17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 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. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
From the perspective of our culture – which prizes self-worth, self-protection, and self-promotion – the Apostle Paul is someone about whom we should be worried. He seems emotionally unstable at times, perhaps even reckless. Listen to his opening words in Acts 20:24, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself.” He doesn’t consider his life to be valuable or precious? This guy definitely needs a friend, and probably needs a counselor too.
What happened to Paul that was so bad that he would say this? As it turns out, it wasn’t something bad, but something so very good. Listen to the same words set in their context of the entire verse: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).” Paul didn’t consider his life to be valuable or precious in itself because something infinitely valuable and precious had transformed his life: the gospel of the grace of God.
The good news of the gospel tore down Paul’s old identity, and built up a brand new one. As he says in Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Knowing the depths of his sin and the heights of God’s holiness, Paul discarded credentials of human merit for credentials of divine grace in Jesus Christ. What are self-worth, self-protection, and self-promotion compared with the love of the Father, the righteousness of the Son, and the in the presence of the Holy Spirit freely given to all who believe? May our answer be Paul’s answer: those old ways are worthless compared to the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ!
The good news of the gospel not only transformed Paul’s identity, but also his calling. Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ not only transformed who he was in God’s sight, but what he was to do in his life: to be faithful to the ministry Jesus gave him (Acts 20:24). While all human lives have absolute value because they bear the image of God, Paul understood that the significance of the Christian’s life is heightened when it is invested in the Kingdom of God. And so Paul, led by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:22-23) willingly walked away from his friends (Acts 20:25) and towards danger (Acts 20:23). This was not an act of self-loathing or self-righteousness; it was an act of self-sacrifice aimed at finishing the ministry Jesus gave him.
We are the fruit of Paul’s self-sacrificial investment in the Kingdom of God. God used Paul to spread the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, and God used countless other faithful men and women to spread the gospel from Rome to Dallas, and from generation to generation. While the apostolic ministry Jesus gave Paul was unique, Jesus has given each of us a similar and significant ministry. We too have been giving the radical calling to testify to the gospel of the grace of God everywhere and every day, whether in our current homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces, or to new people and places as the Spirit sends us. And so may we, like Paul, be fueled by knowing the great worth and joy of our life in Christ and our life for His Kingdom.