The Fruitful Farewell

Acts 20:13-38

But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for thus he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. And 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. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus in order that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. And 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. “And now, behold, bound in 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, in order 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. “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will see my face no more. “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. “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. “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. “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. “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.’ ” And 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 should see his face no more. And they were accompanying him to the ship.

Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Therefore here, the daily reading of the Bible is encouraged, using a hermeneutical tool such as the CAGED method, because we keep the Bible CAGED by teachings and traditions, presuppositions and preconceived notions. Mining for gold, we go through books as they were written, all but ignoring chapter and verse breaks, only using them as they were intended, as references, utilizing the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics.

CAGED being an acronym:

  • Context
  • Author’s Aspirations to his Audience
  • Genre
  • Exegesis of Examples
  • Divide Rightly the Word of Truth

The genre of the book of Acts is a historical narrative, written as a letter. Being a historical narrative with limited space on the scroll, sometimes Luke writes details in an almost quip like fashion so that he can get to the meat of the narrative. We saw this last time and see it again today. It’s almost as if Luke is rushing through the cities, mimicking Paul’s rush to get to Jerusalem. Which we will see later, because in doing this,  I believe that Luke skips over Paul’s writing to the Romans. Nevertheless, it is inspired Scripture and even with the “rushing” it is important to see how it fits into the sublime string and continuing context.

“But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for thus he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. And 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. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus in order that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.” We notice that for a very short part of the journey, Paul had his companions travel by sea, as he traveled by land. What Luke doesn’t tell us in his hurried account of their seemingly sundry, city stops, is why? And we, rather than focus on the context and sublime string, seeing Luke’s aspirations to his audience, focus on the “why” of what’s not told, even though the continuing context can often times clarify. However, we simply don’t know because we are not specifically told but it certainly helps us to consider the context as a whole. However this proves difficult because so much is said that we don’t process it all. We are used to Pentecostals, mega-church pastors, dogmatic dispensationalist and the like, ripping verses out of context because we are a soundbite, quip culture. We have to get past this. Therefore we will consider large portions of the passage, seeing if we can see the mindset of Paul and the aspirations of Luke to his audience.

“And 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. And now, behold, bound in 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.'”

We certainly see some of Paul’s mentality; he wanted to say farewell and admonish people but also did intend to get to Jerusalem quickly. We also notice how he opened his monologue of farewell; “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.” By considering the context and even the way in which Luke wrote, which mirrors Paul’s haste, we begin to grasp Paul’s state of mind. He has labored and struggled vigorously for the faith. We also notice that Paul doesn’t even attempt to go to Ephesus but sends for the elders to come to him. We consider the greater context and remember that Paul was traveling with a large group of companions. We remember that Paul wanted to be in Jerusalem for Pentacost. We certainly see that Paul proclaimed his hard work and his hardships and his haste to get to Jerusalem.

A geography lesson is in order but like Luke, I will keep it brief because the context confirms it. Mitylene is on the East coast of an island, opposite Assos which is further east but only by a few miles. Luke and the others would have had to sail around the island to pick up Paul. Whether walking by land or sailing by sea, the amount of time it would take to get to Assos would have been about the same. Again, this is confirmed by the context. Still, we wonder why Paul put his partners on a ship while he walked. This is one of the few times of which I agree with the commentators, although I take it one step further. Remembering Luke’s brevity, Paul’s haste to get to Jerusalem, his mentioning of his labor, his avoiding Ephesus and using a little common sense, seeing the sublime string and careful consideration of the context, I believe there are a few reasons why Paul walked alone.

Paul admits that he knows bondage and affliction await him in Jerusalem. Like Jesus, Paul is boldly going to Jerusalem, knowing some of that which awaits him. Also like Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, when he briefly and shortly distanced himself from his disciples to be alone with his father, Paul takes a short time to be alone. Paul has been going almost nonstop but more than rest for his feet, he needed to rest in the Lord on the severity of the situation. We must not miss this; knowing what awaits, Paul still hastely heads to Jerusalem to testify that Jesus is the Messiah. Paul also has compassion on his companions and gives them 24 hours without walking. They get to rest a bit on the ship. Also, if you have ever taken a hike with a youth group you know; the more people in the caravan, the slower it moves. And pragmatically thinking, if Paul is in haste, and they are a large group, and the ship, while providing rest for his companions, can arrive at the same time he does, it would make sense to send them by ship. We also can reasonably assume that while walking, Paul was able to admonish and exhort, saying farewell along the way. Remember Paul was formerly a Pharisee, walking and talking at the same time would be no problem for him. He was in haste, again, he didn’t even attempt to go to Ephesus. But he did send for the elders to admonish them and to say farewell. After opening up about his labor and trials, Paul continues to console them. 

“And now, behold, bound in 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, in order 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. And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will see my face no more. 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. 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.”

It is important to consider all aspects of the context, including timing. However this requires much digging and mining of the Scriptures. It’s why a healthy dose of self study is important. We cannot see everything all at once. And as the Scriptures were written progressively, we must also progressively study the Scriptures. However, one thing I can’t help but notice is that Paul has been to most of the places of which he has ministered, twice, at least. Corinth, Ephesus, Lystra, Thessalonica, Derbe, Berea, Antioch, et al. When we couple this knowledge with Paul’s letters and their context, we can see when and even where, some of them were written. Do you know what I notice when coupling this information? No one speaks in tongues anymore. Not only that, but also there is a great decrease in miracles and a certain cessation of significant signs. If one were to consider all of the context and carefully construct a timeline, one would see the cessation of speaking in tongues. This is not proof of the cessation of tongues, but should give us pause, seeing that tongues were only recorded during the early, immature days. If tongues are important, if tongues are great, if tongues are necessary, why don’t we see them anymore, especially in the severity of today’s text?

Considering the severity of what Paul speaks to the elders of Ephesus, not in Ephesus, Paul admits that he doesn’t know exactly what will happen to him in Jerusalem but he has a general idea. And in this general idea, Paul reveals something sublime. Notice; “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, in order 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.”

Everywhere Paul goes, the Spirit tells him chains and trouble await him in Jerusalem. And yet, he is on his way, not considering his life as dear to himself. To the Romans Paul writes; “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” But without Romans 8, there is no Romans 9, and without Romans 6 and 7, there is no Romans 8. And without Romans 6 and 7 there is no Romans 1, 2 and 3 and all of Romans and all of the world pivot on Romans 5. The point is that we must consider the context of not only Romans, but Acts as well and the Old Testament tutor and only then can we discern whether or not God has two distinct peoples with two distinct plans and if either of them need to speak in tongues. Both answers are an emphatic “no!” Context is King!

From city to city the Spirit screams that bonds and affliction await Paul in Jerusalem. Taking our Vitamin E, which we shouldn’t have to do because we should remember, we read things like;

“And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.”

“But the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.”

“And it came about that in Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a great multitude believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles, and embittered them against the brethren.”

“And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; and there they continued to preach the gospel.”

“Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.”

“Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people.”

“When the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds.”

“But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be upon your own heads! I am clean.'”

“But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, ‘This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.'”

“And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.”

And now Paul is on his way, in haste, to the Jewish of Jewish cities, the city of the temple, the great city, the holy city, the great harlot of Revelation, Jerusalem. Why would he do that? After all the Jewish people did to Paul in cities that were not their own, why would he want to walk into the hornet’s nest?They killed the Christ and have proved to be a pestilence to Paul. We know that Paul wants to go to Rome, why not just go there and fulfil his ministry as the apostle to the gentiles? He was half-way to Rome only a few weeks prior, why not keep going rather than head to Jerusalem, where bonds and affliction are waiting?

Romans 9 gives us a hint but all of history revolves around Romans 5. “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

One cannot understand Romans 9 without the universal truths put forth in Romans 5, especially considering Romans 5 follows Romans 4, where we see Abraham is justified by his faith. And Romans 4 follows Romans 1, 2 and 3; “all have sinned.” In Romans 5, Paul recapitulates that all people are one people, the sons of the sinner, Adam. Under Adam, all, Jewish, Greek, Roman, Arab, Indian, Ethiopian, Hispanic, British, Brown people, White people, Male, Female, Old, Young, the good, the bad and the ugly are all descendants of the sinner, Adam. Conversely, Jesus came at the proper time, demonstrating God’s love by dying for the sinners. Paul also wrote, on numerous occasions, that in Christ, there also is no Jew or Greek. But that the two are made into one chosen people. Knowing this, we reexamine Romans 9 but must also notice Romans 8; “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God… For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”

Paul continues in Romans 9, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites…But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants.” Paul continues in Romans 10 and 11; “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God…For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED’… And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you…For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?”

One people, one olive tree. Some are natural branches and some unnatural but both are branches of the single olive tree of the Savior. The internal evidence of Romans, such as Phoebe and Erastus, suggest that Paul penned the letter to the Romans while at Corinth, halfway to Rome, before he left to go to Jerusalem. Therefore we look again at today’s text and Paul’s final farewell to the elders of Ephesus, remembering that he has written these things to Rome but is headed to Jerusalem.

“’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. 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. 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.”‘ And 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 should see his face no more. And they were accompanying him to the ship.”

To the first-century elders in Ephesus, on his way to Jerusalem, Paul said, “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.” To young Timothy Paul, in the first-century wrote; “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.” To his first-century followers Jesus said, “they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.”

Like Paul preached to the gentiles, he must also preach in Jerusalem because the end of the age is at hand. We have seen the beginning of birth pangs in the book of Acts and the coming of Christ in judgement against Jerusalem is right around the corner. The irony is; the dogmatic dispensationalists would call me antisemitic, even though I proudly proclaim that my Lord and Savior was Jewish, as were his apostles and most of our early martyrs who paved the way for us. I proclaim to be an adopted son into the commonwealth of Israel by the blood of Christ. But this doesn’t mean that branches were not broken off.  The dogmatic dispensationalists, who accuse anyone who doesn’t agree with them as antisemitic, are actually the ones who proclaim a distinction between Jew and gentile. They also believe that God will come in judgment of the Jews very soon, killing 2/3rds of them, but saving 1/3rd. This is what they believe Paul meant when he wrote, “all Israel will be saved.” Even though Paul begins this section by writing, “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants.”

God never has and never will judge Jewish people as Jews, but he had judged them as they wished to be judged. God only sees the sinner or the blood of his son. Nevertheless, God does judge the Jewish system in the mid-to-late, first-century by having the Romans seize then sack and utterly destroy the temple and Jerusalem. Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to save some. But we notice through today’s text that Paul was prepared to suffer greatly, knowing that he would never see the churches he had planted again. Paul is all but running to Jerusalem, not even approaching Ephesus, the place where his disciples were, where his seminary was.

Who is the anti-semite, the one who believes that God will slaughter millions of Jews in Jerusalem 2000 years after his son and prophets were killed, or the one who sees God sending them apostles and prophets, even the apostle to the gentiles to warn them to repent? Over and over and over and over Paul went to preach repentance in the synagogues. Then, after much persecution he returns to certain bondage and affliction in Jerusalem. Pragmatically, on whose head should God’s wrath fall, the unrepentant people who yelled, “his blood be on our head and our children’s; we have no king but Caesar!” Who also killed Jesus, Stephen, James and the others, or should God wait a couple thousand years and pour his wrath out onto people who weren’t present. Again, it was not that they were Jewish but that they asked for it; literally. But God forgives and sends them prophets and apostles. But when they kill them; God won’t sit by for 2000 years to deal with the situation.

 

 

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