Year 2 Day 73
Read - Acts 20v7-16
Message - Scott Woodburn
What's the perfect length for a sermon? Some argue that we can't concentrate for longer than 20 minutes. I've heard others who make the case for 45 minutes at least. One man I'm aware of had a ministry filled with 7 minute sermons and the late Noel Agnew told me that they were 7 minutes packed with truth. I'll leave you to decide how long a sermon should be but I suspect I know Paul's thinking on the issue.
Paul would soon be called to travel once more and so spent his final night speaking to his brothers and sisters until midnight (v7). We immediately see Paul's concern for the church. He loved them and wanted them to be well grounded in the truth and so he spoke God's Word to them for as long as possible.
Unfortunately one young man called Eutychus drifted off to sleep and as Paul continued to speak long into the night, Eutychus sank deeper into dreamland (v9). Tragically as he slept, he fell from his window seat on the third floor and was killed (v9b). In the presence of an Apostle such an event was not the end of the story. Paul took Eutychus in his arms and said “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” (v10). Eutychus was restored to life bringing much comfort to the flock (v12).
I smile when I see what happens next. Paul wasn't finished speaking! It's late and a young man has died and been brought back to life but Paul has more to say! He eats with his brothers and sisters and continues to speak to them until daybreak (v11).
As we read this passage it challenges our attitudes to the preached Word. We all struggle to pay attention to the sermon. At times we switch off completely from it. On other days we remember a story or an illustration but little else. On occasion we long for something a bit more exciting. Amazingly Paul had those opinions directed at him too. One of the criticisms he endured in Corinth was that he had nothing to say. His critics would argue “Paul's letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” (2 Corinthians 10v10)
Brothers and sisters, a mark of the spiritual health of a congregation is their attitude to the preached word. A spiritually healthy church understands that the Lord has ordained the means of preaching to gather and perfect His people. A spiritually healthy church will work hard at preparing themselves to receive the Word. A spiritually healthy church will seek to discipline themselves to listen well as the Word is preached. A spiritually healthy church will consider what they have heard and seek to apply it to their lives.
The death and healing of Eutychus was exciting but Paul's address was what the church required. It is still the same. Jesus once told a story about a rich man who died and went to hell. He begged Abraham to send a poor man from heaven as a warning to the rich man's brothers. Instead Abraham pointed the rich man to the Word "Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And the rich man said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ Abraham said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16v29-31)
We don't need tricks, smoke machines or miraculous deeds. We need much of Jesus and we find Him abundantly in the Word of God. Heed the Word preached and rejoice in every opportunity to receive preaching "for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4v3-4)
Q79 Which is the tenth commandment? The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.