Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Jesus sends people to tell people about Jesus.
Jesus sends people to invite people to repent and believe.
We need to learn to value Jesus’ priorities over our own.
The opening section of Paul’s address reminded the elders how Paul had conducted himself during the whole time of his ministry with them (v. 18). He pointed to three basic characteristics of his ministry. First was the humility that had marked his service for the Lord (v. 19). Paul’s language here is reminiscent of his epistles. He often spoke of “serving” (douleuō) the Lord (cf. 1 Thess 1:9; Col 3:24) and described himself as a servant or “bond-slave” (doulos) of Christ (cf. Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1). The proper demeanor of a servant is “humility” (tapeinophrosynē), and Paul frequently pointed to that quality as a major hallmark of the Christian life (Phil 2:3; Col 3:12; Eph 4:2). It is striking that Paul reminded the Ephesian elders of his trials through the plots of the Jews. The narrative of his Ephesian ministry in Acts does not relate any specific Jewish plot against him, although such plots occur frequently in the overall story of Paul’s mission—at Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth. The most recent plot was ultimately responsible for his presence at Miletus at this time, causing him to change his original plan to sail directly to Syria from Corinth (20:3).
20:20 A second characteristic of Paul’s ministry was the openness of his proclamation (v. 20). He kept no secrets, held nothing back. Whatever was true to the gospel and helpful to the faithful, he preached both publicly and from house to house. Mention of public proclamation recalls Paul’s days in the synagogue of Ephesus and the lecture hall of Tyrannus (19:8f.). The reference to houses most likely is to the house-church meetings of the Ephesian Christians. In contrast, some were not so open in their witness, i.e., false teachers who advocated hidden and secret doctrines. Paul warned the Ephesian leaders later in his speech that such would arise to plague their own church (v. 29f.). He reminded them of the honesty and openness of his own preaching. When one was faithful to the truth, there was nothing to hide.
20:21 The final characteristic of Paul’s ministry was the inclusiveness of his witness. He had preached to everyone, both Jews and Greeks (v. 21). No one had been left out. This had indeed been the case in Ephesus (19:10). Paul saw his own special calling as being the apostle to the Gentiles, but he never abandoned the synagogue. Perhaps more clearly than anyone else in the church of his day, Paul saw the full implications of his monotheism. God is the God of all. In Christ he reaches out for the salvation of all who will trust in him. There is no distinction (cf. Rom 3:29f.). There is no room for exclusivism in the gospel in the sense that the gospel is for Gentiles and Jews, slaves and free, and men and women. The gospel itself is, however, exclusive in its claims, “for there is no other name under heaven … by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Salvation is available only in the name of Jesus.The description of the gospel could hardly be more “Pauline” than as stated in 20:21. It is to repent, to turn from one’s former life to God and to “believe,” to place one’s trust in Jesus.
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, pp. 424–425). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Though the change in the direction of the will is here in the foreground, a change in inner disposition is always presupposed. The turning from sin is emphatically a matter of conduct, but it is also a matter of the heart (Jl 2:12), and it has as its elements enlightenment (Jer 31:19), contrition (Ps 51:3ff.), longing for God’s forgiveness, and trust in God (Hos 14:2).
Morgan, W. (1911–1912). REPENT, REPENTANCE. In J. Hastings, J. A. Selbie, A. B. Davidson, S. R. Driver, & H. B. Swete (Eds.), A Dictionary of the Bible: Dealing with Its Language, Literature, and Contents Including the Biblical Theology (Vol. 4, p. 225). New York; Edinburgh: Charles Scribner’s Sons; T. & T. Clark.
There are two words in the NT which convey the idea of repentance, μετανοεῖν and ἐπιστρέφειν, though, as we shall see, the idea appears also under other forms of expression. These words derive their moral content not from Greek but from Jewish and Christian thought, nothing analogous to the biblical conception of repentance and conversion being known to the Greeks. If respect be had to their literal meaning, the first presents repentance in its negative aspect, as a change of mind, a turning from sin; the second, in its positive aspect, as a turning to God. Both have, however, much the same content of meaning. Christ began His ministry with a call to repentance (Mt 4:17). The call has as its motive the nearness of the kingdom, participation in which requires as its condition the new disposition (Mt 18:3). It is addressed, not as in the OT to the nation, but to the individual; and not merely to those guilty of flagrant sin, but to all (Lk 13:3).
Morgan, W. (1911–1912). REPENT, REPENTANCE. In J. Hastings, J. A. Selbie, A. B. Davidson, S. R. Driver, & H. B. Swete (Eds.), A Dictionary of the Bible: Dealing with Its Language, Literature, and Contents Including the Biblical Theology (Vol. 4, pp. 225–226). New York; Edinburgh: Charles Scribner’s Sons; T. & T. Clark.
Romans 3:21-25 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
Romans 10:11-17 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Acts 20:21 – testifying…of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 20:20 – declaring to you anything that was profitable
Acts 20:24 – testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 20:25 – proclaiming the kingdom
Acts 20:27 – declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
When we study God’s Word, it should lead us to both rejoicing and repenting.
- What stands out to you from the text?
- What questions or comments do you have about it?
- In what ways did you find yourself encouraged and/or rejoicing when you heard the message?
- In what ways were you challenged to repent or change when you heard the message?
- How did the teacher connect this passage to Christ? What other connections do you see between this message and the redemptive work of Christ?
- What is one thing that you want to remember from this sermon?
- Why is that important to you?