Paul is on his way back to Jerusalem. He is compelled by the Spirit to go (20:22) even though the same Spirit is using others to warn him that imprisonment and persecution is waiting (2:23). He isn’t concerned, because he is convinced that returning to Jerusalem is essential for his ongoing testimony to the good news of God’s grace (2:24). He is in a hurry, so he bypasses Ephesus (2:16), but he still wants to talk to the Ephesian elders, so he sends for them from Miletus (20:17).
Paul’s reminds them that he is “innocent of the blood of you all” (2:26). This probably harkens back to the example of Ezekiel (33:1-20). Ezekiel was likened to a watchman on the wall. It wasn’t his responsibility to save the people, only to warn them. Paul spent considerable time in Ephesus making sure that the people understood the truth about Jesus and instructing them in the kingdom of God. He was faithful to proclaiming the message, so he considered his obligations fulfilled; if he hadn’t been faithful, then he would have been guilty before God.
He warns the elders to be on the lookout because false teachers will come in to try to deceive the church (20:29). The imagery is that of shepherds looking out for the sheep when fierce wolves come to devour them. This is one of the primary jobs of elders: making sure that the church is protected from falsehood. Closely related to that job is making sure that the message of grace is protected and proclaimed (20:32). After all, the church has been “obtained with the blood of His (God’s) own Son” (20:28). It is precious, and needs to be protected.
What is the message of grace? It is the truth that we have been saved by grace: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is the comfort that we persevere through grace: “It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5). It is the fact that we minister in grace: “For we are his creative work, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them” (Ephesians 2:10). Our Christian walk is all about God, which means it’s all about grace!