Due Diligence among the Elders of the Church
From Miletus it appears that Paul is now finally ready to make his voyage to Jerusalem. Scholars think that it was on this trip to Jerusalem that Paul took the collection he had received from the churches he had planted in Macedonia, Achaia (Greece), and Asia (Minor) for the relief of the saints in Judea. (Paul speaks of this collection in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8 & 9; not the first collection of Acts 11:27-30, but a later collection instigated by Paul himself to increase the unity between the Gentile churches he had planted and the Jewish church in Jerusalem.) But Paul was uneasy about this visit, especially given his reception among the Jews in opposition in other cities. He therefore calls the elders from the Ephesian church to come to him in Miletus before his voyage to Jerusalem to encourage and warn them of trials to come. It is a fitting “last will and testament” of Paul concerning the chief tasks of an elder in the church.
1) Paul declares that he “did not shrink back” from declaring the gospel, “testifying of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” and declaring the “whole counsel of God.” He did this with all humility and tears and even through trials. But he counted his life of no value so long as he finished the course of his ministry along these lines. Thus elders and pastors are to be such men who walk with humility but preach with authority the gospel of Jesus Christ, valuing the gospel above all other things.
2) Paul then tells them, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (see also 1 Timothy 4:16). Why? Because there will be false teachers who will creep into the church. Thus elders must first watch themselves and check their teaching AND THEIR LIVES by the Scriptures; so many are lost to the church through the poor examples of elders. Elders also must be diligent paying careful attention to what the flock is hearing both in the church and the world, and be sure that everyone knows that the spectacles through which we see the world is Scripture. We do NOT see the Scriptures through the spectacles of the world; that is where heresy begins.
3) Paul makes reference to his ministry of preaching the gospel without pay, a choice on his part as even he believed ministers should be compensated (1 Corinthians 9:14; 1 Timothy 5:18). But pastors should be diligent in their work and be examples to their flock of generosity. We may sum up these three exhortations to elders as “due diligence,” personally and for their flock.