“And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). The people that responded to the gospel of Jesus rejoiced to be able to do so, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized…” (Acts 2:41), and in their joy of being added to the saved they began to serve the Lord. They served the Lord as “…they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Their joy of service was found in these spiritual things and as they were “continuing daily with one accord…” (Acts 2:46). Why did they have such joy in serving the Lord? It was because their relationship with Christ Jesus came before their relationship with one another. Their relationship with one another came because first and individually they had a submissive and obedient relationship with the Lord.
That same serving attitude of the first Christians can be seen in the life of Paul. On one of his journeys Paul made a special effort to stop and see the elders of the church at Ephesus at the town of Miletus (Acts 20:17). This meeting with the Ephesian elders was a very emotional meeting for Paul as at Paul’s leaving them Luke wrote “Then they all wept freely and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him…that they would see his face no more” (Acts 20:37-38). The emotional meeting with the elders caused Paul to express these thoughts; “You know from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials…how I kept back nothing that was helpful…” (Acts 20:19-20). From Paul’s emotional words one is able to learn much about what it means to serve the Lord.
True service is carried out with all humility. Paul was humbled by the fact that he had been giving the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel and then serve as a preacher and apostle. “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry…” (1 Timothy 1:12). Paul’s humility was seen in how he preached the gospel. He wrote to the Corinthians “And I brethren when I came to you did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God…and my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom…” (1 Corinthians 2:1,4). There were those in Paul’s day as there are in ours that use arrogance and human wisdom to try to have power over the brethren or even over the people of the world that would desire to study the Word of God. That was not Paul and should not be a faithful preacher of the Word of God today. Teaching and preaching of the truth must be done with all humility.
True service means there will be tears and trials. It is possible that some of Paul’s tears came as a result of physical pain and beatings that he suffered. He stated that these “happened to me by the plotting of the Jews…” (Acts 20:19). They plotted to kill Paul from the moment of his conversion in Damascus (Acts 9:23-25) until he was sent to Rome (Acts 26:32). Paul would also have shed tears because of the spiritual condition of congregations such as Corinth and because the Galatian Christians were receiving a different, false doctrine (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul shed tears because he was human, and it hurt to leave behind and be separated from faithful brethren like the Ephesian elders. True service to the Lord will bring tears and trials.
True service to the Lord means proclaiming the Word of God to the world and to the church. “I kept back nothing…” (Acts 20:20), referring to preaching the whole counsel of God. Paul could have allowed himself as a preacher to be influenced by the world, by false teachers, by weak and immature brethren, but he did not. He understood his mission and responsibility of teaching brethren to rise above the past, their culture and traditions, and to be like the Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily…” (Acts 17:11). May all Christians desire to see proclaimed and have a part in proclaiming the Word of God.