While at Miletus, Paul called the elders at Ephesus to come to him, a journey of perhaps 30 miles or so. Verses 18-37 end with a tearful goodbye, as he tells them that he knows he will never see their faces again. He tells them that he is going to Jerusalem and that he does not know what will happen to him “except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.” He recounts his faithfulness to preaching and teaching the word in the three years that he had spent with them, declaring that he was “innocent of the blood of all.”
These very emotional parting words have an important point besides the obvious. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul had stressed the importance of the local church members having respect for those who had been appointed as elders of their congregation (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Here in Acts 20, he is making it clear to these elders – and to all elders of the church everywhere – that they have the responsibility to shepherd the flock among them. Fierce wolves, he says, will come in “not sparing the flock,” and that “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” The elders of the local church everywhere have an awesome responsibility, and must always be on guard for the souls of those in their midst. It was true then, as it is now.
In the middle of all this, Paul quotes to these elders one of Jesus’ most famous sayings in verse 35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The words are actually not found in any of the gospels. But it is good to remember the words that John wrote in John 21:25. Jesus did and said so much more in His time on earth than what was written in the gospels. It is appropriate that some words the Lord used in His teachings are reported to us by Paul – who wrote so much of the Bible!
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.