Ephesus had become a second home for Paul, but now it was time to move on. From the port city of Miletus, about 30 miles from Ephesus, Paul sent for the Ephesian church leaders to gather for his parting address to them. He began by recounting past experiences with them. He emphasized ministering in the church with humility, passion, and boldness in the midst of conflict (Acts 20:19-20). He recalled how he had faithfully witnessed to unbelievers about their need for repentance and faith (v. 21). After reflecting on the past, Paul then turned his attention to what lay ahead.
In spite of the potential dangers, Paul decided to return to Jerusalem (vv. 22). He made the decision before he left Ephesus, and no one was going to change his mind. He reminded the Ephesian leaders that the Holy Spirit was pushing him to go to Jerusalem.
The apostle was unsure about what lay ahead for him. The only thing he knew about his future was that he would go to Jerusalem, that he would faithfully share the gospel, and that he would face opposition once in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit had already told Paul that chains and afflictions were awaiting him once he arrived in Jerusalem. On multiple occasions while on this specific trip, Paul had received warnings about going to Jerusalem. Luke recorded two specific warnings—one in Type and the other in Caesarea (21:4,11-12). The Holy Spirit was preparing Paul for what he was about to endure for the sake of the gospel.
But Paul was all in. The warnings did not keep him from doing what he knew was required for the sake of the gospel. As Paul considered the cost of obedience, he realized that the greater cost would be found in failing to share the gospel. He had already been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). He was ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of the Christ, calling his life of no value when compared to the gospel (Acts 20:24).
When writing to Timothy, Paul compared the Christian life to running a race (2 Tim. 4:7). In this passage as well, he compared his ministry to running a race (Acts 20:24). To win the race, the runner must stay the course and keep running. Runners endure the pain of the race not just to run, but also to finish and to do so well. Paul knew that only through finishing well would he find true satisfaction in this life.
Paul’s ministry was summarized as a testament to the gospel of God’s grace (v. 24). He spent his life telling others about God’s grace, found through faith in Jesus. It was the gospel of grace that made the potential adversity worth it.
How does understanding the value of the gospel give a person the strength to endure difficulties that result from the gospel?
This article was adapted from Session 10 in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Explore the Bible: Adults. Explore the Bible is a book-by-book group Bible study that encourages participants to let the Word dwell in them and challenges them to live it out in their own context. Preview one month free at lifeway.com/ExploreTheBible