Acts 20:16-38 – Farewell to the Elders of Ephesus


Acts 20:16-38


On his way to Jerusalem, Paul stops in Miletus for a last encounter with the leaders of the Ephesian church. Knowing he will not see them again, he defends his ministry among them, exhorts them to good and steadfast leadership, and provides a rare glimpse into the affection he shares with those who lead the local communities.


Carrying funds for famine alleviation gathered from Jewish and Gentile believers around the Mediterranean, Paul hurries to get to Jerusalem to deliver his collection. In order not to be delayed in Ephesus, he meets the elders of the Ephesian Christian assembly in Miletus. He delivers a farewell speech that describes his ministry, his hope, and his faith. He also offers a prophecy of what is to come, a warning to the elders to be as Paul himself has been: alert to danger, not self-seeking, working to support the needy with generosity. These continue to be the ideals for all leaders of congregations and evangelists. The qualities are important for distinguishing religious charlatans from those who truly serve God and share God’s good news with God’s people. The passage is extraordinarily poignant, for Paul and the elders pray and grieve at the prospect of not seeing one another again. They all know what Paul faces, a sign to the reader of how things will go. And yet, there is no attempt to hold Paul back, no sign from Paul that he hesitates to go. It is a wonderful passage that marks the end of Paul’s life as a free evangelist and shows the convictions and practices that mark a true evangelist.