Acts – Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 10
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|Really, we have looked at verses 17-24, and we have seen the integrity of his testimony; we have looked at verses 25-31, and we have seen the integrity of his burden. That was in our last study together. Now we want to look at verse 32 and look at the integrity of his message.|
Paul: The Missionary – Part 9
Turn to Acts 20. This is message number 10 introducing the book of Ephesians. We may get to the book of Ephesians before the Lord comes back. Who knows? But we sure are enjoying the introduction. We have been looking at the life of Paul. It says in Ephesians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” We picked up off of that. It was a spring board. We took it apart. We explained it. We looked at Paul, the man, and now we have been looking at Paul, the missionary. He is in Miletus. If you will look in the middle of your map, you will find Asia. Look down below Asia to the left on the map, and you will find Ephesus. Right below Ephesus is Miletus. That is where he is.
He is on his third missionary journey. He bypassed Ephesus because he is trying to hurry to get to Jerusalem, but he calls the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him in this seaport city by the name of Miletus. Remember, Asia Minor of that day is modern-day Turkey. So you can get an idea geographically where Paul was.
Well, by meeting with these elders, he has opened himself up and given us an inside look at the man once again. Really, we have looked at verses 17-24, and we have seen the integrity of his testimony; we have looked at verses 25-31, and we have seen the integrity of his burden. That was in our last study together. Now we want to look at verse 32 and look at the integrity of his message. I confess to you that when I study I find more gems trying to hurry through something than any other way. I didn’t plan it this way, but when I got into it, it just leaped up before me. It grabbed me, and I want to share it with you now.
There are three things we are going to look at in verse 32. First of all, about this message that Paul preached, I want us to see the definition of the message that Paul preached. What was it that Paul was so concerned about? In the message he preached that the savage wolves would come in and prey upon these believers and seek to destroy what Paul had said. Now, to reflect and to remind ourselves, let’s go back to verse 29. This is all in the flow of what he is saying to these Ephesian elders. He says in verse 29, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves, men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
Now the word for “savage,” when it says “savage wolves,” is the word barus. We get the word “burden” from that. When it is used metaphorically, as a word picture, it is the word that refers to burdensome teaching. In other words, it is a teaching that is grievous or a teaching that is oppressive. Paul knows something in his spirit. The term he uses there is that intuitive knowledge. He doesn’t understand the whole picture, but he knows there are some people out there in the congregation at Ephesus. He is warning these Ephesian elders. He says, “There are people out there that are going to seek to destroy the message that I am preaching. They are going to seek with oppressive teaching to come in and put the people back up under bondage.”
Have you ever studied anything about wolves? I doubt you have. I just like that kind of thing. If you have ever studied anything about wolves, you know they attack in a pack. It is never one at a time. It is usually in a group. They have even been known to lay around something they are about to attack for up to two days and just be quiet as a pack. They will lay there until the moment is right and the moment is ready, and then they move upon their prey.
Paul pictured these false teachers just like a pack of wolves. He says to those Ephesian elders, “I am burdened.” He says, “There are some people in the congregation right now. They are there, and they are like a pack of wolves. They are waiting on me to depart so they can move in and prey upon that message I have taught you.” Paul knows they are going to try to inflict Law back on people who are up under grace.
Look at verse 32 again, and you will see his message. He says, “And now I commend you now to God and to the word of his grace.” Now there is your key. What was the message that Paul preached that he was so worried these savage wolves in the congregation would seek to destroy the moment he was off the scene? It was the message of God’s grace. Now, I want to tell you, as we have studied through the life of Paul, we have seen him before and we’ve seen him after. And it has done something inside of me to help me understand why he had such a fear of these savage wolves coming into that church. Paul used to be one of them! Now, folks, we must understand that. You can see it so clearly in what he is saying here. Paul had been a legalist. He had been one to say if you obey a certain set of rules, that somehow will make your spiritual and right before God. “If you do this, and this, and this, you can enter the kingdom of heaven.” He used to be one of those legalists and so, therefore, he could spot them wherever he would go. He pulls these Ephesian elders aside and says, “Listen, they are in your congregation, and just as soon as I’m off the scene, they are going to step in with this awful burdensome doctrine that is going to oppress the people and take them out from under the message of grace.”
As a matter of fact, go back to Philippians 3 to remember how Paul used to be. Paul gives a little bit of his testimony there. He is in Philippi. You know, a lot of people wonder why he went outside the city. Acts 16 says when he got to Philippi on his second missionary journey, as he has gone over into Macedonia, he got there and had a prayer meeting outside the city. Why didn’t he go to the synagogue?
Well, when I was there in Philippi this summer, I asked about that. I said, “Where is the synagogue?” The man said, “As far as we can tell, there is none here.” You see, you had to have so many people to have a synagogue. Evidently, there weren’t enough real Jewish people there to have a synagogue. So Paul goes outside the city of Philippi and has a little prayer meeting there by the river ,which to us would be nothing more than a little creek.
In Philippians 3, look at what he says. He gives a testimony of where he had come from. He says, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” That term “rejoice” is in the present tense which means keep on rejoicing. Now how were they to keep on rejoicing? He says, “To write the same things again to you is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.” Verse 2 continues, “Beware of the dogs.” The term “dogs” does not refer to the Georgia football team. He is talking about those people who prey upon flesh.
You see, the dogs back in that day were like wolves in our day; they traveled in packs. They were scavengers. Even little small infant children were tender to their attack and always were prey to these savage dogs. They preyed upon flesh. They fed upon flesh. So Paul picks up a term the people could understand and attaches it to the legalisms of that day. It is interesting to me, in the Gospels the Gentiles are called dogs; now Paul is calling the legalizers, the Jews that will not respond to the gospel of grace, the same term, dogs. He says, “beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.” Paul is saying, “Here are people who are saying that you do something externally to make you right with God.” He says, “That is a false circumcision. We have been circumcised of the heart. We are the true circumcision of God.” It is not what a man does on the outside. It’s what God does on the inside of a man that qualifies him to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Then he goes on in verse 3, “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Paul is talking about this false doctrine that is getting into that church at Philippi. He goes on to say, “Now listen, if that was the right way, if these people were telling you the truth, then I would personally have a whole lot more right than anybody else to put confidence in my flesh.” Look what he says in verse 4: “although I myself might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more.”
Then he says in verse 5, “circumcised the eighth day.” Talking about external works, this was what a true Jew would do. They always took the male children on the eighth day, and they were circumcised. Our Lord Himself on the eighth day was circumcised. It was something that meant that you absolutely were genuine Jewish. You came right out of that particular mold. Look at what he says, “of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin.” To know which tribe you were from would be like today in America to have a name like Smith and all your friends call you “Bubba.” I mean, you know you are from America. There is no problem with that. When they came out of Babylon from captivity, they had lost the records of the tribes. How does he know he was originally tracked back to the tribe of Benjamin? Well, he was just true blue, folks. He was genuine. He was one. He had a pedigree. He says, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee.”
Now do you know who these dudes were? The Pharisees were the police force of the Scribes. They were the ones who had made such a mess out of what God had done with the Ten Commandments, that when Jesus came, He had one battle after another with these people. They had taken the Ten Commandments and made 631 laws out of them. To make it even worse, the more you obeyed the Law, the more spiritual you were. I can just see Jesus pointing to one of these Pharisees one day and saying, “Your righteousness better exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, or you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” I guarantee you, one of those guys walked by. Every time they would obey a law, they would put a little thing inside of a box called a phylactery. Sometimes they wore them on the wrist, but most of the time they wore them on their forehead. The bigger that box got, the heavier the head would get. I mean, these were the spiritual ones like some people that we see only come to church on Sunday morning, with a big Bible about 72 pounds. They have a black suit on and come walking in. That is the way they look. They had to hire somebody to walk around and hold their head up for them. I believe one of those dudes walked by, and Jesus said, “Hey, see that man out there. If you are going to enter the kingdom of heaven, you had better have more righteousness than he does.”
Paul said, “Listen, I lived in a day that I felt like the more laws I obeyed, the more qualified I became to enter the kingdom of heaven.” He said, “Listen, these people who teach you this are dogs, and they prey upon the flesh. They don’t understand the message that I preach.”
Well, look on in verse 6. He says, “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.” To whom? God? No, to man. Men would look at him and say, “Oh, I wish I could be like Paul. Man, he just does everything so right.”
Look at verse 7: “But whatever things were gain to me [I love these words], those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” He says in verse 8, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things.” Isn’t it interesting? He said, “I counted them as loss,” and then “I suffered them as loss.” I’d much rather count them first then suffer them. He says, “and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”
Look in verse 9 at the change in this old savage wolf who has now been completely and dramatically changed by the message of grace. He says, “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law.” Do you understand what he is saying? This man came out of that system, and he says, “Listen, all that I did was rubbish. Now I have met Christ, and I have been radically changed, not on the outside, but on the inside.” He says, “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith [you can never separate obedience and faith] faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”
Boy, I’m telling you. You’ve seen a radical change in this old savage wolf. He was the man who preached Law and the man who preached works. He was the man who said, “By your self-determined effort you can make yourself qualified to enter the kingdom of God.” However, God met him on that Damascus Road and suddenly blinded him. It didn’t take him any time to realize, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” From that point on, he realized the message of grace was where it was. That is why Paul is so concerned about this congregation.
So he tells the elders, “Oh, guys, there are savage wolves in your congregation. As soon as I’m off the scene, they are going to put you back up under that old oppressive, heavy, weighty, bondage teaching. I don’t want you to have it.”
As a matter of fact, if you want to see a little bit of what we are going to be looking at, look at Ephesians 1:5-8. This will just give you a preview. Look at his message, this savage wolf. I can’t wait until we get into the epistle to begin working it all out. What a difference it makes in a man when he is touched by the grace of God, and he realizes he could not transform himself. God had to transform him. He didn’t deserve a bit of it. “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will [look at the whole motive of God in this], to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood [it was not in our works or self-determined effort], the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.”
If you really want to see the message, look in 2:1-9. He says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too [Paul puts himself in the same category] all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God,” what a powerful phrase! “being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Look at verse 8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” Paul was a changed man. He was the man who had put Christians to death, the man who had rejected Christ as the Messiah. But he was also the man who was radically met on the Damascus Road by the resurrected Lord and completely changed. He used to be a savage wolf, but now he preached the message of God’s grace.
Well, that phrase back in verse 32, “and to the word of His grace,” literally “the word of the grace of Him,” is only found one other time, but it shows you who he is talking to. If you will go back to Acts 14 on his first missionary journey, that same phrase is used when he is there in Iconium preaching. Remember, he had all kinds of opposition in Antioch of Pisidia and Iconium and all the way down. Let’s go back to verse 1 so we can see where he is. “And it came about that in Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews.” Now that is where it all happened, folks. That’s where the debates went on in the Word, “the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a great multitude believed,” responded to the message of grace, “both of Jews and of Greeks.” Now watch this in verse 2. “But the Jews who disbelieved.” Oh, they hated this message because they had already worked their way up the ladder. They had seniority. They have already obeyed the Law. Certainly they will enter the kingdom of heaven. They hated it when he said you could only come through a man, Christ Jesus. “But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles, and embittered them against the brethren. Therefore [What did Paul do? Run? No.], they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” Even through the miraculous God was trying to let these people understand, “You had better listen to this man, because what he is preaching is the message that will get you into the kingdom of heaven.”
Paul is a concerned man. Paul used to be a savage wolf, now he can spot one 100 yards off. And Paul is saying, “Oh, you elders, watch out. They are out there. They have never responded to grace. They are out there ready to put the people back up under the old bondage of the law.”
Do you attend church out of grace or out of Law? The whole key is why you go. “Well, it is Sunday, and we always go to church on Sunday at 11:00. We can’t go at 9:15 because no where in the New Testament does it say to go to the early service. We go at 11:00 because if you come at 11:00 they have the choir. Don’t you know that? If you don’t go to church, it is going to hurt you in your rewards in heaven one day.” Oh, dear me, folks. Get up under the right message. We are saved by grace. What you or I do or don’t do is not the issue. Listen, the key is, have we responded to that which Christ has done and wants to continually do in our life.
So what is his message? The message of grace. That is why he is so concerned. It is so radically different from what they have heard.
Secondly, a description of how this message would benefit those who would obey it. No wonder Paul is so concerned. Verse 32 says, “And now I commend you to God.” The word “commend” there is the word paratithemi. It means “to place you near something.” It means to put you in his hands. Paul says, “Listen, I am leaving. I probably won’t return. You won’t see my face anymore.” He has already done his homework. Verse 31 says, “Therefore, be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” He was saying, “I have already done by work. I have already taught you the message for three years with compassion in my heart. I have taught you, instructing in the Word. Now I am turning you over to God. I won’t be here. You can’t call me. Listen to what I’ve said. Protect the message.” He was telling the elders, “You had better protect the message.”
Well, in verse 32 he goes on to say, “and to the word of His grace [notice what follows] which is able to build you up.” Now that throws you immediately. The term “build you up” is literally “to build.” It is like building a house. Adding “you up” takes your mind in a different direction. Think of it as just simply to build, to add to something. First you have a foundation, and you begin to add something to it. You begin to put things on it. It begins to build up, “and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
There are two things the gospel of grace does. It is His unmerited favor which He gives to men who respond by faith to Him. It is also His transforming power. You can have a set of rules over here and try to live up to them so somehow you’ll become like Jesus. No, you don’t become like Jesus by obeying a set of rules. You become like Jesus by responding in absolute surrender to Him, dying to yourself. Then He, inside of you, transforms you into the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, the Law was never meant to give righteousness. The Law was meant to show man that he couldn’t be as righteous as he determined to be. It was meant to lead man to grace.
So Paul says this message of grace is able to do two things in your life. First of all, it is able to build up, not the individual, but your inheritance. Now let’s talk about this inheritance for a second. The word “inheritance” is added here. What inheritance is he talking about? It’s able to build it up, and it’s able to assure that you get it. Now what inheritance is he talking about? Well, let’s just look at “inheritance” in the New Testament and see if we can glean from it.
Galatians 3:18 says that it is an inheritance founded on grace, not on Law. No wonder these Pharisees hated it. No wonder these religious Jews hated it. “Why, I gave out 75,000 tracts three days ago. You mean to tell me that is not going to make sure that I get a better inheritance?” Not if God didn’t tell you to give out those 75,000 tracts. You see, the key here is not so much what you do, it is why you are doing it. Don’t think I’m talking about perfection. Don’t think I’m talking about passivity. Listen, when you start responding out of grace to Him who already loves you, who has already accepted you in the Beloved, He’ll burn you slap out. But it is the best burn out you have ever had in your life, because you don’t have to worry about the results. It’s all His power.
It’s all His leading, all His guiding. It’s Jesus in you transforming you, leading you, guiding you, taking the Scriptures and putting it into your life practically every day. Therefore, there is an inheritance at the other end. That is what blows me away.
“You mean, God saved me by grace and now He wants to use me? He invites me to get in on what He is up to by the crises of my life? You mean that one day, because of my response, my proper response, there is going to be an inheritance for all of that?” Yes. But I tell you what. We won’t keep it long. I believe that is what we will turn right around and give right back at the feet of Jesus. Who in the world would ever be dumb enough to keep it when they realize that salvation is His and not man’s?
Ephesians 1:14 says the Holy Spirit is the earnest of that inheritance. “How can I be sure that there is going to be some kind of inheritance?” Well, if you have received Christ, you have His Spirit in you. That is the earnest. That is the down payment. Full payment is going to come later on.
Ephesians 5:5 says that no man who is immoral or impure or covetous or idolatrous as a lifestyle will get this inheritance. That means you must be born from above.
Colossians 3:24 says that Christ whom we serve will give us this inheritance one day. Boy, what a great day that is going to be.
Hebrews 9:15 says it is an eternal inheritance. It is going to affect us for all eternity.
1 Peter 1:4 says that it is reserved in heaven where nobody can touch it, for those who are born from above. There is an inheritance here.
“Well, now, hold on. Hold on. I want to get serious about this whole thing.” No! No! You don’t do what you do so you can get an inheritance. You do what you do because you love Jesus. That is the whole key in getting your inheritance. Get your mind off the inheritance. Get your mind back on Him and the message of grace. If you will focus on that, as Christ is able to work in and through you, that determines the inheritance one day that you will get. His grace is able to add to or build up your inheritance.
Romans and 1 Corinthians talk about how we are going to be judged according to the deeds done in our body. Do you know that one day we are going to be judged as believers? Our works are going to be either wood, hay and stubble or precious stones. A thought hit me one day when I was studying that. Wood, hay and stubble take up the most room. So the people you think are going to get the bigger reward may get the smallest because they are doing all of this on the outside to impress men and to impress God. The precious stones can be held in your hand.
It says they are either going to be those things which God has done through you, as you have responded to His transforming message of grace, or they are going to be those things that you done for God, hoping to impress Him. The latter are going to burn. God says, “It is what I do in and through you as a result of your surrender to me.”
You see, the message of grace is not just when you get saved. The message of grace takes us all the way through salvation. The gospel doesn’t mean just that He died for us and that we can receive Him and be saved from above. That’s part of it. That’s step one. That is not the end. It is the beginning. The message of grace must motivate us all the way through our entire life so one day when that inheritance comes, it won’t be based on what I did for Jesus. It is what I allowed Jesus to do in and through me while I was here on this earth.
You’ll know where I am when all the rewards are given. You will see the smoke for about 40 miles. I just hope there is something left in the latter years of my life to just let Jesus be Jesus in me and do what He wants to do in and through my life. I’ve done enough things for Him that I thought impressed people and impressed God. Do you understand the difference? One is nothing more than a form of religion, the other is the power thereof. When you submit to it, you don’t worry about the inheritance. It will take care of itself. You just enjoy the one who is transforming you through whatever you are going through in your life.
Lord, have mercy! We are going to stand before Him and see it as clear as a picture. You see, I have a thought. I have them periodically. I think a lot of people do not want to hear the message of grace. The majority want to hear the other. Why? Because they don’t want to be related to God on an intimate basis. They don’t want to deal with their prejudices. They don’t want to deal with their covetousness. They would rather give a big gift. They would rather come carpet the church. They would rather go out and spend their life on a mission field somewhere. Why? So that they can impress God. They don’t want to walk holy before Him. Some of the rudest people I think I have ever met in my entire life have been doctrinally straight as an arrow, but there was nothing inside of them except death. Why? Because they are doing it all for Him. They know it. There is no life doing it through them. It builds your reward. It assures your reward.
What did Paul say in Galatians 2:20? “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Paul was saying, “No, sir. When you see me, you don’t see me. You see somebody else: Christ liveth in me.” Then he goes on in verse 21, which we never quote. You know what he says, “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” You see, folks, Paul was concerned about a message he had been radically transformed by. So he tells these elders, “Look out. Look out.”
We see a definition and a description. There’s one more point and we have finished the verse. It is the deduction we can make. What deduction can we make? We know what He says. We know that this inheritance is going to be among those who are set apart and sanctified. We know that it is going to be built by that which God is able to do in and through us. What can we deduct from that? These people were elders. Paul wasn’t speaking to the Ephesian congregation. He was speaking to the Ephesian elders. He said, “I want to tell you something guys. I am gone. I am putting you in God’s hands. You had better protect the message that you have heard and been transformed by. In your congregation there are people who are like savage wolves. They’ve dragged in their baggage they have been living under. Misery loves company, and they are waiting on their opportunity to take the people walking by grace and put them right back up under that old bondage of the Law.”
He tells these elders, “Protect the doctrine.” But don’t protect the doctrine only. Do you realize something? Doctrine frames a philosophy of ministry. You can’t separate the two. So he tells these elders, “You had better watch it like a hawk. You don’t want to get people in here “doing” for Jesus. You want people in here dying to the old stinking flesh and letting Jesus do in and through them.”
There is a big difference. You have got to have a walk or you have no results. Let me just say what I have deducted from that. I am an elder at this church with some other men. I think God is telling us, “You protect the doctrine of the message of grace with everything in the fiber of your being and protect the philosophy of ministry.” It will sneak in. Folks, it comes in through well-meaning people. It comes in from people who have been geared by a performance mode, who are self-determined to do something for God, rather than dying to self and letting God do something through them.
Paul said, “You imitate my faith because wherever I am going, God is leading me. If you want to be where the rewards are, you do as I do. Don’t imitate me. Imitate my faith. I used to be a savage wolf, but I have learned. I learned the death that is in it. Now, I’ve got a message of grace and you, elders, watch it. Watch it. Watch it.”
Well, aren’t you glad we are not responsible for the results, just the surrender? Lord, I love that song, “Jesus be Jesus in me, no longer me but Thee. Resurrection power, fill me this hour, Jesus be Jesus in me.”