Monday, August 13, 2007

Acts 20:17-38

In the early 50s A.D., Paul resided in Ephesus (capital and commercial center of the Roman province of Asia – now Turkey) for over two years. This was unusual. Once Paul had begun his life as a missionary for Jesus, he generally stayed in a town or city for a much shorter period and then journeyed to another place to spread the good news. The only other location Paul resided for long – about a year and a half – was Corinth (in the Roman province of Achaia – now southern Greece).

Toward the end of his sojourn in Ephesus, Paul decided to visit Jerusalem again, but in a round about way by first crossing the Aegean Sea westward to Macedonia (Roman province covering what is now northern Greece) and Achaia, then doubling back south by ship to Palestine and inland to Jerusalem. So as not to get sidetracked on the way from Macedonia and Achaia, Paul determined not to stop in the port at Ephesus. Yet he desired to see the leaders of the church in Ephesus. At Paul’s behest then, those church elders met him at Miletus, a little south of Ephesus on the coast.

Uncertain of what would happen to him in Jerusalem or beyond, Paul spoke intimately and passionately with his beloved friends. It was a time for him to clarify his focus in life, for his own sake to be sure, but especially for the sake of the church in Ephesus. The followers of Jesus in Ephesus lived in a city, a province, and an empire teeming with a plurality of religious and philosophical beliefs and practices. Paul made clear that he staked his life upon and proclaimed to all the good news of repentance and faith in Jesus. He charged the church leaders to do the same. Challenges and temptations would swirl around them to tear them from the good news. Yet in God’s grace, through worship, prayer, fellowship, and service, they could stand firm and grow in repentance and faith.

We face a context – locally, nationally, and globally – of teeming plurality and diversity in beliefs and practices. How will we respond? Will we respond by ever-deepening commitment and witness to repentance and faith in Jesus, savior and lord of all? Will we persevere, joyfully and hopefully, in worship, prayer, fellowship, and service – all focused in Jesus and his good news for us and the world? Will this be the race we run, in company with Paul and countless other faithful throughout history, until we complete the task we have been given, namely, to lead a life worthy of Jesus? May we – today, tomorrow, and ever – resoundingly answer “Yes!” in heart and mind, in word and deed: our whole selves our whole life for Jesus!

Gregory Strong

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