Yesterday we saw Paul began his farewell address to the elders of the Ephesian church. And at the very end of our section for yesterday we saw Paul telling the elders of the Ephesian church that his only aim in life was to complete the mission that God had given him. And that theme is going to continue as Paul’s finishes up his farewell address to the elders of the Ephesian church. Because Paul is going to conclude his farewell message with words of encouragement to the elders of the Ephesian church, as they continue on in their God given missions.
Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.—20:25
Given what had been revealed to him, Paul expected not to see the Ephesians again. This verse is accurately describing Paul’s expectations. His Pastoral Letters, however, suggest some ministry to Ephesus after his release from custody in Rome (1 Timothy 1:3). During his imprisonment, Paul expressed his plans to travel to Colossae, obviously through Ephesus (Philemon 22).
Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.—20:26-27
Being innocent of the blood of the people is a reference to Ezekiel 33:6. The “you” is likely all the people of Ephesus. Paul was not a negligent watchman who kept silent, so he had no guilt regarding their rejection of Christ. He was innocent because he told the people the whole truth about God’s plans. Though it was physically impossible for him to witness to every person in the province of Asia, he did consistently proclaim the gospel to the region and gave the Ephesians everything they needed to evangelize them.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.—20:28-31
Leaders of the church (overseers/elders) are appointed by the Holy Spirit (called by God). They are to shepherd the church, the flock. The church has a high value attributed to it, for the price of the church was the blood of Christ. The Ephesians were to guard themselves and the flock from the false teachers. These false teachers were vicious wolves, an image suggesting both the intent and ferocity of the false teachers: they wanted to consume the church with a relentless savagery. It is chilling that some would arise from within the church to prey on the flock. Like the Judaizers of Acts 15:1, they were interested not in evangelizing the lost but in pilfering the church. Paul’s prediction certainly happened, with the aftereffects chronicled in the letters to Timothy and the letters of John (1 Timothy 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 2:19 and 2 John 9).
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’—20:32-35
God should not be separated from the word of his grace. He is active in his Word, and through his Word he builds up believers. Paul believed these truths and sought to build up the believers in Ephesus by his exhortations. At the end of the speech, Paul emphasized the integrity of his ministry. He was neither covetous nor requesting money (though he was within his rights to demand it). He cites an otherwise unknown saying of Jesus to demonstrate that selfless service is the Lord’s will. Jesus made similar statements (Luke 6:38 and 11:9). The saying of Acts 20:35 is not found in the four Gospels, but this does not negate accuracy of the statement. In this case, Luke chose not include it in his Gospel but did so here.
When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.—20:36-38
The closing scene is filled with sorrow and loss. When Paul knelt and prayed, they could no longer contain themselves. They covered him in embraces and showered him with kisses. These actions show the deep love the Ephesian elders had for Paul. It is especially noteworthy that the thing causing the most distress was that they expected never to see Paul again. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we see Paul continue on with his journey to Jerusalem and ultimately to Rome.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Esther 1-3, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Psalm 35:17-28 and Proverbs 21:19-20
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