Read: Acts 20:13-38
Consider: Today’s passage records a very emotional meeting between Paul and the leaders of the church at Ephesus. Paul met with them at Miletus (on the coast between modern day Bodrum and Izmir), on his journey to Jerusalem.
It is interesting that Paul tells the leaders from Ephesus to ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock …’ (v28). Notice that Paul reminds them to look after themselves, as well as those in the church. The phrase ‘Keep watch’ (NIV) is rendered as ‘Pay careful attention’ (ESV) and ‘Be on your toes’ (MSG). Why should it be necessary for those involved in any aspect of leadership in the church to keep watch over themselves? What are they to be careful about? Reading further in Acts 20 we can see that Paul warns them about false teachers who would infiltrate the church (v29). He also tells them that some of these false teachers would come from within their own congregation (v30).
Paul is, therefore, concerned about false teaching (error) creeping in and weakening the church. Also by reminding the leaders at Ephesus to keep watch over themselves, he is warning them that their personal life and witness (spiritual health) is of vital importance. In 1 Corinthians 10:12 in writing to the Corinthian believers, Paul says: So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.
Paul warned the Ephesians to be careful and watchful over themselves and the church, yet in Revelation 2:1-7 in addressing the church at Ephesus, Jesus said: Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first (Revelation 2:4-5a). We don’t know when they left their first love (Christ), but Paul’s warning seems to have come true.
So what are we reading this today to make of these passages? The necessity to keep watch over our own spiritual health is still vitally important. As well as watching out for ourselves, we need to be watching out for those in leadership over us. Spotting a pastor or leader who is neglecting their own spiritual health can be difficult, but watching for signs of stress in leaders and being prepared to act on it is something everyone in the church should be doing. If you are involved in any type of leadership in the church it is of paramount importance that you do not neglect your own spiritual needs while trying to meet the needs of others. Attempting to serve on ‘an empty tank’ can lead to exhaustion, breakdown or even giving way to temptation.
We all need to take heed of Paul’s warning in Acts 20:31 – So be on your guard!.
Pray: Father, may we pay careful attention to our life and witness so that we remain strong for you, serving you in serving others. Amen