Bible Readings for August 20th
There are some striking similarities between the farewell address of Samuel in 1 Samuel 12 and the speech of Paul to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Like Samuel, Paul also insists that he had not defrauded anything from the Ephesians while he was in their midst (Acts 20:33–34; cf. 1 Sam. 12:3–4), and, like Samuel, Paul also urges the Ephesians to continue to walk faithfully in the gospel after his departure (Acts 20:29–32; cf. 1 Sam. 12:20–25). By studying these two passages together, we learn two significant principles about faithful ministry.
First, faithful ministry declares the whole counsel of God. Samuel suggests that he himself would continue to “instruct you in the good and the right way” (1 Sam. 12:23), even now that a king has been appointed. Paul, then, puts it this way: “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27).
Specifically, faithful ministry means proclaiming the news of God’s love in the gospel. Samuel acknowledges Israel’s sin, but he nevertheless urges them to continue following Yahweh and serving him with all their hearts (1 Sam. 12:20–21), assuring them of Yahweh’s covenantal love for them: “For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself” (1 Sam. 12:22).
Second, faithful ministry involves ceaseless prayer. Samuel declares his intentions to continue praying for Israel: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you…” (1 Sam. 12:23), and Paul concludes his time with the Ephesian elders with tearful prayer (Acts 20:36).
The ultimate faithful minister, of course, was our Lord Jesus. As Jesus prayed on the night before his crucifixion, he insisted that he had faithfully declared the words of his Father: “For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me” (John 17:8). Also, Jesus would be faithful to pray for his people all the way to the end: “I am praying for them” (John 17:9).
But as Jesus continues building his church on earth, he has entrusted the word and prayer not only to ordained ministers. Rather, he has called all his people to ministry. While our roles in the church may vary, we are all commanded to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16) and to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). To whom has God sent you as a minister, both through proclaiming the gospel and through prayer?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.