A Commentary by John Stott

Acts 20:1-21:17. (iii) The value of the people (the sheep).

Implicit in verse 28 is the truth that the pastoral oversight of the church belongs ultimately to God himself. Indeed, each of the three persons of the Trinity has a share in this oversight. To begin with, the church is ‘God’s church’. Next, whether we read that he redeemed it ‘with his own blood’ or ‘with the blood of his own’, it is plain that the purchase price was the blood of Christ. And over this church, which belongs to God and has been bought by Christ, the Holy Spirit appoints overseers. So the oversight is his too, or he could not delegate it to others. This splendid Trinitarian affirmation, that the pastoral oversight of the church belongs to God (father, Son and Holy Spirit), should have a profound effect on pastors. It should humble us to remember that the church is not ours, but God’s. And it should inspire us to faithfulness. For sheep are not at all the clean and cuddly creatures they may appear. In fact they are dirty, subject to unpleasant pests, and regularly need to be dipped in strong chemicals to rid them of lice, ticks and worms. They are also unintelligent, wayward and obstinate. I hesitate to apply the metaphor too closely and characterize the people of God as dirty, lousy or stupid! But some people are a great trial to their pastors (and *vice versa*). And their pastors will persevere in caring for them only if they remember how valuable they are in God’s sight. They are the flock of God the Father, purchased by the precious blood of God the Son, and supervised by overseers appointed by God the Holy Spirit. If the three persons of the Trinity are thus committed to the welfare of the people, should we not be also?

Richard Baxter’s great book *The reformed Pastor* (1656) is really an exposition of Acts 20:28. He wrote:

Oh then, let us hear these arguments of Christ, whenever we feel ourselves grow dull and careless: ‘Did I die for them, and wilt not thou look after them? Were they worth my blood and are not worth thy labor? Did I come down from heaven to earth, to seek and to save that which was lost; and wilt thou not go to the next door or street or village to seek them? How small is thy labor and condescension as to mine? I debased myself to this, but it is thy honor to be so employed. Have I done and suffered so much for their salvation; and was I willing to make thee a co-worker with me, and wilt thou refuse that little that lieth upon thy hands?’

Tomorrow: 5) On to Jerusalem (21:1-17).

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.