We are going to spend some more time in Acts 20. The detail we will consider is one that we have already considered in this study, but I want to spend some more time considering it because it is what we see in chapter seven of Elders in the Life of the Church.
We will consider, particularly, verse 28 in this passage. Luke tells the story of Paul instructing the elders of the local churches in Ephesus:
Be on guard for yourselves and for 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.
The authors of Elders in the Life of the Church rightly point out that elders are overseers, not overlords, and that the church of God has been purchased by God with His own blood. This means that elders do not own the church. It is not our church, it is God’s. Of course, this is true regarding all of creation and everything, material and immaterial, that is part of creation.
The authors also make some other points that I want to remind us of before we move forward. They quote John Murray (pg. 101):
- A shepherd keeps his flock from going astray. In practice this means instruction and warning….
- A shepherd goes after his sheep when they go astray. In practice this means reproof and correction, in many cases the exercise of ecclesiastical discipline….
- A shepherd protects his sheep from their enemies…. perhaps there is no more ominous feature of members of the church than the lack of discernment… here the elders in tending the flock must cultivate for themselves and inculcate in the members of the church, that sensitivity to truth and right, so that they and the people will be able to detect the voice of the enemy….
- A shepherd leads his flock to the fold; he pours oil into their wounds and gives them pure water to quench their thirst. I would like to press home the necessity and the blessing of the ministry of consolation.
In response to this chapter, I would simply like to make one admonishment. Our ministry as elders is not about us. We are servants of the Most High God and the church is His. In fact, everything, material and immaterial, is His. We are stewards. God will decide what sort of people to bring into His fold. God will decide how effective our outreach and evangelism. Because we serve God, we are indebted to all the people He would bring into the fold. We do not have the right to choose the type of person who will join us. We do not have the right to reject any member of God’s flock. This is why Paul wrote,
“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Romans 1:14).
We are actually debtors to all of those whom Christ brings into His fold concerning the work of the Gospel (Romans 1:15). We are overseers, not overlords; servants, not masters.