Paul Says Goodbye to the Ephesians

from the Acts of the Apostles reading plan

Acts 20:1-38, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Philippians 1:20-21

BY Rebecca Faires

Text: Acts 20:1-38, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Philippians 1:20-21

The price we pay for the sun-drenched joys of summer camp are the sad farewells. I was seventeen and my legs were completely covered by bug bites, from my athletic sandals to my cuffed jean shorts. Bending over to scratch an ankle while Emily and I propped up the last of the mattresses in our cabin, I allowed myself a moment to peek into my sadness. Back at home, I was “Becky,” but at camp, I’d managed to introduce myself as “Rebecca,” and after a summer of feeling so grown up, I was sad to leave.

Emily, sunburnt and still wearing a camp t-shirt, hugged me and said, “See you in heaven!” And she left. Just like that. I remember sitting alone in the fading light of our empty cabin, smelling the warm cedar and thinking, “See you in heaven?! Can she even say that to me?” It felt so final, and yet so hopeful. No one has said those words to me since, and I don’t think I’ll ever see Emily again, so she was probably right.

Her words stuck with me, however, and when I read Paul’s lingering goodbyes to the Ephesians, I’m reminded of how hard it is for us to say our final farewells. Small things receive huge significance when they are the last things. Even the dust motes floating in the air, illuminated by shafts of sunlight, seem important in our last moments with those we love.

Set in the context of eternity, all these things—all these moments—are the last things. My summer camp goodbyes are mostly forgotten, but that one reminded me that this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31). Paul’s last address to the Ephesians invited them to see the world in the light of eternity, to make much of little things, because our goodbyes in this world are many and often.

Knowing that none of them would ever see his face again, Paul slowed everything down to cry and savor their time together. Some of Paul’s last words to them were simple:

“But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”
-Acts 20:24

In his final moments with dear friends, Paul wanted to speak to them about only the things that truly matter. Whether we die at the ripe old age of 110 or at breakfast tomorrow morning, these moments on earth are so dearly short compared to eternity. These sunlit days are brief and full of petite goodbyes. Paul uses these moments to commit his beloved friends “to God and to the message of His grace” (Acts 20:32).

In the midst of the sadness of all our goodbyes, the small and the huge farewells, God’s presence continues to go with both parties. When we are joined together in Christ, He promises that we will share an inheritance together in heaven (Romans 8:17). Indeed, we have His word that, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Post Comments (34)

34 thoughts on "Paul Says Goodbye to the Ephesians"

  1. Chelsea says:

    I’m late in this devotional but it’s so fitting. I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life and I am leaving in less than two weeks to Thailand to be part of a church planting team. “Small things receive huge significance when they are the last things” was spot on as I have been struggling to say bye to not only my friends and family but the little things I hold dear. Acts 20:24 encouraged me as I remember that all the relationships and experiences I’ve built here is only a sliver of what God has given me and promises for me. Thank you for your words. I felt refreshed as I read it this devotional.

    1. Catherine says:

      Hey Chelsea! Where will you live in Thailand? I’m headed to Chiang Mai in January to build with habitat for humanity. Maybe I could stop by the church? :)

  2. Christine says:

    Well said Andrea. I think of the modern day martyrs with International Justice Mission and Paul’s sacrificial, loyal commitment and am so humbled. How do I keep my eyes focused on Jesus and ready to lay it down for the Gospel. Christ in me, help me.

  3. Emily says:

    This devotional was so pertinent today (although I’m a day behind)! God recently moved our family out of a town we loved and I’ve had a really hard time saying goodbye. I’ve also been battling postpartum depression for almost a year and this devotional falls on the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I’ve been struggling to see what God is doing with this tumultuous season and this study has been really refreshing!!

    1. Kathy says:

      I,too recently moved from a place I loved. I loved the people, the conveniences, the comfort of knowing where everything was. I loved the spur of the moment lunch dates with friends. Today’s reading and devotional solidified that even thou I have moved physically, God is always with me. He is the only permanent thing in my life and He is enough.

  4. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

  5. Pam B says:

    My takeaway for today was that we should all be living in the moment. I am a worrier by nature, and so, sadly, I spend a lot of time worrying about the past or the future and forget to live in the moment: to be here on the present, the here and now. I have no control over what has already happened or will happen, but I can choose how I will react/respond to what it happening right now. I pray that God will help me to stop worrying so much and enjoy life.

    1. Gator mom says:

      I have the same problem that I battle with daily. Trying to not worry about the future unknowns and leave them in Gods hands. I find it helpful to meditate on “give us this day our daily bread”. God provides what you need for one day and tells us not to peer into the future.

  6. Mariya says:

    Your story made me think deeper into our goodbyes. I think that Paul did a great job with showing us how it really has to be. Now I will always think about seeing people for the last time and saying “see you in heaven”.

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