“Pay careful attention to yourselves”

We are reading of Paul and his slow progress in travelling back to Jerusalem as he completes his third missionary journey. The elders of the church at Ephesus come to see him at Miletus. He reminds them of all he has done in “serving the Lord with all humility … how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (20:19-21). What an example of absolute dedication he is: he goes on to say, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (verse 24).

Paul’s life had become the ultimate example of commitment, he was fully walking in the footsteps and example of his Lord. Because of this he can say, “I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and all the flock …” (verses 27,28). Paul is an example we should do our best to try to follow, as he did his best to follow the example of Christ, and, we must realise that in the process of doing this we also set an example to others.

His message is reaching its climax as he declares: “And now I commend you to God and the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (verse 32). Among the areas of careful attention is the warning that “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away disciples …” (verse 30). That is why we have so many different ‘christian’ communities today, the only true and sure way forward is to “pay careful attention” to the word of God as an essential food for our minds and direction to our hearts.