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 20:26-27 – NIV
This short passage is a part of Paul’s final address to the elders of the church at Ephesus. He had spent three years there, had left for a while, and, as he spoke this, was passing back through on his way to Jerusalem and imprisonment. In this address, Paul gives final instructions and encouragement to the leaders of this church he had labored so long over.
Paul says something very interesting here. He is innocent of any of their blood. We tend to use that expression to indicate that we have not caused anyone physical harm; we have not shed their blood. But that was not what Paul was referring to.
I have had many teachers over the years, teaching a variety of lessons. One of them was the sensei I had when I was taking karate lessons. He was training me to be able to defend myself in case of a physical attack. It was extensive training to prepare me to handle anything that might come up during an attack. If he trained me properly, and I followed through on his lessons, I would be able to successfully defend myself, as well as others. But what if his training was faulty? Would he not bear some responsibility for what might happen to me?
Innocent of the Blood
I believe that is what Paul is referring to here. Paul had fully proclaimed to them the whole will of God. He had taught them everything they needed to lead full and productive lives as followers of Christ. He did not hold back because something might offend them. Or because it might be challenging or unpopular. So no one could later accuse him of failing to adequately equip them; of being the cause of their failure.
What Paul says to this church is not something that applies only to him. It is true of all those that God has called to be teachers and instructors in the Word. Faithfully teach all of it. Not just the parts that people want to hear. If we do not, then we will bear some responsibility for the blood of those we taught who ended up unprepared for life as a disciple of Christ. And for those who go astray because of us.