I cannot think of a more poignant and tender goodbye in all of Scripture than Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesians elders in Acts 20. Paul knew his days were numbered. He was trying to get to Jerusalem as quickly as possible. Paul asked the Ephesians to meet him in Miletus on his way to Jerusalem. Standing on the seashore at Miletus, Paul recounts his honest and forthright ministry in Ephesus. The part of the story that tugs the deepest on my emotions is found in the last three verses of Acts 20.
“When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye. They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship”(Acts 20:36-38).
In the text of Paul’s farewell address, he said, “Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following”(Acts 20:30). In the verses preceding that warning, Paul said that upon his departure false teachers would enter the flock like hungry wolves not sparing anyone tearing their spiritual flesh with the fangs of deception.
Paul was not one to back away from speaking the truth in love. He was a spiritual realist. He saw prophetically in the future the downfall of some in this faithful band of believers. His love for the Ephesians moved him to speak challenging and uncomfortable words. Paul’s admonition still stands today.
We have entered a time of reformation in the Church. Strange interpretations of Scripture and the nature of God will arise creating deception so plausible it will sound like truth. No one is exempt for Paul’s warning. This should not create fear or be dismissed as a fear-based issue. It is called maturity, the kind of maturity Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4 that is the result of a group of people fully trained and equipped by the Five-fold ministry gifts for the work of the ministry.
In this time of reformation, get simple. Go back and reaffirm your core beliefs and in some cases, discover them for the first time. Ask the Lord to be your point of confirmation for what you choose to believe. Avoid the error of assumption. Hold tightly to Jesus. He will be your only safe place.