Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers…
1. When the apostle goes, will not the whole fabric which he seemed to represent and sustain go along with him? Is Christianity the heroism of one personality? If Paul's estimation of himself had been that of an idolater or of a superstitious person, he would have reminded the Ephesian elders that in the removal of his personality they had themselves no longer any official standing, or any claim upon public attention.
2. When Paul goes, what will be left? The Church! and the Church is greater than any member of it; the Word! and the Word is infinitely greater than all the ministers that preach it. The blood that bought the Church! and that blood is alone in its meaning, energy, and grace. Then everything will be left when Paul goes. That is the mystery of Divine love. We can take nothing away from Christ's Church. The firstborn dies, but the Church is as strong as ever; the most eloquent tongue is silent, but the music of the Cross loses no note of its enchantment. It is even good for us that the apostle should be taken away: it was expedient for us that Christ Himself did not remain upon the earth in visible presence. Christianity does not depend upon its great or its little men. Like its Lord, it is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
3. Paul's charge is Paul himself, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves." Paul was a severe disciplinarian. He was always undergoing the discipline of an athlete; he kept his body under lest he himself should become a "castaway." Self-heed is the secret of public power. "Take heed unto yourselves," and you will be gentle to other people. "Take heed" also "to all the flock." That is the balancing consideration. The minister is not a monk, he is a public, a social man with a great shepherdly heart, that can understand and love a thousand varieties of men. Paul's conception of the ministry was regulated and inspired by his conception of the Church. Was the Church a club, a little gathering of men called together for superficial purposes or for transient enjoyment? It was a flock; it was purchased with the blood of God. Then the Church makes the ministry. The ministry has no existence apart from the Church. The minister — be he Paul or Apollos or Cephas — is but an upper seat holder.
4. Paul uses language full of suggestion and pathos. "The Church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood." What grander word is there than "blood"? Until we contaminated it, it stood next to "love." "The blood is the life"; the life is the blood. God purchased the Church with His own life. When you understand sin you Will understand blood. When you see the hell which sin deserves you will see the Cross which God built.
5. Why should a man care anything about the world he is going to leave? That depends upon the quality of the man. There are those who want peace in their time, and want to leave all thorny questions to he determined by those who come after them. But Paul was anxious for the fortunes of the Church at Ephesus, though he would himself see that Church no more. Christianity is not a new way of sneaking out of responsibility; Christianity is not a cunning method of leaving posterity to take care of itself. Christian love claims all time, all ages, all lands. Paul — great economist, great statesman, supreme prince of the legions of Christ — could not leave Ephesus saying, "I am glad I shall suffer no more there"; but he cared for Ephesus as much as if he were going to spend the remainder of his days in the endeavour to convert its citizens. Paul knew that after his departing "grievous wolves" should enter into the Church, "not sparing the flock." The "wolves" could not come in so long as Paul was there. God takes away from us our mighty men that He may train us as much by their absence as He did by their presence. Who would not long to have a whole year with John Bunyan, or the greater Milton, or the fiery Baxter, or the profound Howe and Owen? Yet God is training us by their withdrawal, and God's greatest men are always the men who are still to come. The ages do not live backward.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.