From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 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, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul called for the pastors from Ephesus to join him and his team in Miletus for a conference. Ephesus is only 36 miles to the south at Miletus. Elders is the Greek word “presbuteros” and it refers to pastors. This is similar to the Greek word “episkopos” in verse 28 for overseers (this word is translated “bishops” in the King James Version of the Bible). Elder is the title of rank and bishop or overseer is the title of function. When Paul called a conference for the elders (presbuteros) he used the term of their rank, but when he was giving them their responsibilities for teaching the Word of God he called them overseers (episkopeos) using the term for their function. There are three words which describe the minister of a local church: pastor, elder, bishop (overseer).
This was a personal public-speaking situation; a pastor’s conference. Asia was the Roman province of Asia, not the continent of Asia. He wanted to remind them of his ministry. These men had all been trained by Paul; he had taught them doctrine with which they were able to reach spiritual maturity, and realize they had the gift of pastor-teacher. When they reached spiritual maturity they became spiritually self-sustaining, no longer dependent upon Paul. They depended instead upon the Word of God and the filling of the Holy Spirit to teach them and guide them in their ministry. They were able to function under their spiritual gift of pastor-teacher.
“You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews” Humility is the Greek word “tapeinophrosune” [tapeino = lowliness of mind; phrosune= thinking], meaning not to be arrogant or to think more highly of yourself than is reasonable. The Greek word however means more than humility of mind; it means orientation to grace or grace thinking. Grace thinking is divine viewpoint thinking. (I Peter 5:5-6; I Corinthians 15:9-10)
Humility is defined in the dictionary as the quality or status of being humble, which has many definitions, ranging from a feeling of insignificance, a feeling of inferiority to low in rank or low in importance. None of these definitions relate to the Biblical word. Humility or being humble in the Protocol Plan of God in recognition of the authority of Jesus Christ and submitting to that authority. Since the Bible is the mind of Christ, submission to the authority of our Lord is tantamount to learning and applying Bible doctrine resulting in grace orientation and teachability. Through consistent perception and application of Bible doctrine arrogance is humbled, while the filling of the Holy Spirit, grace orientation, personal love for God the Father, impersonal love for all mankind, a personal sense of destiny, and occupation with Christ are raised to the highest level of function in the Christian life.
In Biblical humility, dependence on the power and ability of God are increased to the maximum through the application of grace. Biblical humility is not degrading yourself; it is rather an understanding of who you are in Christ which we call spiritual self-esteem.. The mandate of James 4:10 to “Humble yourselves before the Lord” is a mandate that precedes any effective use of a problem solving device. This means that humility is a system of divine viewpoint thinking related to grace orientation and occupation with Christ. This means that humility is a system of recognizing the authority of Jesus Christ as the ruler of the Church, and that He has delegated all authority in the Church Age to the Word of God and the pastor-teacher as God’s appointed authority to teach the Word of God. Therefore humility is teachability which results in an understanding Bible doctrine and the proper application of that doctrine.
With tears expresses Paul’s disappointment in people he had mentored or taught for their failure to execute the plan of God. Trials were the persecutions from the religious Jews and others.
“How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” “I did not shrink” was ordinarily a nautical term for furling (storing) the sails. The Greek word is “hupostello,” which means to draw back. Drawing back the sails would slow down the ship, and Paul was saying that he had not done anything to slow them down as far as the ministry of these pastors was concerned. Paul did not hold back from them anything that was profitable. In other words, he declared to them the entire plan of God contained in the Word of God. Declaring is the Greek word “anaggello” [ana = again and again; gello = to announce, to proclaim, communicate]. So Paul said he had to communicate this again and again. Repetition is theological glue. Teaching you publically and from house to house describes the places where Paul was teaching. The market place, synagogues, ampitheaters, etc. were the public places where Paul taught. In houses where the local churches met was another place he taught. (Acts 12:17; Romans 16:5; I Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15) For the first three hundred years of church history all local churches met in homes, caves, fields, the side of a mountain, etc. Church buildings came much later in history.
“Solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul always had two mandates in mind: presenting the Gospel and teaching Bible doctrine. Repentance is the Greek word “metanoia” [meta = to change; noia = thinking]. So repentance means a change of thinking. A change of thinking about God meant that these unbelievers must first recognize that Jesus Christ was God and then respond in faith toward the Gospel message regarding Him. Faith in Christ and repentance are two sides of the same coin. A change in thinking about the Person and work of Christ equals repentance. Repentance results in faith in Jesus Christ, salvation adjustment to the justice of God. Mark 1:14-15 teaches that you first change your mind about Christ and then you believe. (Matthew 12:41; Luke 13:2-3, 5, 15:7, 10; Acts 17:30, 20:21 26:20; Romans 2:4; Hebrews 12:17.
Repentance means a rational decision based on mentality, not emotion. It does not mean to feel sorry for sin. Feeling sorry for sin doesn’t mean anything spiritually. Emotion never saves anyone. Feeling sorry for your sins does not save you, only faith in Christ saves you. The Greek word for regret or sorrow is “metamelomai” and should be translated regret, never repent, because it has an emotional connotation. It means to feel sorry for something you’ve done. It is used for regretting a previous action in Matthew 21:29. It is used for the attitude of Judas Iscariot in Matthew 27:3. He regretted what he had done to Jesus, but he never repented, he never changed his mind and believed in Christ for salvation.
“And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”
Paul is at Miletus and is getting ready to go to Jerusalem. The Greek word for bound is a perfect passive indicative of the verb “deo.” It is not the type of verb that you would find in the execution of the will of God. It means primarily to be impeded. He says in effect, “I go, having been restrained by the Spirit.” This is a perfect passive participle, and the perfect tense means that at some point in the past the Holy Spirit said no to Paul’s desire to return to Jerusalem. This is not the last time this will occur. There will be warning after warning not to go to Jerusalem. The apostle of grace would succumb to legalism in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem church was falling apart through legalism. The apostle Paul would be pressured into an act of legalism; he will commit a sin of legalism and as a result he will be under four years of divine discipline. However, the cursing will be turned to blessing by Paul’s utilization of the Rebound Technique. One of the blessings will be the writing of the prison epistles.
The Holy Spirit has said no but Paul has rationalized no into yes. Paul was going to place himself in harm’s way, which was not like Paul. But any believer, regardless of their level of spiritual maturity, can fail to heed the leading of the Holy Spirit by rationalizing their decision. So Paul’s decision will slow down God’s plan for his life for four years. He was warned again and again about what would occur in Jerusalem but he went right on with his own plan.
“Except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.” Every city where Paul went on his way to Jerusalem the Holy Spirit kept warning him. Bonds mean imprisonments; afflictions mean pressures. Paul had rationalized this into suffering for blessing, where in reality it would be suffering because of divine discipline.
Paul was not afraid of imprisonment, pressure or even death. But there was something that should have bothered him, and it doesn’t - getting out of the geographical will of God. He would also end up being out of the operational will of God, and he would have one disaster after another.
“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” The Greek word for course is “dromos,” which means a race track on which runners run. It is true that joy (inner happiness in the plan of God) is to be the experience of every believer in fellowship, but there was going to be no joy in Paul’s divine discipline. Paul would be headed to Jerusalem to finish his ministry but that was not where God wanted him and he would eventually leave.
We know that Paul had a great desire for the Jewish race to believe in Jesus Christ. This was apparently what was driving him to return to Jerusalem. However, love and compassion for a person or certain group of people does not override the will of God. It was clearly God’s will for Paul to avoid Jerusalem and continue on to Rome. We will see this in chapter 21 and following. Remember that one simple act of disobedience can bring severe divine discipline, if not dealt with immediately. (Romans 10:1-4)
Divine discipline is the sum total of punitive action (discipline) taken by the justice of God in grace to correct, to punish, to encourage, to train, and/or to motivate the believer’s free will toward the Protocol Plan of God. Therefore, divine discipline is distinguished from divine judgment, in that discipline is for believers only, but judgment is directed toward unbelievers and fallen angels. When believers get out of fellowship through sin, human good, or evil, they bring suffering on themselves. If we do not use the most basic problem solving device of Rebound, we will continue in a state of carnality, human viewpoint living, or reversionism. Carnality is a brief stay in Satan’s world system; reversionism is a prolonged stay in that system.
Divine discipline must also be distinguished from the law of volitional responsibility with its self-imposed, self-induced, and self-indulged forms of misery. Bad decisions not only destroy future options in life, but they result in tremendous misery manufactured by ourselves, for which we must take the responsibility. The resultant discomfort, misery, and unhappiness may last for a short or long period of time. If the believer persists in the three categories under the law of volitional responsibility, i.e., self-imposed, self-induced, and self- indulged misery, it is obvious that God will add to it if you do not come around through Rebound. Punitive action from God often follows the failure to Rebound from our sins. Our sin originates from our free will. Though temptation may come from the sin nature or another source, we make the decision to sin! All wrong decisions come from some form of arrogance or lust. While God is the source of divine discipline, man’s free will is the source of suffering under the law of volitional responsibility. God uses His sovereignty and His perfect judgment to know when it’s time to warn us that we are out of fellowship, and to bring us back to reality with varying categories of discipline. All divine discipline, except the sin unto death, is designed to correct, to train, and to motivate us.
For as long as we live on this earth, we continue to have a sin nature. We will never be free from sin; no one is perfect. When we, through our own bad decisions, put ourselves in trouble, we’re miserable under the law of volitional responsibility. God in His grace provides divine discipline. His divine discipline is motivated by love. God does not discipline us because he likes to see us squirm! God is perfect, just, and fair; we are His children as Royal Family of God. (Proverbs 3:12) Being fair and loving to your children means you will reward and bless them on certain occasions, and at other times you will discipline them. Divine discipline to the believer is parental training in the Royal Family of God. Like parental training, divine discipline is designed to teach humility, and from that humility, true objectivity for life. Objectivity is expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations. You are never oriented to life until you are objective. People who are basically subjective have a much more difficult time in learning from and receiving blessings from God’s discipline. Subjectivity is a view modified or affected by personal views, experience, or background. Divine discipline teaches us to be oriented to who we really are. The very fact that we receive warning discipline from God tells us we are divorced from reality, and that God wants to bring us back to reality and objectivity so that we can grow in grace and have all the wonderful assets He has designed for us in our portfolio of invisible assets and in His protocol plan. So divine discipline teaches the believer when he refuses to learn from Bible doctrine (being arrogant), or what he simply has not learned from doctrine, being negative and ignorant. Often what you resist in the teaching of doctrine God will teach you in another way, the hard way, through divine discipline.
Remember that although divine discipline is suffering, it is teaching from the grace of God. All of us must learn certain things the hard way through divine discipline. Or we can learn the easy way, from learning and applying Bible doctrine. Paul had to learn the hard way through divine discipline.