Acts 20:37

ESV And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him,
NIV They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.
NASB And they all began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him,
CSB There were many tears shed by everyone. They embraced Paul and kissed him,
NLT They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye.
KJV And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,

What does Acts 20:37 mean?

Paul and the elders of the church of Ephesus are saying their final farewells. Paul spent three years in Ephesus, teaching, admonishing, building up, reasoning, healing, and rescuing people from demonic possession. Of all the cities he visited, he possibly made the largest impact in Ephesus. He walked into a city filled with demons, witchcraft, and idol worship. By the time he left, the craftsmen who made shrines feared for their livelihoods (Acts 19; 20:31).

Modern readers tend to see Paul as a stern theologian—possibly because in 1 Corinthians he spends most of the time attempting to straighten out the Corinthians' theology and railing against sin in all its forms. We miss his follow-up letter where he admits he was pained to send that letter and rejoices in the Corinthians' repentance (2 Corinthians 7:5–9). He tells the Thessalonians how dear they are to him (1 Thessalonians 2:8) and tells the Philippians that they are in his heart (Philippians 1:7). Even in 1 Corinthians Paul gives thanks for the church (1 Corinthians 1:4–9), refers to his readers as "brothers" (e.g., 1 Corinthians 10:1; 11:33; 12:1; 14:6, 20) and "my beloved" (1 Corinthians 10:11). He ends his letter with, "My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen" (1 Corinthians 16:24). Sometimes love requires that we call out sin and speak painful truths. Paul's letters demonstrate his dedication to the truth of God as well as his passion for others to know and follow God.

Paul's letter to the Ephesians can seem like more dry theology, at first. In reality, he is fighting for the family of the church, that they may love each other and identify and reject false, demonic thinking. He gives the same instructions to the elders, here, reminding them to sacrifice for their congregation and protect it from false teachers.

Paul has told them he will not see them again; when he reaches Jerusalem, he will be imprisoned. The elders respond with heartfelt sorrow. Later, when they read Paul's letter, they won't hear a stiff professor or a dour preacher. They'll hear their friend whom they love and miss.
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