Acts 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
18 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,
19 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:
20 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,
21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul spent many years serving the Lord after he was saved. He is a very clear picture of what Biblical salvation looks like. He was a changed man from the moment he was saved. He had a zeal prior to being saved, but after he was saved he had a zeal to serve and exalt the true God.
In this text he was making his final visit to Ephesus. He intentionally called for the elders of the church in that city. He reminded them of their past meetings. He had been with them in all seasons. Every different situation they had faced, he was there with them during his time in that city. He spent several years there.
He also reminded them that he had not lorded it over them. He had served them in all humility of mind. He was an apostle and an evangelist. He did not allow that to go to his head. He was bold in his preaching and teaching. He was also humble enough to be approachable and to teach with patience. He had demonstrated his love for the brethren. He had shed tears for them and with them. He desired that they grow in the Lord. He also desired to see lost people saved. He had faced temptation just as they had faced temptation. He noted that many of his troubles were the result of lost Jews who wanted to kill him or cause him harm.
In verse 20 he noted that he had not withheld any truth from them. He taught them all that the Lord wanted them to have. He was the same whether is was in a public setting or from house to house. We see the importance of the public church meetings and also the importance of having the church leaders in your home. There is opportunity to ask more personal questions in your home. Paul was not intimidated by being in their homes. Sometimes pastors do not want to speak freely in a person’s home because they fear there might be reprisals. A true man of God must keep in mind that he is called to serve the Lord. He cannot be mean-spirited, but he cannot be a people pleaser.
In verse 21 Paul reminded these elders of the central theme of his messages. The message was the same whether to the Jews or to the Greeks. Two key elements were important then and they still are now.
The first one is “repentance toward God”. Romans 3:23 states:
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Every person is born a lost sinner and is in need of salvation. There is only one source of salvation and that is God. It is important to understand that this God is the God of the Bible. He is not the god of man’s imaginations. The true God is defined in the Bible as the Creator of heaven and earth. He is also the Judge of all things. He is thrice holy. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. We could spend many sessions looking at all the aspects of the true God. He is not the pushover that most religions want Him to be.
Repentance means a turning to God in humility. A person needs to show holy reverence for God in turning to Him. Prior to Saul’s (Paul) conversion, he was a proud and arrogant man heading to Damascus with letters from the chief priests. He was on assignment. He was out to arrest and imprison true believers in God. He had already demonstrated that he was not hesitant to kill born again believers.
On that trip to Damascus, he was confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ. He was knocked to the ground and understood he was in the presence of the holy Lord Jesus Christ. He was not humble when he was leading the charge to Damascus. In a moment in time he was on the ground and blind. He heard a voice speaking to him and he responded to that voice. He knew Who that voice was. He addressed Him as Lord. He was not ashamed of acknowledging that he was in the presence of someone much greater than he was. The soldiers that were with him were amazed at what they witnessed, but they did not experience the same thing Saul did.
When Saul stood up, he could not see anything. He now needed to depend on others to lead him safely into Damascus. He was taken to a room and there he sat for three days and three nights, unable to see and unable to go anywhere because he could not see. He did not eat or drink for that entire time. This was something completely new and strange for him. During those three days, he had all the time needed to reflect on his life and to hear from the true God. He was not bitter nor angry. He was changed the moment he met Jesus on that road to Damascus. He would later testify that he had no interest in continuing on as the Pharisee he had been trained to be. In a moment of time, all that effort and expense was dung. It held no value for him any longer.
Repentance includes the leaving behind of the past life. We see that clearly in I Thessalonians 1:9:
I Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
The saints in Thessalonica left their idols behind when they turned to God. They did not want them any more. They did not ask God to bless those idols. They forsook the idols. They had been led to the truth and they did not want the lies any longer.
Biblical repentance is the turning to God that includes the rejection of the past. It is the desire to leave the life of sin behind. We find that God will remind the repentant sinner of some specific sins that need to be dealt with. This does not mean that some sins are of lesser evil.
Luke 19:8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
Zacchaeus had a special meeting with the Lord. This was not a curiosity meeting. It began as such for Zacchaeus, but not for Jesus. This was not an “I am better than you” type of meeting. Zacchaeus had a desire to see Jesus. Jesus saw him in that Sycamore tree and He knew the longing that was in Zacchaeus’ heart. He commanded him to come down from that tree and that He had an appointment with him at his house that day. We do not read the word repentance in that account, but it is clear that Zacchaeus was not the same man after meeting Jesus, that he had been before.
He made mention of some sins he needed to confess and deal with. His sin was forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ at the moment of salvation. He was not paying for his salvation. He was acknowledging past sins and he was going to make restitution. Zacchaeus would not have been able to witness to those he had cheated out of money, unless he dealt with his sin before them. He needed to get rid of the stumbling blocks that were there.
Jesus acknowledged that salvation had come to this house. Zacchaeus demonstrated that he was now a son of Abraham.
This leads us to the second aspect of Paul’s message. “Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Zacchaeus had passed from death unto life. He was now not just a Jew by birth. He was now of the faith of Abraham. That was important then, and it is still important today. Paul had already declared that his message was the same to both Jew and Greek. The only Saviour is the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
You cannot claim to believe in God and reject Jesus Christ as Lord and still claim to be saved. Zacchaeus was convicted in his heart of the need to straighten out sins that he knew were a hindrance to his walk with God.
We have noted in the past that all sin is the transgression of God’s law. We cannot categorize sin and claim some is more important than others. There are sins that a person might commit in their heart and mind, but never verbalize them or never act them out. They are still sin and still need to be forgiven and when a repentant sinner turns to God, and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, all sin is forgiven. The person is created a “new creature”.