ACTS OF THE APOSTLES CHAPTER 20
This third mission trip for Paul would not end like the previous two trips where he returned to his home church at Antioch for a break and shared the joy of his accomplishments with the brethren there. Perhaps he hoped to visit Jerusalem like the last time and then returned home to Antioch but this time Paul would not be given the privilege for a smooth journey home. Recorded here was his travel heading towards Jerusalem and meeting up with the brethren along the way with a heavy heart admonishing believers to be faithful to continue with the faith in Christ.
Acts 20:1: And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.
Paul was prevented from entering the theatre during the uproar in the last chapter. Thankfully, the incident was resolved peacefully without bloodshed and Paul was not taken into custody. All ended in peace with Paul ending his ministry in the city of Ephesus. So Paul met up with the disciples and perhaps had a short emotional departing fellowship meeting with them before heading to Macedonia to meet Timothy and Erastus whom he had sent there earlier.
Acts 20:2: And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,
Acts 20:3: And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.
Along the way, Paul spent time with the disciples and exhorted the brethren. Paul’s ministry was not simply preaching the gospel of Christ to win converts and then let them fend for themselves. He built them up in the faith and constantly helped them in their spiritual growth in Christ. While mindful of his journey to Jerusalem, he would not forget the disciples. His labour for them was continuous and he wrote to the Christians in Corinth to let them know how much he had suffered and laboured for them for Christ’s sake.
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? (2 Corinthians 11:23-29)
As can be seen, Paul made a lot of enemies who wanted him dead because of the gospel work for Christ. He had won so many over to the Lord and he quickly became the most hated personality in the region where he ministered. So Paul could not sail directly to Syria from Greece as the Jews were laying wait to get him and he was forced to return through Macedonia.
Acts 20:4: And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.
Acts 20:5: These going before tarried for us at Troas.
Many old timers and Paul’s faithful fellow soldiers travelled with him during this trip. These men were his fruits in the ministry and no doubt these men brought much joy to him even as they worked together to claim spiritual territories from Satan in this gospel conquest for the souls of men. The meeting with these saints at Troas would surely be a happy event with fellowship and prayers to look forward to for this apostle. It would always be a joy to meet up and fellowship with likeminded brethren to talk about the things of the Lord.
Acts 20:6: And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
Acts 20:7: And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
Acts 20:8: And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
Acts 20:9: And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
The Passover in Jerusalem was already over while Paul was still at Philippi. Apparently, Paul was planning to keep the other feast, the feast of Pentecost where he had less than fifty days to make it to the capital city of the Jews. Whether Paul rushed back to Jerusalem to attend the same feast the last time before he ended his second mission trip it could not be ascertained. It would not be unlikely though as Pentecost carried great significance for the Church of the living God as it was during this day that the Church was officially commissioned with the baptism of the Holy Ghost upon those founding members. So Paul perhaps felt it deeply in his heart to keep this feast with the Jewish brethren during this time of the year in connection with the Church of the Lord.
The journey to Troas took five days and he stayed there for a week. During this trip to Jerusalem, Paul was not going to the synagogues to preach the gospel on the Sabbath day to the Jews. In fact, he had already preached many occasions in synagogues all over Asia trying to convince the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah. His ministry had since changed and now he was focusing on the Gentiles instead when the Jews rejected him and the gospel of the Lord. Hence, he was meeting up with the saints and so the Sabbath day was a non-issue. No Christians needed to keep the Sabbath day. Christians are not Jewish in race and there is no commandment for Christians to keep the Sabbath given to a physical nation of Israel on earth. In fact Christians do not belong to a physical nation on earth as far as the spiritual realm is concerned.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9&10)
So instead of meeting on the Sabbath day though there is no law to forbid Christians to meet on the Sabbath day, Christians the world over choose to meet on the first day of the week, the day of resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course Christians can meet on any days of the week. However, for practical purpose most Christians would meet on Sunday where most people are not working on this day. Notwithstanding, meeting for the sake of meeting on Sunday claiming to worship God in spirit and in truth could become a form if the hearts of Christians are not right with God. They do not derive any spiritual benefits from such meetings and in actuality; such meetings become another form of bondage. In fact Christians should be worshipping God everyday of the week and not just on Sunday to perform his Christian duty.
By the way, going through previous chapters of this book, there was no mention of Paul specifically meeting Christians only on Sunday. He probably met them every other day where it was providentially possible. If Christians should only meet on Sunday based on this passage, then to be consistent, preaching should last through the night as well. In addition, the believers in Christ met everyday from house to house in the beginning in Acts 2 fellowshipping and breaking bread. They did not meet to sing a few hymns and listened to a preacher preach thirty minutes and then went home. It was not an organised standardised set-up when they met. They were led by the Holy Ghost where liberty was theirs to enjoy: Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17) Thus restricting worship for Christians to Sunday is simply a tradition and not a commandment.
So Paul took the occasion with these Christians during his seven days stopover to preach to them on a Sunday. Actually, these Christians were gathering for the purpose of breaking bread and to fellowship. With the presence of Paul what would be more appropriate than to hear him preach and teach them more about the risen Saviour. In addition this was the final day where Paul would be with them and they wanted more of his presence, fellowship and preaching before his departure the following day. Paul’s preaching was not without incident this time. His preaching lasted till midnight and one young man fell asleep and fell from the upper floor. It would be embarrassing for sermons to become deadly and it was not due to Paul’s dead preaching. How could the preaching of the words of God suppose to give life turned out to cause death? Being an apostle, this incident became another occasion to glorify the Lord where Paul authenticated his calling as an apostle of Christ to perform miracles on this young man who dropped dead due to his long preaching.
It should be noted that the modern perversions like the NIV, NASB and even the NKJV had changed Paul’s preaching to these disciples to speaking and talking with them. The NIV even said that Paul kept on talking until midnight turning Paul into a vain talker. It is amazing how these perverse bibles can stoop so low to downgrade the apostle’s preaching to an ordinary conversation.
Acts 20:10: And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
Acts 20:11: When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
Acts 20:12: And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.
Like the apostle Peter who raised Dorcas from the dead, Paul performed such a feat as well by raising this young man back to life. Hence when Paul wrote about his apostleship to the Galatians, he compared himself with Peter: (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) (Galatians 2:8) So the raising of this young man brought much comfort to those Christians that day as Paul had to depart and move on to his next destination towards Jerusalem. When Christians met, they often feast as well. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. (1 Peter 4:9) Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. (Romans 12:13) It was a wonderful time of fellowship around the table and they talked through the night after his preaching till it was time for Paul to leave. It was certainly a memorable meeting with the saints at Troas.
Acts 20:13: And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot.
Acts 20:14: And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
Acts 20:15: And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios; and the next day we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day we came to Miletus.
Acts 20:16: For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.
Acts 20:17: And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
Paul kept up with his journey and made a stopover near Ephesus where he was forced to leave after the uproar at the theatre. His ministry at Ephesus was exceedingly fruitful and many turned to the Lord and brought forth works meet for repentance so much so that those idols making craftsmen lost their livelihood that resulted in the riot. However, Paul was short of time trying to make it for the feast of Pentecost at Jerusalem and he would not enter the city. Thus his next best option was to meet with those leaders of the church where he was at Miletus. In particular, he would like to speak to the elders of the church before moving on hoping to reach Jerusalem before Pentecost.
Acts 20:18: And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
Acts 20:19: Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
Acts 20:20: And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
Acts 20:21: Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Interestingly, Paul did not call pastors of the church to meet him. He called the elders of the church instead. The modern day hang-ups of having pastors and senior pastor of churches to lead and rule over the members are unscriptural. The church is to be taken care of by elders and not by a one-man pastor exercising pastoral authority over the members of the church. Pastoral authority is alien from the Scriptures and should be rejected outright by Christians who read their Bible. The purpose of Paul’s meeting with these elders was to charge them concerning their duties and responsibilities in caring for the church.
Paul was a leader by example. He would not tell his disciples to do things that he would not do. His manner of life was an open book before his people. All his tears and sufferings were known to them where he served the Lord with all humility of mind. His people knew very well how the Jews wanted Paul dead especially with the uproar in the theatre at Ephesus still fresh in their minds. High mindedness has no place in the heart of any church leaders trying to serve the Lord ministering to the Lord’s flock. Paul was a humble leader in their midst who showed them how they should live their lives for Christ.
Moreover, Paul did not keep back anything that was profitable to the elders and the church. Paul taught them everything he knew publicly and from house to house. He was not just a Sunday pastor preaching once a week to the flock and wished them well. He was involved in their lives going from house to house to meet up with them. He did not wait for them to go to him. Paul was a faithful minister preaching to the Jews and Gentiles not just repentance towards God but faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ which was absolutely essential for without which salvation would be incomplete and impossible: But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:4)
The NASB and the NKJV have lost their mind where Paul told these elders he served the Lord with all humility of mind. It is funny how the word “mind” went missing in these two versions. The NIV is even more exaggerating. It made Paul said that he served the Lord with great humility and with tears turning Paul into a great boaster instead of a humble servant of the Lord. In addition, the NIV and NKJV tell us the Paul did not keep back from preaching anything that was helpful to the church instead of being profitable to the church. They do not know things that are helpful are not necessarily profitable. We can help someone but being helpful may not be profitable for him when he can help himself. What do we expect from these mindless perversions that keep changing words from the Holy Bible to copyright their work masquerading as bibles?
Acts 20:22: And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
Acts 20:23: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
Acts 20:24: But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 20:25: And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
Paul was well aware of his journey to Jerusalem would be a perilous one. Even being an apostle, he did not know what would befall him at Jerusalem. Nevertheless he was bound in his spirit to go even though he had been warned in every city along the way by the Holy Ghost that bonds and afflictions was his portion. While Paul was steadfast in preaching the gospel of the grace of God, a virtue to have, in this case, he brought upon himself a lot of unnecessary sufferings. This should not be the way to finish his course as his time was in the hand of the Lord and not in his own making. In fact, Paul could be quite suicidal and not afraid to die perhaps having received a glimpse of the glory in the world to come when he wrote to Christians in Corinth during an incident very likely where he left this world back in Acts 14: It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Corinthians 12:1-4)
Paul had seen a better world and why would he want to linger on in this miserable place? His attitude towards life in this world was perhaps best summarised from the few verses he wrote to Christians in Philippi: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. (Philippians 1:21-24) So Paul shared his feelings with these elders from the church at Ephesus about the danger he would faced and his determination to move on despite the great risk he was undertaking for this trip to Jerusalem. Thus this meeting was an important one for them in case this might be the last time he could instruct them concerning the church under their care.
Acts 20:26: Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
Acts 20:27: For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Acts 20:28: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
This meeting was indeed a serious event that day and not just another fellowship meeting to exhort and encourage one another in the Lord. Paul was putting these elders on record that he had done his best and he was pure from the blood of all men concerning his ministry to them. As can be seen, Paul was not riding on a hobbyhorse preaching to them his pet doctrine. He declared to them the whole counsel of God. It is unfortunate that many ministers these days are so caught up with some pet doctrines that all the flock gets to hear the whole year through would be the same old stuff regurgitating from the mouth of the ministers whose aim is to show how faithful they have been towards a certain doctrine from the Bible. It is a shame that ministers shun to declare the whole counsel of God to their members by indulging on their own hobbyhorse no matter how important that particular doctrine might be. As a result, members suffer spiritual malnutrition and could not walk perfectly with the Lord.
For Paul, he fed his people with milk and meat to help them grow in the Lord. Before these elders he ordained, he charged them with a very serious charge to care for the church. These elders were charged to take heed on the whole counsel of God they had received from Paul. These elders were made overseers of the church and not pastors. The Holy Ghost was actually the person who made these elders overseers and hence the seriousness of this charge given to them to feed the church of God. In addition, the church of God was purchased by the blood of God and hence taking care of the church was not to be taken lightly. Feeding the flock of God was the foremost duty of these elders and this responsibility did not fall on a one-man pastor or senior pastor ruling over everyone including the elders. Feeding the flock of God is a collective responsibility of the elders and the title of an elder is not to be acquired for ulterior motives.
The office holders of the church are the elders and deacons. Pastors and teachers are not office holders but a function of an office holder. Neither are prophets and evangelists church office holders. The elders are overseers who are given the responsibility to oversee the church. This is a tremendous responsibility for the elders are supposed to feed the church of God purchased by the blood of Christ. The flock belongs to Christ and not the pastor or senior pastor of the church. As such, the elders have to take heed how they oversee the church and how they feed the church. The Lord will hold them responsible for the flock they oversee and should they fail to discharge their duties conscientiously, serious consequences follow and misery and trouble would plague the church. For the Lord threatened those churches with severe consequences for failing to keep the character of the church in Revelation 2 and 3. Hence, the elders of the church have to know their proper place in the church as the Lord will hold them accountable for the sheep they lead.
Instead of Paul declaring to the elders and the church the whole counsel of God, the NIV said that Paul proclaimed to them the whole will of God while the NASB mentioned that Paul declared to them the whole purpose of God. These modern versions indeed lack substance in their translations. The will of God and the purpose of God certainly cannot equal the whole counsel of God. Such lack of common sense is pathetic to say the least. Since when these modern perversions of the Holy Bible ever offer godly counsel to the child of God let alone the whole counsel of God in the first place! Their very objective is to remove the whole counsel of God with their arbitrary alteration, addition and removal of words from the Holy Bible.
Acts 20:29: For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Acts 20:30: Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Acts 20:31: Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Acts 20:32: And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
Taking care of the church of God is not like running a commercial enterprise in the world. It is not about commercial profit where the church has to survive by merger and acquisition to stay relevant to enhance shareholder value. It is also not about staying relevant with the times by providing value added services to members to make them feel good and comfortable with a sophisticated sense of respectability in the community. It is has nothing to do with the daily grinds of the members and the church is not a place to provide a platform for members to conduct social and commercial networking activities.
The church is made up of saved members of the Body of Christ where the spiritual well-being of the members is the foremost priority of the Lord. The elders are responsible to watch over them and feed them and ensure they are in good spiritual health. If the members of the church are spiritually healthy, other issues pertaining to this life will be well taken cared of and these members will have an upward outlook and not an outward outlook at the world for all their comfort and needs. The elders of the church are to equip these sheep with a forward looking spiritual disposition where their ultimate goal is to glory the Lord Jesus Christ as they journey peacefully and safely onward to glory land.
The journey of a Christian to the blessed land of bliss is full of dangers. There are many obstacles and distractions along the way to divert the child of God in his walk with the Saviour and cause him to stumble and bring him into misery. All these dangers and troubles a child of God may encounter are from outside the church and within the church. The trouble from outside the church in the world is more readily recognisable and hence such danger can be dealt with in a more direct manner and their threat neutralised. However, the more pernicious influence of subtle infiltrations by the enemies of the cross could do a lot of harm to the church. Their tactics to bring a child of God into bondage are not so clearly manifested within the church. They come in for the purpose of destroying the church and the spiritual health of the members. Such harm done is incalculable where many may take years to recover and some might not even be able to recover themselves from the snarl of the devil.
Hence, Paul warned these elders present that trouble would come to the church at Ephesus. They would come in the form of wolves in sheep’s clothing and these enemies were expert in the craft of camouflage warfare. They were the elites of the devil dropped behind enemy lines to carry out their work of sabotage. These enemies were characterised as grievous wolves which showed their tenacity and absolute hunger to devour the unsuspecting sheep in the church. Because these enemies would behave and act like the sheep of the Lord in the church, making the poor sheep their lunch would not be too difficult for they would not spare the flock. They were sent in by the devil to scatter the flock. Just one successful attack would be good enough to fulfil their mission objective as the frightened sheep would be scattered with no more shepherd to protect them and feed them. This would no doubt happen when the shepherds themselves were sleeping on their watch. This kind of terrorism would be most effective to destroy the church.
Furthermore, the devil could raise up enemies from within the church. These enemies surprisingly came from within the church to draw disciples after them. Their modus operandi would be quite simple. They would speak perverse things to the church. They would sow discord and discontent in the church and cause the sheep to look for greener pasture. They would pick a fight over some pet hobbyhorse or emphasise on the wisdom of man to lead the sheep to follow them. They were professionals in church splits for the purpose of getting a following to impart to them their false doctrines. These enemies were once followers of Paul but they had departed from the faith and had fallen away. In their fallen state, they would bring others along to join them in their rebellion and misery just like the fallen Lucifer seeking a following when he rebelled against the Most High God.
These enemies were themselves to blame for their fallen state from their spiritual high ground. They had not stayed the course in their walk with the Lord. The allowed their fallen Adamic nature to be the master of their destiny and hence they were taken in by the devil to do his bidding and caused harm to the church. They failed to exercise patience in waiting upon the Lord to teach them spiritual truths and they became ministers of questions to cause strives to the church. Not only these elders had an ear full of Paul’s admonition on the dangers faced by the church, Timothy also received instruction on how to deal with such troubles at hand.
Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (1 Timothy 1:4; 6:3-5)
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2 Timothy 2:23-26)
With such dangers faced by the church at Ephesus, Paul pleaded with these elders to be watchful for he had been warning everyone for three years night and day with tears to be vigilant about the design of the devil to cause them to fall. Paul was not exaggerating when he presented this aspect of the danger faced by the church to these elders that day. His vehemence and seriousness in charging these elders to take charge of the church after his departure revealed the severity of the danger the church would have to face. Thus, in his subsequent writing to this church, he taught them how to defend themselves against the wiles of the devil.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Having given these elders a complete picture of their spiritual danger and the enemies’ strategy, Paul commended them to God. Indeed what else could Paul do for them! It would have to be the word of God’s grace to be able to sustain them in this spiritual fight for the souls of the sheep for which the Lord purchased with His own blood. The word of God would also be able to build them up and their rewards in the future would be an inheritance among the saints sanctified by the Lord. As Paul had been watching over the flock and warning them night and day, now the burden would be passed on to these elders who had to take charge of the church and watch over the sheep of the Lord.
Acts 20:33: I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.
Acts 20:34: Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
Acts 20:35: I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
After passing on the baton to these men to care for the church, Paul gave them a departing shot to examine his manner of life among them. Paul expected them to be like him and conduct themselves above board before the church. Being an elder of the church did not qualify them to abuse the church. The examples of Paul’s life should serve as their guidelines as well. Paul did not covet any man’s wealth or money in kinds. He worked among the people and he laboured to feed himself and those with him as well while serving them for the Lord. He was not a burden to the church requiring them to pay him a huge compensation package acting like a CEO of an organisation when his ministry at Ephesus was so successful with many converts burning away their former crafts of darkness. Paul told these elders to remember the words of the Lord that it was more blessed to give than to receive. So they ought to labour and support the weak and not expect the church to pay them just because they were church office holders.
Hence, no man should think that the office of the church, especially that of an elder, is a career option to make a comfortable living. It is an office that comes with tremendous responsibility and duty to ensure the safety and spiritual well-being of the church for which the Lord purchased with His own blood. It is not an office for the fainthearted and for respectability within the church. Those who come into this office with ulterior motives would be exposed and they will make a disaster of themselves and those who support them.
Acts 20:36: And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
Acts 20:37: And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,
Acts 20:38: Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
It was indeed an emotional farewell for Paul who was no doubt well loved by these elders. His manner of life and sacrifices for them and the church would surely have not gone unnoticed by these men. Paul was serving them selflessly throughout his stay with them where he even endangered himself during the riot in the city. So that day’s exhortation was like Paul’s swan song to them as they did not expect to see Paul again face to face. It was like an earthly parting where they would only reunite in glory in the world to come. How could these men ordained by the well beloved apostle Paul not become emotional under such a setting where this earthly departure would seem to be permanent! Paul would be certainly well missed and the sorrows these elders experienced would be etched in their memories for a long time even as they served their office faithfully in the church as charged by the apostle Paul.
Indeed this apostle had done so much for them and his leadership and influence in the church would be too big a shoe for these elders to fill. These elders obviously acknowledged the instructions given to them but what hurt them most was their perception that they would not be able to see Paul again this side of heaven. So their sorrows were understandable. After Paul kneeled and prayed with these elders and an emotional embrace with these men, they sent Paul off accompanying him unto the ship where Paul hastened towards Jerusalem to keep the feast of Pentecost. This marked another important meeting with the brethren for Paul along his way towards his desire to be with the brethren at Jerusalem for a very special occasion where great trouble awaited this faithful apostle of Lord.
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