25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 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.’ ”
36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
One Who Raises the Church Which Was Bought by the Blood of Christ
Today’s scripture is regarding Paul’s message to the members and lay leaders of the Church of Ephesus. If last week’s scripture was regarding Paul’s lifelong confession of faith before God, today’s message concerns Paul’s proclamation of God’s plan for the church. We must go forward this next year looking upon the greatest answers for ourselves as individuals and for our church. This is why the core of this New Year’s message was the blessing of conquest. Our church is currently in the process of refinancing our loan to get a better interest rate. One of the main documents that the banks are requesting from us is a file with 3-year and 5-year growth projections for our church. We sent them a file indicating that we expect the number of 20-40 year old members, multi-ethnic members, and professionals to increase to about 1,000 over the next few years. The mere number is not what is important. This may be just a simple document requested from the bank but there is a prayer within this. We are saying, “to that extent let’s evangelize, and to that extent let’s solidify our remnant and multi-ethnic ministries so that we can begin full-scale devotion to the Evangelization of America and the World.” Let us all be used on an individual basis for this work.
Over the next five years there are many people who will retire from their work and from the church. If that is so then before God we must receive a final answer and blessing in order to really raise the church. There may even be people here who may not be with us then. Who knows? If God calls us then we must go. It is with that very heart that Paul is giving his message in the scripture today. That is why in verse 37 after this message is over when they were praying they embraced each other and wept. It was to that extent that they made this determined resolution.
1. First hold onto what the church is, and how important a blessing it really is
1) Each individual who has received salvation is a church. This is why it says in 1 Corinthians 3:16 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” We are people of the spirit and temples of God in which the glory of God resides. If we truly realize this and live our lives God must give us evidences for our entire lives. That is why he gave us the covenant of Acts 1:8.
2) When each of these individuals who received salvation gathers together, this is called the local church. All the churches that are scattered across this world are one together in Christ (universal church). Those who belonged to the church on this earth will meet together in heaven (church of heaven)
3) But if you look at this church in verse 28, it describes the church of God as “bought with his own blood”. What does this mean?
God gave his own life and saved each of us as individuals and gathered those people to raise the church. If the church truly is established by the life that he gave, we will receive an answer to how preciously we should regard our church.
(1) There are many people who laugh at or look lightly upon the church. This doesn’t apply only to non-believers. Just the same, we cannot look lightly upon the positions that we are given in the church. Doing so is ultimately looking lightly upon God who raised that church. What do you think the result of that would be? Pastors and lay leaders are all the more important. We know well the fall of the family of the Priest Eli, the rebellion of Korah the church officer, and the failure of Ananias and Sephira.
(2) On the other hand, if we truly know Christ and the church that he raised, there are tremendous blessings and answers to be received (Matthew 16:16-19)
First, you are a rock, and on this rock I will build my church. No one will shake you, and you are a rock. God is saying that he will bless and answer us to the extent that we can raise his church. This includes spiritual, physical, and financial blessings.
Second, the gates of Hades will not overcome you. No matter what Satan does, it does not matter. All the more our spiritual eyes open, and it becomes even greater evidence. You must be in a church like this so that you can succeed together with your fellow believers.
Third, he said that he would give us the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven. This is the blessing of connecting with God and being supported by God. If we, our families, and our church enjoy this blessing then all problems will finish.
2. Then how must we enjoy the blessings of the church, and be used for the sake of raising the church?
1) First we must know that Satan constantly looks for opportunities to make each person and church crumble.
In Revelations 12, it says that Satan’s followers that were forced out of the sky will do everything and anything to make the remaining churches of Christ fall.
(1) When does this darkness crumble? It is when those with the mystery of Christ gather and pray together. That is the reason why when the church gathers, teams must form to pray and to set the spiritual atmosphere. This is the reason the Early Church did not fall.
(2) In verse 30, it says that Satan will work to distort the word of God, especially within the church. This is why we must not falter by ones’ words. The spiritual battle must be fought to understand and distinguish any pessimistic words, conflicts, doubt, and that any that makes people fall into trials is the work of Satan. Lay leaders must help the rest of the church with this.
2) It is important that the word is within each of the souls of our church members, and that the word is living in our church.
God still works to bless, move, and raise us through the word in the church.
That is why verse 32 reads “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace.” A pastor must stake his life to raise the church with the words of grace given by God, and the church members must stake their lives to hold onto that word and enjoy.
(1) Make great efforts to not lose hold of the word, and pray to truly not be one that loses hold of the word.
What is the most important work of Satan? It is to ensure that you cannot hear the word, and also to take away that word from you. When the word enters you, you are able to live (Eze 37:4-10, Eze 47:1-8). Attend worship with a prepared heart, let the word deeply root in your heart, and pray that this word is alive and working in your life.
Matthew 13 speaks of 3 different kinds of fields. Let us make the fields of our heart harvest and bear fruit 100, 60, and 30 fold.
(2) Meditate the word every day. This is applying the word to my daily life. That is when works will rise. This is the reason Joshua 1:7-9 reads “Do not turn from it to the right or to the left and meditate on it day and night,” and that “you will be prosperous and successful.”
(3) Have forum. This is sharing of the word- believing the power and blessings of the word and proclaiming it to all people. By saying “This is how I held onto the word,” you are acknowledging the word to all people. This is the start of evangelism. If I am truly holding onto the word, God will allow me to meet those to hear that word.
3) All church members must look after one another.
(1) Heb 10:23-25 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess (meaning hold onto the covenant). And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Verse 35 also says to work hard and help the weak, and that giving is better than receiving. Let’s become ones who give more. Give the gospel, prayer (intercessory prayer), love, and attention.
(2) To do this, we must meet often (region centered, department centered). You can help one another through prayer but you need to know one’s circumstances. We are continuing with the same regional churches that we began with last year. This year, the multi-ethnic ministry must also do this.
Conclusion- What must we do once we raise a church this way? Save the world. The current field is urgent and filled with people living without answers and struggling spiritually. The church must gain strength and do works of saving this world.
I bless you that you may raise the church bought with the blood of Christ within answers and blessings of saving this world.