I had a dog as a boy. It was my job to take that dog for a walk. Actually, truth be told, the dog took me for walks. We lived near a large open space by a river, but I needed to keep the dog on a leash until we got to the space. Once we arrive, I would unleash the dog would bolt. It loved being free. Free to run unleashed and unhindered. The only trouble was trying to get my dog to go home. Have this story in mind as we come to today’s text.
The Book of Acts is amazing. Luke, the doctor, got and gathered all that we read. He lived and experienced much of it. Over the past year, we have learned about the early church, the spread of the gospel of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Each being unstoppable.
Today we arrive at Acts 20, which could be partnered with chapter 19 because of Paul’s travels to Ephesus. It begins with a really strange story where Paul preaches until midnight (possibly the longest sermon on record) and a young man named Eutychus gets super tired and falls out a window and dies. Do you know why his name was Eutychus? Because you Eutychus-sed too if you fell out a window. I know, right? I blame that joke on my wife. She’s hilarious.
Have you ever wondered why this story is in the Bible? Seriously. I’d like to think that Luke is pointing out one of Paul’s flaws or he’s being passive aggressive hinting at his long-windedness. Luke does seem to jab Paul for boring someone to death. Yet I don’t think the moral of this story is that if you fall asleep in church that God will strike you dead (I’m still here) nor is it a case for shorter sermons. Now don’t worry, I won’t preach until midnight. I might put myself to sleep. It’s what Paul does next that shows us the purpose of this story (v.10). Paul throws himself on the boy, hugs him, then tells the crowd, “It’s alright. There’s still life in him.” This strange story shows the power of God unleashed by raising a boy from death to life.
This should hit us today as it did them then. We live in a world where billions of people are uninterested in the truth. They are bored and spiritually fatigued. And we can become discouraged that no one wants to listen. Have there been times in your journey of faith when you felt that you lifeless? You felt bored? You were tired? Maybe you can relate to Eutychus. You’ve heard all this? You’ve been here? You’ve sat there? I don’t know if this was Eutychus, but it might be you. Like Paul in this story, has someone come alongside you? Taken you in their arms? Believed that there was life in you? If there was someone like that for you, would you take a moment to remember and thank the Lord for that person? [Take a moment] … Maybe you can think of someone that you need wrap your arms around and speak life into.
From here, Paul returns to Ephesus. What we see is a continuation of the Eutychus’ story. However, instead of one man, Paul will put his arms around an entire church and speak life into them. This will be his last visit to Ephesus. He will never see them again. These will be his final words to them in person. He wants to say the main thing that he wants them to remember it for the rest of their lives (Read vs.32-38).
In a sense, Paul with words throws himself on them. There is one word that he repeats over and over. Did you catch it? What was it? It was grace. Now grace is a stunning word. What is grace? It’s a word we love, but no matte our church background it is a word we just can’t quite wrap our minds around.This will be the focus of my message today…
- Unleashed Grace of God
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace”Acts 20:32 (cf.v.24)
Paul wanted the church more than anything to remember the unleashed grace of God. It’s as if he says. “I want you to remember the gospel.” And I want to you to think about it too. Its bigness. Be wowed by it. Live in it. Breath it in. Relish in the inheritance you have in it. Remember that you were sinners saved by grace. That you were chained and unfree. That you were asleep and dead. Remember all that Jesus has done for you. That grace cost him his life. And Jesus threw himself on your body, he took you in his arms and said, “There is life in you!” And by his resurrection power, Jesus has raised you from dead to life.
As a parent, I’ve learn a little about grace. Mostly how little I give it. When my daughter’s disobey they have a consequence. I don’t like giving them consequences. Often I will give them an extra job like sweeping the porch or taking out the trash. Now if I were to step in during the consequence and say to my daughters, “Enough, let me take out the rest of the trash.” That would be mercy. Now if I were to step in and say, “Enough, let’s go get some ice cream.” That would be grace. It is undeserved. It’s unexpected. I admit that’s a weak example of grace. If God’s grace were ice cream you’d be swimming in an ocean of it and it’d be all your favorite flavors. Grace is more than ice cream as good as that sounds.
Paul echoes Acts 20:32 when he wrote the Ephesians years later. He said, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. …we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1-5) Think about God’s grace. God unleashed to you an undeserved grace. It is good to remember it and commend it to others! [Reflect with someone: How have you see God’s grace unleashed this week?]
- Unleashed Grace through Generosity in You
What Paul says next is actually a bit surprising. He says, “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”Acts 2:33-35
Again, these are Paul’s last words to this church. He pours out his heart and says, “I have showed you my unleashed generosity.” Now this isn’t an isolated thought. This second thought is heavily connected to the first. If you know the gospel, that God unleashed his grace on you in Christ, then grace will be unleashed through generosity in you to others.
To help us understand this, Paul gives us two real-world application: First, we are all inclined to the hidden power of greed. Paul said, “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold.” (v.33) It’s interesting that the last thing Paul says is a personal reflection and a warning to the church to watch out for greed. Would that be the last thing on your lips? It must mean that there are few subjects more important than or there are few problems bigger than greed.
No one thinks that greed is their problem. We can spot it in others, but not ourselves. Now Jesus addressed greed this way, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Mt. 6:21) So, your money, your time, your talents, your treasures all reveal what’s really going on inside you. If you’re honest with yourself, you will find it is effortless and easy to spend on things that you think will save you or bring you significance or give you a sense of security.
Maybe it will help if I were honest with you. It is easy for me to spend money on books and glasses. I like books because I am hungry to be relevant, knowledgeable, or at least sound like it. I like glasses to look smart and fresh. My identity is somewhat wrapped up in this. Sadly and truthfully, my identity isn’t always wrapped up in what Jesus thinks of me or how I look to him. I can be greedy for approval, affirmation or acknowledgement. I have so much hidden greed. Can you relate? I can be like my dog on the leash choking instead of running in freedom.
What unleashes this freedom and causes us to run freely? Grace! If it weren’t for the Word of grace—the gospel—then God and his followers would be considered greedy or grouchy. Isn’t this what people sometimes think of God? Or Christians? That they are greedy and grouchy? Grace is the antidote to greed and grouchiness. If these are temptations for you, then consider fully God’s grace and generosity towards you. It’s a guaranteed remedy.
This leads us to the second real-world application that because of Christ’s grace we are conduits of the healing power of giving. Paul helps us to see this with the red-letter words of Jesus, who said, “It is more BLESSED to give than to receive.” (v.35) Do you believe what Jesus said? It isn’t clear where Jesus said this, but most scholars would say it is a paraphrase of Matthew 10:6-8, when Jesus said to his followers, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Jesus not only said this, but he live it. He showed it. He himself was the greatest Giver. Jesus gave himself, so that you might receive life—eternal life. Jesus was rich, so that through his poverty you might become rich. He defined for us grace with skin on. It was through radical giving that He healed the world. He healed the sick and raised the dead to life to reverse the curse brought on us by sin. And every time you share the gospel or live out the gospel you become a conduit of Jesus’ blessing to the world.
Today, let God unleash his grace for you, in you, and through you. I commend you to the word of grace: If you know the gospel, that God unleashed his grace on you in Christ, then grace will be unleashed through generosity in you to others. [Reflect: Can you think of someone that you need wrap your arms around and speak life into?]