Acts 20:17

It has been truly said that our whole life is divisible into the past and the future. The present is a mere point which separates the two. And there is a certain time which must come, if it have not already arrived, when, instead of finding our satisfaction in looking forward to the earthly good which we are to partake of, we shall seek our comfort and our joy in looking back on the path we have trodden and the results we have achieved. Ill indeed will it be for those who will then have no future for which to hope, and no past which they can survey with grateful pleasure. It was well with Paul, for when he had to turn his eye backward on a ministry which had been fulfilled, he could regard it with pure and devout gratification. That we may stand in that enviable position in which he now stood, we must be able to remember -

I. LOWLY-MENDED CONSECRATION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. "From the first day that I came in into Asia... I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind" (vers. 18, 19). The man who spends his days in spiritual pride, or godless unconcern, or arrogant infidelity, will, if not in the later years of this life, from the other side of the grave, look back on his earthly course with bitterest shame, with fearful pangs of remorse. He who in old age can survey an entire life yielded, with a deep sense of dependence and obligation, to the living God and the loving Savior will have a cheering ray to light up his shaded path. Well may youthful lips take up the strain-

"'Twill please us to look back to see
That our whole lives were thine."

II. FIDELITY IN OUR SPECIAL SPHERE. Paul could feel that, as a minister of Jesus Christ, he had done his work thoroughly, conscientiously, faithfully, as in the eye of Christ himself. "I kept back nothing,... I have taught you publicly, and from house to house" (ver. 20); "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (ver. 27); "I ceased not to warn every one... with tears" (ver. 31). He had thrown the utmost energy of his soul into his work; he had wrought good "with both hands earnestly." Whatever our vocation may be, it will be a sorry thing to have to recall to our memory duties hardly and punctiliously discharged, just gone through decently and creditably; still worse to have to remember duty left undone or miserably mismanaged. Pleasant and gratifying, on the other hand, to feel that we went to our work with agile step and eager spirit, went through it with conscientious care, and threw into it our utmost strength. Heartiness and zest today mean a harvest of refreshing memories for to-morrow.

III. ENDURANCE OF TRIAL. Paul reflected that he had served the Lord "with many tears and temptations [trials]" (ver. 19). These trials unto tears were hard to bear patiently at the hour of endurance, but it was a comfort and satisfaction to his spirit afterwards to think that they had never withdrawn him from his confidence in Christ or from his post of active service. The secure and strong position of manhood is all the more satisfactory for the yoke that was borne in youth; the quietude of age is the more acceptable and enjoyable for the struggle or burden of middle life; the rest and rejoicing of the future will be the sweeter and the keener for the toils and. the troubles of this present time. The evils that have been left behind, when taken meekly and acquiesced in nobly, materially enhance the blessedness of the hour of freedom and felicity.


(1) we should pay the debts which we have formally and deliberately incurred; but that

(2) in a world where we are daily receiving the benefit of the toils and sufferings of past ages and of our contemporaries, we are bound, in all honesty, to do something in return - something by which our fellows and, if possible, the future shall be enriched;

(3) where self-support is not positively demanded, it may be wisely rendered, in order (as with Paul) that there may be no reason for injurious suspicion; and

(4) we should strive to gain enough that we may spare something for the strengthless and dependent - so laboring that we "may support the weak," and know the greater blessedness of giving, according to the Word of our Lord (ver. 35; see Ephesians 4:28; Hebrews 13:16). - C.

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the Church.

1. Serving faithfully (ver. 19).(1) With humility (Romans 7:13; 1 Corinthians 15:9: Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 4:12; 1 Timothy 1:15).(2) In the face of opposition (Acts 9:23; Acts 23:11; 2 Corinthians 11:26).

2. Teaching faithfully (ver. 21).(1) To everybody (Acts 18:4; Romans 1:14; 1 Corinthians 1:23).(2) The whole truth (Mark 1:15; Acts 3:19; Ephesians 3:17; Hebrews 12:2).

3. Lessons:(1) "Ye yourselves know." Happy is the Christian whose life has been so manifestly consecrated to Christ, that he can begin his address with so confident a statement as this.(2) "From the first day." Wise is that Christian who shows his true colours just as soon as he comes among strangers. It took less than one day for the Ephesians to find out that Paul was a Church member before he went West.(3) "With all lowliness." The chief of apostles and the greatest of preachers, thought so much of Christ that he thought very little of himself.(4) "With tears." This bravest of apostles wept. The Son of God wept. To weep then need be no sign of weakness. Tears are not fears.(5) "With trials." When we think we have a monopoly of Christian sufferings, let us pause and consider what lay behind these two words of Paul's (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).(6) "That was profitable." Would Paul have thought it was "profitable" for a minister of God charged with a message of life to dying men, to puzzle them instead over questions of the "higher criticism"?(7) "Repentance...and faith." Could the essentials of Christianity have been more completely set forth by any form of words whatsoever?


1. Fearless Christian determination.(1) To seek Jerusalem (ver. 22; Luke 9:51; Acts 19:21; Romans 15:25; Galatians 2:1).(2) Despite the dangers (ver. 23; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:3).

2. Fearless Christian resignation (ver. 24; Acts 21:13; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:20; Revelation 12:11; Colossians 3:16).

3. Fearless Christian separation (ver. 25; Acts 20:38; John 16:16; Timothy 4:7).

4. Lessons:(1) Paul was bound in the spirit to go to Jerusalem, and he was bound in the body after he got there.(2) Paul knew, and still he did not know. He knew that dangers were before him, but he did not know or care exactly what they were.(3) Paul preached of faith, and Paul had faith, and therefore Paul went on to Jerusalem without a doubt that the Lord would watch over him when he got there.(4) Paul doubtless loved life, but he loved the Lord Jesus Christ a great deal more, so he proceeded to do his Christian duty regardless of consequences.(5) Paul taught by word and deed that life is good for something only as it is put to some good use. He knew that he who loses his mortal life in Christ's service finds thereby the life immortal.(6) Paul emphasised the fact that he received the gospel he preached, directly from the Lord. He evidently appreciated the sacredness of the trust.


1. Freed from responsibility (ver. 26; Ezekiel 3:19; Acts 18:6; 2 Corinthians 7:2).

2. Through faithful admonishing (vers. 20, 27, 31; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Jeremiah 42:19).

3. Lessons:(1) We can save no man; we can warn him, and counsel him, and point out to him the way of safety. So much we are bound to do.(2) We shall never free ourselves from responsibility by urging the old plea of the first murderer, "Am I my brother's keeper?"(3) We shall never be free from responsibility for others' salvation until we free ourselves. We must with our own hands wave the danger signal. It is not enough to pay the minister or missionary to act as flagmen in our stead.(4) We can be free if we set about it vigorously and boldly, and are careful to declare the whole counsel of God.(5) We can be free if we will. Do you as a Sunday school teacher feel that by your faithfulness you are freeing yourself from responsibility for your scholars' salvation?

(S. S. Times.)

The successive scenes in Paul's life are fine studies in character. Paul at Athens shows us the man of adaptation; Paul at Corinth, the man of affairs; Paul before Agrippa, the man of opportunity; Paul shipwrecked, the man anchored; Paul in prison, the man free. Here at Miletus we have the man with a good record. Let us look at —


1. He can look his old friends in the face (ver. 17). There was not a man in Ephesus who could make him hang his head.

2. He can fearlessly refer to his past (ver. 18). There is no braggart air. It is the honest confidence of a man content to have his record scrutinised, in the full belief that it will be his ample vindication.

3. He can confidently forecast his future (ver. 22). The goodly retrospect justifies a goodly prospect. His past is prophetic of his future. "A good record" tied to our past does not give us title to heaven. Jesus Christ alone can do that. But it is a mighty help to confidence in the genuineness of the title.


1. To the Lord (ver. 19) — to Him first of all. There is no fidelity to other interests while there is infidelity to Christ. It was his Master first, men afterward, himself last and least.

2. To the truth (vers. 20, 27). He was as unswervable in his devotion to the truth of Christ as to the person of Christ. We may dream of fidelity to Jesus with a quiet rejection of some truth of Jesus, but it will be only a dream. The Son of God and the truth of God are one.

3. To men. Fidelity to Christ and truth ensure fidelity to men. Paul could call these elders to witness that he was pure from the blood of all. It will pay to get these three fidelities unmistakably into our record. Christ without truth is a phantom Christ. Truth without Christ is a body without a soul. Duty to men with no Christ and no truth of Christ is keeping to the low level of the moralities.

III. HIS CHARACTERISTICS. We will find them balanced and harmonised in couplets.

1. Faith and action. Paul entered Ephesus trusting in God. For three years he withstood its idolatry and its rage, and turned the city upside down, living the life he lived in the flesh "by the faith of the Son of God." With the same trust he was ready to go to Jerusalem, unmoved by the "bonds and afflictions" that awaited him. But how he tied his faith to deeds! James wrote that "faith if it hath not works is dead, being alone." And this is sometimes quoted as if he and Paul were not agreed. But look at this restless, ceaseless, mighty toiler at Ephesus, Corinth, Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, harnessing "works" to faith.

2. Humility and courage (ver. 19). When humility is at its best it most magnifies God. When courage is at its best it most magnifies God. That is the Divine secret of their harmony. They come together at the foot of the cross.

3. Tenderness and conscientiousness. There was a wonderful pathos in this man's nature. He has been misjudged by the sentimentalists who count him cold and harsh because he would tell the whole truth. But how did he tell it? Like his Master, "with many tears." And yet his conscience kept his tenderness from mawkish weakness — kept him from mutilating truth through mistaken notions of love. He told men, even weeping, "that they were the enemies of the Cross of Christ."Conclusion:

1. A good record is rather to be chosen than great riches. "He left a large property," is one comment on the dead; "he left a good record," is another comment. There is an infinite difference between them. Let us not wait for the practical recognition of this truth till we come to look death in the face. It will be too late then.

2. Some things must be in the man before the best things can go down in his record. The quality of doing depends on the quality of being. Every man is the artificer of his own fortune, because every man is the builder of his own character.

3. To have our record worth looking at, a joy in memory, a welcome prophet of the future, and something we need not blush for when confronted with it either here or hereafter, we must have it stamped with fidelity to Christ, to truth, to men — these three. Treachery to either is treachery to all.

(Herrick Johnson, D. D.)

This charge is the first specimen of the kind. If anyone had a right to admonish his brethren it was St. Paul, both on account of his well-established apostolic dignity, and his devoted labours, which in no place had been more abundant than in Ephesus. This speech is full of St. Paul's finest traits — his sensitiveness, tenderness, faithfulness, and firmness.


1. He did so with a frankness as far removed from foolish pride as from strained humility: —(1) So that they should not permit his name and authority to be disparaged in his absence;(2) To give moral force to his exhortations;(3) To set before them an example which they ought to follow. In those days there were no books on the Christian life or pastoral care. Paul himself had to be a book and a model.

2. He first appealed to their knowledge of his life, and then reminded them of his doctrine. Teaching, if unsupported by the life, carries but a faint and doubtful impression.

3. Tears are mentioned three times in this interview. It was quite consistent with his energy and courage, and a mark of the true greatness of the man, that he had a sensibility passing the tenderness of women. So he speaks of the tears —(1) Occasioned by his trials, and especially by the deadly hatred of the Jews;(2) Of pastoral anxiety;(3) Of the elders when they learned that the apostle was now leaving them for good.

4. The apostle laid stress on his disinterestedness. His epistles show how keenly sensitive he was to any imputation of self-seeking motives. Those who love money are still fond of insinuating that those who teach religion do so merely to get a living. To silence such calumnies the apostle had provided for himself and his companions. It is scarcely necessary for ministers today to take such steps for the vindication of their motives. Intelligent congregations know that they would be the sufferers if their pastors were to occupy themselves with worldly business.

5. He also reminded them of the great theme of his public and private ministry. It was the same gospel which he had everywhere delivered. Not a word did he say of "special miracles," for such signs and wonders were not permanent accompaniments of the gospel; but he was emphatic on these two indispensable things — repentance and faith — for these brought salvation home, and were themes to be handled by the elders.

II. HE EXPLAINED THE REASON OF THIS INTERVIEW. He was on his way to Jerusalem, and knew that he would be in peril of his life. Note the apostle's conformity to the sufferings of his Lord (Luke 9:51). The Master did not consult even His most intimate friends, but simply assured them "that He must go unto Jerusalem" etc. (Matthew 16:21). His apostles were most unwilling that He should cast Himself into such danger. But Jesus replied by a prompt rebuke, Nothing could shake His purpose (Mark 10:32). So also Christ's servant, Paul, went "bound in the spirit"; and only told his settled purpose. Many tried to dissuade him, but in vain. Such intrepid persistence as this was made possible to St. Paul simply through his intense devotion to Christ. All that he wished for was to accomplish his course, to fulfil that ministry which he had received, not from man, but from the Lord Jesus.

III. HE JOINED EXHORTATION AND WARNING TO THE PRESBYTERS. He minded them that the same Holy Ghost whose guidance he felt bound to obey, had the direction of their duty also (ver 28). Such was the high estimate of the spiritual office in the primitive Church. It did not allow those bishops to lord it over God's heritage, but it required them to bear themselves as the organs of a heavenly power.

1. "Take heed to yourselves!" Oversight of one's self is the first requirement for a judicious oversight of others.(1) Their acknowledged religious position tempts them to take their spiritual health for granted, and to relax that vigilance which other Christians find so indispensable.(2) While they neglect introspection, and yet perform their public functions, they tend to become mere religious hacks, and grow more and more unfit to be the real channels of spiritual guidance to others.(3) Because of their position, coldness, or inconsistency, does double injury to the cause of Christ. In modern times this counsel needs to be given also to amateur directors of religious effort, and to the countless critics who are ready, at the shortest notice, to pass an opinion — generally an unfavourable one — on the religion of their neighbours. It were better that they should take heed to themselves, and reserve their strict censures for their own faults.

2. "Take heed to all the flock" etc., "feed the Church of God." The Church was not the flock of those bishops. It was forbidden to bishops to "draw away disciples after them"; and it would be well for modern shepherds to avoid such expressions as — "My church," "my flock," "my congregation." The redeemed people of God in any definite place form the flock of God.

3. As the shedding of tears is mentioned three times, so also we read three times of the shedding of blood, or laying down of the life, the physical basis which is the blood.(1) His own life the apostle was willing to yield up at Jerusalem if it was required for the service of Christ and the Church.(2) From the blood of all men he kept; himself pure by so preaching the gospel, that if any heard and refused it, their blood would be on their own heads.(3) The Church of God has been purchased by Christ's blood.

4. The apostle counselled the elders to follow his own example as to self-support. At Ephesus, where it had been so common to practise pseudo-spiritual arts for filthy lucre's sake, it was eminently advisable that the chiefs of the Christian community should prove themselves thoroughly disinterested. It was well too that they should show an example to others in Christian giving (ver. 35).

5. He also dropped a word of warning which must have added alarm to the sorrow of the assembled bishops. He foresaw that teachers of error would appear at Ephesus, and even in their own ranks some would play the part of wolves. He did not expatiate on the subject, but sounded the alarm — "Watch!" From the message of the Lord we learn that the evil here spoken of did arise (Revelation 2:1-7). We also gather that Paul's warning had not been without good effect.

IV. HE COMMENDED THESE BRETHREN TO GOD AND TO THE WORD OF HIS GRACE. By God and the gospel the Church at Ephesus would be built up. How forcibly must the language have been recalled to the minds of the elders, when, in course of a few years, they read (Ephesians 1:2).

(D. Fraser, D. D.)

Paul is ending his third missionary journey. Jerusalem is his destination, and his ship must needs wait a few days at Miletus. Ephesus is only a few miles away, and a messenger is dispatched to the elders of the Church in that city asking them to meet the apostle for a farewell interview. The invitation is eagerly accepted, and the meeting is one of deep sadness for the reason that it is probably the last time they will be together.

I. WE ARE REMINDED OF THE LOVING FELLOWSHIP IN CHRISTIAN SERVICE. These elders were very dear to Paul and he to them. They had worked together, he as leader, they as faithful aids. One aim had demanded their energies, namely, the building up of the Ephesian Church. Their united labours and prayers had welded them together in trust and love. One of the rewards of Christian service is the fellowship growing out of it. This fellowship is based on enduring foundations. Friendships in the world grow out of very thin soil often. Physical beauty is one bond; neighbourhood is another: people are friendly because they live side by side. The social status often determines our friendships. Business, intellectual pursuits, travel, draw people together in relationships more or less permanent. But these are not to be compared with that deeper fellowship enjoyed by those who are doing the Lord's work. There is something about gospel service that brings out the truest and best side of character. People of the most diverse tastes and dissimilarity of culture are found side by side in loving relation in the Church of Christ who could not be induced into such unity on any other basis.

II. Another consideration suggested by Paul's address is THE COURAGE REQUIRED IN CHRISTIAN SERVICE. "The Holy Ghost witnesseth...that bonds and afflictions abide me." Nothing but a complete consecration to Christ could have carried him forward in view of such a future. Our life is good for what it will bring to Christ and for the truth it will establish in men's hearts. Beyond that our life is of small account. The future therefore can threaten no affliction severe enough to thwart a Christian in his duty. There need be no comparison of different periods of the world's history to illustrate this law. Every age brings its peculiar perils to the performance of duty. The quality of fearlessness is a prime one in living for Christ. Fearlessness to the degree of making nothing of one's life for Christ's sake is often supposed to be an unnecessary thing. There is always another consideration forcing itself upon us, namely, the economy of life. The natural impulse is to save it rather than to sacrifice it. "Even unto death" is a degree of devotion not believed necessary, but it is just that willingness to die that underlies devotion to the most trifling duty. The physician and nurse take that possible alternative into consideration when they begin the practice of their profession. It may mean death. The engineer says, "It may be death to take out this express tonight, but I must do my duty, no matter what comes." Instead of lessening the ardour of living, the facing of the perils of service increases that ardour. We desire to do the best work possible before the end comes. Instead of being absorbed in a depressing contemplation of his coming troubles, Paul avails himself of his opportunity to gather the elders of the Ephesian Church in one more conference at the seaport Miletus. Perchance he can say one more helpful word.

III. This address also sets forth THE RESPONSIBILITY INVOLVED IN SERVICE. "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." Paul considered himself bound to be absolutely faithful to all who came under his charge. There are parts of God's message to men peculiarly pleasant to utter. There are phases of truth adapted to win the attention of unbelievers without stirring their consciences or molesting their indifference. But there are other parts of the "counsel of God" that arouse opposition and forbid admiration. Some truths enter the soul like sharp irons, and the impenitent regard them often as the personal opinions of the preacher or ward them off as the antiquated forms of a dead theology. It is so easy to say that the past generations believed such and such things, but we have outgrown them! The temptation assails the Christian teacher to slur over or suppress the parts of the message that are for the time unpopular. Paul no doubt felt that temptation. A symmetrical ministry was to be a chief care. May we not take heed to that advice now? What preacher and teacher does not feel that he has his favourite lines of truth which he emphasises to the exclusion of others just as necessary? There are Churches suffering from a lack of variety in the spiritual and doctrinal food served to them from their pulpits. For the "counsel of God," as contained in His Word, pertains to the whole life of man. Every human interest is therein treated, and no one, if he means to reach all sorts and conditions of men, has the time to harp upon one string. He will always be fresh as a new morning.

IV. PAUL HINTS AT THE HINDRANCES THE BEST SERVICE WILL ENCOUNTER. "After my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things." Although he and the elders had laboured three years in that Church, and though they might strive never so faithfully in the future to feed the flock of God, yet all that care and labour would not insure perfect loyalty to the gospel. The uncertain equation is the instability of human hearts. No apostle was ever able to keep an entire Church true to the faith. The faithful worker will always find a shrinkage in his results. Peter already has discovered "false teachers among you,...denying the Lord that bought them." John warns his hearers against "the Antichrist, who has already come." Jude writes to the sanctified "to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares...denying...our Lord Jesus Christ." The cause of this condition in the early Church may have been that they were too near the great facts of the gospel to get their full meaning.

V. The close of Paul's address suggests THE SPIRIT OF SERVICE: "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak." He was speaking to men who lived in a commercial centre and were used to measuring values in gold and silver. They could appreciate, therefore, the unselfishness of a man who had no regard for the precious things of trade. It is possible to have a low motive even in the highest service, for there is no work which self-seeking may not spoil. But a continued service for others, the helping of the weak or sinful, begets the habit of subordinating selfishness. The kind of unselfishness which the world likes to see is that which gives up the things the world prizes best. Self-assertion the world understands, but it is nonplussed before self-denial. Our influence as labourers for the kingdom must result in the degree of our unselfishness. We cannot get an indifferent world to accept a gospel of the cross while we are avoiding crosses in our daily living. It was because the elders knew that the cross was the centre principle in Paul's life that they regarded him with so much affection.

(E. S. Tead.)

We too have loved and have said farewell. Yes, we know. Paul is one of us. This touch of nature makes us kin.

I. THE DUTIES OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Paul's address is primarily applicable to officers in the Christian Church, yet most of the matters treated of concern all who are trying to do any work for the Lord.

1. The first duty which, as our passage suggests, is expected of a servant of Christ is to endure hardness. Wherever Paul went the Holy Ghost testified to him through some of his fellow Christians that he was to find bonds and afflictions (ver. 23). The thorn road and none other is the way we must go. Courage is one of the most essential Christian virtues.

2. It is a Christian's duty to live faithfully in the present (ver. 22). Paul knew not what was in store for him beyond the general fact that it was trial. But his ignorance of the future did not trouble him. He had been through a stormy past and had found God in it, and he knew he would find Him in the future. Therefore he had no need to worry.

3. It is our duty to accomplish our appointed work (ver. 24). The important matter to Paul was not whether he had "a good time," whether he suffered or not, but whether he did the Lord's work set for him to do. Paul's work was "to testify the gospel of the grace of God." Is that not the sum and substance of the life work of every true Christian? What is Christian experience but an increasingly deeper appropriation of the truth of God in Christ? And what is Christian activity but an increasing manifestation in conduct of the fact that we have so received Christ? And we must not put God off by contenting ourselves with the silent testimony of good Christian lives. This is much as an offering to Christ. But He expects also the testimony of the lips, and this especially Paul had in mind when he spoke of his ministry. When last did we testify openly for Christ?

4. In testifying or teaching it is our duty to declare the whole counsel of God (ver. 27). This is something one may hesitate to do, but Paul did not shrink from it. He let God decide what truth is, and on his part accepted it, all of it, and proclaimed it, all of it.

5. It is our duty to feed the flock (ver. 28). If God gives us anything that is good, shall we keep it to ourselves? How much Christian experience is wasted, that is, how much knowledge of His grace God is giving us all the time, in our trials and joys, in our study and in our business, which we do not impart to anyone else, but keep wholly to ourselves.

6. We are to watch against the enemy (vers. 29-31). The destroyer of souls never deserts his office. Paul is not referring here to those Jews and heathen who antagonised the gospel wherever it went. He refers to evil men who hypocritically came into the Church (vers. 29, 30) with the deliberate purpose of doing harm. Any man who knows more about truth than the Bible, or can show a better way than the way of Christ, or tries to weaken the uprightness of his fellows, had better be watched and guarded against.

7. A Christian ought to be unselfish (vers. 33-35).

8. It is our duty to help the weak (ver. 35).

9. In all our doing we should remember the words and example of our Lord (ver. 35). He is our pattern.

II. We turn now to THE BLESSINGS OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. Duty is not for blessing's sake, it is for its own sake. But according to a beneficent arrangement of God, it is never without its blessing.

1. It is a blessing to suffer for Christ (ver. 23). It is not blessed in itself to suffer. Pain is painful everywhere and always. But "for Christ" transforms pain into joy. This is Christianity's triumph. Life brings its agonies to God's people as well as to others; but they have the joy, which no others have, of being able to say truthfully to themselves, "I know that all things work together for good."

2. The love of Christian fellowship (vers. 25, 31). We can almost imagine we hear Paul's voice trembling with emotion, as we can see the tears springing to his eyes while he tells these Ephesian friends how he has tried to serve them. There are many pleasant relations possible in this life, through God's kindness to us, but none is more lofty, more wholly worthy, than that of friendship in Jesus Christ. Other friendships are sweet while they last, but these alone are eternal.

3. A good conscience (ver, 26). There is no peace of mind to him who, when he thinks at all, must remember duties unaccomplished.

4. Helping others spiritually (ver. 28). If one has money, it is pleasant to use it in relieving others' sufferings. If he has ability of mind, it is a joy to help others in the difficulties of their thinking. But better than these is it to know Jesus Christ and lead others to accept Him as their Saviour.

5. It is a blessing to know that we are carrying on the worthy work of the past (ver. 31). Paul had laboured among the Ephesians. He had done a good work. These elders were to have the privilege of carrying it on after he was gone.

6. We are specially under God's care (ver. 32). Paul commended his dear friends at Ephesus to God, and he knew God would take care of them. Surely they were comforted by this when the perplexing hours came when they missed Paul most. They knew a better friend even than Paul was with them.

7. One blessing of the Christian life is to be built up in all that is good (ver. 32). God is able to do this, and we believe, nay, we know, He does it. We feel as felt, that poor as his life Was, whatever good there was in it was due to the grace of God.

8. We have an inheritance among all them that are sanctified (ver. 32). This may refer to the reward of Heaven. But it is likely that it refers to the reward of earth also (similarly Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:18). In both respects we have a blessed estate.

9. Last of all, but not least, comes the blessedness of self-denial (ver. 35).

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

In his speech we may observe —

I. PAUL'S VINDICATION OF HIMSELF. Ministers are bound not only to look to their consciences, but also to their credits. When the name of a minister is contemptible, his doctrine will be the less acceptable. The apostle vindicateth himself —

1. As to the integrity of his life (vers. 18, 19).

2. As to his fidelity in his doctrine (ver. 20).

II. HIS EXHORTATION TO THEM. As he taught them before by his pattern, so now by his precepts (ver. 28). This counsel the apostle urgeth upon a three-fold ground.

1. From the person who committed to them this charge. That unfaithfulness which is but felony against the charge of a subject may be treason when it is against the charge of a sovereign.

2. From the price paid for them (ver. 28). Things of the greatest cost call for our greatest care. If God thought them worth His blood we may well esteem them worth our tears and sweat.

3. From the peril their flock was in (vers. 29-31). If wolves will watch to devour, shepherds must watch to defend the sheep. Those commanders who are entrusted with a garrison when they are sure to have their quarters beaten up, had need to be ever upon their guard.


1. Propounded (vers. 22, 23). Christians of all men must bear their crosses; ministers of all Christians must look to undergo misery. The fuller the tree is laden the more cudgels will be thrown at it; the most fruitful meadows bear oftenest in the year of the scythe.

2. Amplified from the liberty it thereby denied them of ever seeing Paul again (ver. 25). Sad news to honest hearts upon a double ground; partly —(1) Their lack of him. He had told them of wolves entering in among them; now at such a time for the flock to be without a guide; when the storm arose for the vessel to be without a pilot; when the soldiers were to engage in hot service with enemies, for their expert commander to be wanting; must needs be woful. That the nurse should be taken away before the children could go alone did much affect and afflict their spirits.(2) Their love to him. As Paul was a Christian, and their spiritual parent who had begotten them, brought them up in the nurture of the Lord, and upon all occasions advised and assisted them, they could not but love him in a high degree, and therefore much lament his loss.

IV. HIS VALEDICTION TO THEM (ver. 32). Before he had given them a command from God, and now he commends them to God. The words contain the legacy which Paul bequeaths to his Christian friends. He taketh his farewell of them, and wisheth a welfare to them.

(G. Swinnock, M. A.)

This address contains very much instruction for Christian ministers, and therefore for Churches. For ministers are very largely what Churches make them. It is hard for the strongest man to resist the current of opinion and feeling among those with whom he is in constant association. If in some Churches the ministers have become priests, it has been because the people first transferred to the ministers all spiritual responsibilities, who belonged to the sacred "order" were regarded as having a nearer access to God. St. Paul —

I. KEPT BACK NOTHING THAT WAS PROFITABLE. He never considered what it would please them to hear; he told them everything that it was well for them to know. He did not shrink from declaring to them "all the counsel of God." Paul was not among those who think that it is necessary to cajole men into faith and righteousness by concealing truth which might repel them. He was frank and open, and asserted that he was "clear from the blood of all men," because he had concealed nothing, in every age of the Church there have been strong inducements to follow another course.

1. When the Reformation began, good and wise men must have been sorely tempted to a policy of reserve. The religious faith of millions rested on the authority of the Roman Church and priesthood; to challenge the authority was to loosen the foundations of religious belief. The errors — so it might have been urged — were not altogether mischievous. Superstitious fears might restrain some from evil courses who were not likely to be restrained by a purer faith. An undue reverence for the priests might draw some to the services of the Church who would not be drawn by reverence for the invisible God. Even if the institutions were corrupt and the beliefs erroneous, it would be well to use a little "management" in reforming them. Now no doubt the Reformation loosened in some countries, while it strengthened in others, the foundations of morality and of faith. There is more than plausibility in the contention that the revolt of Germany against the authority of the Church prepared the way for the revolt of France against the authority of Christ. But the catastrophe might have been averted if wiser teachers had had the courage to expose error and to resist its growth in earlier generations.

2. Do you suppose that we, in our days, are quite free from the cowardice, treachery, and unbelief of the good men. who lived, in the ages before the Reformation? Some excellent persons are seriously afraid that the new translation of the Bible will give a great shock to the faith of "simple-minded Christians." Well, if the faith of "simple-minded Christians" is disturbed, the responsibility lies with those who have always known that the sacred text was imperfect; and that, even with a perfect text, no translation can be faultless. But there are people in our congregations who do not want to have their minds cleared of mistakes; and ministers may be tempted to conceal the truth because some of their hearers do not wish to know it. There are some truths which have become part of the very substance of our moral and religious life. But unhappily there are many Evangelical Christians who are in a panic if any of the human definitions of these truths are impeached and condemned. They do not ask for "all the counsel of God," but only for as much of it as will confirm their traditional beliefs, and leave their minds undisturbed. They clamour against every man that is not of the same mind with themselves. They follow the same line in dealing with those who are in doubt. If a man begins to question any part of their system, they say that he is on the high road to infidelity.

3. The only remedy is to be found in a more courageous faith in truth. Let Evangelical Christians be loyal to Him who is the Light as well as the Life of men; let them remember that the Spirit of Truth has come to lead us into "all the truth"; let them desire to know "all the counsel of God," and then we need have no fear of the ultimate result of the troubles and perplexities through which we are now passing; the victory of the evangelical faith would be assured.

II. The tone of the address suggests that the Ephesian Church had relied very largely on himself. Now that they are to "see his face no more," he commends them "to God and to the word of His grace." This reminds us of another quality which should distinguish the work of every minister, and which congregations should encourage and honour, viz., TO LEAD PEOPLE TO RELY ON GOD, NOT ON HIMSELF. Whenever he comes between the people and God he is in a false position, and he is doing permanent harm. But in all Churches there is a craving for this illegitimate exercise of ministerial power. Romish priests discharge two functions. As confessors they absolve from sin; as directors they assume the guidance of the spiritual life. Even in Protestant Churches, though confession and absolution are abhorred, there is sometimes a craving for "direction." That the counsel of a minister may occasionally he of service is obvious; but something more than counsel of this kind is desired. There is a readiness to charge the minister with the responsibility of the conduct of the religious life. This disposition is the result of a want of moral and spiritual vigour; if yielded to, it increases moral and spiritual weakness. It obstructs the free development of conscience. It impairs faith in God. When Christ was in the world, who would have dared to come between any of His apostles and Him? who would have dared to assume the "direction" of their religious life? There is equal presumption in coming between the humblest and most ignorant of Christian men and the Spirit of Christ, who now dwells with the Church. "I commend you to God and to the word of His grace"; this should be the reply of every Christian minister to those who seek from him what they should seek direct from God.

(R. W. Dale, D. D.)

Paul's ministry was —

I. LOYAL: "serving the Lord" (ver. 19). It is the word used for slave service. There was nothing of the spirit of a slave — base subjection, or angry opposition to service forced. But there was the idea of absolute surrender. Paul regarded himself the property of Jesus — to live and labour for Him alone. And this was a joyful voluntary surrender, and so was "perfect freedom." Let us in our ministry not be secretly serving ourselves; making popularity, admiration, power, pelf, our aim; nor let us serve? the state, or the world, or the Church, or any society, for the purpose of pleasing, but only to do good, remembering that in religion we are to be "serving the Lord."

II. HUMBLE. "With all humility."

1. Humility towards our Divine Lord — following His counsels, and not our own fancies — teaching His truth and not our own speculations; doing the work He prescribes, and not that which we might prefer; content to go anywhere, do anything, suffer any affliction which He ordains, with meek submissiveness, with cheerful alacrity.

2. Towards others. They who teach and preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus should exhibit His spirit, and cultivate sweetness, gentleness, courtesy: not aiming at supremacy, emulating others, striving for the higher place, assuming airs of superiority, but acting as those who knew themselves unworthy to occupy the lowest station in the Church, who have nothing which they have not received, and who may, in the judgment of the Searcher of Hearts, be far below some whose gifts and position are inferior, but who may illustrate the saying, "Many that are last shall be first, and the first shall be last." If the ministry of such a one as Paul was "with all humility," how much more should ours be!

III. TENDER. "And with many tears." True manliness is tender. It is not unmanly to weep. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, and when He contemplated the sin and approaching suffering of Jerusalem. Paul was among the strongest of men, and therefore among the tenderest (2 Corinthians 2:4; Philippians 3:18). How different this from the hard sternness, even the jubilant fervour, with which sin and sinners have sometimes been denounced! How solemn, yet how tender, was Jesus! We should be the most tender and tearful when most faithful in reproof (ver. 31).

IV. FAITHFUL (ver. 20). He would not prophesy "smooth things." A self-seeker, a coward, a man pleaser, would "shun" (ver. 27) many topics opposed to the prejudices and self-interest of his hearers. We can imagine the case of slave owners, or distillers and rum sellers, or Sabbath traders, or coveteous people in a congregation, and the inducement to "keep back" what would be profitable, but unpleasant, and a shunning to declare the "whole counsel of God."

(Newman Hall, D. D.)

I.HUMBLY. "With all humility of mind."

II.TENDERLY. "With many tears."

III.FULLY. "How I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you."

IV.INDEFATIGABLY. "Have taught you publicly from house to house."

V.UNRESTRICTEDLY. "From house to house."

VI.EVANGELICALLY. "Repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. THE DIFFICULTIES. The expression "many tears and temptations" proves beyond a doubt that he had serious difficulties to contend with, especially from his own nation. The Jews, zealous for the traditions of the fathers, looked upon him as a renegade, and lay in wait for an opportunity to kill him. There are seasons of reflection in the life of every right-minded man, in which the outflow of "many tears" would be a relief, because "the misery of man is great upon him." Now the "temptations" of difficulties which befell the apostle come to the lot of every good minister of Jesus Christ in some form or another. There is —

1. The hostile state of the parties between whom he negotiates. The Bible declares that "God is angry with the wicked every day," and also that the "carnal mind is enmity against God." Reconciliation is the keynote of the gospel ministry. The invitation to the feast, now as of old, is rejected on very trivial grounds. One buys a piece of land, another five yoke of oxen, and another marries a wife, and all beg to be excused. Another difficulty is that of —

2. Meeting the demands of a mixed assembly. It is one of the wonders of creation that there are no two countenances formed exactly alike. Could we but see, we should probably discover that there are no two souls exactly alike in all things. Add to this the diversity of position, education, temper, training, and character, and you will see how difficult it is to interest and instruct all. Another difficulty is that of —

3. Pecuniary support. "Yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered to my necessities, and to them that were with me." Another thing to which the text points in relation to the gospel minister is —

II. THE DUTIES. There should be —

1. A faithful declaration of the whole counsel of God. "I kept back nothing that was profitable to you." Mark this: it is not what is pleasant, but what is profitable. He adopted two methods in the performance of his work —(1) Public teaching. "And have taught you publicly." Paul's ministry was a thoughtful ministry; it made the people wiser and holier than they were before.(2) Private visiting. "And from house to house." Another thing which the text points to in relation to the gospel minister is —

III. THE DOCTRINES. "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

1. He is to show man's relation to his Maker. "Repentance toward God."

2. He is to show man's relation to Christ.


Among the many features of Paul's Christianity as here depicted there is one which shines above the rest and gives a unity to the whole — his tears. Jesus had the same tears of sorrow when He wept in Gethsemane; tears of charity when He wept over the destiny of Jerusalem; tears of tenderness when He wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. Note, then, St. Paul's —

I. TEARS OF SORROW. He is a Christian, not a Stoic; he does not pretend, nor did his Master, to stifle the expression of a pain he could not but feel, and which it would be affectation to disguise. Paul's whole ministry is a ministry of tears, in the sense of the Psalmist, when he says, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy," etc. By the strength of his faith Paul anticipates the days of harvest, and triumphs in the midst of his tears. Here he weeps in the anticipation of "finishing his course with joy." What a picture of sorrows is that abridgment of his life written by his own hand (2 Corinthians 11:23-29), and He from whom no future event is concealed, has united, in a single expression, the sufferings and the apostleship of Paul (Acts 9:15, 16). The abundant tears with which the apostle was to bedew his path would not water the earth in vain. We lend an attentive ear to an advocate who has suffered in the cause which he defends. And further, sorrow and physical pain have a power over the heart of man, and obtain a respect peculiar to themselves. In order savingly to touch the heart of the most unbelieving amongst you, I should wish that there might stand in this pulpit the suffering Paul. But it is written, "Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple"! Well, your cross, where is it? What are the sacrifices and afflictions which your faith calls you to bear? Neither a frivolous nor a luxurious life can ever agree with the Christian course. We need men, not like Jabez, whose prayer is, "That thou wouldest enlarge our coasts and keep us from evil"; but men like St. Paul, who "always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus."

II. TEARS OF CHARITY (ver. 31). Place yourselves in the position of those whom Paul thus warned. Imagine yourselves to be one of those who are beginning to attend to the gospel, or have not yet seriously considered it. The apostle does not give you any more rest than he does himself; he urges you during the day, he detains you far on in the night. Be will not let you go until he has obtained — what? Some favour? Ah! the greatest favour which you can show him is that of being converted to Jesus, or of serving Him with greater faithfulness. You resist his entreaties; but before you part with him, look at him: he weeps over the sins in which you continue — over the harm which your conduct does to the Church — over the stumbling block which you place before the world — above all, over the future which you are preparing for yourself! Do not these tears which you cause him to shed enable you to see into the very soul of his Christianity? I discover in them a whole body of Christian theology and morality; nay, truth and charity — truth, so clearly beheld, that it leads him to foresee that a dreadful misfortune will befall you if you persist in rejecting it; charity, so intense, that by it your salvation becomes almost as necessary to him as his own: what is this but his beautiful definition of Christian faith — "the truth in love," exhibited as a practical reality? I would ask, What is gospel truth, according to this man who entreats you with tears to receive it? Is it simply a refined Deism? You need not stop to examine his epistles and discourses, which are overflowing with the "good news" — you need only see him weeping at your feet. Is it only an interpretation, more or less sound; an opinion, more or less well established, which we must modestly defend without peremptorily affirming facts for fear of being guilty of pride and intolerance? Explain to me those tears of St, Paul if he has not before his eyes "a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries!" Now I will suppose that you have listened to the most urgent, the most eloquent, the most pathetic exhortations, and have not yielded. But that Christian orator entered your closet, and there, alone with you, without the slightest motive of human praise, entreated you to take pity on yourself, and at last, at the sight of your obstinate resistance, unable either to prevent your being lost, or to suffer you to be the cause of your own ruin, melts into tears; say, could you do otherwise than yield? Alas! we must not expect too much; many have seen these tears and have not yielded; but to resist a gospel thus preached, must there not be a heart of stone?

III. TEARS OF TENDERNESS (vers. 37, 38). By a rare gift — of nature, shall I say, or, of grace? — St. Paul, uniting, as he did, opposite qualities, and tempering strength with gentleness, had one of the tenderest hearts that ever beat. What can be more affectionate than the language of the apostle to his Thessalonian brethren, his spiritual children? (1 Thessalonians 2:6-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 2). But this love has its special attachments. There is not enough attention paid to the position which friendship occupied in St. Paul's life and apostleship. I only bring forward in proof the large number of brethren and sisters who are spoken of by name at the end of most of his epistles, and greeted, one by one, with the delicate tenderness of the deepest Christian love. Nor is this all. Amongst the many Christian friends who surround him, Paul has some to whom he is most deeply attached. Luke, Barnabas, Philemon, Epaphroditus, Epaphras, Tychicus, and, above all, Timothy and Titus, his supporters and helpers in his gospel labours. What mother ever wrote to her son a letter more full of solicitude than the 2nd Epistle to Timothy? The brightness of Paul's holiness might dazzle our eyes and seem unreal, could we not discover, throughout it all, traces of his human nature. But the character revealed by these tears forms also a main strength of his apostleship. This power operates in more ways than one. It operates by gaining hearts to the apostle himself. Every one feels himself drawn towards a man in whom the principle of love is so strongly developed; and, since the greatest obstacles to the gospel lie in the inclinations of men, by interesting the hearers in favour of him who proclaims the gospel you interest them in favour of the gospel itself. It operates by enlarging the apostle's sphere of action. This brotherly family, who surround such a loving master, form around him, as it were, a sacred phalanx, in which everyone, being placed at his post by this able general, furnishes his share towards the common resistance to the enemy. But it operates in yet a deeper manner. The warmth and fervour of the apostle's affections give to the gospel which he proclaims a simplicity, an air of truth, which greatly contributes to subdue the minds of men. Conclusion: The tears of the apostle have explained him to us. The strength of his apostleship arose from his personal Christianity, and his Christianity was a Christianity of tears. Weeping from sorrow, he subdued. others by gaining their sympathy; weeping from charity, he won others by love; weeping from tenderness, he carried others along with him by the simplicity of his gospel.

(A. Monod, D. D.)

? —


1. His life is to be devoted to their service, (ver. 19).

2. He is to enter into the circle of their life, as a friendly sympathiser in their joys and sorrows (ver. 18).

3. He is to enlighten them by his example, and yet to continue humble, conscious of his own weakness (ver. 19).


1. To communicate the whole truth — repentance and faith (ver. 21).

2. To do so in living application to the necessities of the times (ver. 20).

3. To everyone in particular, that so he may account to God for every soul (vers. 20, 26, 27).


1. He looks courageously forward in faith to the threatening storms (vers. 22, 23).

2. He joyfully gives up even his life for Him who gave Himself for us all (vers. 24, 25).

3. He confidently commends himself and his flock, in life and death, to the grace of God (ver. 32).


There are two sides to the question of quitting ourselves of responsibility for those whom we have set to a special work. On the one hand, we may err by meddling with their work and worrying over it; on the other hand, we may err by failing to show our continued interest in that work, and in those who have it in charge. Paul committed neither error. He laid responsibility on the Ephesian elders, and had no thought of attempting to take it from them; but he wanted them to consider that responsibility in all its bearings, and to be assured of his loving and prayerful sympathy with them in its discharge. Here is a pattern for all those who have set others at work, in the church, in the Sunday school, in the place of business, in the home. Do not worry yourself, nor worry those who have the thing in immediate charge, by your close attention to the details of their business — which is not yours. But do not fail to show them that you consider them lovingly and prayerfully, and that you commend them "to God and to the word of His grace" in their life and work — before their Master and yours.

(H. C. Trumbull.)

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