Mirroring Christ – Tuesday, 7th Week of Easter- Acts 20:17-27

Mirroring Christ – Tuesday, 7th Week of Easter- Acts 20:17-27

Paul is on his third missionary journey and has landed in Ephesus (modern day Turkey) but his desire is to go to Rome via Jerusalem. (19:21). He has made a substantial collection for the poor of Jerusalem and he wishes to give this to them. He sends his two helpers, Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia while he stayed on in Ephesus only to end up being mired in a riot due to his teaching.

As it happened, Paul’s teaching of faith in the “living God” caused a significant financial loss to those who made silver shrines of the goddess Artemis or Diana. The temple dedicated to this fertility goddess was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The riot that was stirred up by the artisans led by a man called Demetrius was enough to end Paul’s three year sojourn in Ephesus. Though the riot was quelled, Paul knew that it was best he left Ephesus for the safety of the Christians in Ephesus.

Artists image of the temple of Diana (Artemis)

Trouble had a way of following Paul even though he left Ephesus for Macedonia and then for Greece. Once again in In Greece as in Ephesus, he had to leave in haste because the Jews were plotting to kill him. So Paul makes a journey through Macedonia to Troas (Troy) from where he heads (via several cities) over five days and four ports to a place called Miletus which is about 78 kilometres (modern Google map) to Ephesus.

It is In Miletus that he calls for the elders of the Church to meet with him. There are several theories as to why he did not make the journey himself; for now it is sufficient to know that the community respected him enough for the elders to make their way to see him.

Paul now addresses the elders. This is the third and final time that Paul will makes a speech in the Acts of the Apostles. The first was in Pisidian Antioch in Chapter 13, the second was to the Greeks in chapter 17 and now to the Ephesian elders. This is the only speech or address that is made to a purely Christian audience and can well be called his farewell speech or his legacy to the Asian Church. The language and message of this speech is similar to the ‘pastoral letters’ that Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus.

The speech can be broken up into two portions. Today’s reading covers up the first part which talks about his relationship with the Ephesians; “his ministry among them, his present plans, and his future prospects (vs. 17-27)”.  In his address he highlights his conduct and character from the moment he entered Asia. He has served the Lord with humility and never did he shrink from doing anything helpful. Paul states that he has testified to both the Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward out Lord Jesus.

Under compulsion from the Holy Spirit, Paul now announces his journey to Jerusalem. Like his master Jesus, he has a premonition of what he must face there. He declares that while he is unsure of his fate, he knows that should   imprisonment and persecution be awaiting him, the Holy Spirit will testify on his behalf as has always been the case.

If there is one thing Paul can never be accused of it is his lack of devotion to Christ. It is to him that he has given his hundred per cent not even counting his own life of any value. In this Paul was a true disciple and not just some follower. For a disciple is single minded and has only one Lord and one master.

Fr Warner D’Souza

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3 thoughts on “Mirroring Christ – Tuesday, 7th Week of Easter- Acts 20:17-27”

  • My theory for the elders coming to him comes from looking at the Greek. The word translated as elders is ‘presbyterous’ which is the root of the English word priest [1]. St. Paul, on the other hand, was a bishop (Greek: episkopēs) – he ordains Timothy to the priesthood (2 Tim 1:6-12). So the priests (elders) coming to meet Bishop Paul does make sense! 🙂

    P.S: I don’t know ancient (or modern) Greek. I was only aware of this because the word elder appears in the letter of St. James (Jam 5:14-16) in relation to the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick. 🙂

    [1] http://biblehub.com/text/acts/20-17.htm

    • Ashwith. I am sharing my notes with regard to your question
      1Tim.3:1-7 Requirements for Bishops
      [1] The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. [2] Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, [3] no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. [4] He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; [5] for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church? [6] He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil; [7] moreover he must be well thought of by outsiders, or he may fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

      Both this text and Titus 1:6-8 appear to draw on an earlier listing of requirements. The author of the pastorals has probably edited this earlier tradition in various ways .Vs 7 seems to be an addition. In vs 2 the word bishop is used. In certain places we see the word presbuteros used (elder), in other cases the word episkopos is used which the RSV translates as Bishop. The question is, are these two different offices?
      Modern scholarship is unanimous in holding that in the early Church the presbuteros and episkopos were one and the same. Elders were appointed everywhere. After the first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas had appointed elders in all the Churches. (Acts 14:23). The qualifications of elders and bishops seems to be the same every where. In the beginning of Philippians, Paul greets Bishops and deacons. It is quite impossible that Paul would not greet the elders if they existed as a separate body. So bishops and elders must have been one and the same. When Paul was on his last journey to Jerusalem, he sent for the elders of Ephesus and says that God has made them episkopoi to feed the Church.
      Hence if they are the same, why two names? Presbuteros described these leaders of the Church as they personally were and Episkopos described their function.

      • Dear Fr. Warner, thank you so much for sharing your notes! I do agree that there wasn’t really a very strong demarcation between the two offices in the early church. St. Jerome, in fact, stated them as same[1] and makes a similar point. He says presbyter refers to age while bishop refers to rank. However the last sentence of the letter is interesting!

        “In fact as if to tell us that the traditions handed down by the apostles were taken by them from the old testament, bishops, presbyters and deacons occupy in the church the same positions as those which were occupied by Aaron, his sons, and the Levites in the temple.”

        I also never saw the connection between 1 Timothy and Titus before!

        I just thought maybe this (i.e. a possible difference between presbyters and bishops) was a possible reason why it would have been “normal” for the elders to visit St. Paul since we do see a rough structure of leadership in the early church in the book of Acts.

        [1] More here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001146.htm


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