Now let’s continue with Paul’s final (or so he thought) address to the Ephesian elders. He was absolutely sure that he was never going to see these brothers in Christ again this side of Glory. As it turned out, he was released from prison and did visit Ephesus again, as noted in 1 Timothy. So in a way this was a false alarm, but that takes nothing from the insight this passage reveals about his character, priorities, and mission. I’d like to point out just a couple of things from today’s reading, since every word here is so meaningful to me.
First, Paul claimed very strongly that he was “innocent of the blood” of his hearers. Why would he claim this? Was he concerned that he accidentally killed someone and just forgot about it? No. The reason he could legitimately claim that he not guilty of anyone’s blood on his hands was that he had been faithful to proclaiming all of God’s message to them. If God told him to proclaim A, B, C, D, and E, that’s what he preached and taught. He didn’t leave out or obscure Point D if it offended someone. He had no problem telling Athenians that the resurrected Man from God would return to judge everyone who wouldn’t repent. He had no problem telling Jews that they had to abandon all attempts to be justified by observing the Law, and that their nation had been dead wrong in rejecting Yeshua as the Messiah.
My friend, this is a stern warning to every single vocational minister out there. There are a lot of ministers of the Gospel out there who know that everyone outside of Christ is heading towards an eternal Hell, and they don’t tell them that. And yes, God will hold them accountable for that. I’m well aware that our sins are covered and hidden by the blood of Christ. But that doesn’t change the fact that quite a few people--as far as God is concerned—have blood on their hands, and we’re not talking about the blood of the Savior. Even Solomon had a hint of this: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it?” You know that the person in front of you has an appointment with Judgment Day, and you haven’t taken any steps to let them know this?
Second, this passage tells us why Paul took theology so seriously. Despite what some people say, theology matters. To paraphrase Lewis, we need good theologians today, if only because of the bad theology being passed off to naïve people. If there weren’t wolves out there, we wouldn’t need to be quite so careful about this subject. But there are, and we do.
Please notice that Paul takes it as a certainty that false teachers would be coming in order to confuse, distract, and turn people away from the truth. That’s why it’s the job of every leader in the church to be on their guard. Yes, this applies to every Christian, but it doubly applies to every leader. God is holding you accountable. Don’t be found unfaithful.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about people disagreeing about minor issues or disputable matters. For example, I have no problem fellowshipping with people who disagree with me about the End Times schedule. But when it comes to nonnegotiables like the nature of Christ, or the way of salvation, or the veracity of the Bible, they’re, well, nonnegotiables.
Paul had spent three years warning, encouraging, teaching, rebuking, and training them in this. With tears. He obviously cared about this deeply. How’s about us?
Father God, I want your priorities to overwhelm my agenda. What you consider important, I want that to be reflected in me. What you consider trivial shouldn’t take my attention. Change me, please.