Acts 20:36

ESV And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.
NIV When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.
NASB When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.
CSB After he said this, he knelt down and prayed with all of them.
NLT When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them.
KJV And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.

What does Acts 20:36 mean?

A few precious hours are all Paul was able to spend in this last visit with the elders of the church in Ephesus. He meets them in Miletus, not trusting that he can visit Ephesus and leave in time to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost (Acts 20:16–17).

They have much to pray for. Paul lived in Ephesus for three years, establishing the church and spreading the news about how Jesus brings the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8–10; 20:31). Ephesus is filled with demonic activity and witchcraft (Acts 19:19). The temple of Artemis—not the Greek goddess of hunting but a re-named regional fertility goddess—is the landmark of the city. Right before Paul left, craftsmen who earn a living making idols and shrines started a riot in protest of his ministry (Acts 19:21–41). Although Jesus' message of reconciliation with God has spread all over the province (Acts 19:10), the city and the church need God's protection as much as ever.

The elders also need the Holy Spirit's help to take Paul's example in leading the people. He boldly taught the gospel while showing humility to others. He incorporated Jews and Gentiles into the single body of the church. He did not demand the rightful monetary compensation for his teaching, choosing instead to work when he wasn't preaching so that his team's needs wouldn't be a distraction for the new believers (Acts 20:18–21, 32–35).

Paul has warned the elders that false teachers will arise from their own congregation; he speaks from experience. In Galatia, legalistic Jewish Christians tried to convince the Gentiles they need to covert to Judaism in order to worship the Jewish God (Galatians 6:12–13). In Corinth, Christians were drawn into sects, immoral sex, and idolatry (1 Corinthians 1:10–17; 6:13–20; 7:4–13; 10:1–33). Decades later, Jesus commends the Ephesian church for rejecting false teaching (Revelation 2:2–3).

The elders know that Paul also needs prayer to face the years ahead. He has told them that when he reaches Jerusalem he will be imprisoned. He doesn't yet know he will spend two years under house arrest in Caesarea Maritima on the Judean coast, take a dangerous sea voyage that ends in a shipwreck, and live another two years under house arrest in Rome. Fortunately, he will be able to write to the Ephesian church. Unfortunately, he will not see them again (Acts 20:22–25).

Finally, they have much to be thankful for—that Jesus has saved them (Ephesians 1). To Paul, nothing else compares (Acts 20:24).
What is the Gospel?
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