Serving the Church

KEY VERSE: “They all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they should see his face no more.” —Acts 20:37,38


PAUL WAS GOING back to Jerusalem, and he wanted to arrive there by the Day of Pentecost. Though his time was limited, he did want to fellowship once more with the elders of the Ephesus ecclesia, so he boarded a ship from Assos to Miletus. Miletus was about 36 miles south of Ephesus, and from there Paul sent messengers to Ephesus to invite the elders to make the day’s journey to Miletus to meet him.

And they came. The fact that they made this great effort to see the apostle reveals the enormous confidence and fervent love they had for him. One reason Paul was anxious to see these brethren is revealed in his words: “Behold, I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions [‘wait for me’, Margin].”—vss. 22,23

Paul seemed sure that he would not be able to visit the brethren in Ephesus again, for he said to the elders that they would see his face no more. (vs. 25) In the shadow of this uncertainty, the apostle delivered his farewell message to the Ephesian elders. Under the circumstances, some would only be concerned about their forth-coming troubles, but Paul testified: “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.”—vs. 24

Paul reminded them that he had not shunned to declare unto them “all the counsel of God,” and that he had “kept back nothing that was profitable.” He had taught them “publicly,” and in their homes.—vss. 27,20

Paul then admonished them as elders to, “take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own [Son’s] blood.”—vs. 28

Experience has proved that servants in the church who do not take heed unto themselves are not qualified to effectively watch over the spiritual welfare of others. Elders must not think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Pride of mind and heart distorts spiritual vision and makes ineffective what otherwise could be a blessed ministry of the truth. Taking heed to one’s self also implies careful and prayerful study of the truth. One cannot minister to others what he does not understand himself.

The elders at Ephesus took Paul’s admonition to heart and watched faithfully over the flock so that the “wolves” and the false apostles were discovered and exposed. “Watch, and remember,” Paul said to them, “that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” (vs. 31) Paul had set the elders of Ephesus a good example, and now he wanted them to follow that example—to follow him as he followed Christ.

Paul’s discourse ended, they joined in a closing prayer, and the elders bade the apostle farewell. It must have been a touching moment for them all, for we read that “they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, 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.”—vss.37,38

Dawn Bible Students Association
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