I am reading Richard Baxter’s “The Reformed Pastor” with a couple other men, and a particular page struck our attention. Baxter is addressing objections to the personal catechizing of our people by their pastor. As he concludes this section, he highlights the example of Paul for preachers, from his last meeting with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-38 (pp. 229-30). Baxter begins,
“I confess, some of these words of Paul have been so often presented before my eyes, and impressed upon my conscience, that I have been much convinced by them of my duty and my neglect. And I think this one speech better deserveth a twelvemonth’s study, than most things that young students spend their time upon. O brethren! write it on your study doors – set it in capital letters as your copy, that it may be ever before your eyes. Could we but well learn two or three lines of it, what preachers should we be!”
Baxter continues by listing 10 characteristics of the ministry of Paul from this passage (I will include the ESV text and Scripture reference):
- Our general business – serving the Lord with all humility and with tears (20:19).
- Our special work – Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock (20:28).
- Our doctrine – repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (20:21).
- The place and manner of teaching – teaching you in public and from house to house (20:20).
- His diligence, earnestness, and affection – I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears (20:31).
- His faithfulness – I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable; for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (20:20, 27).
- His disinterestedness and self-denial for the sake of the gospel – I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me… remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (20:33-35).
- His patience and perseverance – But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus (20:24).
- His prayerfulness – And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (20:32).
- His purity of conscience – Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you (20:26).
“Write all this upon your hearts, and it will do yourselves and the Church more good than twenty years’ study of those lower things, which, though they may get you greater applause in the world, yet, if separated from these, they will make you but as ‘sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.'”
Wise pastoral words from a man far beyond us in godliness and pastoral wisdom.