Paul was great . . . but not for the reasons you think.
JULY 17, 2023
Paul was great…but not for the reasons you think. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
Key Life is all about God’s radical grace. Grace that has dirt under its fingernails and laugh lines on its face. If you want the Bible to be a book of rules, you may want to stop listening now, but if you’re hungry for the truth that’ll make you free. Welcome to Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. If you’re just joining us, we’re in a very long, longer than I thought it was going to be study of the Book of Acts. And we’re up to the 20th chapter of Acts where there are two great incidents, one I’m going to comment on just a little bit, and we’re going to spend some time on the second incident. By the way, I hope you had a great week-end. And I hope your pastor’s sermon was as good as my pastor’s sermon. Before we study, let’s pray. Father, we come into your presence on this Monday surprised that we’re here. So many told us we weren’t good enough and we knew that, so many of you told us we didn’t know enough and we know that. Some people told us we were not obedient enough, and we know that too, but you overrode it all and by invitation we’re in your presence because of the sufficient and finished blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We’re thankful that you clothe us in his righteousness and that we have every right to be in the throne room of the God of the universe, and we praise you for that. Father, you know the people who are listening to this right now, for some it’s hard, for some, it’s easy, for some there’s laughter, and for some there’s tears, and you’re involved in every bit of it, sufficient for every need and present in every party. Father, as always, we pray for the one who teaches, that you would forgive him his sins cause there are many. We would see Jesus and Him only and we pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen. If you have your Bible, open it to the 20th chapter of Acts. That’s a fun chapter, at least the first part. In the first part, Paul is in Troas and we spent some time talking about it. And he’s preaching, and a young man is sitting in the window of the room on one of the top floors where Paul is preaching and he falls out of the window and either dies or he is knocked unconscious. And that brought the sermon to an abrupt halt. Paul went down, the young man, his name was Eutychus, was revived, and then Paul went right back and started preaching again. I don’t know about you, but I, about a half an hour, maybe 35 minutes is about all I can take for a sermon. When it gets up to be an hour, I start drifting. And when it gets to two hours, you have lost me. Do you know how I stay awake in a two hour sermon? I do it with mints and I take and when I start drifting off, I put a mint in my mouth and it bites and it keeps me awake. And I have listened to 10 mint sermons and sometimes 5 mint sermons and the great sermons where I haven’t had to use any mints. But I love Paul because after the incident and it was disturbing, he went back to the pulpit and he began to preach. If I could remember his name, I would tell you, but it was a famous missionary who was home and preaching at the churches that had supported him on the mission field. And in one of the churches on a Sunday evening of a missions conference, he collapsed and almost died. They took him to a back room in the church and a doctor was called, and when he regained consciousness, he said, I must get back in the pulpit. The doctor said, if you do, you will die. And he said, if I don’t, I will die. That was the passion of the Apostle Paul. And the Eutychus thing is kind of neat and it reminds us of that particular passion. And then you go from an incident that has some overtones of fun in it, there’s something that is one of the most serious passages in the entire Book of Acts, starting at the 17th verse of the 20th chapter of Acts, Luke writes.
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which befell me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and Greeks of repentance to God and to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I’m going to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit, not knowing what shall befall me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I receive from the Lord Jesus Christ, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that all you among whom I’ve gone about preaching the kingdom will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ And when he had spoken thus, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they all wept and embraced Paul and kissed him, sorrowing, most of all because the word he had spoken, that they should not see his face again. And they brought him to the ship.
Oh my. Every time I read that, I wince. But every time I read it, I begin to see the greatness of the apostle Paul. Now, one of the things about Paul that you’ll find if you’re honest and you read his letters, is that he was not perfect and he said so. I used to say that when I got to heaven, I was going to spend a lot of time with Peter cause I liked Peter. But I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time with Paul, except in listening to him teach. I’ve changed that dear friend. And I want to spend some time with Paul because sometimes he is so childlike and so human and yes, so sinful that it is clear in the letters that he writes. When he writes to the Corinthians, he starts bragging. And this is in II Corinthians and he says.
I’m talking like
what am I doing?
I’m talking like a fool.
And then he goes on and does more of it. That would be me. I’ve done that. He says.
I’m the chief of sinners.
And not, I was, but am. And he gives his confession in Romans 7. And as I read that, I begin to see a very human, very kind, very humble, very real, very authentic man of God. And what we’re going to do, and we’re going to spend the rest of this week, maybe even into next week, we’re going to ask the question, why greatness? What was it about Paul, sinner that he was childlike and childish sometimes, which he was. What made him great? When we do that, we’ll apply it to ourselves, hopefully. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. That was Steve Brown continuing our tour of Acts, today guiding us into the powerful second half of Acts 20: verses 17 through 37. Of course we have, but set the table for this passage and tomorrow we’ll really start digging in. Hope you will join us for that. Have you ever had a word or a theme or a lesson pop up over and over from seemingly unrelated sources? Well for us here at Key Life, it’s been the topic of humility. Steve and Pete taught on it recently, back in December on Steve Brown Etc. we spoke with Richard Foster about it, and more recently we chatted with pastor and author Gavin Ortlund about his book on humility, something Gavin calls the joy of self forgetfulness. And you can hear that show for free simply by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD. Or to mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the CD featuring Gavin Ortlund. And finally, if you value the work of Key Life, would you support that work through your giving? Giving is easy. Just charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or simply text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950 and then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And as always, we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.