In Miletus, the apostle Paul earnestly ministered to a group of church elders whom he summoned from Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38). In his address to them, Paul made a statement that raises a crucial question—will we as Christians give a future account for certain sins?
Paul’s Unceasing Evangelistic Ministry in Asia Minor
Paul reminded these elders that they knew the life of serving the Lord that he led among them during his entire time with them (Acts 20:18-19). He emphasized that he had not refrained from ministering to them and to others concerning repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21).
He informed them of how he was constrained in spirit to go to Jerusalem regardless of the bonds and afflictions that the Spirit had testified to him would await him everywhere (Acts 20:22-23). Testifying that he was unmoved by any of these things, he explained that he lived his life selflessly so that he might finish joyfully his course and the ministry that the Lord Jesus had given him to testify the gospel (Acts 20:24).
Paul’s Certainty about the Future
Paul then declared that he knew that these all among whom he had been preaching the kingdom of God would never see his face again (Acts 20:25). Apparently, the Lord in some unexplained manner had informed Paul of this fact.
Paul’s Confidence concerning His Freedom from Bloodguiltiness
Because Paul knew that he would never have another opportunity to minister to them personally, he wanted to be certain that he had finished giving them all the truth that they needed to hear from him. He, therefore, testified to them that day that he was “pure from the blood of all men” because he had not shunned declaring to them “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27).
Paul thus asserted his own confidence that he was free from bloodguiltiness concerning all people. He, however, did much more than that because saying these things he implicitly challenged these elders about their own need to be free from the blood of all men by giving them all the truth that they themselves should.
The Profound Implications That Paul’s Statements concerning Bloodguiltiness Seem to Have
What Paul said to these elders about why he was confident that he was pure from the blood of all men appears to have some profound implications. Paul apparently believed that he would not have been free from such bloodguiltiness had he failed to declare all the counsel of God to them.
Did Paul, then, believe that had he failed in that respect, such failure would have been something that he would have had to give an account for to the Lord one day after his life on earth had ended? If so, Paul would be teaching that he believed that Christians would give a future account for certain sins.
Does Paul’s Teaching in Romans 14 Confirm His Statements in Acts 20?
Paul’s teaching in Romans 14 may help us to assess the validity of our understanding that his statements in Acts 20 have such implications. In Romans 14, he cites the future accountability of every believer to the Lord as his Judge to warn believers against judging their brethren wrongly or treating them with contempt (Rom. 14:10-13). Although Acts 20 pertains to a sin of omission of necessary testimony but Romans 14 pertains to sins of commission of treating brethren unjustly, future accountability for the one would necessarily seem to imply future accountability for the other.
Whether or not Paul’s statements in Acts 20 actually do imply such future accountability for certain sins, clearly, he believed that future accountability to the Lord must vitally shape our present behavior. In view of the potential implications of his statements in Acts 20, we should be sure that we have confessed, forsaken, and made any necessary reparations for all our known sins while we still have the opportunity to do so.