17 “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:17–21)
Acts 20:17 begins a wonderful passage of Scripture depicting the heart of a pastor for the health and wellbeing of a congregation and its elders. The pastor in question is the Apostle Paul. The elders and congregation is the church at Ephesus. The time and culture could be our very own for opposition to the Gospel, and attacks from within and from outside the church, remains a clear and present danger.
Paul avoided stopping in Ephesus as he journeyed to Jerusalem. However, while in Miletus he sent for the Ephesian church elders to come and join him. The elders were the ordained representatives of the Ephesian congregation. God called them to be overseers and shepherds of the church of God (20:28; I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
Paul had some important things to say, which the elders needed to hear. The elders complied with Paul’s request and soon joined him at Miletus.
Paul began his pastoral counsel and encouragement to the Ephesian church elders by reviewing his two-three year ministry with them at Ephesus (Acts 19:10; 20:31). He shared that he had lived among them, and not detached from them. In other words, Paul knew what kind of church they were and they knew what kind of pastor he was.
He explained that he served the Lord there with humility, tears and trials because of the adversarial plots by the unbelieving Jews in Ephesus. However, even during those difficult days Paul never shirked from his God ordained responsibility of declaring to the elders, and the congregation, the profitable Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). He taught them both in public settings, and also in private visits at people’s homes.
Finally, he related the Gospel of God, which included repentance of sin towards God and also faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even today, both Jews and Gentiles must solely come to God in repentance of sin (Acts 26:20) and trust in, commitment to, dependence upon and worship of Jesus Christ.
If you are a pastor, continue to be faithful in your God ordained responsibilities (2 Timothy 4:1-5). If you are a member of a local congregation, take time today to encourage your pastor(s) for the work God does through them.
Soli deo Gloria!