Paul's Words at Miletus with the Ephesian Elders Part 1 of 5

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

November 28, 2015


Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe


Lesson: IV.D.6: Paul's Words at Miletus with the Ephesian Elders (20:13-38)


Acts 20:13-38 (KJV)

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.
14 And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
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.
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.
17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
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,
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:
20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,
21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
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.
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.
26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
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.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
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.
33 I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.
34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
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.
36 And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
37 And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,
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.



Commentary

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.

Paul’s journey resumed with an entourage consisting of the collection delegation, including Luke as biographer, setting sail from “Troas” to “Assos”{1]. Perhaps they took a smaller vessel that ran close to the coast, intending to look for a seagoing ship to Palestine at Miletus. Paul did not accompany them at first but chose instead to go by foot to “Assos,” an easy journey of around 20 miles—there he would join up with the others. The boat would have had to go around Cape Lectum in order to reach “Assos,” a longer (nearly 40 miles) and more difficult route than the land route. This, most likely, made it possible for Paul to catch up with the boat there—he could have arrived in “Assos” not long after it did or even before it did. Just why Paul did not leave with the boat at Troas is not specified. He may not have relished the difficult voyage around the Cape, or he may have wished to spend the last possible moment at Troas, or perhaps the incident with Eutychus had delayed him, or he simply wanted to be alone. Paul needed solitude in which to think over the past, prepare for the future, to tune up his own soul, and be sure he was walking in God’s will. Then, too, he needed to give final instructions to the elders{2]of the great Ephesian church{3], but first, he needed to think through the best way to bring them together and pray about his last message to those men. Finally, there is one commentator who may have hit the nail on the head with this remark: “Well, I’m sure it was so that he could witness along the way. I think as he walked, there were many places along the way where he would stop to witness to people.”


14 And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene{8].

The journey from Troas to “Mitylene” is described with exceptional detail. It seems to have taken about five days’ sailing time, with each port mentioned representing a day’s journey. They evidently put into port each night. The winds usually died during the night, and the rocky coastal area was safer sailing during the daytime. From “Assos” their voyage took them to “Mitylene,” the chief city of the island of Lesbos, located on the eastern shore of the island.


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{6]; and the next day we came to Miletus.

The next day’s voyage took them just off shore of the island of “Chios” (Kios), which was famous as the birthplace of the poet Homer. The following day they passed by the island of “Samos,” the birthplace of the “founder of mathematics,” Pythagoras. On the final day, they sailed to “Miletus,” a major Asian City in Paul’s day which lay on the south shore of the Latonian gulf at the mouth of the Maeander River.


16 For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia {7]: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.

The question was whether to visit “Ephesus” while he was at Miletus and thus indulge a strong desire to see again that great and thriving church, or to hurry on to “Jerusalem” to be there in time for “Pentecost.” He could not do both, and this time “Jerusalem” won.

To some people, this verse presents something of a puzzle, for it clearly says that Paul had decided to avoid stopping at “Ephesus” in his haste to reach “Jerusalem” by “Pentecost.” Perhaps Paul particularly wanted to be in “Jerusalem” at “Pentecost” because it was the anniversary of the birthday of the church. Chronologically, the reference to “Pentecost” is quite appropriate allowing for the seven days of unleavened bread spent in Philippi, the five days to Troas, the week in Troas, and the five days to Miletus, Paul would have arrived in Miletus about halfway between Passover and “Pentecost” —there were 50 days between Passover (Acts 20:6) and “Pentecost” (v. 16). When Paul arrived in “Jerusalem”, however, there was no further mention of it being the time of “Pentecost.”


17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.

Verse 17 tells how he “sent” for the “elders” at “Ephesus,” requesting them to come to him at “Miletus.” We are not told specifically why he chose NOT to make the journey to “Ephesus” instead of sending for the “elders,” but we can speculate. “Miletus” was some 30 miles or so from “Ephesus,” and the main coastal road was somewhat longer. It has been estimated that the time involved in sending a messenger and for the “elders” to travel to “Miletus” was about five days. Saving time would not likely have been the prime factor in Paul’s avoiding “Ephesus.” If he went to “Ephesus” he would have a two-way journey, he would be hard-pressed to stay, and he might find himself embroiled in further rioting; it may be that it was not safe for him to go to “Ephesus” at this time (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). It also may be that he was tied to his ship’s schedule, with “Miletus,” not “Ephesus” as the port of call. Or perhaps Paul simply thought that if he visited “Ephesus” there would be no way to tear himself away quickly from the Christians there. It would be more expeditious to have the leaders come to him; and by calling the “elders” to him he could get them alone, he could make a deeper impression on them, he could save time, and he could still hasten on to Jerusalem.

Paul’s address to the Ephesian “elders” is the third and final example in Acts of his speeches during the course of his missionary work. The first, delivered in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch (13:16-41), was given during the course of his first mission and was to a Jewish audience. The second, delivered before the Athenian Areopagus (17:22-31), was given during his second mission and was to a Gentile audience. The “Miletus” address was delivered in the course of his third mission and was given before a Christian gathering.

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