Intro. Paul is talking to the elders of the church of Ephesus, and he is telling them of his ministry among them. He is now on his way to Jerusalem and everywhere he goes the Spirit is telling him that bonds and afflictions await him in Jerusalem. However, Paul tells them that these things do not bother him:
I. FOR HE DID NOT COUNT HIS LIFE DEAR TO HIMSELF.
A. It is interesting how we try to hang on to life, either that of our own, or of those we love.
1. Very few can make the statement that Paul made, for most of us do count our lives dear to ourselves.
a. We want to hang on to life as long as possible.
b. We exercise, take pills, so as to prolong our life.
c. We even spend thousands of dollars a day to put our loved ones on life support systems so that we can keep them technically alive, long after they have really died, because we count life so dear.
2. How is it that Paul did not count his life dear?
a. He had been caught up into heaven. He had a preview of what awaits the child of God at death.
b. He said that it was so glorious that there were no words in the human vocabulary to describe it, and to try to do so would be a crime, because anything you might try to describe is so much less than it actually is.
c. In writing to the Philippians, he said that he had mixed emotions, because he had a desire to depart and to be with Christ which was far better, yet he felt that they still needed him for awhile.
3. Why is it that we count our lives dear?
a. Because we have no concept of how wonderful heaven is.
b. This is reflected in our attitude toward a Christian who has died, especially if it is a young person or a child. We somehow feel that they were cheated for they died before they had a chance to really experience life.
c. Yes, they have missed out on so much grief, pain, sorrow, trials, pressure, fear, anxiety. There they are in the total bliss of heaven, where there are no tears, sorrow or pain, enjoying the eternal pleasures, poor souls. Think of all they have missed.
II. TO FINISH MY COURSE WITH JOY.
A. Paul saw life as a race.
1. In his last letter to Timothy just before he was beheaded by Nero, he wrote, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, hence there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.
2. To the Corinthians he wrote, "They that run in a race, though there may be many running, only one will receive the prize, so run that you might obtain.
3. To the Galatians he wrote about his trip to Jerusalem:
I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach to the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
4. To the Philippians he wrote:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
5. To the Hebrews he wrote, (I do believe that he was the author of the book of Hebrews)
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
B. What does he mean by finishing his course with joy?
1. I believe he is referring to winning the race. That is the way that you finish, with joy.
a. Oh, I know that some will just be joyful that it is finished.
b. That is reflected in the way they run.
c. Very few really run to win, put everything into it.
III. AND THE MINISTRY I HAVE RECEIVED OF THE LORD JESUS.
A. When Paul was first converted, and the Lord directed Ananias to go and pray for him, when Ananias objected the Lord said, "He is a chosen vessel unto me."
1. When he came to Paul he said:
The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that you should know his will, and see that Just One, and should hear the voice of his mouth.
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying], I have set thee to be a light to the Gentiles, that you should bring the message of salvation unto the ends of the earth.
C. All of us have been called to be a minister of Jesus Christ. The word minister means servant.
1. This is implied when we call Him Lord, if He is the Lord, then I am His servant.
2. Jesus asked, "Why do you call Me Lord, and you do not the things I command you?"
3. He said that not all who call Him Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but they that did the will of the Father.
4. If I am not serving Him, He really is not my Lord.
D. When Paul was converted on the Damascus road, his first question was, "Who are you Lord?" Being informed that it was Jesus, his second question was, "What would you have me to do Lord."
1. Have you ever asked that question?
2. Have you ever sought to know what He wants you to do?
IV. THE MINISTRY THAT PAUL HAD WAS TO TESTIFY OF THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD.
A. Paul was always grateful for the grace he received.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
B. He wrote to the Corinthians of Christ appearing to him:
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which [was bestowed] upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly
C. Law and grace are contrasted in the scripture.
1. Speaking of Jesus, John said:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
And of His fulness we have all received, and grace for grace.
For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
2. Paul wrote:
Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
Therefore [it is] of faith, that [it might be] by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.