I love the Acts of the Apostles. Reading this part of the Bible really gives you a feel for the struggles of the newborn church as she establishes the teachings and traditions given straight from Christ, establishes leadership and a needed hierarchy, and sets the example of what it looks like to be a Christian; love.
For example, in Chapter 20, Paul is saying goodbye to the church in Ephesus. The leaders of the church basically do a “group hug” and “weep loudly” and kiss him because he told them they wouldn’t see his face again. They are upset at saying good-bye because he has blessed them with the most essential things; true love in their true identity and purpose…all in the family of One True God.
In all his letters, St Paul eloquently does a few important things: he entrusts them to God, intercedes on their behalf before the Lord in prayer, and commends them by constantly speaking to them of what God did to redeem His people through Christ and how they belong to Him and Him to them.
Acts of Apostles, (20:28-38)
“And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated”.
While praying with this passage, I feel that I need to imitate St Paul and commend those entrusted to my care to the Lord our God in Christ. How do I do this?
We begin by entrusting those we love to God, since actually, we all belong to Him from the moment of conception to natural death and beyond. We may think we know our spouse, children, family or friends better than anyone, but God made them for Himself, and they have a purpose under Him that we cannot always see. That purpose is to serve Him, whether they know it or not yet, and not necessarily in the way we think is best for them. We often mean well, but we can derail people with our own sense of what they are to do. We are all created to live this life in our own unique way. One thing we can do for one another, is entrust ourselves and others to God for His grace to lead each person the way He called them.
To intercede for someone means we pray for them. We don’t pray for them in the way we think they need to be fixed, we pray that God’s love will break through whatever falsehoods they may have undertaken, and that they get to know God so that His purpose for their life will be revealed to them. Whatever specific prayer requests we may adopt from others, we can also intercede for any grace or healing needed. If someone is hurting or lacking trust, they may not want prayers. Like St Teresa of Calcutta would say, “pray anyway”. When you have been asked to intercede, make sure you do. Promised prayers are sacred, and so we are accountable for them, even if we start to lose track and have to say a collective request to God, “for those special intentions I offered to pray.”
Paul does something so important for those he came into contact with in the early church. He speaks blessings and honor over himself and the people he addresses in the name of Jesus Christ such as this salutation to the people of Corinth:
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does Paul do next? He gives thanks to God on behalf of them, commending them to God and God to them…connecting God and His people with his words in a way that blesses them with encouragement and reminds them of who they are (whose they are) and their purpose. He affirms them in Christ and God the Father, and encourages them in their abilities to carry out the message of Christ to others.
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
St Paul reminds us through these letters in the New Testament, as he did to those at the time they were written, to whom we belong (entrusted), to pray for each other (intercede) and the importance of blessing each other with our words and God’s word (commend), reminding those around us constantly of our love and the love of God, and what Christ did for us.
No wonder there was such a scene when Paul left Ephesus! Who wouldn’t want a friend like that?