The Desire to Finish Well

Acts 20:17-38

Jerry A. Collins



  1. How long should our ministry last?
  2. What makes for a successful ministry?
  3. What should motivate us to fulfill our ministry?

A number of years ago I was taken through a process called Masterplanning Your Life. A consultant worked with me to establish the criteria that would determine the direction of my life. The process began with writing down the number 75. Then writing down in front of it my current age. Subtracting my current age from 75 would theoretically give me the amount of years I had left to live. Doing this now, I will have 27 years left to live. What do I want to accomplish during that time? Masterplanning would assist me in accomplishing that. Masterplanning reminds me that the Master has a plan for my life. And I want to fulfill that plan all the way to the end. Just like Jesus did. Just like the Apostle Paul did. What can we learn about finishing well for God? Paul shows us how through the speech he gives to the Ephesian elders.


In this section is an apology made for Paulís life and ministry.

(1) First, he defends the spirit of his ministry 18c-19. It is not self but the Savior who was served. It was service rendered in humility and tears in spite of the obstacles. 1. A servant truly subject to his Lord must not mar that subjection by a haughty and self-serving attitude. 2. He must not mar it by a lovelessness which sheds no tears for the needs to which he ministers. 3. He must not allow him/herself to give it up in the face of testings.

(2) Second, he defends the scope & content of his message 20-21. That included: 1. Not lacking in anything which they really needed. There was no selective proclamation, as tho afraid to offend but courageous enough to tell hearers what they really profitable to them however painful or unpleasant. 2. To make this effort both in public and in private, including both Jews and Greeks, involving the testimony which all men needed, namely, repentance toward God and faith in Godís Son. Repentance means to change oneís mind about a previous conception of God and faith in Christ is the expression of that change of mind. Faith in Christ means that you have repented. His efforts among them had been comprehensive and full. Faithfulness to God means having no deficiency either in the demeanor of our ministry or the scope of our message. You serve an audience of one.


3 times in the rest of the passage is the phrase And Now vs 22, 25, 32. Each of these launch a new section. With an apology abut his past he knows says what he is presently doing is marked by the same faithfulness. (1) Whatever the cost and trouble he is only conscious of fulfilling the course God has set for him 22-23. He is Ďbound in spirití conscious of an inner compulsion, a spiritual necessity which makes the journey to Jerusalem inevitable. This in spite of the dire warnings of trouble he will have there. Devotion to Christ had already bound his heart to the pathway he was on. Jesus also steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem (Lk 9:51) fully knowing the suffering that would involve. Paulís pathway is like his masterís where he learned the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil 3:10). (2) All that matters is faithfulness to God all the way to the end 25. To complete his ministry, to finish his course was to testify again in that city of the gospel of the grace of God. Donít ever write off a place or a person from hearing of Godís grace thru the gospel. He feels a duty to appear in Jerusalem, that place which again and again has rejected the miracles, message and ministry of not only Christ Himself, but all of those serving in His name. Bound in spirit, he would give a final try. This reflects the lingering mercy of God which only reluctantly abandons a hardened person to his fate and in this case moves on to Rome.


While we are determined to be faithful to God to the end, those whom we serve must be committed to do the same. (1) Soon Paul will be gone 25-26. Faithfulness to God must be continued. He cannot be blamed for any failure on their part to do so 26. He has not shrink back from giving them all of Godís counsel. So they now stand or fall to God alone. Sooner or later there must come a time when the faithful father must allow his spiritual children to stand on their own. Similar to what an earthly parent must do. And it is not easy or comfortable but necessary. No servant of Christ can cling forever to any ministry but must discern when it is Godís time to move on.

They can now be left to take up the responsibility that is theirs, and Paul can with a clear conscience go on to Jerusalem. (2) They must fulfill their ministry 28. The flock is now theirs to shepherd. Their task is simple but comprehensive. It is captured by the word shepherd. To lead, to feed, to guard, to care for. First, they must do this with themselves and then to the flock of God. The Christian leader must always maintain his/her personal and spiritual integrity first. Without that you will have little or nothing to offer anyone else. Second, notice that the elder-shepherd is not viewed as elevated above the flock but being in the midst of it. He is himself, in fact, one of the Lordís sheepóa part of the flock over which there is but one Shepherd. Only a man like Diotrophes in 3 Jn 9, loves preeminence in Godís church. Third, the sheep are Godís property, purchased at a terrible cost and is another reason for taking heed in the responsibility of a shepherd. Fourth, it is the appointment and gift of the HS that an elder received responsibility of pasturing the church not from election by the sheep he shepherds.

(3) Shepherding is needed because of vulnerability of the sheep 29-31. First, his departure will draw wolves, false teachers from outside the flock 30. Second, it will invite defection from self-seeking within the flock 31. The point is that Godís people will fall victim to vigorous leaders who misdirect them unless they are protected by faithful elders. Once a man has been placed in the limelight pride becomes a danger and leads to a party spirit Paul warns of here. A desire for followers can distort our perspective, convictions and teaching. (I have been asked to speak on this in Albania as in Kosova). It is a serious and inevitable threat to the church. Invasion and defection.


First, that includes knowing strength of ministry is upon God and His Word 32a. Executing a faithful life and ministry is only done in Godís grace! That is the only way to accomplish what God has for you. Second, this grace not only edifies (build up), it also rewards. Law occupies man with penalty, grace with favor. A heart attracted by thot of eternal reward muc better than heart burdened by fear of judgment. The reward pointed to is heirship in a future kingdom of whose citizens are fully sanctified. Third, so greed will not taint a ministry like this 33. Instead, willing toil to meet needs of others and self motivated by eternal reward before them. Third, prayer central to faithful ministry. Accompanying him to the boat we sense a confidence that God can sustain the believers left behind as Paul moves on to a new work.

(1) You have been given one life to live faithfully for the Lord.

(2) Invest it by living biblically not worldly, americanly or churchy.

(3) You are accountable to God for how you live your life & conduct your ministry.