Acts 20:17–38 (NKJV)
17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.Acts 20:17-38
25 “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to 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. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
32 “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, 38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.
Paul calls for the elders of the Ephesian church. Whether this is just those who live in Ephesus or leaders from all over Asia Minor (Ephesus was the home base for the work in Asia Minor) we are not sure. However, Paul gives what he feels may be his final instructions to this group of leaders. Paul often felt the need in his letters to establish his reputation. Here, he reminds his disciples/leaders that he worked hard among them and required no great support because he was bivocational. He also reminds them that he gave them the truth of the Word of God and freely poured salvation and healing into their lives. He revealed that prophetic words foretold that he would be chained and imprisoned, but that he was fully willing face whatever he must that the work of the gospel would go forward.
After this initial testimony section, Paul announces that they may see him no more after this, but that they should carry on the work of the Lord. He warned them that enemies would come among them, and heretics would speak enticing things in order to stop the work of the Lord. He charged them to defend the truth and protect the sheep in their care as good shepherds of the faith. He then officially commended the work into their hands. They prayed, wept over the fact that they would not necessarily see him among the Ephesian church again, and then accompanied him to the ship on which he would depart.
Ministries don’t last forever, at least the ministry of a particular individual. That is why no church should be built upon a personality or individual. Ministers live, they die, they move on, but the ministry should continue. Too often, people depend upon a particular preacher or teacher to guide them throughout their entire lives. Paul emphasized the need for leaders to rise up in each church and carry on the work of the ministry. This need for the perpetuation of the ministry and of the gospel is Biblical and real. Don’t stop serving the Lord because your favorite preacher no longer pastors your church. Don’t think God has left the building because Brother ___________ has stopped preaching or Sister_______________no longer leads your group. Instead, serve the Lord, not any human being. He is your source and strength. He is your High Tower, your Rock that is higher than you. Leaders should raise up leaders who serve as disciples of Christ, not of men or women. So step up and fill a gap. That is the mission to which you are called.