Innocent of the Blood

After having been in Ephesus for a couple of years, the craftsmen that made the idols of Artemis began to put two and two together. They saw that their sales were down and fewer people were buying their silver statues because more and more people were turning to follow Christ. They rose up in a riot and accused Paul of being their problem. In the end, it came to nothing, but it made Paul decide that it was time to leave.

He traveled around, continuing to teach and lead his leaders, going to Macedonia, Greece, and Troas, then finally heading south and landing in Miletus where he had a meeting with the elders from Ephesus.

In the midst of this meeting with the elders, Paul tells them that he is innocent of their blood. Wait…what? How could he possibly be guilty for their blood? As far as we know, Paul hasn’t killed anyone…(at least not in Ephesus!) Here is what he says:

Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.

Acts 20:25-27

Paul’s main justification is that he has preached the Kingdom of God to them. He says that he has not hesitated to proclaim the whole will of God. He preached publicly and he taught from house to house. Paul came to them to speak and proclaim to them about Jesus, and that is exactly what he did. Despite all of the threats and danger, Paul did this without regard to his own life, and for this, he is innocent of their blood.

But again, what blood is he talking about? Why is he bringing up the possibility of being guilty of their blood?

Paul is speaking of a much greater reality. He isn’t talking about their physical blood, but instead of the life that is represented by their blood. Blood represents life throughout the scriptures and Paul is saying that there is no longer the possibility that he would be declared guilty for not having given them the possibility of life.

Paul knows that if he doesn’t give these people that possibility of eternal life, life after death, then he could be considered to have blood on his hands. If he didn’t do as he did, he could be said to have had the opportunity to act to prevent their deaths, and instead did not. He could have shown them the way, but instead did not.

But that is not what Paul did. Paul dedicated his life so that other people would know. He met with them publicly. He met with them privately. He endured hardship, and yet he did it with joy. Paul gave his life so that others would live. He followed Jesus in this way, and he gives each of us an example as a way we should live as well.

In the same way as Paul’s time, people are perishing. Jesus wants his Kingdom to continue to advance, and he calls upon his people to make his disciples so that their blood will not be spilt into eternity. Instead, they would have eternal life and life with Christ and with each of us forever. This is our calling as well as it was Paul’s. Let us live that calling even now and even today!

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