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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Acts 20:33-36 - How to close an elders' meeting

Luke records for our benefit what Paul said during his meeting with the elders of Ephesus. It was clearly an important meeting because he was concerned about the future of the church in that city. It is possible to trace its sad history through the New Testament as later Timothy engages with problems in that church with false teachers (1 Timothy) and in the letter to that church found in Revelation 2 – by that time it had lost its first love. So maybe the elders here failed to deal fully with the problem. But that was ahead of them when they had their meeting with Paul. 

What did Paul mention as the meeting drew to a close? He reminded the elders from Ephesus that he was not an apostle in order to get personal gain. In fact, his time in Ephesus had cost him financially. Yet he was not bothered about that. Instead he revealed that he had a practical concern, which was that he had been burdened to ensure that he could help the poor. So we could say that as we close our leaders’ meetings we should ask what we are doing for the poor, because doing so is a way to receive blessing from God.

In connection to expressing concern for the poor, Paul quotes a statement from Jesus that is not recorded in the Gospels when he said that ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ This is a reminder that not everything Jesus said has been recorded in the Bible. Of course, it is possible that Paul is summarising what Jesus said about giving to the poor. But we could say that it would be good to close our leaders’ meeting by reading together something that Jesus said about the path of spiritual blessing.

Luke also tells us that Paul engaged in prayer as his meeting with the elders of Ephesus came to a conclusion. No doubt everyone would say that prayer is very important. Yet that may only be an opinion rather than a practice. We are not surprised that Paul wanted to pray after expressing his concerns about what would happen in the church in Ephesus. And should there be anything that leaders discuss that should not be a matter of prayer?

The response of the Ephesian elders is also striking. Instead of of being offended at what Paul had said, they embraced him lovingly. After all, they were probably believers because of what he had done when he was in Ephesus. And he would certainly have built them up in their faith. They owed him a great deal for his work in the past even although he had great concerns about the future. It is always appropriate for leaders at the close of their meeting to express brotherly love.

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