Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 15, 1956
NUMBER 28, PAGE 8-9b

Is Acts 20:25 An Inspired Statement?

Robert C. Welch, Louisville, Kentucky

The prevailing theory is that Paul was not speaking by inspiration when he said to the elders of the church at Ephesus while on Miletus: "I know that ye all, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, shall see my face no more." (Acts 20:25.) This theory is the result of the commonly accepted idea that Paul made another trip to Asia after his first Roman imprisonment. Such a theory, that he did return, is in no way denied or rejected here. There are apparent intimations in the letters of Paul of a later visit to Asiatic territory. But let it be emphasized, there is no statement or intimation that Paul either revisited or saw those brethren again.

It seems to be a sad state of affairs when the inspiration of some emphatic statement of an inspired apostle is rejected in justification of a mere theory. That is exactly what has happened here. Modernists are anxious to make this statement of Paul's only a matter of his logic. Is it possible that a number of "conservative and fundamental" scholars have dozed as they came to this passage? In so doing they have left open the gap for the modernist to reject the inspiration of any other statement of Paul.

Denied By Modernistic Literature

This theory, that Paul was not speaking what he had learned by inspiration, came to particular notice in studying the Adult Quarterly, fall, 1954, of the Gospel Advocate.

Notice these quotations concerning the passage.

"He believed that this was his final visit in those parts (Acts 20:25) ....

"Paul believed that he would never be privileged to be in those parts again; and that this was his final meeting with these brethren. It was a logical conclusion which he had drawn from the testimony of the Spirit regarding the 'bonds and afflictions' which awaited him. From this he concluded that his enemies would destroy him, and that he would never again launch another missionary tour such as had characterized his work for some years past .... But, though man proposes, God disposes, and the apostle did later visit Ephesus again, a fact we learn from his first epistle to Timothy. (1 Tim. 1:1-3.)" (pp. 39, 40.)

As has been demonstrated in a number of articles in this magazine, the writer of this quarterly, Guy N. Woods, copies 'and teaches a great amount of modernism. Therefore, it is no wonder at all to find him denying that Paul "knew" this because it was revealed by inspiration. He could without a qualm turn it off as being merely a "logical conclusion" of Paul. And he can for the same reason aver without any hesitancy that it is a "fact" that Paul did later visit Ephesus, in the absence of any statement of Scripture or history to that effect.

That we may see the boldness of the assertion and the readiness to disclaim inspiration, observe the comment of the conservative work of Conybeare and Howson:

"This is the last authentic account which we possess, — if we except the meeting at Miletus (Acts xx) — of any personal connection of St. Paul with Ephesus; for although we think it may be inferred from the Pastoral Epistles that he visited the metropolis of Asia again at a later period, yet we know nothing of the circumstances of the visit and even its occurrence has been disputed." (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Page 497.)

"It is more likely that he hastened on to Ephesus, and made that city once more his center of operations ....

"From Spain St. Paul seems to have returned, in A.D. 66, to Ephesus ...." (ibid, page 863.)

Notice that they say it "may be inferred," and that "nothing" is known of the circumstances of a later visit. Notice their use of "more likely" sand "seems." Contrast this with Woods' "fact," and you will see the difference between scholarship and modernism.

Nodding Conservatives

The usually vigilant McGarvey seems to have nodded at this point in his Commentary on Acts. In such a slip he would give the modernist ground to say that Ananias died of shock, or that the only inspiration Paul had for writing for his cloak was his cold cell. But notice' that he asserts without proof what others deny and show to be assumption.

"When he adds, 'I know that ye all among whom I went about preaching the gospel, shall see my face no more,' we are not to understand that the Holy Spirit, who had previously revealed some of his future to him through others, had now revealed this to him directly; but rather that he here expresses a strong conviction, based on these predictions, and also on his own fixed purpose, God willing, to spend the remnant of his days in new fields of labor (xix. 21; Rom. xv. 23,24). When therefore we learn from his first epistle to Timothy (i. 1-3) that he did afterward revisit Ephesus, the fact should occasion no great surprise." (page 189.)

The passage most commonly cited for Paul's later visit to Ephesus is 1 Timothy 1:3. There is nothing said there about his being in Ephesus when he exhorted Timothy to remain. Furthermore, the time when Paul exhorted him to remain is neither stated in the passage nor in any other place in the Scriptures.

So far as the text goes it could have been immediately after Paul's sojourn there of Acts 19. Let us observe the following conditions. Paul charged Timothy to remain in Ephesus when he went into Macedonia. (1 Tim. 1:3.) He went into Macedonia from Ephesus. (Acts 20:1.) Timothy had been sent into Macedonia while Paul was at Ephesus. (Acts 19:22.) Timothy was expected by Paul to go to Corinth. apparently while on this trip. (1 Cor. 16:10.) After Paul left Ephesus on his way into Macedonia by way of Troas he expected and received a report from Corinth, not from Timothy, but from Titus. (2 Cor. 2:13; 7:5, 6.) But Timothy was included in the letter written from Macedonia. (2 Cor. 1:1.) Hence, Timothy must have returned to Ephesus from his trip, prior to Paul's departure from Ephesus. This could be the time that he tarried in Ephesus, later joining Paul in Macedonia to write the second letter to Corinth.

An Unnecessary Destructive Theory

If Acts 20:25 is not a statement of inspired fact, how shall we determine what is and what is not inspired which was stated by Paul? The modernist or infidel can as easily say that Paul was not giving verse 29 by inspiration, that it is a "logical conclusion." Woods, McGarvey and all will agree that verse 29 was revealed by inspiration and is true prophecy. One verse is as emphatic as the other. How can one be believed in as prophecy, and the other be rejected as a mere prediction by logical reasoning. Compare the sentences:

"I know that ye all ...shall see my face no more." (Acts 20:25.)

"I know that ....grievous wolves shall enter in among you." (Acts 20:29.)

The inspiration of one of these can be denied just as easily as the other. The one is just as authoritative as the other.

We need to leave the passage alone. There is no utility in denying the inspiration of the statement. It neither proves nor disproves another trip of Paul after his Roman imprisonment. Such a journey is not essential to our faith. Such a journey does not necessitate a visit to the city of Ephesus. Let us cease denying inspiration of some passages merely because they do not fit a theory we have espoused.