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Acts 20:1-38

Paul from Ephesus through Macedonia to Corinth. Then led to return to Jerusalem via Troas. Final meetings, Eutichus restored to life.

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As we study these next chapters we will notice a marked correlation between the final stages of Paul’s life and that of Jesus himself. Jesus felt compelled to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-53) and Paul recognised the strong leading of the Holy Spirit to do the same. Jesus knew he was going to his death, and Paul will be told several times that he would be killed.

Jesus would be taken by the Jewish authorities and handed over to the Romans to be killed; the same would happen to Paul.

Jesus would not be diverted from his mission; neither would Paul as he followed in his Masters footsteps.

Now Paul changed his emphasis from evangelising the unconverted, to encouraging and building up the Christians as he made his way to his arrest in Jerusalem. In the same way, a large part of John’s gospel (chapters 13-17) is taken up with Jesus’ final teaching to his Disciples in the upper room before his arrest at Gethsemane.

Read Acts 20:1-6

Paul had remained in Ephesus until after Pentecost and during that time had written the letter we know as 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:8-12). This he had given to ‘the brothers’ and Timothy (4:17) to deliver (there were no postal services in those days – you simply gave your letter to someone you could trust and they had to physically take the letter for you.)

1 When the uproar had ended, (remember the silversmiths in Ephesus!) Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. 2 He travelled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece,

How long this journey took and which towns he visited we are not told (obviously Luke was not with him then!). But from some of Paul’s letters we can gather that he was anxious to visit the Corinthian church. Also it seems he was collecting the offerings pledged by some of the churches in Galatia, Macedonia and Corinth to relieve the sufferings of Christians in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26, 1 Corinthians 16:1-11, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9)

Paul went north from Ephesus to the port of Troas, hoping to find Titus. ‘I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me’ (2 Corinthians 2:12). But he was still concerned about Titus so eventually joined a ship for Macedonia. Here he obviously met Titus, wrote the letter that we call ‘2 Corinthians’ and possibly sent Titus back to deliver it so that it would arrive before Paul himself would get there (2 Corinthians 7:13, 12:14, 13:1).

Paul then travelled, possibly overland to Thessalonica and Berea, and then by ship to Corinth, where he spent the winter (when all ships would remain in harbour).

3a where he stayed three months.

Paul probably wrote Romans from here, and also met up with Luke again.

3b Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia.

Who are these people and why were they travelling with Paul?

Paul had suggested that each church that was prepared to collect money for the suffering Christians in Jerusalem, should send trusted members with it to ensure that it arrived safely (1 Corinthians 16:3). As Paul travelled through each area it seems these people joined his party.

‘The Jews’ continued to persecute Paul (rather like Saul intent on persecuting Christians). During the three months he was forced to wait in Corinth they could gather their forces and they perhaps decided that an ‘accidental’ drowning would be a very convenient way to dispose of Him.

So Paul left the others and went (with Luke?) overland back to Philippi.

However the group looking after the collection for the Christians of Jerusalem would actually be safer on a ship sailing direct to Troas, so they continued without him.

5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Reading through these first six verses it is easy to forget the vast distances Paul travelled and the time it must have taken. It has been calculated that Paul’s third missionary journey covered over 2500 miles and may well have taken four years!

Here just his journey from Corinth back to Troas would have been around 300 miles.

Now read verses 7-12.

7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.

It would have been a packed meeting to hear Paul speak. This would be their only opportunity as he intended to leave for Jerusalem the next day. The number of people and lamps would have severely reduced the oxygen levels in the room.

9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third storey and was picked up dead.

Eutychus was better placed to keep awake, being by the open window, but we all know how hard it is sometimes to keep awake in a meeting! Here we are told the room was on the third floor – the young man wasn’t just stunned.

10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms round him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’

This could well have been a miracle; but to Paul who had often seen the power of God at work, it was unremarkable.

11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

The recovery of the young man may have been unremarkable to Paul, but his family and friends (and Luke who was writing this) ‘were greatly comforted’.

The incident had interrupted Paul, and opportunity was then taken for ‘breaking bread’ which was the basic reason for the meeting (v7). Following this Paul again started speaking and continued for several more hours, before at daybreak he slipped away by himself.

Now read verses 13-38

13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot.

Paul obviously needed time by himself and this 20 mile walk was ideal.

14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

Sea travel in those days was by trading ship. These would generally travel up and down the coast calling for a day or so at each port, looking for merchants who needed their goods transported, but foot passengers were also welcome.

Having found a comfortable ship travelling to Israel, Paul wouldn’t have wanted to leave it, but he also longed to meet the leaders of the Ephesian church.

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents.

As Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthian church, he was determined to ‘know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2) and that had led to much suffering (1 Corinthians 6:3-10)

20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

Paul’s missionary journeys had originally been solely evangelistic. Now though, his aim is to encourage the leaders to take over, but he warns them that it will not be easy.

22 ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Again, following the example of Jesus, and knowing that death will be the likely outcome, Paul feels ‘compelled by the Spirit’ to deliberately go to Jerusalem.

25 ‘Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you.

What does Paul mean by ‘I am innocent of the blood of any of you’ ?

Acts 18:6 gives a clue but Ezekiel 3:17-21 explains the thought in more detail:

17 ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, “You will surely die,” and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.

20 ‘Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling-block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 21 But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.’n>

Does this warning apply to us too?

Are we directly responsible to warn others of the consequences of their sins?

27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Paul had already experienced ‘wild beasts’ (1 Corinthians 15:32) as he worked amongst the Ephesian Christians and he knew the threat to this young church was very real. So he is handing over the responsibility to care for ‘the flock’, and also warns the leaders to ‘watch over yourselves’ as he knows he will no longer be able to look out for them.

32 ‘Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

The written scriptures have been given to us by God’s grace. In what way do they ‘build you up’?

‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16)

In what way do they ‘give you an inheritance’? An inheritance is usually valuable, and can be life-changing

33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’

Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3), and not content with earning enough to support himself, he also provided for his companions sometimes working into the night (2 Thessalonians 3:8). He was not boasting, but setting an example for others to follow, although in the early days he too was grateful for financial support! (Philippians 4:14-16)

(The word ‘tentmaker’ has entered the English language and “in general, refers to the activities of any Christian who, while dedicating him or herself to the ministry of the Gospel, receives little or no pay for Church work, but performs other ("tentmaking") jobs to provide support. Specifically, tentmaking can also refer to a method of international Christian evangelism in which missionaries support themselves by working full-time in the marketplace with their skills and education, instead of receiving financial support from a Church.”

36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

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