Monday, 18 September 2023
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. Acts 20:17
The verse should read, “And from Miletus, having sent to Ephesus, he called for the elders of the church” (CG).
The previous verse noted that Paul was in a rush to get to Jerusalem by the Day of Pentecost. Because of this, he decided to sail past Ephesus. Instead, they stopped at Miletus, a port a short distance beyond Ephesus. With their arrival, Luke next notes, “And from Miletus, having sent to Ephesus.”
The distance to Ephesus is estimated to be about thirty to forty miles from Miletus. It would take some time to travel that far and then an equal amount of time for the messenger to return with those of the church. It would be a 10-to-15-hour journey for a healthy person to walk that far at a normal pace. With donkeys, it would be a bit faster. With horses, it could be done even more quickly.
No matter what, there would be at least a day of travel, spending the night, and then another day of travel back to Miletus. In a best-case scenario, they would not continue their travels until at least the third day after arriving.
It would seem that such a long journey waiting for these people would be contrary to his plans to reach Jerusalem quickly. From this, it is obvious that he knew he would get bogged down in a personal visit to Ephesus. Many days of fellowshipping would be the minimum. Therefore, he reasoned that the time waiting for the church to come to him would still be less than that. This then is actually the more expedient way of handling the situation. Therefore, “he called for the elders of the church.”
In this verse, the elders who are summoned are designated by the Greek word presbuteros, an elder. However, in Acts 20:28, the word used to describe these same men will be episkopos, overseers. Because of this, it is obvious that the titles were synonymous. Their state was that of being elders, while their duties were that of overseeing the church.
Life application: Thinking about what is recorded here, it is rather amazing to consider. Paul has bypassed Ephesus, a good distance away, and then sent for the elders. It isn’t known if there was one or more churches in Ephesus. But even if there was only one, these men would have been called to drop everything they were doing and travel the long distance to Miletus on a moment’s notice.
Think of where you live and consider a location thirty miles away. Now imagine if someone came to you and said, “We need to leave right away and start walking to that place. Johnny Come Lately wants to see you and the other seven leaders of the church.”
This means a day of walking, a meeting, and then another day of walking back home. When looked at from this perspective, one can see how carefully Paul must have balanced things out concerning stopping at Ephesus or not. And more, consider the state of these men who were willing to drop everything and head to Miletus to see him.
Now, think about your own associations. Who would you be willing to do this for? Are the needs or desires of someone that important to you? Imagine if there is a natural disaster, maybe a hurricane, that has caused damage to a friend. Would you drop everything and say, “I’m going to help with this.” Let us be grateful to the Laborious Lee’s and Magnificent Mike’s who would do such a thing. Let us also consider if we too would be willing to do such in the time of other’s needs.
When the need arises, think about how you can meet it. In the case of Paul and the elders at Ephesus, the need arose, and it will be met in the verses ahead.
Lord God, help us to be attentive to the needs of others as they arise. May we be willing to extend our hand, if possible, to attend to the call or need of others. Thank You for those who willingly put forth of themselves in such moments. And above all, thank You for Jesus, who came to meet our greatest need, even while we were still sinners. Amen.