Paul did not want to go to Ephesus so he went to Miletus and from there he called the elders of Ephesus to meet him. It is good to remember only twice Paul called elders together! Once at Jerusalem (Acts 15) and here in Acts 20. There is no precedent where elders from different assemblies came to discuss the issues of their perspective companies.
One thing assemblies have sought to teach is the autonomy of each local church. However when issues arise within them how often this principle has been set aside and other assemblies have sought to interfere or take sides depending on how they perceive it. Paul only met the elders at Ephesus because he had a deep burden for their ministry and testimony.
His consistent manner of life
The apostle here, as in other places, appeals on the ground that they know what manner of life he lived among them. To the Corinthians he says,
Be you followers of me as I also am of Christ. (I Corinthians 1:1)
To the Thessalonians he says,
You are witnesses how holy and justly and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:10)
To young Timothy he says,
You have fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, patience. (2 Timothy 3:10)
Where there is a life of commitment their words have a right to be heard!
His humble service
Paul having spoken of his consistency in every season among them now refers to his attitude. Serving the Lord with humility of mind and with many tears and testings. (Acts 20:19) What lessons we can learn from this servant of God not only in what our service is but the spirit with which it is done.
Paul certainly adopts what he exhorts us to do in Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Here the Lord displays the downward steps of His humility even to the death of the cross. Paul listed other examples in the Philippian epistle where this attitude was seen in others.
His faithful teaching & preaching
He did not keep back from them what was profitable to them. How we need to see men of God arise among us who will be fearless in proclaiming the Word of God. Not giving what the people want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4) but what they need to hear for their building up in the faith.
Paul preached repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21) What he taught in a public way he also taught them from house to house. There was no hidden agenda. He faithfully proclaimed the whole counsel of God.
Younger men, when developing your gift of preaching, be careful not to get into the mold of favorite topics and certain doctrines that you only feel comfortable with. Be versatile in teaching from all aspects of divine truth.
The Lord Jesus in the gospels gave various types of teaching practical, devotional, prophetic, parables and typical teaching. Keep studying the Word of God to learn those truths and give them out to the people of God.
The tearful warning
Paul was fully aware that leaving them would be his last, “you shall see my face no more.” (Acts 20:25) He also knew when he was gone “savage wolves will enter among you not sparing the flock, also from among yourselves men will rise up speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29-30 NKJV)
Today as never before elders need to be on the alert with discerning minds and courage to resist those who would do major damage to the flock. The elder must hold fast the faithful Word as he has been taught that he may be able by sound doctrine exhort and convince those who contradict. (Titus 1:9)
Some assemblies have known the pain of men who have come in with an agenda to get followers after themselves and draw them away from the truth. The flock of God has been purchased by precious blood and it is a serious responsibility laid upon the elders to guard and preserve its testimony.
The answer is clear. “I commend you to God, and to the Word of His grace which is abe to build you up and give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)
There are many warnings in the New Testament that every elder should be familiar with! The church at Ephesus gave Paul a wonderful send off and I am sure the memory of the occasion would not be forgotten from them.