29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. 32 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. (Acts 20:29-32 (ESV)
Paul warns the elders about what is to come, fierce wolves not sparing the flock.
It’s never an easy thing to see. Congregations and church bodies being torn to shreds. There aren’t any easy answers to this sort of thing either.’
Paul holds himself up as an example to the elders, to preach and teach ceaselessly. To admonish everyone, even with tears if necessary.
And then he commends them to God and to the word of grace that is able to build up. The gospel is the answer. It’s easy to lose track of that, as a pastor. When things go south and people are at each other’s throat, personal attacks are flying, it’s even conceivable that the pastor feels slighted, hurt, and for the life of him he can’t seem to extract himself and his emotions from the situation, it’s all too tempting to think the law can fix the situation, and it never will.
Of course this is always the delusion of man. We think the law can fix things, as if the problem was somehow that people didn’t actually know better than to do what they are doing. And then there are pastors who think there whole entire job is to get people to be better. Admonishment with the law is what they think is going to accomplish it. But it never works. Instead Paul refers them to the word of grace. It is this and this alone able to edify, that is build up and give you the inheritance among the sanctified. And of course, that is the purpose of the preaching office, to give this inheritance, to sanctify those who hear, and sanctification is always the result of the gospel.