ASSOS TO MILETUS (ACTS 20:14-16). Paul met the others at Assos and sailed with them to Mitylene, a harbor on the southeast shore of the island of Lesbos. The second night they spent on the larger island of Kios. Crossing the bay that leads to Ephesus, they came on the third day to Samos, an important island of the Aegean. The fourth day they arrived at Miletus, thirty miles from Ephesus. Their ship evidently was a coaster, which tied up at night in the island ports. The wind stops in the evenings and picks up before sunrise on the Aegean. At night, it is either dead calm or a gentle south wind arises and blows during the night.
MILETUS. The ancient city of Miletus was near the mouth of the River Meander. It was one of the great Ionian cities in Asia Minor. It was colonized first by Cretians, later by Greeks (750-550 B.C.). In 133 B.C., the city passed into Roman hands and received special attention from Emperor Augustus because of its commercial importance.
PAUL’S FAREWELL (ACTS 20:17-38). Calling for the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him at Miletus, Paul addressed them with a most poignant message. He gives a summary of his work in Ephesus in this farewell address. He sketches with tenderness and pathos his life in Ephesus, of which the elders can testify. He reminisces of his loneliness of mind, his tears, the plots of the Jews against him. He is glad to recall his courage in public and private teaching. He had faithfully told them the whole counsel of God.
There was no picking and choosing what they might want to hear. Heaven and hell, salvation and condemnation, sin and repentance, unbelief and disobedience, wickedness and holiness—Paul taught it all! He held nothing back, for every word of Scripture is profitable.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Next Paul discussed the prospects of future ministry. He spoke of his present journey to Jerusalem, and the dangers about which he had been warned.
And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:22-24).
Paul’s fortitude not to retreat parallels Christ’s resolve to go to Jerusalem.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life (Matthew 16:21).
The Spirit did not prohibit his going, but told him what would happen when he arrived. Anticipating the worst, Paul told the Ephesians that he would not see them again.
The final part of Paul’s message concerned the responsibility of the Ephesian elders. Difficult days lay ahead with adversaries from within as well as from without the church. The responsibility of these overseers was the solemn one of shepherding the flock of God, which He bought with His own blood. He told them, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” Wolves was Jesus’ metaphor for false prophets (Matthew 7:15).
Here Paul reveals five areas of his preaching in Ephesus:
1. Anything that would be helpful to them
2. Jews and Gentiles must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus
3. The Gospel of God’s grace
4. The kingdom
5. The whole will of God.
In addition, in this emotionally charged speech Paul makes certain claims: (1) He had spoken fearlessly; (2) He lived independently; and (3) He faces the future courageously. The apostle will not retreat from God’s purpose for his life.
Parting of friends is such sweet sorrow. Paul had to tear himself away from them because he loved them. All knelt on the seashore, prayed, and wept. The elders went down to the ship and watched him sail out of sight. Did they ever see Paul again?