The semester midterm with the interns of Nuova Vita was a morning of prayer and scripture! We reflected on Paul's farewell address to the Ephesian elders on the beach of Miletus (Acts 20:17-38). Our context was a park in Bologna, but the lesson from Paul's life and ministry were as real to us today as when Paul shared with his "interns."
Here are a few truths that God impressed upon our hear from this marvelous text:
1. The character of a minister of the gospel. Paul's life was a model of his preaching. What was so clear to the people whom he served was the authenticity of his service, seen especially in the humility and passion that defined his character. The more Paul ministered the more he resembled Jesus.
As servants of the Lord at Nuova Vita church we earnestly prayed that our lives would be defined by integrity and conformity to the character of the Lord whom we are serving.
2. The content of gospel ministry. Paul had a clear conscience with respect to his ministry in Asia, not because he was perfect, but because he tenaciously and perseveringly proclaimed the Word of God. "I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that we profitable ... " and again " I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (v.20 and 27). Both then and now there is a strong temptation to teach other things, things that may even please people or respond to felt need or contemporary interests. Yet Paul preached repentance and faith in Jesus Christ from the Scriptures ... all the Scriptures!
As men and women who seek to testify to the gospel of God's amazing grace, we prayed that the Lord would keep us faithful to the Word and perseverant in both studying it and proclaiming it with passion.
3. The danger and delight of gospel ministry. It's terrifying to read that in Paul's farewell address he specifically mentions that in the future, even from within the elder group at Ephesus, wolves would arrise to "draw away the disciples" (v.30). There was a real and present danger to the ministry at Ephesus, and therefore a strong exhortation to "be alert" and "pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock" (v.28). At the same time, Paul's heart was not riddled with fear but beating wildly with love for the church of God "which Christ obtained with his own blood" (v.28)! What a glorious and high calling, to serve the people of God, and to do so with every effort and energy and in view of the eternal reward: "Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8).
As pastors and interns at Nuova Vita we are praying that God enlarges our hearts to serve as Paul served and live in eager expectation of Christ's glorious return. It is all for His glory. Glory that we long to see spread throughout this land of Italy.