Acts Devotionals

Never See His Face Again

Although our circumstances are very different, in a way I can understand something of what went through these elders’ minds:

Ac 20:38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.

In leaving South Africa and emigrating to the United States of America, as the time for departure drew closer, I became more and more aware that I would most likely never see family members and friends of many years standing again. It is true to say we have email, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom and other electronic media that was far from being invented in Paul’s day. It is equally true to say the invention of aircraft would only happen almost two hundred years into the future. Yet even with these, contact meetings are largely prohibited because of costs. What does it mean “never to see someone again”? Why is there crying and pain? Is it because of personal loss? It was loss to these elders that their spiritual leader (under the good hand of God) would most likely not be seen again. Please read:

Ac 20:36 When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

1) The instructions have been completed. Everything Paul needed to speak about has been concluded. The onward journey by ship is about to commence. His earthly work, apart from prayer had been completed. Again, I feel something of what Paul felt in leaving a congregation after 5 years, another after 29 years and then leaving a congregation after 14 months. Once you leave, what you have not done cannot be completed. Once keys are handed over and your name is removed from the payroll, what is done is done. A pastor must do as much as he can with his flock, for when he leaves he must have no regrets. On a lesser scale this could be true of anyone being in any employment. Once your retirement arrives or once you leave that position, you cannot do anything more. What is done is done. There must be no regrets. Paul had no regrets as to his ministry at Ephesus. He could leave with a clean conscience. He says:

Ac 20:27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God


Ac 20:31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Whatever your portfolio is in life, at work, at home, at Church or in marriage … may there be no regrets once your service time is completed.

2) Once completing what he could do, he entrusted them to God.

Ac 20:36 When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.

As mentioned above, once a pastor or teaching elder has fulfilled all his duties towards the flock the Holy Spirit appointed him over, all he can do is pray for them … and this beloved is the most important part of all. Everything that has been said has been said. All the teaching is done. Every word of encouragement or rebuke has ended … and now he relies upon the Holy Spirit to be their “after teacher”, not only protecting and providing for the flock, but bringing to mind everything that has been taught over that period of ministry. Maybe some elders do not value the importance of soaking what has been preached and taught in prayer. You see, from an academic point, most might grasp the theory of his teaching but only through prayer will the Holy Spirit realize the spiritual component in the heart by bringing the soul to grasp the deep truths of God. As you read through Paul’s writings in the New Testament [all inspired of the Spirit], you will see the great importance he placed on prayer. So, once he left these elders from Ephesus, he could rest assured that he completed his task of teaching but also of praying for them. The pastor who is not praying for his flock does not care about the souls God gave him to care for Him. After Jesus’ Meritorious Blood Sacrifice to purchase our souls for Himself and bring us into His Church, there are five important facets we ought never to forget about Christianity and its dependence upon God.

(1) The Bible.

(2) Prayer.

(3) The Holy Spirit.

(4) Jesus’ Return.

(5) Judgment.

Paul’s pastoral heart understood that him teaching the Bible, praying for the elders (and Church) and depending upon the Holy Spirit’s constant presence was because of Jesus’ Second Coming followed by the Day of Judgment. Pastoral praying must not just have right living on earth in mind. It must include eternity which is preceded by Jesus’ return to judge, conclude the world as we known it and introduce eternity … be it damnation for many or bliss for others. As Church elders pray and as congregants pray, these are the things that ought to occupy the mind! A last thought regarding verse 36 is that it seems as though the elders might have also prayed.

3) The demonstration of brotherly love.

Ac 20:37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.

Unless one understands the greeting of the time or what actually happened, one might misconstrue what the verse says.

(i) Wept. This was an act of sorrow as in mourning. Why … see verse 38.

(ii) Embraced. As some translations speak of an arm around the neck.

(iii) Kissed. This would be as is practiced in the Middle East today … “cheek to cheek”.

These were signs of true Christian love … not the fake “cheek to cheek” we see on the TV new or in the movies where people place their cheeks against each other and kiss into the wind. The crying, embracing and kissing were a real demonstration of brotherly love in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, a lot of this is missing today. Is it because we get so caught up in the world that we forget that all blood washed souls are part of one family with one Father, Lord and King?

4) Facing reality.

Ac 20:38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.

The word “grieve” means “to be tormented” or “to be distressed”. That they would not see Paul again was a huge blow to them. It unsettled them. They suffered mentally and spiritually. Emotionally they were distraught. I recall being at the airport, waiting for my outgoing flight. With me were Ray, Michelle and Susan Potgieter and our younger son Kevin. When we said goodbye, it was extremely hard for we knew at that moment we might never see each other again in the flesh! In that experience I could identify with these elders. I say it again and will again and again … enjoy your family, especially your spiritual family. Spend as much quality time with them as possible. You never know when it shall be your last engagement on this earth.

5) Last things. Then they accompanied him to the ship. What’s a few extra meters after walking for two days to reach Paul? I was astounded by culture shock! In South Africa we see our visitors to the gate or their car … then we really start talking for another 30 minutes! Here is America, your guests leave, you open the door, they walk out and you close the door. This last sentence of verse 38 carries the South African sentiment “that we visited so well, let’s drag it out into the street”. A reluctance to let go. Do you spend as much time with your spiritual family as you can? That visit could be the last time you see them on this earth!

Our Father, grant to us Your children a greater understanding of what it means to be part of Your eternal family. Amen.

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