13 But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for so he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. 15 Sailing from there, we arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. 17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is giving his farewell speech to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. This must have been a great feeling for Paul since not too long ago the people in Ephesus were chanting their allegiance to Artemis and now they are standing in front of him as leaders of God’s church. We see, though, that it was because of the nonstop work of Paul; Ephesus is a place where Paul remained for years teaching them the ways of God.
We see again a repeat of the difference between the baptism of John and the baptism of Christ. John preached repentance, Jesus taught faith in Him. Both are needed in order to enter the Kingdom of God. We learned before that our repentance opens the door for complete faith in Christ. In what areas of your life must you repent in order to experience the fullness of Jesus?
Paul’s boldness is what helped grow the leaders in Ephesus. He didn’t avoid teaching anyone (he solemnly testified to both Jew and Greek). Nor did he change the gospel in order to avoid persecution or to better appease his audience. How often do we do this today? This isn’t to confuse cultural relevance, rather to expose how often we change the truth of God in order to not upset anyone. We want to be “politically correct” yet forget that Jesus’ Gospel isn’t about politics or being correct. If we are worried about being politically correct, then we are not worried about following Christ fully. It’s about being truthful and living in the truth. How much do you bend the truth so as not to “cause waves”?
Paul’s example of public teaching of the entirety of God’s Word is something we must grasp and strive to do as well. This doesn’t mean just when we speak about God, but also how we live. Some people are offended by the Christian way of living. We have seen already throughout Acts how people of “The Way” offended others because it exposed their own unrighteousness. This was a far cry from the Pharisees who stood on the corner and pointed out the sins of others. Upright Christians expose iniquity by simply being around others. This is the glory of God that shines through us when we live in His righteousness. It’s like a candle entering a dark room and for maybe the first time, people can see their own ugliness. How would they respond? How would you respond? Maybe you are the person acting negatively when exposed to someone who embodies the Gospel of Christ. This is why!
The final point that we cannot miss is that Paul did this with all humility. What exactly does that mean and how can we be humble and bold at the same time? Our humility comes from knowing we cannot fully preach the Good News of Christ on our own. In our repentance and belief in Christ we learn and understand that on our own we are worthless, but Christ has poured out His Holy Spirit upon us which in our own humility gives us strength and boldness. It is our submission to God’s will in humility that leads to our boldness in Christ. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:3-4,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Poor in spirit,” signifies that we recognize our own frailty and submit to the power of God. Paul mentioned that he served with humility and tears, embodying the fullness of these two beatitudes. Now Paul is being comforted knowing that those in Ephesus he strove for are now mature and leading the church. The reason we will see the kingdom of heaven if we are poor in spirit is because we need to humble ourselves and realize that we don’t know everything, that we aren’t the lord of the universe, and that we have failed to live righteously. It is this humility that brings tears because we realize our frailty. Our comfort and access to heaven then comes from God who says this is exactly where we need to be in order to see and experience His greatness. Will you humble yourself?