the weblog of Alan Knox

Church Meetings in Acts – Acts 20:17

Posted by on Mar 11, 2010 in gathering, scripture | 2 comments

The last instance of “gathering language” in Acts is found in Acts 20:17 –

Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia…” (Acts 20:17-18 ESV)

The “gathering language” in this passage is found in the combination of the verbs translated “called to him” and “came to him” in the ESV.

This may seems like a strange “meeting” because only Paul, his traveling companions, and the elders of the church in Ephesus are included. However, remember that we’ve seen instances already where different groups of believers from different areas and regions meet together, and Luke uses similar “gathering language” for all of those “meetings.” Thus, it seems that Luke would treat any gathering of believers in the same manner.

While the language of encouragement and edification are not found in this passage, it is clear from the context that follows that Paul was doing just that. He was teaching, warning, admonishing, reminding, exhorting the elders in the way that they lived their lives among the church.

Luke uses the general verb for speaking to describe how Paul speaks to the elders from Ephesus. Following so close to the previous meeting with the church in Troas, there is not reason to believe that only Paul speaks during his time with these elders. Obviously, the point of Luke’s passage is that Paul was telling them that he would never see them again (Acts 20:37-38). But, we’ve seen in other places that Paul never expected to be the only one to server others, but he also expected others to be a benefit to him as well (Romans 1:11-12).

While the “gathering language” is not unique, the fact that this passage is directed toward elders is unique. Apart from 1 Peter 5:1-3, this is the only other passage is Scripture that is directed toward elders (or pastors, if you prefer that term). Primarily, we see Paul pointing back to his own example in both proclaiming the gospel to those who are not part of the church, and caring for those who are part of the church.

So, even in this “meeting” with elders, we see Luke focusing on both the gathering and the going nature of the church.


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  1. 3-11-2010

    To me, Acts 20 and 1 Pt 5 are the single most important scriptures concerning local leadership in the church. It defines everything that elders ought to be and how Paul and Peter saw it.

    When you consider what Jesus said in Mt 20, Mk 10 and Lk 22 along with the above apostolic direction, it is hard to justify much of our church leadership paradigms in light of these scriptures.

  2. 3-12-2010


    I think that Jesus’ statement in Matthew 20 (and the parallels) are fundamental to understanding leadership among the church as well!