It is obvious that one of the things that Paul stresses is what he did himself through the Lord’s help. He reminds the elders of Ephesus of how he served the Lord when he was with them. His self-description is not exaggerated, because if it was, the elders could have responded by saying, ‘We never saw you doing all that.’
Paul says all this about himself conscious that he is accountable to his Master for all that was done in his name. The apostle is not claiming to be sinless or perfect, but he is saying that he was a devoted servant. In any walk in life, a Christian should be able to say that he has done his best for his employer. The same should be said of a Christian leader, and that is what Paul is saying about himself. He is devoted to Jesus and is therefore determined to do what Jesus asked him to do, even although this commitment could lead him into danger when he reached Jerusalem.
Several times, Paul uses the word ‘testify’ several times. What did he testify to? In verse 21, he testified to everyone that needed to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus; in verse 24, he says that he was called to testify to the grace of God; and in verse 26, he testifies that he was innocent regarding the fate of any in Ephesus who rejected his message because he had told them the whole counsel of God. How did he testify? He says that he did it through teaching accompanied by tears through a process of ongoing trials. It looks as if nothing could stop him testifying.
What words come to mind as we listen to Paul’s own account of his ministry in Ephesus? One is authentic – he was a real servant. A second is ardent – he did nothing half-heartedly. A third is accountable – he knew that he would give a report to Jesus regarding his service. A fourth is abandonment – he gave up worrying what people thought about him or what they might do to him.
Paul was fully aware that the Ephesians elders would affirm that he was describing accurately his ministry among them. More importantly, he was aware that his God knew. An obvious lesson from this testimony of Paul is that we should try and have an accurate description of how we are serving Jesus. The service will not be perfect, but it should be obvious regarding its details. Perhaps, even regarding a day, we should write down what we did for Jesus, what we could have done for him, and what we failed to do for him when an opportunity arose. And then we can ask God to make us like Paul in his devotion to the Master.