One of the most significant portions of Scripture is Matthew 28:16-20, where we read the Great Commission, which is Jesus’ last sermon to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. As humans we recognize the importance of someone’s last words: they’re often recorded and preserved as special. A last meeting with parents is often a very significant time of a person’s life.
In this section of Acts Paul is traveling to Jerusalem, on a journey that he feels strongly will be his last. He calls the leaders of the church of Ephesus to come meet him so he can pass on some final words to them before he leaves them forever. What would the great Apostle Paul say to a group, if he knew he would never have another chance to speak to them? What instructions and encouragements did he consider to be the most important?
In verses 28-31 he begins by giving them, as pastors, a warning that things will not be easy. Their flocks will be attacked by the enemy: imposters seeking a quick buck or an easy living, and heretics seeking to lead people astray by teaching nice-sounding philosophies. Paul’s foresight is remarkable: it doesn’t seem like much has changed in 2000 years, does it? The history of the church actually makes it seem astonishing that the true church has survived the endless encroachments of these two predators: hypocrites and heretics.
Verse 32 shows Paul declaring that despite the dangers that he foresees in the future, he is confident that he can commit their future to God, and that He will keep them. What an encouragement to them and to us to have a God like that. Finally, in verses 33-35 Paul concludes with exhortations to look out for each other: not seeking to live off of others, but seeking to benefit others in all that they (and we) do. In many ways, this section echoes Jesus’ words in Matthew; the same three ideas are present, in some way. May we keep these in mind as we live out our lives today.