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WARNING, DANGER AHEAD!

PAUL TO THE EPHESIAN ELDERS ...

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." Acts 20:29-32

 

 A Preacher in his Study

 

 

 

 

 

lesson 1, verse 29:

Paul was traveling to Jerusalem, for the last time in his life really! And he was in a hurry, too. Therefore, instead of actually visiting Ephesus one more time, the saints of God there, he sent for the Church leaders to come meet him at a place called Miletus. Ephesus, some thirty miles distant, would have been "out of the way" for the determined Apostle!

Paul's "Sermon" to these born-again Ephesians is classic! It encompasses verses 18 through 38 of Acts 20. Our "concern" for this series is going to be the warning Paul issued in Acts 20:29-32. A warning that is still needed today, perhaps more than ever!

Here's its first verse, critical to any Church living in dangerous times. "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." Acts 20:29

The verb "know" is spelled "eido." It really means "to see" every bit as much as it means "to know." Thus we say, "to know with perception, with understanding." Maybe too, "with insight." This is "inherent" knowledge, specifically given to Paul by the Holy Spirit of God.

And since Paul is "departing" the beloved Christians, the Church family, at Ephesus, he knows certain enemies will appear and try to ravage the flock. Paul was headstrong to go to Jerusalem! Nothing could stop him. And I do mean nothing! The word "departing," really "departure," is spelled "aphixis." It combines the preposition "apo" and the verb root "hiko," meaning when blended "to arrive away from!" Now, this is a good lesson in word building! How can a word that meant "to arrive" be translated "depart?" Because of its prefix, its first syllable, that little preposition "apo." It reverses the word's meaning! So, it really means "to not arrive!" To do the very "opposite of arriving." In Greek "heko" means "to be present."

When Paul goes, the wolves will come!

These "wolves" are symbolic of ravenous beasts that would harm the flock, God's little lambs. Spelled "lukos," which really means "white," these fierce animals apparently have "whitish" coats of hair. "Lukos" is the source of our word "leukemia," a disease of the "white" blood cells.

The enemies Paul just mentioned, called "wolves" for their destructive potential, are also labeled "grievous." And "barus" literally means "heavy, weighty." It also has the implication of things "violent, cruel, and vicious." I think too Paul might be referring to the weight of these creatures, big wolves! Particularly dangerous foes! In Greek "baros" is the word for a "burden," a heavy one! The relationship is apparent.

And do remember that wolves usually travel in packs! Therefore Paul has written "wolves" in the plural number, grammatically, "two or more." But biologically, six or seven or more. As high as twenty animals have been observed at times in the wild, in one pack!

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." Acts 20:29

"Enter in" is "eiserchomai," meaning "to come inside" a sure sign that these wicked men, wolves spiritually, are "outsiders" to the Ephesians. It appears that some of them followed Paul wherever he went. Deliberately trying to "destroy" the work he had done for God!

The little preposition "among" is God-inspired too. It's spelled "eis" and means "inside." These culprits are going to "join" the Church! Working their dangerous plots "inside" the membership!

And the verb "sparing" is "pheidomai," meaning "to abstain, to forbear." I say, "to put up with." They will not refrain from hurting God's little flock! They will protect no one! Any little lamb is under threat. No one is safe.

The adverb "not" here, negating the verb "sparing," is spelled "me," but is pronounced "may." It's the "particle of qualified negation," according to the textbooks. That means that "almost without exception" the prohibition holds. There could rarely be an exception. One or two lambs may survive!

And, lastly, "flock" translates "poimnion," a "group" of, almost always, "sheep." Also, "poimne" means "sheep." And "poimaino" means "to tend a flock, to feed them." Sometimes a "flock" is also called a "fold" by Jesus.

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." Acts 20:29

Frightening words!

Words that emphasize the most pressing need every flock has ... a "shepherd" to fight away the wolves!

Paul here is at his best, warning of impending danger!

Lord, spare us from the wolves!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2, THOSE WOLVES:

Paul, in Acts 20:29, had just carefully warned the leaders of the Ephesian Church. Specifically he mentioned dangerous "wolves," who would spiritually attack God's little flock!

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." You can see what I mean, Acts 20:29.

I would like to talk about those "wolves" a while. Books have been written about them. Studies of all kinds have been conducted, too. Men have actually lived among them for years and years!

But, for the Believer in Christ, probably the Bible is still the best Source for "wolf" information!

Scripture mentions them several times.

"Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf," Genesis 49:27. This is really a prophecy concerning one of the Sons of Israel. Still, it tells us something about wolves. The verb "ravin" is "taraph" and means "to tear, to rend, to pluck!" Exactly what wolves do! Enemies of God's people they are, seeking "to tear to pieces" His local assemblies!

And Jeremiah the Prophet, concerning backslidden Israel, says: "A wolf of the evenings shall spoil them." Jeremiah 5:6, where "shall spoil" translates "shadad," meaning "to waste, to despoil." In other words, "to render useless." Like "spoiled" food, not safe to ingest! I guess the philosophy is this: "If you can't dissect  them, at least bring them ruin." Introducing sin into the Church family, that alone, can do the job, too. Wolves carry diseases that will "spoil" the flock of God, if they stay around too long!

Habakkuk the Prophet, describing the coming Babylonian army, says: "They are more fierce than the evening wolves." Now, "fierce" is spelled "chadad," and strangely means "sharp." Perhaps their claws are being described. Or maybe their teeth. Both are deadly! Note too, they come in the "evening." When the flock is tired. And ready to rest for the night! A worried flock, fearful and restless, eventually is not a healthy flock. Habakkuk 1:8

And Zephaniah has these wolves not only harming some of God's flock, but "gnawing their bones" as well! Zephaniah 3:3 says so. One word gives us this clause, "garam," which means "to break in pieces." Hear the bones popping and tearing and being chewed? I would liken the "bones" of a Church to be its "doctrines!" It's very beliefs! Which may be what Satan's wolves are after, anyway! Goodbye fundamentalism! Premillennialism! Biblicism! Literalism! So long to "the old paths" Jeremiah mentioned! See Jeremiah 6:16.

Jesus next enters the battle! "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Matthew 7:15, in the Sermon on the Mount. These wolves may come as "false prophets," insincere teachers who try to mislead the Church. They are like "ravening" wolves. We've already noticed a similar word, but in Hebrew. Now in Greek, spelled "harpax," we get the word for "robbing, stealing, extorting" something! "To seize, to carry away by force!" Taking the valuables from God's people! Wolves are thieves, spiritually speaking!

Then John 10:12, still quoting our Lord, says of the wolves, they "scatter the sheep." The verb here is "skorpizo," in which see our word "scorpion." It ultimately means "to pierce," being derived from "skerpo," Destroying a Church's unity and harmony and introducing strife and resentment! Thus "scattering" the flock!

Dangerous animals!

Remember these facts, too! Observed in nature, all of them.

They travel in packs, seldom attacking alone!

They have one primary leader, an "alpha" animal, who can be either male or female!

They most often "hit" the weakest member of the flock! That introduces panic to the whole unit of sheep! And stark fear alone can kill sheep! Literally, scared to death!

They approach from all sides at once! This makes it all the harder to defend the sheep! Maybe that's why Paul warns us to "Walk circumspectly," Ephesians 5:5. That means, "looking all around!"

And, really, the only Defense against such wolves is a good Shepherd! He can drive them away, if he sees them early enough! And if he is willing to fight, not run!

And, praise the Lord, we do have a Good Shepherd!

Better yet, we have a Great Shepherd!

Peter goes even further, we have a Chief Shepherd!

And if you will more carefully read these "Shepherd" Verses, John 10:11 and Hebrews 13:20 and 1st Peter 5:4, you will see that they all are talking about Jesus!

Jesus, our Shepherd!

And, as you probably know, these Texts say that ...

Our Good Shepherd died for us!

Our Great Shepherd rose again for us!

And our Chief Shepherd is coming again for us!

Some day, "goodbye wolves!"

But until then, let's be warned!

Thank you, Paul.

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." Acts 20:29.

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3, VERSE 30:

The words "without" and "within" come to mind today.

Paul the Apostle uses these two words occasionally. "For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears." 2nd Corinthians 7:5, wars on two fronts, "without" and "within!"

Our verse this morning is similar. Paul is warning a group of preachers and leaders, all being from the church at Ephesus, telling them of certain coming dangers!

In Acts 20:29 he cautions about "wolves" from "without," in other words, "outside" the church body, trying to get "inside" to do great harm. We studied these "wolves" yesterday. "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock."

Remember, "outside" trying to get "inside."

But today, one verse later, Acts 20:30, the danger arises from "within" the church itself! Selfish men, "church members" would be the term we'd use these days, who seek to harm the local assembly!

Here is Acts 20:30. "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."

Let's study these critical words.

We must begin with a preposition. I'll underline it. "Of your own selves," they will come. This little word is simply spelled "ek." But it's important, meaning "out" or "out of." These "troublemakers" will come from "out of" the Ephesian Church! They are part of it! They have professed salvation, no doubt. They know how to talk all the right words, but rebellion resides in their hearts!

And, ladies take note, they are in this case all "men." "Also of your own selves shall men arise ...." This little noun, "aner" means the "male" as opposed to the "female." The brethren furnish these insurrectionists! Had Paul here used the word "anthropos" for "men," it could have referred to either ladies or gentlemen. But he has specifically said that the "men" will lead these uprisings!

These men sure can "talk," too! So often our words get us into trouble! These men are guilty of "speaking perverse things," so says our Text.

The verb is "laleo," which means "talking," but usually light chit-chat, careless banter, the old-timers used to say "jabbering." Often "laleo" means the talk in which we engage just "to pass the time of day." But I think here "laleo" is used, instead of the other Greek word for "talking or speaking," which is "logeo," because this sinful speech lacks "logic," which "logeo" always includes!

These men say some "unadvised" things!

Paul is implying, some nearly "stupid" things!

No "logic" in their words!

Spiritually speaking, they don't make "sense!"

The Holy Spirit here in verse 30 calls them "perverse" things! Spelled "diastrepho," the word means "twisted, distorted, bent all out of its original shape!"

These fellows have come up with some ideas that are contrary to God's revealed Will. Things that go against the Word of God! "New" ideas, though probably still church related ideas, that are not in harmony with Paul's teaching!

"Perverse" things!

Maybe things like: "We don't need Paul here any more. Or anyone like him! He's too Biblical! Preaches too long! Let's get a new kind of preacher!"

Attacking the Man of God!

Or "twisted" thing like: "Other books exist beside the Bible, you know. Let's not be so one-book centered! Let's throw in a little philosophy and human reasoning and education!"

Attacking the Word of God!

Or even "perverted" things like: "What we've all been taught about 'sin' is just wrong! Such a things really does not exist. Let folks do what they please. The church will grown faster that way!"

Attacking Holy Living!

These are examples of "perverse" things, but many more possibilities could have been used.

Things "contrary" to sound doctrine!

"Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."

It's bad enough that these men come from "within" the church, but worse yet, they "draw" or "attract" disciples to themselves, other church members too it seems!

By the way, that little verb "arise" means "to stand up." One day, in some church service, maybe while God's Man is speaking, one of them, the ring-leader, "stands" and calls for some discussion on a controversial matter! "Changing" this or that policy of the church! And, all-of-a-sudden, trouble has come!

Soon others "stand" with the leader, and a "rift" has been torn in the church family! A "schism" Paul often calls such a thing. The verb "arise" is "anistemi," just meaning "to stand up."

The trouble has started!

"To draw away" translates "apospao," an unusual verb. "Spao" is a military term, often used for "drawing" one's sword! So these false teachers "draw out" certain men, whose hearts are not loyal anyway, from the general church family. The prefix before "spao" here, spelled "apo," just means these men are drawn "out of" that particular local church, the one at Ephesus.

Now we are approaching a church "split" of some kind!

All because of "perverse" men who refuse to live subdued, quiet, submissive lives!

Yesterday it was "wolves," today it is "rebels."

Yesterday from "without," today from "within," that the problems arise!

Which is more dangerous?

Well, either one can devastate a church!

And that's why Paul is so strongly warning these Ephesian Church leaders!

Good advice, Paul.

Of course, it's Holy Spirit "inspired" advice too!

Maybe now that we know what to "look for," we can help avoid such a scene!

Lord, bless our Bible-preaching Churches!

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4, VERSE 31:

As far as I can tell this is the longest period of time Paul ever stayed in one place, virtually "pastoring" a single Church!

"Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." Acts 20:31

See that?

Three years, "trietia" in Greek, a compound of "treis" meaning "three" and "etos" meaning years. I've had preachers disagree with me when I called Paul a "Pastor." But what else could he be called, at least in this text?

Yes, at times he was an evangelist.

And at times, a missionary.

But here, a Pastor!

What did Paul do those three years in Ephesus?

He "warned" people!

And "noutheteo" blends their words for "mind," spelled "nous," and "tithemi," which means "to put or to place." So, Paul was "putting them in mind" of some things!

Likely cautioning the Believers there about these coming "enemies!" The foes he has mentioned in the past two verses, the "wolves" from without and the "false teachers" from within!

And Paul did this "warning" all the time!

Every week it seems!

He says "I ceased not" doing so!

"Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." Acts 20:31

"Ceased" translates "pauo," that is "to pause" in the midst of an activity. But Paul quickly negates this verb by adding "ouk" to its side, "not ever!"

Paul's Ephesian ministry was largely one of admonition. Some textbooks say that "noutheteo" can also have a tinge of "exhortation" in it, too! I certainly hope so.

The time marker "night and day" is interesting, too. "Nux kai hemera," it reads in the Textus Receptus, the manuscript from which the King James Bible is translated. From "nux" we get such words as "nocturnal," just meaning "at dark" or "during the night." Paul, even when working as a tentmaker, during the daytime presumably, was busy "preaching and teaching and warning" folks who came and went!

Then in the evenings they probably held church services, and Paul was "at it" again! Some of these meetings lasted until midnight or later, too! Remember Eutychus in Acts 20:9, our very chapter here.

See also Paul's "tears!" The noun is "dakru," and is found only 11 times in the New Testament. Paul was a soft-hearted man. Back in verse 19, Acts 20:19, he mentions his "many tears" too! And again in 2nd Corinthians  2:4 Paul writes that little Epistle  with "many tears!"

Then along comes Timothy, Paul's young disciple, who also is a man of tears! See 2nd Timothy 1:4 for proof.

Paul is writing our whole Paragraph, our entire Text, Acts 20:29-32, primarily to encourage these Church leaders to "watch" for the potential enemies he has mentioned. The "false teachers" and the "wolves!"

That verb, "watch," is spelled "gregoreuo." It means "to stay awake!" To be alert! Not to become dull and lethargic! And, needless to say, it is a strong imperative, a direct command from Paul to these preachers and teachers.

Once in our King James Text "gregoreuo" is rendered "be vigilant." Its root verb is "egeiro," meaning "to arouse from sleep!"

The verb "remember" just means "to keep in mind." It is thought to perhaps come from "meno," the root verb that means "to remain." Allow these thoughts to stay in your minds!

Now, as we often do, let's put it all back together again. "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." Acts 20:31 

See Paul at work!

This Verse is a course, a mini-course, in pastoral theology!

A "how-to-do-it" manual from Paul to any interested student!

Especially in hard, dangerous times!

Enemy infested times!

Like today!

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

Moses prayed it every day!

"And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee." Numbes 10:35

Why can't we pray it, too?

"Lord, scatter the enemies!"

In Jesus' Name, Amen!

 

 

LESSON 5, VERSE 32:

It's one of the greatest verses in all the New Testament, especially concerning the Word of God!

"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." Acts 20:32

The "nominative of address" in this Text is "brethren," the men to whom Paul is talking. And I say "men" because "adelphos" here means just that, "not ladies, but gentlemen!" The noun is here framed in the "masculine" gender. The leaders of the Ephesian Church, their "elders" according to verse 17, were all men.

And Paul is fully capable, when he means to do so, to mention the ladies by using the complementary term "sisters." That would be "adelphe," the feminine gender of "adelphos!"

The verb "commend" is "paratithemi," that is, "to place" someone right "beside" a particular person or thing. "To set before" or "to put forth." Paul  pictures himself presenting these Ephesians unto the Lord, no doubt at the Judgment Seat of Christ!

Paul is traveling again, leaving the area.

His Third Missionary Journey has just about ended.

This is his "good-bye," a sanctified one too!

But he longs to place these Church leaders into the Hands of His Lord! And he is doing just that!

But not only into the Lord's Hands, "and to the word of his grace, the Apostle carefully adds!

What?

He is placing people in the Hands of a Book?

Yes!

A Book called "the Word."

"The Word of God!"

Specifically, "the Word of His Grace!"

This is a powerful concept, perhaps unique in all the Pauline literature!

Paul nearly equates the Bible and the God of the Bible!

Grammatically he does so, I think.

This verse is surely as dramatic at Psalm 138:2. "For thou Lord hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy Name."

Wow!

God evaluates His Word, the Scriptures, Holy Writ, not only equal to His very Name, but above it as well!

Astounding!

And that Hebrew preposition "above," spelled "al," means "climbing and ascending!"

Way up there!

"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace."

To Paul, the safest place these preachers can be, no doubt about it, is in God's Hands and in the Hands of the Scriptures!

I don't know if we've ever come across this term before now!

"The Word of His Grace!"

That's the Bible, for sure!

Living in God's Word, a safe place to be!

Studying it day by day!

Paul trusted the Scriptures!

But now, look what the Bible can do for us!

Paul continues: "I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up." Acts 20:32

It can "build us up!"

Oh, the "is able" verb is "dunamis." You know what that means. It's our word "dynamite!" It speaks of "inherent power," that strength God has placed deep within His Word, capable of doing whatever needs done in the life of a Believer!

God's Word is "dynamite" spiritually!

Now back to the "building up" capability of Scripture. The word is "epoikodomeo." Now in Greek, "doma" means the "roof" of a building. It's finishing touch! Its point of completion. And its corresponding verb "demo" means "to build." Next, "oikos" means a "house," one's dwelling place or residence. And the opening prefix, "epi" merely intensifies the verb's impact!

Again, "epi + oikos + demo!"

And that equals "to build one's house, powerfully so!"

Get it?

The Bible will build you up, spiritually speaking!

It will bring you to maturity!

To the ultimate goal God has for you and your life!

"The word of his grace, which is able to build you up." Acts 20:32

Yes!

Live in The Word, and spiritual growth will follow!

It's a promise from God!

But even with that, God's Word does more!

Not only is It able to build us up, but also: "to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."

This too!

"To give" is "to bestow, to grant, to furnish," spelled "didomai."

An "inheritance" means "one's portion, one's allotment, your part in that wealthy loved one's Will!" Or what your Father has bequeathed to you! The exact root word is "kelronomia." It's the "law" ("nomos") of the "dice" or whatever is used in making so-called chance decisions ("kleros"). Except with God, it's not a chance decision! It's not a roll of the dice!

It's a sure thing. A promise from Heaven!

Love and study God's Word ... and He will send you blessing after blessing after blessing!

Reward after reward after reward!

Not only here on earth, but in Heaven to come as well!

"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." Acts 20:32

The "sanctified" are those who are "set apart" to God, "specially dedicated" to Him! And if you are "in" God's Word daily, you are that, for sure, "sanctified!" It's spelled "hagiazo."

Paul has committed his friends here into the Lord' hands!

And into the Hands of the Lord's Word!

Not the Word of God's wrath!

Nor the Word of God's judgment!

But ... the Word of God's Grace!

Yes, there's more love and grace and mercy in the Bible than anything else!

Old Testament or New!

"But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." Psalm 86:15, Old Testament!

And 1st Peter 5:10, New Testament, speaks of the Lord this way: "The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus."

Yes!

Grace!

"The Word of His Grace!"

Thank God for the Bible!

Study it today.

Everyday.

Amen!

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

So, having committed them to God and His Word, Paul sails off toward Jerusalem! And as far as we know, he never saw his beloved Ephesians again!

 

 

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