In yesterday’s study we looked at two things Paul had to say about his preaching. What else does he have to say?
3. Paul preached to everybody (v. 21). He declared the Word of God to both Jews and Greeks. The Jews gave him a hard time. They gave him a hard time everywhere he went, and they gave him a particularly hard time at Ephesus. Yet he ministered to them. And the Gentiles? Well, they weren’t much better. We remember that there was a riot at Ephesus, and it was not the Jews who were rioting in the great amphitheater, shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” It was the Gentiles. Paul ministered to them all. The Gospel was a universal Gospel, and the Savior Paul served was a universal Savior. So he spoke about the Lord Jesus Christ to everybody.
4. Paul spoke pointedly (v. 21). I add this because his message was that “they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in the Lord Jesus.” Repentance means turning from sin. Faith in Jesus means believing in Him alone for salvation. That is pointed preaching, and it is the only kind that is any good. Some preaching is so general and some references to sin are so indirect, that hardly anyone can be offended. If they cannot be offended, then they can hardly turn from sin since they have not even recognized that they are guilty of it. Paul did not preach that way. His preaching was pointed, and God blessed it.
5. Paul’s preaching was comprehensive (v. 27). It was comprehensive in the sense that it embraced not just what we would call “a simple Gospel” or “an evangelistic message” but rather “the whole will of God.” John Stott called Paul’s work an example of “evangelism in depth,” noting that “he shared all possible truth with all possible people in all possible ways.”1
Not only did Paul minister humbly and with tears, and not only was he diligent in his preaching, but he also had a proper set of priorities (v. 24). He told the elders, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
When I read that, I think of Philippians 3:13-14, where Paul gives a similar testimony: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This is an exposition of what he said to the Ephesian elders, for it tells us that his goals involved forgetting what was behind—the failures, temptations, weaknesses, even the achievements—and pressing forward instead to the things God yet had for him, always having his eye on the prize to which God had called him in Christ Jesus.
One reason why many of us are not more effective in our Christian lives is that we do not have our priorities in order. Isn’t it true that most of us value our lives far more than our witness? We value the praise of men far more than the approbation of God.
The final thing Paul says about himself is that he labored without greed and that he demonstrated his concern for the Ephesians by hard work. “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (vv. 33-35).
It is a scandal to the ministry that so many ministers are lazy. They can be, because in most churches they do not have anybody to supervise them, at least not very well. What they do with their time is between them and God. So if the minister is not thinking about God and remembering that he is answerable to Him, it is very easy to waste a great deal of time. There are always easy things he can do, rather than working hard.
I think it would be a great thing in many cases if those who are in the ministry, in addition to laboring in ministry, would actually work with their hands, the way Paul did, in a secular job. Then, at least they would be working, and out of the work there would come a sense of the value of work and the preciousness of time. Besides, the ministry of the Gospel would be commended in the minds of many people.
1John R. W, Stott, The Message of Acts: To the Ends of the Earth (Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1990), 328.