Ephesus was in Asia Minor (now Turkey). It was a prominent city in the Roman empire – provincial capital, commercial center, and religious hotspot. Ephesus was a city of significance, a major crossroads.
Paul did not found the church in Ephesus. Rather, he went to Ephesus shortly after another person first traveled there to tell others about Jesus. However, Paul spent nearly three years in Ephesus talking to people about Jesus and building up the church. Ephesus mattered greatly to Paul.
In this passage from Acts we find a kind of last testament by Paul – what he thought would be his farewell words to his fellow Christians in Ephesus. Paul had been traveling extensively in Macedonia, Greece, and elsewhere to proclaim Jesus and strengthen the faith of those who believed. During that time he determined to go to Jerusalem. Desiring to get there as soon as possible, he decided to bypass Ephesus rather than stop to visit the church there, though his journey would take him in the vicinity.
Still, Ephesus mattered to Paul, so he asked Ephesian church leaders to meet him in Miletus, about thirty five miles south of Ephesus. Paul thought this would be his last personal meeting with them in this world. Hence, Paul spoke passionately about his conduct among them and his desire for their spiritual welfare.
In what he said, we see into Paul’s heart. We understand that upon which Paul staked his life and his ministry. Paul spoke intimately and fervently of his devotion and dedication to Jesus, of his heartfelt commitment to the spiritual well-being of others, no matter the cost to him. He urged those church leaders to live as he had lived, to do as he had done, that they and those under their care would follow Jesus faithfully and diligently to the very end.
What will be our last words to those we love? Will we be able to tell them of our heartfelt devotion and commitment to Jesus? Will we be able to encourage them to live as we have lived, to do as we have done? I, for one, have need of much, much spiritual growth even to approach that point. May God in his grace transform and form me – and all of us – more and more toward such an end.