Father in heaven, show me today how important it is to include others as I seek to follow Jesus. Help me notice the people You have placed around me who will make be a bolder witness for You. God, we praise You for your wisdom and power! You are sovereign over every threatening situation and are able to provide protection whenever You choose. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Acts 19-23
During Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 18:23–21:16), he planted a church in Ephesus and remained there more than two years, teaching and training others who would go, make disciples, and start churches. As he was preparing to leave, he announced his plans to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome (Acts 19:21). Acts 19–23 describes the church plant and training center in Ephesus, Paul’s trip to Jerusalem, and his eventual departure for Rome.
Acts 19 In Ephesus, Paul shared the gospel with a group of John’s disciples who believed and received the Spirit. After three months sharing in the synagogue, he withdrew to a school and taught daily for two more years (19:10).
Don’t miss how the gospel spreads from Ephesus. Epaphras probably heard the gospel and was trained in Ephesus; he was then trained from Colossae (Col 4:12) and took the gospel back home (Col 1:7) and to Laodicea. In Ephesus, Paul and his co-workers trained others who in turn planted churches and trained others.
At the beginning of his third journey (18:23), Paul revisits churches from his first journey. He then returns to churches planted during the second journey (20:1-6). But even in this, Paul never worked alone; he mentored or discipled men from all three journeys as they traveled and worked with him (20:4). He and Barnabas left Antioch years before and made disciples and planted churches “as they went,” inviting others to join them along the way.
THE LORD’S DAY
They met on the first day of the week. Read more about what we believe below.
Acts 20 Consider what Paul said to the Ephesian elders/overseers/pastors (20:17, 28). He had taught them “in public and from house to house . . . anything that was profitable” (20:20). He had warned them, “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (20:30). He commended them “to God and to the word of his grace” (20:32). Whenever possible, Paul taught, warned, and trained indigenous, local overseers so they could faithfully build up and protect believers.
Acts 21–23 During the journey to Jerusalem, believers repeatedly warned Paul about impending danger (20:23; 21:11). Soon after his arrival, he’s arrested in the temple. This begins an imprisonment that continues throughout the remainder of Acts and is the means by which Paul goes to Rome. Notice the reaction to their heart language as Paul gives a defense to the crowd in Acts 22. God protects Paul from a mob as he leaves Jerusalem.
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
- Paul’s personal ministry was incredibly fruitful, so it’s easy to overlook his commitment to train and teach others to be faithful disciple-makers themselves. In other words, Paul has a spiritual commitment to people he will never even meet! This appears to be God’s strategy. Let’s follow Paul’s example and train faithful people who will be able to teach and train others also (2 Timothy 2:2).
- In Acts 20:4, we read about Paul traveling with people from his first, second, and third journeys. Often the best training is on-the-job training, life-on-life discipleship.
- “From among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (20:30). Discipleship and pastoral oversight is necessary for new believers and new churches who are easy prey for false teaching. Paul and his co-workers seem to have faced violent opposition everywhere they went. Sometimes, God protected them; other times, they suffered much. But either way, they wouldn’t give up their work of taking the gospel to the nations.
- Invite a new Christian to spend time with you, perhaps while you’re traveling somewhere or running errands. Use the time to talk about following Jesus and growing in Christ. Share a passage from God’s Word that is currently helping you.
- Think about the unreached people group you’ve chosen to pray for. What trade language or government language would be useful to enter their country (Acts 21:37–39)? What heart language would allow them to best hear and understand the gospel (Acts 22:2)?
- Find a way to encourage your pastor or elders. Pray for them today—and tell them you did. Consider praying systematically for your fellow church members. If your church has a membership directory, use it for this purpose. [Local Church]