the flock.
4:11-16 Paul includes more than just the elders in protecting the church
against its enemies. He includes the apostles, prophets and evangelists in
addition to the “pastors” and teachers. The thrust of this passage is
the work of equipping saints to fulfill their roles in the life of the
church. The Greek word for “equipping” used in verse 12 comes from a
root that means “building as a process, construction” (Arndt
& Gingrich p. 561). In the figurative sense it means
“spiritual strengthening, edifying, edification, building up.” The
keys in this passage indicate that the leaders of the church should be
building toward unity of the faith and likeness to Christ (v 13),
spiritual maturity that can avoid doctrinal trickery (v 14), the
importance of speaking the truth in love (v 15) and the final outcome of a
body that works together effectively (v 16). The church is truly secure
when every member is growing in Christ likeness, which includes not only
knowledge of God’s word but also a love that ministers to others.
Exhorting Those Who
Exhort- the Elders
Acts 20 Paul sails from Macedonia toward Jerusalem where shackles, chains,
and an angry Jewish mob patiently await his arrival.
Along the way, he finds himself in Miletus.
He sends word to the elders of the church at Ephesus that he
desires to see them. The elders come to Miletus and meet with Paul for one
final time. There were many
tears shed at this final meeting (Acts 20:37-38).
Goodbyes are always difficult.
The closing words of any final farewell always have a way of
penetrating deep into a person’s heart and mind.
God knew this (He knows everything-Ps. 147:5).
Thus the Spirit took advantage of this final farewell and delivered
an urgent message through Paul’s inspired mouth.
It was an important message for the Ephesian elders, but it’s
also an important message for the elders of the church today.
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”
(Acts 20:26-27). Compare this
with what Paul said to them in Acts 20:20: “And how I kept
back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have
taught you publicly, and from house to house.” I've always wondered
if Paul might have had his Old Testament Scriptures on the table and
opened to Ezekiel 33 as he spoke with these elders (Read Ezek. 33:1-9).
Paul was innocent of the blood of all men because he was a faithful
watchman. A faithful watchman
never shies away from his duty to sound the warning when souls are in
danger. For Paul, it was time
to blow the trumpet one last time in the ears of these Ephesian elders.
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” (Acts 20:28). “Take heed”
implies some sort of impending danger.
It means “be alert, keep your eyes peeled, don’t let your
guard down.” Paul calls
out those who were in this eminent danger: the elders themselves and their
flock back in Ephesus. Paul
tells these spiritual shepherds how to prepare and confront the impending
danger- feed the flock! The
church, the flock of God, meant so much to Christ that He purchased it for
Himself with His own life blood! Christ
loves the church and cherishes it like a husband should care for his wife
(Eph. 5:25-33). The chief
Shepherd is counting on the shepherds of the local congregations to watch
and protect His most prized possession (1 Peter 5:1-4).
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”
(Acts 20:29-30). Paul reveals
the nature of the impending danger-grievous wolves- false teachers and
prophets. As an Apostle, Paul
was a well-seasoned spiritual shepherd.
His departure would embolden those wolves who lurked in the shadows
of immorality, lies, and doctrinal error.
Jesus warned us about false teachers. “Beware of false
prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are
ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). The
wolves have discovered a highly effective method of infiltrating the
flock- they masquerade as sheep. In
this modern age of religious tolerance and relativism, the idea of false
teachers is so shocking to some people.
The typical response is, “Oh no, not my pastor!
Not my minister! Not my
priest!” A lot of people
marvel how a well-educated, enthusiastic, neatly dressed preacher could
ever be a ravening wolf- a false teacher!
Stop for a moment and think carefully about the whole concept of a
“wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Jesus didn’t warn us of a “wolf in
wolf’s clothing.” In
addition to the savage wolves attacking from without, Paul warns of evil
shepherds arising from within to divide the flock.
watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn
every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). Paul’s final
warning to these shepherds was not a new warning.
He had been warning of this very danger on a daily basis for three
straight years. Even though
Paul was well aware of the life threatening persecution that awaited him
in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-24), he didn’t weep any tears for his own
situation. Instead, he cried
tears of concern for the future of the church.
Paul loved the body of Christ!
now, brethren, I commend you 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” (Acts
20:32). Paul wasn’t leaving
these Ephesian elders without a source of comfort or guidance.
He leaves them in the good hands of God and entrusts them to
God’s gracious Word. Remember,
the first-century church was guided into all truth by inspired teachers
who spoke the inerrant Word of God by direct operation of the Holy Spirit
(John 16:13-15). The same
Spirit is at work today, in the form of the written Word, building us up
in knowledge, faith, and love so that “we be no more children, tossed
and fro, and carried about by
every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness,
whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14).
The Spirit of truth, the Word, will not lead the church astray.
Jesus sent out His 12 Apostles, He warned them: “Behold, I send you
forth as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16a). These wolves
are not extinct- they abound even today (2 Pet. 2:1-3).
These wolves even have a following- the many they’ve deceived
with their smooth, but deceptive words.
They blaspheme the way of the truth (the way of God’s Word- John
17:17) by rejecting divine inspiration and apostolic authority (2 Tim.
3:16-17), by refusing Christ His rightful place in the Godhead (Col.
2:8-9), by denying the sinfulness of fornication and homosexuality (1 Cor.
6:9-11), by perverting the New Testament gospel plan of salvation (Gal.
1:6-9), and by advocating divisions within the body of Christ instead of
unity and oneness (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
a preacher, I’ve found that the flock is hungry to learn the truth.
Elders, don’t starve your flock by keeping back those teachings
which are profitable unto them. Lead
your flock in the way of truth. Be
bold in declaring all the counsel of God- speaking the Word of God (Heb.
13:7) in the presence of your flock. Be
“wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16b).
Don’t forget to lead by example.
If the flock isn’t being fed from the green pastures of truth,
don’t be surprised if the sheep follow the wolves to graze in pastures
of error and sin.
the Saints - Ephesians 4:11-16
I once read
the story of a gentleman who was in upper management of a corporation who
suddenly resigned, having decided his life needed a new direction.
When asked why he would do such a thing he said, “I felt as
though I was no longer needed, there was no purpose in life, nothing left
for me to do. I guess I just
needed a challenge.”
In many of
Paul’s writings I see him issuing a “challenge” to all of us who
belong to Christ. He begins
the 4th Chapter of Ephesians by encouraging the Brethren to
“walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”
When much of the religious world today mentions being “called,”
they speak of some type of divine intervention in which they believe only
a few are directed or led. This
“calling” Paul speaks of is for all of Christ’s followers. He says
in this walk you will treat one another with “all lowliness and
gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another with love.”
As a direct result of all Christians having these “fruits of the
spirit” evident in their lives, the end result must be they dwell
together in unity.
are talking about the inner workings of a corporation or the work of the
Church, there are roles that must be assumed if there is to be success.
In speaking of the Church, Paul mentions such roles in Ephesians
4:11-16. In this instance as
well as others, the Apostle states his concern for all Brethren, and their
Spiritual well being. He wants us to be ever mindful that there are
worldly forces, which if allowed, will undermine the basis of our faith.
When you think of guiding or directing the Church, the Eldership
automatically comes to mind, but in these scriptures Paul also includes
apostles, prophets and evangelists, in addition to the pastors and
teachers in filling these roles.
The work of
the apostles and the prophets was a temporary one, in that it was
necessary in laying the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:19-22).
For the permanent roles, which Paul mentions, the need has never
been greater. Throughout
history there has always been a need for people to do God’s work.
He doesn’t ask for resumes. He
simply says get it done. In
his word we have every tool we need. Paul
told Timothy “All scripture is given by inspiration of God….that the
man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
I realize there may be legitimate hindrances in our spreading
God’s word, but what we in the Body may consider to be obstacles pale in
comparison to those of the early Church.
In order for us to do his work, God has truly given us every
provision needed to make up for what we may think are our deficiencies.
If needed, other Brethren will assist us.
God’s servant Moses needed help speaking, and he was given his
brother Aaron. Has God not
promised to be with us? In
speaking of his ministry Paul told Timothy “…the Lord stood with me
and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached through me”
(2 Tim. 4:17). The early Christians, like Paul, never allowed themselves
to feel unqualified for the Lord’s work.
They simply met the task head on, and like the prophet of old said
“Lord send me.”
fulfilling our role as workers in the kingdom, Paul says we need to be
building toward the common cause. He
stresses the unity of the faith and a real likeness to Christ.
In this likeness, we are to be mature Christians, “rightly
dividing the word.” In so doing we do not succumb to the trickery of
men, jumping from this idea to that as far as our belief system is
concerned. He says we must not
only speak the truth, but do so in a loving manner.
The final outcome of all this is body of believers who work
together in an effective manner.
ever-recurring theme in Paul’s letters was one of unity.
To the Church at Corinth he made mention of their contentions.
He said in no uncertain terms, “Brethren, I plead with you to all
speak the same thing… and be joined together with the same mind” (1
Cor. 1:10). To the Brethren at
Philippi he said, “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the
same love” (Phil. 2:2). We should instinctively feel we belong to each
other, that we owe each other love and support.
On a recent vacation with my family, we visited the huge redwood
trees in California. These
trees are said to be the largest living things on our planet.
Some of them are 300 feet tall, 25 and 30 feet thick, and thousands
of years old. You might think
that these trees have vast root systems that reach down deep in the earth,
but that is not the case. As
these trees seldom grow alone, their root system grows very shallow, and
intertwines with one another for support and protection. Only
in a Body of believers where there is a mutual love and concern for each
other will there be soundness, growth and edification.
Each day we
live, let us strive to one day make Heaven our home.
In order to reach our destination we must make sure we are adhering
to the “whole counsel of God.”
The need to maintain the pattern of the Lord’s church as the New
Testament reveals always has been and always will be of utmost importance.
Every congregation should focus on this as being its highest
priority. As leaders, we
should determine by the authority of God’s word if our worship is one
with which the Lord would be pleased.
Paul told Timothy that “there would come a time when men would
not endure sound doctrine… and they would turn away from the truth” (2
Tim. 4:3-4). We, as the church
of our Lord, need to maintain a true, Biblical influence in the world.
This influence must be based on God’s word and not the wisdom of
men. We constantly look for
answers as to why people leave the church.
I think much of it lies in the fact that not only has God been
taken out of our public schools, but also we no longer teach our children
at home. And yes, sometimes
the tugs and pulls of this old world are just too much.
Occasionally people drift away because they feel we are out of
touch with this age, saying we need to incorporate different worship
styles, or our buildings are not contemporary.
As leaders we must teach the truth, realizing it sometimes falls on
The work of
the church is one of very solemn responsibilities.
While we may be impressed with these responsibilities, let’s not
become discouraged or run away from the work. Let’s ask God to give us
more diligence, faithfulness and courage day by day.
It is a great thing to see the results of spiritual labors, to see
those formerly of the world living by God’s grace.
Sure there can be disappointments.
But there is not another work in this world that can compare with
the end result in which we direct souls.
wondered how the businessman is doing.
I wonder if his new challenge gave him the satisfaction he was
seeking. My hope is somewhere
along the way someone has shared with him the hope we have in Christ.
No man upon this earth will ever find any real satisfaction outside
Coal Basket Bible
The story is
told of an old man who lived on a farm in the mountains of Kentucky with
his young grandson. Each morning, Grandpa was up early sitting at the
kitchen table reading from his old worn out Bible. His grandson, who
wanted to be just like him, tried
to imitate him in any way he could.
One day the
grandson asked, "Papa, I try to read the Bible just like you but I
don't understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close
the book. What good does reading the Bible do?" The Grandfather
quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and said, "Take this
coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water"
The boy did as
he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back
to the house. The grandfather laughed and said, "You will have to
move a little faster next time," and sent him back to the river with
the basket to try again.
This time the
boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home.
Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was "impossible to
carry water in a basket," and he went to get a bucket instead. The
old man said, "I don't want a bucket of water; I want a basket of
water. You can do this. You're just not trying hard enough," and he
went out the door to watch the boy try again.
At this point,
the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that
even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got
very far. The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his
grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, "See
Papa, it's useless!"
think it is useless?" The old man said, "Look at the
basket." The boy looked
at the basket and for the first time he realized that the basket looked
different. Instead of a dirty old coal basket, it was clean.
"Son, that's what happens when you read the Bible. You might
not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will
change you from the inside out."
That is the
work of God in our lives. It will change us from the inside out and to
slowly transform us into the image of His son.
Take time to read a portion of God's word each day, and remind a
friend by sharing this story.
we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by
the Spirit of the Lord.”
- Number 2
- Mar/Arp 2010
BC is published every other month. Send all inquiries, address
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Scott Gage, PO Box 3425, Fayetteville, AR
72702-3425 Voice & Fax 479-521-6809