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A Little Ocean Ambiance
Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
"And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone
the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to
record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men."
In his address to the Ephesians elders, Paul referred to a passage of
scripture that assigns moral guilt to the unwillingness of a spiritual
watchman to warn the wicked. The term "pure from the blood of all men"
obviously is taken from the metaphor of blood-guiltiness in Ezekiel 3
33. In those chapters, the prophet is told,
"Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of
therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When
I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not
warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save
life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will
require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from
his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity;
but thou hast delivered thy soul."
3:17-19; See also Ezekiel 33:7-9)
Paul told the pastors of the church at Ephesus that he was "pure from
blood" of the wicked in their area, where he himself had ministered
several years before. Acts 19 gives us an account of Paul's work in
Ephesus and in the province of Asia, where the city is located. Paul,
missionary evangelist, had stayed three years to lead the church as
pastor. During this time, "all they which dwelt in Asia" (the province
the Roman empire by that name in what we now call Asia Minor, within the
borders of modern-day Turkey) "heard the word of the Lord Jesus" through
the evangelistic work of the church members. Many were saved, and
everybody heard! As the apostle made his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts
20 and 21), he stopped at Miletus, and called for the elders of the
Ephesian church. These were men he had trained for leadership during the
span of his pastorate there. In his address (Acts 20:16-36), he reminded
them of his ministry among them, and urged them to follow his example.
The whole province had heard the Gospel through public evangelistic
meetings and house-to-house visitation (vs. 20-21). At the end of his
time with them, Paul could say in all honesty that he was not to blame
for the damnation of a single soul in the province of Asia! What an
amazing accomplishment! Surely this should be the aim of every Christian
Probably the greatest disaster in our world is the tragedy of the
unwarned wicked. Over six billion human beings, loved by Christ and
purchased by His blood, inhabit the earth today, and most of them are
still condemned before God but have never been warned. Passages like
these in Ezekiel and the address of Paul to the Ephesians elders
that there is blame to be born by someone for this tragedy. When the
towers of the World Trade Center went down, many began a diligent effort
to assign blame. Was binLaden behind it? Was a foreign government
involved? Did airport security do its job? Was one president or another
at least partly to blame? Paul's words make us ponder where the fault
lies for the loss of billions of souls without a clear warning.
Certainly the damnation of the unwarned is not God's fault. He sent His
Son to be "the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but
for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2). By His Spirit, God has
enabled every generation of Christians to spread the Gospel to every
person in the world, and he has commanded them to do so (See Acts 1:8).
Scripture indicates that the first-century Christians did indeed take
Gospel to "every creature" (Read Mark 16:15-20 and Colossians 1:3-6,
21-23). We know that the saints of the Tribulation period just before
coming of the Kingdom will preach the Gospel "to every nation, and
kindred, and tongue, and people" (See Revelation 14:4-6). But our
generation of believers is failing to fulfill the Great Commission. The
fault is not God's. Whose is it then?
Paul's example at Ephesus shows us that a pastor can lead a congregation
to evangelize its area completely. The accounts of the evangelization of
Samaria in Acts 8, of Antioch in Acts 11, and of Greece in I
Thessalonians 1 also encourage us to think that it can be done. Paul's
address to the pastors who followed him at Ephesus emphasizes for us
those aspects of his ministry that God used to make that church an
effective evangelistic team. We do well to study that address, and also
to consider that the tragedy of the unwarned wicked could be the fault
pastors. If we would be the spiritual shepherds we ought to be, might
our own communities be saturated with the message of salvation? If Paul
was "pure" from the guilt of the damnation of sinners in Asia, would not
a pastor be guilty if the wicked in his area die unwarned? Isn't this at
least one of the points if not the main point of Paul's speech? Are not
preachers the ones primarily responsible for the tragedy of the unwarned
The Apostle Paul said at least five things about his ministry in Ephesus
that relate to his effectiveness as the leader of a truly evangelistic
church. When pastors fail in these areas, they must assume some blame
the ignorance of the Gospel in their towns and counties. Preachers
heed these admonitions, and so should church members concerned about the
multitude that live around them without Christ.
I. "Serving the Lord with All Humility of Mind" (vs.
Paul first reminded them of his "manner" among them "at
He had been a true servant of Jesus Christ. They had seen him "serving
the Lord with all humility of mind." He was "real," as people say today,
and the Ephesians could always see it. He wasn't only an evangelist and
their pastor; he was a servant of God. Remember how often he used this
term for himself in his epistles (as in Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, and
Many congregations are led by men who give little
evidence of being
true servants of God. Perhaps the pastor seems inordinately
"career-minded," or proud, or perhaps especially impressed with his own
talents and education. Perhaps he is unwilling to sacrifice much for his
people or his ministry. One way or another, many pastors fail to give
their assembly an example of humble service to the Lord. We must
constantly remind ourselves that example is one of the key ways a
preacher influences others. Titus was told to show himself a "pattern of
good works" as a support for his teaching ministry (See Titus 2:1-8). Of
course, Timothy was told be "an example of the believers" in order to
overcome the disadvantage of being a young preacher (I Timothy 4:6-12).
The Ephesian Christians saw that Paul was a real servant
They observed him in times of "tears and temptations," and found him
true. He shed tears of disappointment, tears of compassion, tears in
conflict, and tears in weakness, but he continued serving the Lord
faithfully and humbly. He endured the temptation to quit, temptations to
compromise, and temptations to sin, but they saw that, although Paul was
human, he was genuinely committed to be faithful to his Lord. What do
your people see when you are tempted, pastor? What do they observe in
times when you are hurt and troubled? Do they see a true servant of
Christ, tried and proven real? The wicked go unwarned because thousands
of professing Christians have never met a man they considered to be a
true servant of God. In many cases, their failure to serve Christ is our
fault because we have given them such a poor example.
II. "I Kept Back Nothing" (vs. 20-21).
When Paul told these pastors that he "kept back nothing
profitable," the context proves that he meant the Gospel message. In
other words, he did not hold back on giving out the Gospel in Ephesus.
preached "publickly, and from house to house" the message of "repentance
toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul was himself a
winner of souls. One reason so many churches do not evangelize their
communities is that their pastors are not personally engaged in
evangelism. At least some of Paul's public preaching was Gospel
that called for a decision. Much of the apostle's time in Ephesus was
spent in "house to house" witnessing for Christ. Although he could not
physically have taken the Gospel to every person in the province of Asia
in two to three years all by himself, he also could not have led a
congregation to do it unless he was actively engaged in the effort
himself. Preachers need to work at winning souls to Christ. If the
pastors, evangelists, and missionaries of the world were all
soul-winners, many complacent church members would be ignited by the
of evangelism, too!
III. "None of These Things Move Me" (vs. 22-24).
Paul had many things come into his life that could have
moved him from
concentrating on his ministry "to testify the gospel of the grace of
God." There was constant opposition to his evangelistic work. He
bodily because of the troubles he had to endure. Yet he would not let
"these things" move him from his ministry and its evangelistic emphasis.
So preachers today must be stubborn to keep their emphasis on fulfilling
the Great Commission.
Certainly, the Great Commission of Christ (Matthew
more than preaching the Gospel. We were told to disciplize, baptize, and
catechize! We must organize local churches, and build up believers. But
the whole process begins with evangelism. We have the responsibility to
take the Gospel to "all nations" (Matthew 28:19), "all the world" (Mark
16:15), and "the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Therefore the
preachers must keep a strong emphasis on spreading the message of
However, men of God are pressured from many sides to
"move" away from
an evangelistic emphasis. Almost all preachers answered the call with
winning souls to Christ as a primary goal in mind. But after a few
for some even before they finish their formal ministerial training, many
have moved away from such a concern. Famous preachers, college
professors, popular books, and personal friends all play roles in
a preacher to "move." Difficulties and disappointments in Christian work
also contribute to the feeling in a preacher's heart that the Gospel
doesn't work anymore, or that he is unfit to work it! So pastors place
the emphasis in the church on scholarly exposition from the original
languages, or on counseling to meet deep psychological needs, or on
business-like organization, or on anything other than getting the Gospel
to lost souls. If your pastor has not moved from an evangelistic
over the years, thank God for him and help him stay on track! Somebody
said about church work that "the main thing is keeping the main thing
main thing!" Every creature in the world will not hear the Gospel in
generation without an intense focus on evangelism, local and world-wide,
in the churches. One reason for the decline in evangelism has been the
changing of preachers from a soul-saving emphasis. If we have moved, the
tragedy of unwarned billions is at least partly our fault.
IV. "All the Counsel of God" (vs. 25-27).
One aspect of Paul's ministry in the church at Ephesus
was his thorough
exposition of the full range of God's truth. He had not "shunned to
declare . . . all the counsel of God." When pastors get on a hobby-horse
and preach too often on one Bible subject while neglecting much of the
rest, the congregation is not adequately prepared to carry out the Great
Commission. When preachers avoid a Bible doctrine in the pulpit because
it is controversial, or because it calls for great self-denial, or
because false teachers have perverted it, they are not doing the right
thing! We must give our flocks everything in the Bible.
In this particular address, Paul refers twice (in verses
23 and 28) to
the ministry of the Holy Spirit. How many Baptist preachers have avoided
this subject because of the Charismatic excesses! How many
teachers have reacted to perversions of this doctrine by formulating new
doctrines that are equally unscriptural in order to protect people from
Pentecostals? Fundamental Baptist churches need clear teaching about the
doctrine of the Holy Spirit right now! It is upon Him as a Person and as
the Anointing of divine power that we must depend in order to get the
Gospel to the world (Look again at Acts 1:8)! Our failure to teach
correctly and often enough about this subject shows us how good men can
fail to teach "all the counsel of God." Jesus said (quoting Deuteronomy
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
out of the mouth of God."
When pastors do not each all the doctrines, all the
books, all the
promises, and all the standards of God's Word, they deprive their people
of what they need to live! And they bear blame for the failure of the
church to warn the wicked.
V. "I Ceased Not to Warn Every One" (vs. 28-31).
As he came near to the close of his address, Paul
Ephesians elders of their responsibility as pastors to "take heed" to
needs and dangers of the church. Members are commanded in Hebrews 13:17
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves:
watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do
with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."
The Lord expects the pastors to "rule over" the
churches, and "watch"
for the "souls" of all the members. Both pastors and church members will
give an account to Christ about this relationship.
Pastors who fail to "warn" their people of spiritual
dangers and to
"take heed" to their needs and problems will not give them the
shepherding they all need to be useful channels of the Gospel to the
world. This kind of failure puts this kind of pastor in the position of
bearing blame for the fact that his community is not being evangelized.
Let us consider the standards Paul set by his words and his example for
the pastor of an effectively evangelistic church. He must give the
congregation a good example of a humble and determined servant of
He must be intensively be involved in evangelism himself. He must refuse
to be moved from a biblically evangelistic emphasis. He must teach the
people the whole counsel of God. He must take heed to the lives of the
church members, and address their needs and problems. When we willfully
fail in these areas, we cannot blame others (or God) for the horrible
tragedy of multitudes going to Hell without a warning. Let us take the
blame ourselves, and assume the responsibility under God of leading our
church in a new crusade to spread the Gospel everywhere. Let us take
seriously the matter of spiritual blood-guiltiness, as Paul did. Let us
give ourselves anew to the Lord and to the Cause of the Gospel. And may
He grant that many of His people will respond to our ministry and join
in fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation!
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church|
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data
Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)
- Articles published in the;
- Sword of the Lord
- Baptist Preacher,
- Christian View of the News,
- Pulpit Helps,
- Maranatha Watchman
- Church Bus News,
- and other national periodicals.
His Majesty's Service
In His Service,
Teaching the Word
To Glorify Our Lord
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