“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” v. 24
Paul was ready to surrender his freedom and, if needed, his life itself for the sake of Christ and his service. Self-preservation and comfort were not a motive which he sought after. His main concern was to fulfill the course which Christ had marked for him to run, sharing in the Spirit’s power the good news of God’s free grace in Christ. Life or death was not the issue that mattered: what mattered most was, as he told the church gathered, that Christ should be magnified in his body.
On the leaders of the church gathered around Paul, he laid on them a weighty responsibility. The Holy Spirit had entrusted them with the charge of the people of God and the church in Ephesus. They now were charged with the sharing of the gospel to the city and caring for the them as shepherds care for their flock. Their responsibility was great in that the flock which they were commissioned to ten was no other than the church of God which he himself had purchased for himself with nothing less than the life-blood of his beloved Son.
Paul then looks forward to their future and the prospects for the Ephesian church was not completely promising. He tells them the sheep will have to be guarded with unceasing vigilance, for ferocious wolves will try to force their way among them and ravage them. As in the Jesus’ parable of the good shepherd, here it is the leaders of the church who are called to be the good shepherds of their flock. They are called protect the church from false teachers, here described as wolves, because of the spiritual death and havoc they cause. Yet it is not only wolves that will try to intrude the church from the outside, but that false teachings will come out of their own ranks and arise to try to seduce their followers away from the fold. Later in John’s writings in Revelations the Ephesian church is chastised for abandoning her first love. Foreseeing these happenings, Paul urges the church leaders to be vigilant and follow his example: To maintain their course God has set them to run; to share the good new of God’s free grace; to shepherd and show compassion and concern on new converts; to be ready to surrender freedom and life; as all that mattered was that Christ should be glorified in their body.
As you read this chapter and my reflection, understand that you are now one of the leaders of the church today. You are now called to be the good shepherd over the flock in your city, the church that God purchased with the blood of his Son. You are now called to keep the wolves out. And together as leaders, we are called to maintain our course God has set us to run; to share the good new of God’s free grace; to shepherd and show compassion and concern on new converts; to be ready to surrender freedom and life; as all that matters is that Christ should be glorified in our bodies