Captive to the Spirit

Acts 20:17-37

Paul continues his journey with the desire to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost. He bypasses Ephesus, probably due to the opposition he encountered there, and goes to Miletus. From there, he sent word to the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him there. Knowing that nothing but persecution and imprisonment lies ahead, Paul wants to give a farewell address to the leaders of the Ephesian church.

If we recall Luke’s account of the last supper, Jesus tells His disciples that he is about to be captured and put to death. He will be resurrected, but the time that He will be with His disciples is coming to an end. So, Jesus leaves them an example of how to carry on after He leaves, by washing their feet.

Paul is doing something similar here. He is also headed to Jerusalem where he will be persecuted and imprisoned. He is certain that he will never see the Ephesian church again and will be under attack by the enemy.  Paul wants to leave them with an example of how to live. How to stay true to the message, not be pursuing money and riches, but by supporting the weak. Paul was able to use how he worked amongst them as examples to follow.

The fact that Paul was able to use himself as an example is a testament to his sincere faith and living according to Jesus’ commands.  The fact that he lived amongst them for years and they got to know him from his day-to-day living, and still, was a good example is impressive.

For most of us, we are in a Christian context for only a few hours each week. We come to church, or to Bible study, or to church meetings, where our behavior and demeanor are on display. Most of us can come across well in those kinds of settings. However, if people could constantly see us in and out of church context, would we still be good examples?

When a church hires a pastor, do we look for someone who can act well while on duty, but live carelessly when they are not on duty? No, ideally, the pastor would be someone who always upholds Christ’s commands and teachings. It is no different for the rest of us. Once we are identified as Christians, we are witnesses for Christ, whether we are at church or in a different setting.

The world will be right in supposing that if the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, then it will be embodied in the lives of the followers of Christ. So, we must ask ourselves, “Would the world see in our lives that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true?”

It seems that these days, sadly, the world doesn’t necessarily see the embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ among the churches or individual Christians.  What should we do about this? Should we confront other churches and Christians who we feel are not living up the Gospel? There might be time and place for that, but most likely, the world is not going to look very positively on infighting Christians.

Instead, we must start with ourselves.  We need to start living according to Jesus’ commands.  Not just on Sundays, but full time.

These are some of the things that Paul did, according to this passage:

  • Did not shrink from doing anything helpful
  • Proclaiming the message and teaching publicly and privately about repentance and faith toward Lord Jesus
  • Testify about the good news of God’s grace until the end, no matter when that may be
  • Making sure that everyone around us gets a chance to hear the gospel message

We too are commanded to do these things, as led by the Holy Spirit.

How was Paul able to do this to the point where he could point himself to be the example to follow? We see throughout the book of Acts that Paul is very sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and very obedient. In verse 22, he uses the term, “captive to the Spirit”.  Which meant that if he felt the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he was going to follow that, regardless of what his own experience or intellect would tell him to do.

The Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The Spirit will help to guide us each day by various means. He will help us to interpret and understand when we are reading the Bible. He will guide us through various means, providing us with love and power sufficient to do the work we are commanded to do.

So let each of us become a captive to the Spirit and be the embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this world.

(The above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano during our July 3rd worship time.)