Acts 20:17-21 reads, “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In this passage of Scripture, we pick up the life of the apostle Paul at the end of His third missionary journey. While going about the areas of Galatia, Asia, and Macedonia, establishing and confirming churches in the faith, Paul collected money for the financially destitute church of Jerusalem. Here we find Paul in Miletus for a few days, as the ship on which he had booked passage is resupplied and outfitted for the journey. The apostle Paul, never one to waste time, takes this opportunity to send for the elders of the church at Ephesus, (Ephesus being approximately thirty miles distant). Now, as the New Testament Scriptures often use the term “elder” as a reference for the official leadership of churches, we recognize these men in our common terminology as the pastors of the church at Ephesus.
Unto these pastors the apostle Paul spends the whole of Acts 20:18-35 in a farewell address. Contextually, this address can be divided into four parts. First, in verses 18-21 there is Paul’s recollection of His past ministry with these men. Second, in verses 22-24 there is Paul’s intention to follow the Spirit’s leading. Third, in verses 25-31 there is Paul’s exhortation to these pastors concerning their ministry. Fourth, in verses 32-35 there is Paul’s commendation of these pastors unto God. In this message we shall consider the first of these matters – Paul’s recollection of His past ministry with these men. Apparently there were those in Ephesus, as was so often the case at other places in the apostle’s ministry, who were slandering His character and ministry. Thus the apostle Paul began this farewell address with a reminder to these pastors concerning their personal knowledge of and experience with his godly character and behavior. In so doing the apostle Paul, by the example of his own life and ministry, reveals to us the reputation of a man of God. Even so, if we desire to be men and women of God, then we must seek these same characteristics as a part of our reputation. So then, from Acts 20:18-21 let us consider five characteristics for the reputation of a man of God.