Welcome to the final part of ‘Goodbyes for the Gospel,’ a personal reflection on Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. So far we’ve seen that goodbyes for the gospel are good, yet they come at a cost. If you missed them, here are the links to the first and second installments.
Goodbyes for the gospel never leave us lost for words
I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation, maybe at an airport or a railway station, maybe when you’ve moved on from a job or dropping off a child at university, the situation of saying goodbye to someone that you won’t see for quite a long time. It’s often very hard to know what to say isn’t it?
Well here in Acts 20 … yes, there’s the outpouring of emotion during this farewell, but there’s not the awkward silence.
No, Paul has 2 big things to say to the Ephesian elders as he says goodbye.
The first is a command, v28. The leaders are to shepherd the church of God which he bought with his own blood. So much could be said about that awesome command and responsibility, but for now we’re going to focus on the second thing Paul speaks about as he says goodbye – a commitment.
Note this is not a commitment from Paul. He doesn’t say, look, it’s going to be OK cos I’ll keep in touch, I’ll see you on Skype, I’ll be back next summer.
Now of course all of those things would be good things … but this, well this is not a commitment from someone; it’s a commitment to someone.
Paul commits the Ephesians to God and to the word of his grace. That is he commits them to God and to the gospel.
What does God do by the word of his grace, what does God do in the gospel?
Here is this great perspective again. The Ephesians eyes at this point are no doubt full of tears. But Paul reminds them, that they can look through those tears with hope and with confidence, not in themselves, not in Paul. But with confidence in God and his gospel and the work it has accomplished and the work that will be brought to completion on the final day when Jesus returns.
Friends, as Christians we do have to face difficult goodbyes for the gospel. We have to endure the heartache and go through the pain. But there’s so much more to come.
You see at the moment, it’s like we’re standing in departures at the airport. It can be a grim place to be can’t it? There are the tears and the sad goodbyes. There’s the prospect of being parted from those we love. There are the awkward moments pacing backwards and forwards, wondering quite how and when to say our final farewell.
But you know there’s another place in an airport. We’ve seen it in the films, maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. It’s called arrivals.
It can be a beautiful place can’t it? People who love each other no longer separated. Tears of sadness now turned into tears of joy. Awkward silences filled with happy conversation.
Christian friends, we might be in departures now, but don’t lose heart.
Because, v32, through the gospel, God is building you up, he’s preparing you for a future, not in departures, but in arrivals. Reunited with all of those you’ve said goodbye to for the gospel , but even better, presented with an inheritance that will never perish spoil or fade, brought into the very presence of Jesus, you will see him face to face, you will be like him and you will be with him for all eternity.
Goodbyes for the gospel are good.
Goodbyes for the gospel come at a cost.
Goodbyes for the gospel never leave us lost for words.
May God give us his grace to keep on saying our goodbyes for the gospel, that the name of Jesus will go on being proclaimed to the ends of the earth.
Michael Prest, serving with UFM in SE Asia.