Acts 20


“ I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. ( Jesus speaking after washing the feet of the disciples) “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” ( John 13)

And the writer of Hebrews writes: “ The blood of Christ has cleansed our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may SERVE  the living God.”  ( Hebrews 9:14)

Moses wrote: “ It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him, SERVE HIM and hold fast to Him.” ( Deut. 13:4)  How do we serve Him?  “ Serve the Lord with gladness”. ( Psalms 100)  “ But be sure to fear the Lord and SERVE Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.: ( I Samuel 12:24)

The Word of God tells us we are to serve the Lord motivated by obedience and gratitude. Our attitude regarding serving the Lord should be like that of the song writer who wrote:  “ When I think about the Lord, how He saved me, how He raised me, how He filled me with His Holy Ghost; How He healed me to the utter most. When I think about the Lord how He picked me up and turned me around- how He placed my feet on solid ground. It makes me want to shout- Hallelujah, Thank you Jesus! Lord you are worthy of all the glory, and all the Honor and all the Praise!! ( Tozer says: What comes to one’s mind when they think about God is the most important thing about them.)

Have you ever had someone try to get you to serve because they made you feel guilty if you did not ?  The Old Guilt Trip strategy.  We do not serve God out of guilt. We do not serve God to obtain forgiveness; no, we serve Him because we are forgiven.  We serve Him out of gratitude.

Each Christian is called to serve. We have been equipped to serve. There should not be any unemployment among believers in serving the Lord. Paul often referred to himself as a ‘bond servant’ of the Lord.

The Lord Jesus is our example. He came to not only as our Redeemer Kinsman, as the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, He also came to show us how we ought to live, love and serve.  He did not come to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might  be saved.

Paul writes in Philippians 3: “  let this mind ( attitude) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

We are told to be ‘ imitators of God.’( Ephesians 5)

We are told : “ We do not want you to be lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” ( Hebrews 6:12)

Paul even said: “ Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere  in every church.” ( I Cor. 4:16,17)

Now I have said all of this to lay a foundation for today’s lesson:  The heart of leadership is example.  And we can only lead, by learning how to follow.

Paul will give us his view of what a servant should be: toward God, toward the Church, toward the Lost and toward self. As we will see it is the same view that the Lord Jesus lived out for us to show us the way. And He told us we would be blessed if we did it.

Let me call your attention to a verse in Acts 19:32 that describes the riot in Ephesus. “ The assembly was in confusion: some were shouting one thing, some another. Most people did not even know why they were there.” Not to take this out of context- but when the lost, natural man is following the crowd on the broad way, they do not even know why they are there.  They do not know the purpose for which they were created and exist.  They are without form and void and in darkness.  I know- I have been there and so have you.

Maybe you grew up in church and you were like Eutychus, not paying attention- day- dreaming of other things, perhaps finding the preaching dull and lasting too long. Lulled into a sleep as deadly as the sleep of fairy tale  princess. I don’t know what the spiritual implication of this story of this young man’s fall from a 3-story window to his death below means to you- but to me it takes me back to a fall day in September of 1977, when as a young man of 31, I contemplated jumping out of a 10-story window to end a life which seemed to have no purpose. Having slept through life until this point- I was about to wake up.

Paul believes this is the last time he will see these people with whom he spent three years. It is a tearful farewell. But ever the teacher, Paul wants them to understand their role- which is also our role. ( BTW- Paul would see them again.)


“ I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by plots of the Jews.”( Acts 20:19)  Here is our first priority – to serve the Lord. To seek first His Kingdom. To not seek to please men- but God.  Serving God is our first priority. Two attitudes mark the servant of the Lord:  Humility and suffering. Certainly the life of Paul was an example- but our supreme example is the Lord Jesus Christ who took upon himself the role of a servant and washed the feet of the disciples as an example of humility. And humbled himself in obedience to death on the cross as a common criminal- despised, spat upon and cursed. In serving God, we must be willing to suffer. Peter wrote: “ Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in His steps.” ( I Peter 2:21)

Tears then are a part of suffering. Paul had tears for the lost, especially his own people, the Jews. His heart was broken for the lost. Second, Paul shed tears for the weak, carnal Christian as the church at Corinth caused him much anguish.


“You know that I have not hesitated ( kept back nothing) to preach anything that would be profitable ( helpful to you)…” (Vs. 20)  If one tries to please God and man- he will be caught in a trap of compromise and dilute the truth to avoid displeasing man.   2 Timothy 3: 16& 17 defines what is profitable: “ All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Teaching involves communicating the principles and truths of God’s word. Reproof refers to applying Scripture to produce conviction of sin; correction gives repentant sinners the direction to turn from sin and evil and follow Christ; and training in righteousness moves believers to spiritual maturity which is Christlikeness.


Listen to carefully as Paul describes two important aspects of salvation: “ I have declared to Jews and Greeks they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” ( Vs 21) Repentance and Faith. Whenever we present the Gospel it must include these two components. Repentance toward God. Repentance means to change one’s mind or purpose, which will then result in a change of behavior. Remorse is not repentance. Judas suffered remorse for the consequences of his sin,his action. A person who repents is sorry he/she sinned.  John the Baptist taught repentance as an act of the will that involved works or actions in keeping with Godly sorrow. He said true repentance would result in fruits in keeping with repentance.  Repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation.

The other component is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinners turn from sin to God. It involves the whole person, mind, will and emotion trusting wholly in the Lord Jesus alone for salvation. When Paul answered the Philippian jailer’s question- ‘what must I do to be saved? He told him- ‘believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.’ Believe in Him means: believe He is who he says He is- the Son of God,the Messiah, the Lamb of God  who takes away the sin of the World. And believe He did what he did- died on the cross FOR OUR SINS,  according to the Scriptures and was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.

Paul is telling us and showing us by example we have a role as servants to the Most High God and we have a role as heralds, announcing the good news of salvation.


Again our Lord Jesus shows  us by example the sacrifice He made as God became flesh and dwelt among us.  Paul tells this group of leaders, I am headed to Jerusalem and I do not know if I will live or die,punishment, hardship and prison are likely. “ I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s Grace.” ( Verse 24)

Now comes the word we do not like, a word that really has been treated unfairly- the word is : Discipline.  The word carries with it the baggage of – punishment.  And surely discipline can be ministered in a form of punishment. But even the dictionary does not have this definition as its first and foremost definition, instead it states:  discipline is training that corrects, molds and perfects.

Think of the gifted musician who entertains and enthralls you with their particular gift- be it playing a piano or singing with a well trained voice. The ease with which they performed came only after years of disciplined practice.

Do not miss this very important truth about discipline.  Discipline’s reward is FREEDOM.  The enemy’s lie since the Garden of Eden is that God’s way, a way of discipline  limits your life. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Look around you at the people on the broad way- a way that seems right to them but ends in destruction. They have believed the lie of the enemy that God’s way, the narrow way is limiting their freedom. There are several traits I see exhibited by these who do not know why they are here on this earth. They are bored easily, require constant entertainment or doing something; frustrated and restless- all negative qualities of life that God never intended for us to live like that. They have attempted to find the meaning of life in the accumulation of possessions, positions of importance in society or in their field of work. It creates tensions, pressures and envy.

As a result we live in a society and culture which built larger houses but had smaller families. We have more conveniences to save us time- but have less time. We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We have taller buildings and shorter tempers. We have wider highways and more narrow, erroneous views. We have more experts and expertise- but we have more problems than ever before, not less. We truly see a world that has more knowledge, ever learning – but never coming to the truth.

And yet there is a solution. There always has been since the beginning of time- the Word of God. It is the Word of Truth that sets you free. When you learn it and operate on it- it will always set you free. Jesus came teaching the Word of God. He taught it as one with authority. From the beginning , Jesus corrected the false, man-made teaching by telling the crowds: “you have heard it said by them of old time…. But I say unto you”

God not only gave us His Word, the truth that sets us free; but He also at the moment of salvation gives us the Holy Spirit. God in the Third Person of the Trinity comes to live in our lives. To conform us- to teach us and to create in us a desire to please God.

How can we please God?  We must be holy as He is holy. We are to pursue holiness. Jesus said take my yoke upon you and learn from me.( Matthew 11)  He also said: “ If anyone would follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”( Luke 9)  These two verses tell us to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means to learn from and follow Him.

Here is what we need to understand:  learning and following involve discipline.

The Lord Jesus expects these disciplines of us and He modeled these disciplines for us.  For the heart of leadership is example. Paul simply followed the example the Lord Jesus had given him

To neglect these spiritual disciplines is dangerous. To embrace these disciplines is to experience freedom and meaning and purpose in life as God intended it to be.

The first discipline we must develop is a study of the Word of God. It all starts with a study and daily intake of the Word of God. But we are warned not to be hearers only- but also doers of the Word. If we do not obey the Word of God- we deceive ourselves.

This is no ordinary book- this Word of GOD. It is alive and powerful. It is life giving, life changing and life sustaining. As you get into the Word and the Word gets into you- you will be transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus. Can you imagine knowing this is a result of studying and obeying the Word of God- and then choosing not to do it?

These views that Paul held are the same the Lord Jesus held. For the Lord Jesus came to serve His Father- to do Father God’s will not his. He came to teach the truth that would set men and women free. He came to seek and save the lost. And sacrifice marked his life from the moment He decided in eternity past to take on the sacrificial role of the Lamb of God to when He stepped out of heaven to put on flesh and dwelt among us until the night they came in the garden to arrest him led by the traitor, Judas. What a man of sorrows he was- as he endured the punishment intended for me. They plucked his beard, spat in his face, and beat his naked back with a whip that tore his flesh apart. Then they nailed Him to a cross between two thieves. He labored for every breath, his shoulders dislocated, his pectoral muscles paralyzed by cramps so devastating that breathing could only be accomplished by pushing against that cruel,painful spike in his feet.  And what was the reaction of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God. Do not forget this for it sums it all up and tells us why He did what He did.  “ Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” Before we were saved- we were  so like those people in Ephesus that day- people who did not even know why they were there. We did not know what on earth we were here  for- until we discovered the truth that made everything fall into place.

All of sudden we heard the voice of the Lord:  “ Wake up O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ shall shine  on you.”

So yes… when I think about the Lord, how he saved me, how he woke me up, how he picked me up and turned me around then – “ IT MAKES ME WANT TO SHOUT- HALLELUJAH, THANK YOU JESUS!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14