In Acts 19 we saw Paul had come back to Ephesus during his third missionary journey and encountered a group of believers who were only baptized in John’s baptism and didn’t have the Holy Spirit within them. Paul stayed on in Ephesus for two years during which he met some sorcerers who thought they could exorcism with Jesus’ name but failed. Later, a riot broke out in because Paul’s ministry was effective in turning many pagans to Christianity and this caused a decreased demand in idols for pagan worship.
I Paul in Macedonia and Greece (Acts 20:1-6)
APPLICATION QUESTION 1: What was Paul’s main reason for travelling through Macedonia and Greece?
a.v.1 After the riot at the Ephesian theater we see that Paul sent for his disciples to encourage them as they might have been disheartened when they saw such a grand opposition towards Christian brothers.
After encouraging them Paul departed from Ephesus for Macedonia (probably going to Philippi first). In the last days of his Ephesian ministry, Paul had some amount of conflict with the Corinthian church as can be seen in his “tearful” letter to them (2 Cor.2:1-4), which he first regretted (2 Cor.7:8-9). As he was ending his time of stay in Ephesus, Paul wanted to go back to Corinth but feared how he might have been received at Corinth after his harsh letter to them. Paul evidently sent Titus to Corinth not only to collect contributions of the church for the poor Christians in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:6; 12:18) but also to “test the waters”. After leaving Ephesus, Paul did not go directly to Corinth by sea but first went to other places up north, visiting other Christian communities and hoping to meet Titus somewhere along the way after his visit from Corinth. He went to Troas and then possibly to other churches in Macedonia (2 Cor. 2:12-13) and in one of the churches there (either Philippi, Thessalonica or Berea) Titus finally joined him and brought Paul the good news that the Corinthian church had repented of its opposition to Paul’s leadership and had become reconciled to him (2 Cor. 7:5-16). After this Paul wrote 2 Corinthians (A.D. 55-56*) , a year after writing 1 Corinthians (written in Ephesus, A.D. 53-55*) and a year before writing Romans (A.D. 57*) .
b.v.2-3 Once he went through the regions of Macedonia and given encouragement to the Christian brothers there, he came to Greece which is another name for Achaia (where Corinth is located). Some scholars believe that the period between Paul’s departure from Ephesus, stay in Troas, missionary work and departure from Macedonia for Greece, covered about a year and a half (probably from mid A.D. 55 to later A.D. 56) .
Once in Greece Paul spent three months there and he would have been mostly in Corinth. This was the winter months of A.D. 56-57 which was dangerous for sea travel and it was in Corinth, his final Corinthian visit, he wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome (Rom. 1:9-15; 15:22-29). Paul’s plan was to sail to Syria after which the final destination was to be Jerusalem but we see that when a plan was made against him by the Jews, Paul changed his plan and returned back through Macedonia.
c.v.4-6 We see a list of men who accompanied Paul from the Macedonian churches. From other letters written by him, it is evident that these journeys Paul makes are for the collection of funds for the needy Christians of Jerusalem (Rom. 15:22-29, 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9) and when he discusses the “collection for the saints” in 1 Cor. 16:1-4 he mentions that he would be accompanied by official representatives from the churches. The men listed here could be those representatives. Their presence would also provide safety from robbery and a public guarantee of Paul’s integrity in handling the funds received from different churches. The areas from where these men come from are the areas of Paul’s mission field.
These men went ahead from Macedonia and waited at Troas and here we see Luke comes back into the narrative. It might be in Philippi that Paul meets up with Luke and they set sail after the days of Unleavened Bread (April 7 to 14 in A.D. 57.) to reach Troas in five days. Once at Troas, they stayed there for a week.
II Eutychus Raised From the Dead(Acts 20:7-16)
d.v.7 When at Troas, Paul gathered with the Christians there to break bread and to teach and exhort. This was done on the first day of the week, showing us one of the earliest references to show us that the Church met regularly on Sunday to worship. The present day (Sunday, April 24, A.D. 57) was the last full day Paul would have with his travellers in Troas after which he planned to leave on the following day. The meeting was held in the evening as most of the Gentile believers were not their own masters and were not free during the day and we see as Paul kept teaching, the meeting extended until midnight. Back then the worship meetings were not time constrained and an opportunity to hear Paul teach was not going to be compromised because it took too much time.
APPLICATION QUESTION 2: What happened to Eutychus? Why do you think Luke included Eutychus’ story in his record? What can we learn from that incident?
e.v.8-10 The people were gathered in an upper room and since it was getting dark at night, many lamps were lit where all the people gathered which could have caused the air in the upper room to become heavy with smoke in addition to the amount of people breathing in that room. And so a young man named Eutychus might have moved towards a window to get some fresh air and this man could have been a labourer hard at work the entire day because you see how difficult it is for him to stay awake. He fell into a deep sleep which caused him to lose his balance and fall out of the window, which was on the 3rd floor. And the Luke says he “was taken up dead” to indicate that as a physician, Luke was completely sure, Eutychus was actually dead. But then Paul went down, he fell on him, which is reminiscent of Elisha stretching himself over the Shunammite woman’s son to restore his life (2 Kings 4:33-35). This is an act of tenderness and compassion that shows a strong desire to restore Eutychus to life . When Luke reports that Paul said that “his life is in him” indicates that Luke was trying to convey the idea that Eutychus’ life returned to him when Paul embraced him .
f.v.11-16 After this event, Paul resumed the meeting by breaking bread and continuing his discourse until the early hours of the morning. At daybreak Paul left and the rest of the people took Eutychus alive and were greatly happy and comforted that he was fine. Paul’s travelling companions including Luke might have left earlier and Paul might have decided to stay back till the last moment (till daybreak on Monday) to ensure that Eutychus was in good health. Paul then might have taken a shortcut by land to Assos where he met with the ship carrying his companions. Together they all left Assos to go to Mitylene. From there they went to Chios (birthplace of Homer) the next day after which the came to Samos (birthplace of Pythagoras) the following day and then the day after they arrived at Miletus, which was past Ephesus. He didn’t want to spend time there as he was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
III Paul’s Speech to Ephesian Elders (Acts 20:17-38)
g.v.17 As the text indicates, when Paul had arrived at Miletus, he must have sent a messenger to Ephesus to call the elders of the church there to come to him. Miletus was 30 miles south of Ephesus. Paul not only wanted to encourage the Ephesian leaders but also wanted to make them aware of his last will and testament to the churches he had founded on both sides of the Aegean Sea, keeping with the perspective of Acts. Sadly, this was his farewell speech as well. Like other speeches of Paul this speech is distinct in it’s own way. Paul’s synagogue sermon at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:16-41) was a sample of his approach to Jewish audiences. The speeches at Lystra (Acts 14:15-17) and Athens (Acts 17:22-31) was how he approached pagan audiences and this Milesian speech to the Ephesian elders, is his delivery to Christians.
APPLICATION QUESTION 3: From Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders list all the things that Paul had done in his ministry.
His speech although is to exhort them, it was a defense to his teaching and behaviour as some of his opponents were trying to turn his converts against him. He was appealing to their personal knowledge of him. Paul perceives that opposition has already begun against his teachings and will increase in the future. He also warns them that the church will be invaded by false teachers from outside and so the leaders must therefore fulfill their responsibility as shepherds, appointed by God to guard His flock .
h.v.18-21 In his introduction, Paul reminds his hearers about his life amoungst them. Living in humility and faithful to service, facing sorrows, dangers and much hostility from the Jews and how he never stopped preaching to both Jews and Gentiles. He even reminds them about all the profitable teaching he conducted in public and in private.
i.v.22-24 In the next part of his speech, Paul makes them aware of his future plans and the results that will come from them. He tells them that from city to city, the Holy Spirit makes aware to him that he would be facing imprisonment and other hardships when he reached Jerusalem. But Paul assures the elders that he was ready to give up his life for the sake of Christ and His work.
j.v.25-27 The next section, Paul was addressing the Ephesian elders and bidding them farewell and it would be the last time they would see him. He makes mention that he had planted the seed of the gospel and now it was the business of others to water it. Paul says that he is not accountable to God for any future doctrinal or moral error that might come to the Ephesian church because he never shied away from teaching the true Word of God. He had made clear to all in Asia about God’s saving plan.
k.v.28 On these elders Paul places a heavy responsibility. The Holy Spirit has entrusted them with the charge of taking care of the people of God in Ephesus. They had to care for them as shepherds take care of their flock. And in doing so, they had to first of all guard their own spiritual and moral purity. Their responsibility was great because the flock they were commissioned to tend was none other than the church of God which He had purchased for Himself and the purchase price was nothing less than the life-blood of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
l.v.29-31 Paul showed remarkable insight into future situations that the Ephesian church might face by warning them that the flock must be guarded as wolves would force their way amoung them. Attack would not only come from outside but also from within the church. Even in the letters of Paul to Timothy, who served Ephesus a decade later, attest to the presence of false teachers who were ravaging the church for their own gain and they did, in fact, come from within the church (1 Tim.1:19-20, 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 1:15, 2:17-18, 3:1-9). Paul urges the elders to be vigilant and to follow his own example just as he showed careful and compassionate concern for his converts for three years of his residence amoung them, pointing out, night and day, the right path for to pursue .
m.v.32-35 In the final section of his speech, Paul reminds the leaders, though he would not be present with them anymore to guide and pastor them, God was still with them and so was God’s Word. And so to God and His Word Paul committed them. Paul then returns back to himself as the personal example that they could follow. Paul tells that in all the time he spent with them, he never coveted anything that was not his. He didn’t even use the privileges he had as an Apostle, of accepting a stipend for his expenditure. Instead, he worked for his own livelihood and supported not only himself but other people who were with him. This was how he encouraged every Christian to be, to work and use that financial gain to help those in need because Jesus said it was better to give than to receive.
APPLICATION QUESTION 4: In the light of his persecution and opposition, how was Paul able to stay motivated?
n.v.36-38 When Paul had finished speaking to them and knelt to pray with them, the elders gave him an affectionate but sorrowful farewell. It was in particular his saying that they would never see him again that filled their hearts with grief and their eyes with tears. After this, they accompanied him to the ship that would set sail from Miletus.