Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our first reading for the fourth Sunday of Easter is from Acts 20:17-35, where Paul the apostle speaks some final words to the elders in Ephesus, the last time he ever expects to see them. We realize upon a close reading of Acts that the city of Ephesus was not originally friendly to Christians. It was a dangerous place, as recently as Acts chapter 19. But by this time there are even multiple elders.
Paul does give some warnings. In Acts 20:29-30 he speaks of those who would resist Christ as “savage wolves.” They will deceive the people and turn them against the Gospel. However, in verse 32, he expresses confidence that God’s Word can keep His people.
Our contemporary culture tries to turn people against the Gospel. We could well say there are savage wolves surrounding us. In much of Western Christianity the attacks take the form of demands that Christians should act and think just like those who would deny Christianity in the name of “reason,” “progress,” or some such thing. The attacks are there, hammering away at Christian teaching.
Christians today, like the apostle Paul, need to stand firm against these attacks. If in fact Jesus has atoned for our sin, both sin and the atonement are definitive facts. If Jesus has risen from the dead, as was recognized without a reasonable doubt in the time when eyewitnesses abounded, he has shown himself not to be overcome by death. If the Gospel is worth dying for, as the apostles uniformly testified, there is no reason to act so as to preserve our reputation, position, or even our life. We stand for Christ, the one who gave himself for us.
Will we be faithful to God’s call through Paul? “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock” (Acts 20:28a). Especially elders, the shepherds of hte people, care for the flock God has given them. There will be opposition, but it is not to be feared.
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