There are several things that strike me about Paul’s final address to the Ephesians. First his words in verse 24. After talking about all the trials he had been warned by the Holy Spirit were coming, he said,
I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.
For Paul, that meant the proclamation of the gospel. And that he did to the point where he could say,
Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (26-27)
But then he encouraged the elders of the Ephesian church to finish their race, to take care of the church God had placed in their care. And so he told them,
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. (28-31)
If there is one thing that Paul makes clear here, it’s that Satan will try to keep us from finishing the race God has given us. One way he does this is through attacks from the outside the church through persecution. But another way he attacks is from inside the church by bringing in false teaching to lead us astray.
And so Paul warned them to watch out for it. Yet we would do well to be prepared as well. To know that some will hate us because of our faith, and not be surprised if persecution comes, even from those closest to us. But also to know God’s Word so well that we are not deceived when we come across false teaching, whether on TV, in books, or even in our own churches.
It might seem a bit intimidating to know that we have an enemy that wants to take us down. And we might wonder how we can possibly handle it. But Paul said,
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (32)
In other words, ultimately it is God and his grace that will keep us in the end. It is his grace that saves us, and his grace that keeps us. As John wrote,
The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
So let us run the race God has given us knowing that we don’t run it alone or in our own strength. And by God’s grace, we will finish it.