These are Paul’s last words to his friends in Ephesus. They’re part of a heartfelt talk recorded in Acts 20. In many ways, this verse forms my philosophy of preaching and ministry.
- I commend you to God… Only God can do in your life and your world what must be done. He is the sovereign–the ruler, leader, boss, guide, and king of your life. My task, as a preacher, is to deposit or entrust (paratithemi) to God. Obvious, I know, but so much of what the church does these days seems to commend people to their own devices, their own efforts, their own practical application of a recipe of steps… instead of to a dynamic walk with a living God.
- And to the Word of his grace… I love this title for Scripture. The Bible is the Word of His Grace. It’s sum and substance is Christ: his Person and his Work. If the Bible is all about dedication, service, and sacrifice, it is infinitely more about God’s dedication, service and sacrifice for us (grace) than ours for him (works).
- which is able… Literally, “which has the power.” The American church in this century has radically underestimated the power of the Word of God. We have looked for power in techniques or in practical applications. We have looked for power in creativity and modes of communication. We have looked for power in programs and in the meeting of needs. All of these things are valid functions of the church, but they offer NO POWER. The power is in the Word… especially when the Word is wielded as a Word of Grace. “For the Word of God is living and POWERFUL…” The more the church backs away from the Word, in-depth, in its fullness as the “whole counsel of God,” the more impotent the church becomes. Back to the Bible! What power does the Word possess?
- to build you up… To create structures in your soul. To restructure your soul–your thinking, instincts, and feelings–so that you have in your soul what Jesus had in his soul. So that you see the world from God’s perspective. So that you make decisions and perform actions according to his will. Same thought as: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Ro 12:2. Notice, it is NOT our discipleship programs, nor is it relationships, that build up the follower of Christ. It is the Word. The Word has that power. We must always point away from ourselves as ministers and back to God and his Word. Yes, some forms of discipleship entail relationship… but the power is the Word.
- and to give you an inheritance… The maximum experience of all the grace God has provided us, both in this life and the life to come. We can’t quantify it, but let’s say that God has set aside, in a trust, 100 tons of blessings for every Christian in this life. This is your birthright; your inheritance. Theses blessings apply to every moment of adversity, every trial, every temptation, every heartbreak, every loss, every opportunity, every divine appointment, every ministry, every moment of your life. God’s resources are there for you. But it is your involvement with the WORD OF HIS GRACE that activates these blessings in your life. So many Christians settle for 1 or 2 tons of blessing when you could have 100. Even worse, that 1 or 2 tons in this life sets your maximum capacity in eternity (see Jesus the Great Unequalizer for more). In other words, your capacity for grace in heaven is directly proportional to your capacity for grace on earth. And your capacity for grace is expanded by learning and living the Word of His Grace. The Word has the power to build you up and to give you an inheritance. That’s the sentence here.
- among those who are being sanctified… God is the sanctifier. We are the sanctifi-ees. You can consider sanctification–the process by which God conforms you to the image of Christ–”grace capacity training.”
And that’s my job: to commend people to God and the Word of his Grace. I take it seriously, and I wouldn’t trade places with anybody. I love my marching orders!