There are two very important matters that lie ahead of the apostle Paul. The first is him reaching Jerusalem. He is most likely in charge of the collection made for the poor believers in the Mother Church in Jerusalem, hence:
Ac 20:4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia.
He seems to be aware that hardship faces him. We know because we are able to read on in the Book. The second is that he, at all costs needs to meet up with the appointed elders from the Church at Ephesus. All of his letters to the various Churches contained in the Bible are inspired of God and part of Scripture … and each one contains glorious doctrines that require serious thought, meditation and reflection. I am certain that without dispelling any Bible Book, you have your favorite Book, or at least passage. Mine would be Ephesians and especially the first fourteen verses of chapter one. Although stated differently, Paul’s message to these elders in Acts 20 brings out a repetition of those doctrines mentioned in chapter one of Ephesians. Firstly, let’s read about the journey from Ephesus.
Ac 20:13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. 17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.
The initial leg by sea was without Paul. He travelled by foot, some 32 kilometers (20 miles). It seems, unlike other ships, the one used took them directly from Troas to Assos without stopping at minor ports. It’s possible that Paul took one or two with him and did some evangelism on the way. Once he met the others at Assos, he went on board and sailed with them to Mitylene, then to off Kios and from Samos to Miletus. Due to time, they bypassed Ephesus which is the biggest port just before Miletus. His intention was to try and reach Jerusalem by Pentecost, which in the year 57 AD would fall on May 29. The ship they were on bypassed many ports but for some reason docked for a few days at Miletus. From here he sent for the Ephesian elders. There was much to be said to these elders. Due to his sudden departure from the city, he obviously had not had sufficient time to complete their training as shepherds of God’s flock. There is one thing that comes to mind here … and it is “planning ahead”. Do you run a diary? Years ago we had hardcopy diaries and year planners. For some years I have been using the diary on my phone. Our daughter and her family do the same but Angela has an additional tool. She has a whiteboard in her kitchen and uses it for the family (including Jenny and myself) activities every week. In most countries we have a list of school holidays and public holidays. Having this diarized is planning ahead. Do we ever plan even further ahead … to our departure into eternity? Kindly read on:
Ac 20:18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.
Should you have time please read all the way to verse 38. Once the elders arrived from Ephesus … likely 4 days after docking … (It must have taken 2 days to walk from Miletus to Ephesus to call the elders and the same for the return journey … a total of about 72 kilometers) … Paul purposely holds himself up before them as an example of eldership. Right before us we have a check list for all elders [teaching and ruling] to measure themselves against.
1) Enemies abounded in Ephesus. There was Jewish opposition. Seemingly Alexander was their leader or at least their spokesperson. Then there was Demetrius, who seemed to be the leader of the trade union the Silversmiths belonged to. There were also other unions. Whether it was the Jewish Faith or that of Artemis or other so called gods, many fought against Paul and his missionaries as well as the Church. It was paramount in Paul’s mind that the Christian Faith be protected and the only way to do so from a human perspective was that the Church elders be equipped to stand firm in Christ so that they could execute their duties properly. All Christian Churches and their pastors and elders need to be aware that the devil is cunning and uses many disguises to attack the Faith. Knowing this is the first step towards getting prepared for such onslaughts.
2) The way he lived.
Ac 20:18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia.
Some want us to see egotism and boasting by Paul. We dispel this suggestion or charge with the contempt it deserves because we believe this passage, like the rest of the Bible is the Word of God. Paul would not teach others what he has already taught Timothy and Titus about how to conduct oneself as a Christian Minister, if he did not model it. “You know” means to understand by sight, feeling and experience. They had the opportunity of monitoring Paul over the past 2 years 3 months. What follows in the passage gives us an idea of the ways in which he could have been “watched, monitored and examined” as to his character, personality, Word ministry and pastoral care. We desperately need pastors today who are exemplary in the way they present themselves publically (before the congregation). Not for the wrong reasons, congregants, but especially spiritual leaders ought to be modeling character, spirituality and lifestyle against that of their pastors.
Tit 1:6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
In two verses, Paul uses the word “blameless” twice. Certainly we are all sinners saved by grace … and remain sinners until we arrive in glory. No pastor (elder … teaching or ruling) is perfect. Given that, the word “blameless” means that no one ought to be able to point a finger against the pastor’s morals, ethics and general behavior. Just as Christians are on the stage where the world looks at us, so pastors are on the stage where the congregation looks at them. As we dig into what Paul says, let’s pray for our pastors (elders) that they might display what Paul says of himself in their lives.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for appointing elders to teach and rule Your Church through Your Word by Your Spirit. As they face the challenges and temptations we all face, grant them much grace and help to model Christlikeness for us to model against. Amen.