“And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.”
Paul had called for the pastors from Ephesus to join him and his team in Miletus for a conference. Elders is the Greek word “presbuteros” and it refers to pastors. This was a pastor’s conference. Paul wanted to remind them of his ministry toward them. He taught them Bible doctrine with which they were able to reach spiritual maturity and realize they had the gift of pastor-teacher. The following message is directed specifically to those pastors but has application for all believers.
“Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.” When he says he was innocent from the blood of all men he meant that he had done absolutely everything necessary to make these people spiritually self-sustaining. The Greek word for innocent is “katharos,” which means clean or pure; but here it connotes the concept of responsibility. Paul was a person who understood doctrine and applied it to his experience in such a way that he understood his responsibility to the Lord and his responsibility to others.
Paul’s primary responsibility was to believers, and when a pastor has a responsibility to believers his responsibility is very simple: to communicate Bible doctrine. But to communicate Bible doctrine you have to understand Bible doctrine. To understand Bible doctrine you have to study, and the primary responsibility of the pastor is to study the Word of God. Most of his time should be devoted to study, and along with that the communication of doctrine. Paul was saying if they failed he was not at fault. All he could do was teach them the Word of God but what they did with it was between them and the Lord.
“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.”The gift which God has provided for the Church in every generation to make believers spiritually self-sustaining is the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher. This gift is designed with one thing in mind: to provide the doctrinal information necessary to execute the Christian Way of Life. With knowledge and application of Bible doctrine provided by the filling of the Holy Spirit the result will be the production of divine good and glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Shrink is the Greek word “upostello,” which was a nautical term used by sailors for furling (storing or holding back) the sails. Paul always had some Bible doctrine to teach them so that they could become spiritually self-sustaining. Paul understood the principle that every believer must take control of their individual spiritual lives. And he understood the importance of repetition for the thorough understanding of the whole purpose of God. The Greek word for purpose is “boule,” which means design, plan, or will. Paul communicated the design, the plan of God and the will of God. Bible doctrine declares God’s plan.
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The Greek word for guard is “prosecho,” which means to turn one’s attention to or to hold to. We would say, “Give your attention to.” Pastors need to be on guard for themselves, making sure that their doctrinal teaching is accurate and effective. Pastors also need to be on guard for those who God has given them to teach, making sure they are teaching in a systematic manner for maximum understanding. They also need to guard “the flock” by making them aware of false doctrine and satanic trends that could impact their Christian lives.
The Holy Spirit appoints the pastor-teacher at the point of salvation by imparting the spiritual gift to them. The aorist tense refers to the point of salvation. (I Corinthians 12:11) Overseers is the Greek word “episkopos,” which means to rule, to have charge of a group of people and to watch over them. It is a technical word which means the final authority in spiritual matters. Shepherd is the Greek word “poimaino,” which means to feed or to tend. Feeding obviously refers to teaching Bible doctrine, but has a greater meaning of spiritually tending to those in the local congregation. Tending to means loving, praying for, supporting, encouraging, rejoicing with, sympathizing with and sometimes just being there for those over which God has given you charge spiritually.
The pastor is the under-shepherd because the chief shepherd is Jesus Christ. When you believed in Jesus Christ you became a sheep. The pastor didn’t purchase you; Jesus Christ did, and you belong to Him. Therefore it is the responsibility of the pastor to communicate doctrine to you. But it is not his responsibility to make you do anything; that is between you and the Lord Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd Who gave His life for the sheep.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” Paul gave a warning to the pastors. The Greek word for savage is “barus,” which means burdensome, pressure, or heavy. Paul calls them wolves in keeping with the concept of the flock of sheep in the local churches. The false teachers are those who reject or distort the truth of the Word of God for selfish motives. These teachers are called false, which is the Greek word “pseduo.” They represent themselves as true in order to gain entrance into a ministry. They come in covertly, like a spy would infiltrate an organization. We must keep in mind that Satan and his ministers of darkness present themselves as ministers of righteousness and angels of light, but are instead wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sometimes these false teachers are unbelievers but sometimes they are believers, as Paul points out. False teachers often use Biblical phrases, passages and Christian-sounding words, they distort the truth by taking passages out of context, ignoring dispensational truth or in some cases change the meaning of God’s Word to fit their particular teaching. In some instances they even accidentally present truth. Satan is the great counterfeiter. Therefore, what his ministers teach is mixed with a small amount of truth in order to look like the real thing. Beware… you must always evaluate the message in light of the truth of God’s Word. (II Peter 2:1-22)
“To draw away the disciples after them.” The followers of the apostate teachers are those who allow themselves to be seduced. They are those who reject truth and believe the fabricated lies of the false teachers. When a person follows a false teacher they become an enemy of the Cross of Christ and a partaker in satanic activity. They have been enticed by false teaching. The followers of the apostate teachers fail to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions, entering into the arrogance of self-justification, self-deception and self-absorption. Because of their instability from lack of Bible doctrine in the soul, they are easily lured away into apostasy themselves. Like a fisherman catching a fish, these false teachers entice the weak believer into taking their “bait.” (II Timothy 3:6, 4:3-4; II Peter 2:2,3,14,18; Jude 12,16)
“Therefore be on the alert.” Alert is the Greek word “gregoreo,” which means to stay awake, spiritually. In other words, make sure that you as a pastor do not drift off into some false doctrine for any reason. And be alert to those who want to come into your church and teach false doctrine. When a pastor becomes aware of this, he is to remove that person or persons from the local church. This is part of the principle of “guarding the flock of God.” Paul had taught these men enough Bible doctrine that they should have been able to be self-sustaining and recognize false doctrine and deal with it accordingly. However, Paul warned them that even among themselves men will be drawn away from accurate doctrine and attempt to draw others away as well. It is much easier to lead people astray when you are part of their organization like a local church and have a personal relationship with them. This, of course, is one of Satan’s favorite ploys of deceit.
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
Paul now gave his final farewell by entrusting their spiritual care to the Lord. The Greek word for commend is “paratithemi” [para = from the immediate source of self; tiqhmi = to place] and means to deposit. Paul was depositing their care in God. They would now have to become spiritually self-sustaining, relying completely on their relationship with the Holy Spirit and their personal study of the Word of God. The word of His grace is therefore a reference to the Word of God, Bible doctrine. Paul deposited enough Bible doctrine with these pastors that he could walk away from them knowing that they were in the Lord’s care and knowing that he had done everything possible for them.
“Which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” is what doctrine does for a believer when properly applied. We learn how to erect a spiritual building in our souls by faith and it takes faith to put into practice. This method is the only one that can bring honor and glory to God. (Hebrews 11:6) The spiritual building is built using the stored Bible doctrine in the mind of the believer. Consistent study and accurate application over a period of time is the method for developing our complex. This building is literally Christ being formed in the soul of the believer. Positionally, Christ is “in” every believer, but He is not “formed” in every believer, experientially. This experiential inheritance is God’s plan for you after salvation. The greatest thing God can do for us is to make us like His Son, Jesus Christ.
“I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Paul was still speaking to a group of pastors. Silver is used here for money, gold is used for the principle of wealth, and apparel represents materialistic things. Each one represents a category. Covet means to set your desires upon. They didn’t pay for Paul’s theological students and they didn’t pay for him. Paul himself worked and supported the seminary students! Therefore the issue was always Bible doctrine. He also taught them a principle of giving. Even though they didn’t have to give to him it would have been wrong not to give somewhere. The Greek word for help is “antilambanomai” [anti = instead of; lambano = to receive] which means to support, to take your turn in helping someone else. The weak here refers to those who are in distress, those who are needy, or those who need money.
Now Paul quoted something that Jesus said that had apparently been passed down to him by word of mouth from the other apostles: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We have no direct statement in the Gospels of Jesus saying this, but this statement by Jesus was certainly taught by Him in Matthew 6:3-4, “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father Who sees what is done will reward you.”Giving is a function of the Royal Priesthood and is a matter of privacy between you and God. The principle is: give as God has prospered you. Grace giving excludes emotionalism, guilt, fear, bribery, personal recognition or gimmicks. If you give in order to get, then you are giving for the wrong reason. The proper motive for giving should come from the application of and appreciation for Bible doctrine. Grace giving is a privilege that God has granted to every believer as a demonstration of His grace. Grace giving excludes any form of self-righteousness, human good or motives of gaining the favor of, gaining reward from or gaining an advantage in standing with God or man. (I Corinthians 16:1-5)
“When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.”
These believers were sad to see Paul go because they had learned so much from him and they had a great love for him. Therefore they were crying and kissing Paul as they were embracing him. The custom of kissing must be interpreted in the time in which it was written. The holy kiss in Biblical times was a kiss on the cheek or neck and expressed impersonal love. The holy kiss is commanded in Romans 16:16, I Corinthians 16:20, II Corinthians 13:12, and I Thessalonians 5:26. We are 2000 years from this custom and therefore we portray this custom in a very simple way: by the fulfillment of the royal family honor code—impersonal love. However, in our society we do not practice the holy kiss any longer. The command to greet each other with a holy kiss is simply a command to love the brethren—impersonal love.