About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Chapters 20

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ch. 20:1-6    ch. 20:7-12    ch. 20:13-38


Through Macedonia And Greece (ch. 20:1 - 6)

Luke tells us in verses 1 through 6 that after the uproar was over Paul decided to leave Ephesus and go to Macedonia.  Before leaving he called a gathering of the church, as seemed to be his custom, and encouraged them and said his good-bys.  He then went overland towards Macedonia and ended up in Corinth.  After staying there three months he decided to head back home to Syria via a ship.  Somehow he discovered a plot against his life and instead of sailing he went overland.

It appears that Luke and Paul went north to Philippi by road.  A number of other men, including Timothy sailed to  Troas.  Paul and Luke met up with these men in Troas after the Feast of the Unleavened Bread.

Those who promote Jewishness in the church these days point out the mentioning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread here.  They say that because Luke mentions it Paul still considers this feast, and the other feasts, important to keep.  Well, the text does not say this at all.  I suggest that the insertion of the Feast of Unleavened Bread here is simply stated to mark the time of season.  I think Luke could have easily stated the month of the year but for some reason he just stated the date to be this feast.  We shouldn't make more out of this than what is written.  

From what we learn in Paul’s letters it was during this period of time that he was in the process of collecting money for the poor saints in Jerusalem .  The other men who are listed here as Paul’s companions are most likely representatives from the larger churches that we know accompanied Paul with the money on the trip to Jerusalem .  Many, if not most of the churches, that contributed money for this fund raising project went with Paul to Jerusalem simply to make Paul accountable.  This was probably a sizable amount of money.  It might have been for protection sake as well.  Robbers along the Roman roads were common in those days.


Eutychus Raised From The Dead In Troas   (ch.20:7 - 12)

In verse 7 Luke records that the church at Troas met with Paul on the first day of the week.  The next day, which would be our Monday, Paul left town.  This is the first mention in the Bible of a gathering of Christians meeting on the first day of the week, which is Sunday.  Was this something that was normally done in this infant church?  We cannot conclude for sure simply from this verse.  This was a special meeting of the church because Paul was to leave the next day.  So was this a special meeting, or was it a regular Sunday meeting that Paul happened to attend?  We don’t know for sure.  The text does not say.  We do know that this meeting was in the evening, probably because the people worked during the day. 

Some have concluded that the Gentile church, as early as these times, regularly met on the first day of the week.  That is our Sunday.  Jews had no special names for their days.  Those who hold to this view point to a couple of Scriptures.  One is found in 1 Corinthians 16:2 where Paul tells the Corinthians to lay aside money on the first day of the week so that when he came to collect the money for the poor saints in Jerusalem that money would be ready for him.  This verse specifically says to collect the money on the first day of the week.  To me it is not clear if this is actually done in a regularly scheduled meeting of the church.  Some say it was a regularly scheduled meeting.  To me this could easily suggest that each family laid aside, at home, some money, so that when Paul comes to town, they can give it to him.  That being said, I can certainly understand how the laying aside of this money would be done at a gathering of the saints, as some believe. 

Revelation 1:10 is another verse that people often use to suggest the early church gathered for Sunday meetings.  This is where John said that he was praying “on the Lord’s Day”.  The question then is asked; “what is the Lord’s Day”?  Once again we cannot conclusively know what John meant when he used this term.   It would either be the Jewish Sabbath, our Saturday, or, the first day of the week, our Sunday.  We know that Jesus rose from the dead as seen in John 20:19.  That's the main reason why people say the church would have met on Sunday.   

One thing we should note here is that John wrote Revelation around 95 A D, four or so decades after Paul met with these people here in Acts 20.  Things did evolve over that period of time.  The first day of the week eventually did come to be a traditional meeting day for the church. 

To conclude, it is very possible that in this early stage of the church, at least the Gentile Christians, did gather together on the first day of the week for Sunday worship.  

We should note at this point that the New Testament does not command or teach us to meet together for worship on any certain day of the week.  The Old Testament commanded the Jews to keep the Sabbath day holy.  That is our Saturday.  The word Sabbath means seventh.  Nowhere in the New Testament is there any hint of the Lord transferring the Jewish Sabbath to a Christian Sunday.

Paul, in Romans 14:5, suggests to us that some men understand some days to be holy while others don’t consider any specific day holy.  From what Paul says in Romans 14 it's clear to me that he considered every day holy; every day the same.  He tells his readers to be convinced in whatever position they take on this matter.  My point is simple, the Bible does not teach us when to worship.  Neither does it teach us where to worship as Christians.  We should not let this issue separate us as believers.  It's a secondary issue in my thinking.  

Anyway, Paul and his company met with these people on this first day of the week to say his good-bys.  One of the main things these people did in this meeting was “to break bread” as seen in verse 11.  Most, but maybe not all, feel this breaking of bread is what we call communion, or the Lord’s Supper.  It seems that part of the early church's times of worship included a common meal.  You might call it a pot luck lunch.  Incorporated in this meal was what we call communion, or, the Lord's Supper.  This is understood from what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:14 and following.   

From verse 8 through to 12 Luke records one major event that took place during this evening.  He tells us that Paul would leave the next day so he “talked on and on” well into the night.  Obviously Paul was pretty long winded that evening.  He probably didn't know if he'd ever be back, as we will see in the next section, so he said as much as he could. 

Not everyone could pay close attention, even to Paul’s speaking.  A young man named Eutychus was so tired that he fell asleep.  Unfortunately he was sitting in a window sill three floors up.  Upon falling asleep, he fell out of the window to the ground.

When Paul saw what had happened he immediately stopped speaking and went down stairs and threw himself onto this young man.  By using the word “threw” we note that Paul was extremely concerned about Eutychus.  Luke doesn’t tell us if Paul actually prayed for the young man, only that Paul announced to everyone that he was alive.

The New Testament has no set formula for healing.  Sometimes a prayer is involved.  Sometimes a simple command is involved, like, "arise and walk".  It is quite possible that Paul said nothing, at least out loud that people could hear.  It is possible that this boy was raised from the dead simply from the touch of Paul. 

After announcing that the young man was alive, Paul went back upstairs and “broke bread and ate”, suggesting that they had communion and ate a meal at the same time.  Then Paul spoke until the morning light and finally left on his way.

Because of the grammatical structure of this paragraph some suggest that the breaking of bread and a meal was eaten at the beginning of this gathering, yet some suggest, as it appears to be from a quick reading, that the breaking of bread and the meal did not take place until after mid-night.

Paul’s Farewell To The Ephesian Elders (ch. 20:13 - 38)

In verses 13 to 16 Luke says that “we sailed on to Assos”.  We in this verse means Luke and other of Paul’s companions.  As I've said before, at times during the book of Acts we see Luke with Paul and at times we don't see him with Paul.  Clearly, at this point Luke is with Paul.

Paul had arranged to walk on foot to Assos and meet his associates there.  The distance between Troas, where Paul spent the night speaking, to Assos is about twenty miles.

Why Paul chose to walk after being awake all night is not known.  The ship had to sail around a peninsula so in actuality the ship traveled more than twenty miles.  Walking does show Paul's intensity.  Even after a sleepless night, he would walk twenty miles for the sake of the gospel 

Over the next few days Paul and his company had sailed from one city to another, passing by Ephesus, since Paul was eager to arrive in Jerusalem before Pentecost.

Even though Paul did not want to take the time to visit Ephesus, where he spent two full years, he did want to see the elders of that church.  So from Miletus he sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus to come and visit him as seen in verse 17.

Paul will speak to the elders.  Elders were the most used word in the first generation church to represent the leaders of the local community of believers.  It's ironic to me that in the modern church we use the least used word for church leaders, that is pastors', and seldom use the most used word, that being elders.  This is typical of the modern church.

I'll talk further about elders later in this chapter, but I do want to point out that the first generation church had more than one elder caring for the community of Christ in any locality.  It's called plurality of elders.  The first generation church knew nothing of a one man leadership as is the case in most church settings today.    

What Paul has to say to these elders has always been especially touching to me.  You see the heart of Paul expressed in these words to these men. In verses 18 to 21 Paul says, “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia .  I served the Lord with great humility and tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.  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.  I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”.

The driving force in Paul's life was to preach the gospel of Jesus, lead people to repentance and faith to Jesus, and strengthen the local community of believers.  Beyond this, nothing really mattered in Paul's life.  We might want to think about this in relation to our own lives.  

In verse 21 Paul says that "you must turn to God".  In Paul's mind people had no choice in this matter.  They had to turn to God or else reap the consequences.  This is far from the thinking that many Christians hold today with the influence of post-modernism and tolerance in the church.  This turning to God is known as repentance.  Paul then speaks of faith.  One can't have genuine faith in Jesus without having genuinely repented.  This was the message to both Jews and Greeks Paul says.  There was only one message that Paul had.  There wasn't one message for the Jews and another for the Gentiles as some believe today.     

One thing to note in these verses is the humility Paul showed and the love for those who he had introduced to Jesus.  He says that he served the Lord in “tears”.  From what we know of Paul and from his travels, we know that he extended great energy in preaching and persuading people to turn to Jesus, and once turning to the Lord, he had great compassion for them.   It is clear in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that he cried over the fact that many of them were forsaking him and not extending care and love towards him as he did to them.  This hurt him badly.  We see from Paul’s letter to the Galatians that he cried over the fact that some who he led to Jesus were reverting back to a salvation based on the Law.  The simple fact is that Paul really cared for the people of God, something that most church leaders today should take a serious look at.  Too often in our modern day church pastors have made a career out of pastoring, something not that different than any other professional career.  This was not the case with Paul.  Doing the work of the Lord was not a career choice for Paul.  It was a compulsion based on the love of Jesus and His command for Paul to serve Him.  It was a specific call from God on his life.  He'd fulfill this call whether he got paid or not.  God and Paul didn't make a contract with each other.  God never promised Paul a paycheck.  

I would suggest that if a pastor doesn't shed a few tears in his life over those Jesus has called him to care for, and then he doesn't have a pastor's heart.  I doubt if he has actually been called to be a pastor.  Jesus Himself shed tears over God's people.  We see Him shedding tears over Jerusalem just before He was executed. 

In verse 20 we see that Paul preached publicly and from house to house.  He taught publicly in the synagogues as long as he could.  He taught in such places as the lecture hall of Tyrenus.  He also taught in public squares and amphitheaters.  Then privately, he taught in houses of those who came to Jesus.  Paul taught inside and outside.  It really didn't matter to him where he taught, as long as he taught. 

At this point we should know that the Bible does not teach where Christians should gather for worship.  The Bible also doesn't teach when Christians should gather for worship.  The Bible does teach what a gathering of the saints should look like, and that is through Paul's writing in 1 Corinthians 14.  If you read 1 Corinthians 14 you'll soon realize that what Paul teaches about the gathering of the saints is seldom implemented in today's church.        

What did Paul preach and teach?  In verse 21 he says that he taught that people must repent.  He then taught that one must have faith in “our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Faith is trust.  Paul taught that people need to first turn from their own ways of doing things and put full trust and confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Note the use of the words God and Jesus.  Paul says, “turn to God’, yet he specifies what God he is talking about when he says trust in Jesus.  As Paul often says, the Christian God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  There is no other God.  This is one fundamental Biblical truth that is presently being challenged in the church. 

Paul continues to say in verse 22, “and now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem , not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

We note here that beyond a doubt Paul knew the Holy Spirit was leading him to go to Jerusalem , well knowing by that same Spirit that prison and hardships were waiting for him.  Even though he expected this hardship, he did not shrink back and run from the task he was given.  He must do the will of the Lord no matter what, and God’s will was to give witness to the grace of God as demonstrated in Jesus.  You can clearly see the driving force in Paul’s life was to preach the gospel and lead people to Jesus.  Nothing else really mattered to him, at least anything of his own personal issues mattered to him.

Verses 23 and 24 sound very much like Philippians 3.  Paul says here that his life means nothing to him.  That is so far removed from modern Christianity that most of us struggle to understand Paul.  Paul's life here on earth meant nothing because he knew he would have his reward in the next life.   

In verse 23 he speaks of being warned in every city that chains of imprisonment are coming to his life.  These warnings came by the Holy Spirit, through the prophetic word, which is one of the gifts of the Spirit found in 1 Corinthians 12.

Paul continues in verse 25 by saying, “now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.”  Truly these are sad words.  I am sure that Paul was next to tears, if not in tears, as he says these words.  The elders are in tears as they listen to him.  They felt extremely sad concerning the idea of never seeing Paul again.  Paul knew deep in his heart that the time was drawing short for him and that chains of imprisonment were soon to come in the near future.

Paul continues.  “I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men, for I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”  Paul understood more than most of us the issue of what is called “blood guiltiness”.  Paul felt that if he did not tell a person about Jesus, then that person’s blood, that person’s life for eternity, was on his shoulders.  He was responsible to help people enter into eternal life with Jesus, and if he carried out that task to the best of his ability, then he had fulfilled his responsibility.  If people accept what he says, he rejoices.  If they reject what he says, then that is their choice.  They are ultimately responsible for their decision, not Paul.  Paul worked hard and therefore felt that no man’s eternal destiny, or blood as he puts it, was on his shoulders.  He would not have to give account of this before Jesus at the end of this age.

I often wonder how we will feel when we stand before Jesus knowing that we have missed so many opportunities to tell people about the eternal importance of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

At this point I should remind us that in 1 Corinthians 3 Paul speaks of the judgment of Christians that many call the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Christians will not be judged in the Great White Throne Judgment as seen in Revelation 20.  However, we will be judged, or more accurately, our works will be judged.  This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3.  Those works done in faith will be rewarded for and those works not done in faith will be burned up and not be rewarded for.  This makes it important for us to do good works in the confines of faith in Jesus.  That means we must do good works based on our trust and reliance on Jesus. Ephesians 2:8 to 10 says that we aren't saved by good works but it also says that we are called to good works.  All Evangelical Christians should know this.   

In verse 27 Paul says that he had proclaimed to these people the whole will of God.  I believe that would mean from individual repentance to individual accountability to Jesus at the end of this age.  Paul taught these people everything he could possibly think to teach.  He left nothing out.

In verse 28 Paul encourages the elders by saying, “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”.  Paul speaks to these men concerning their task of being pastors.  He says some key words here.  Paul has already acknowledged that these men are elders.  In this verse he also calls them overseers and shepherds.  All three of these titles are used for one in the same responsibility in the Body of Christ.  The word “elder” by its very nature suggests a man who is older, or especially one who is mature in the things of the Lord. The word “overseer” suggests part of the elder’s work, and that is to watch over the people of God, and to care for them.  The word “shepherd” also suggests part of the task of an elder.  A shepherd feeds the flock and also tends to their needs. 

The KJV and some other translations in various passages use two other words in the New Testament to describe an elder, and they are pastor and bishop.  So, we have five English words used in our English Bibles to denote leadership in the Body of Christ.  They are; pastor, elder, overseer, shepherd, and bishop.   All five of these responsibilities in the Body of Christ refer to one in the same thing.  These words are always used in the plural.  One man leadership in the church was not what Paul instituted.

As I've said, before, in Evangelical terms, the word "pastor" is the most used term, but it's one of the least used woes in the Bible.  The word "elders" is the most used words in the New Testament but is one of the least used words today, and, when it is used, it's often used in an unbiblical way.   Also, our modern day concept of a bishop, meaning, a man in charge of many churches, is also not New Testament thinking.  I would suggest that we don't even use the word bishop.  The KJV uses it in 1 Timothy 3:1, but even then, it's a poor translation.     

Paul is speaking to a group of men called elders here.  Each local community of believers had a group of men with varying ministries who cared for God's people.  As I've said, a one man leader, as in our modern pastor, was not the way the first generation church viewed leadership in the Body of Christ.  They believed in what is called plurality of leadership.  This makes complete sense because not one man has all of the tools to care for God's people.   If you read 1 Timothy 3, you will see what kind of a man an elder was to be.  They looked very much like the fatherly type of man.   

Why was Paul encouraging these elders to take care of God’s people?  One reason is that Jesus bought these people with His blood, as Paul says.  Another reason is seen in verse 29.  Paul says, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after themselves.”  Look at Paul’s words.  Was he being a fatalist?  Was he showing lack of faith in the Lord?  He was telling these men that after he leaves false teachers would come in and try to mess things up.  And beyond that, some of the very men that Paul was talking to that day would have a change of heart and would distort the truth in order to have their own disciples.  Some of these very men in tears would soon find themselves on a power trip drawing people unto themselves, satisfying their own ego.

Some scholars suggest that the false teachers that Paul is speaking about here come in the next century that lead to the early stages of Catholicism and the paganization of the church that took place after Christianity became the legal religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century.  Still, soon after Paul left, men began to teach false things to create their own following.  We still have men like this today.    

Paul continues, “So be on your guard!  Remember that for 3 years I never stopped warning you night and day in tears”. 

You might ask, “I thought Paul spent two years in Ephesus”?  He did spend about two continuous years in Ephesus, but if you add up all the time from different trips it would have equaled about three years as he states here in verse 31.  Paul probably spent more time with these men than with anyone else in any other city.

In verse 32 Paul says, “Now I commend you to God and His grace”.  What else could Paul do?  He knew that problems were ahead for these men.  He knew that wolves would come into the flock to destroy it.  He could not always be there for these men, and the church in Ephesus, or any other church as far as that goes.  He could only depend on the Lord Himself.  Often today I believe instead of depending on Jesus to look after the flock when we can’t, we depend on our modern technology, our massive church structure, and other man made things.  Paul did his best, and beyond that he relied solely on the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore Paul says that it is this very grace of God that in the long run will “build you up”.  Once again, when it comes right down to the bottom line, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that will keep us going in our faith.  If our faith is only in tact because of men propping it up, then it is no faith.  Fellowship is important for many reasons, but if our personal faith is not solid and maintained because of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, then that faith will not last. Our faith should not be secured on our relationships with others, but on our relationship with God Himself.  We way to often emphasize personal relationships in the church to the neglect of the most important relationship we have.  When it comes right down to it, in the darkest times of our lives, we are often alone in the quietness of our hearts.  It is in these times that only Jesus can help us.  No man is present to help us.    

Relationships are important, but they shouldn't determine our faith.  Our faith should affect our relationships for the good.  Relationships can strengthen faith, but our faith isn't found in relationships.   

Paul goes on to say in verse 32 that this grace gives you a place in the inheritance of God’s set apart, or sanctified, people.  We all as Christians have a place set aside for us, an inheritance that some day will be ours, that is, eternal life and all that comes with it.  The inheritance that Paul is speaking about finds its ultimate fulfillment in the next life that is seen on the new earth in Revelation 21 and 22.  Many Christians think we'll spend eternity in heaven but that's not correct.  When we die, we go to heaven, but when this age ends, we'll return to earth with Jesus and rule with Him for a thousand years.  Beyond that, we live on this earth for eternity after God recreates it.

Paul speaks of grace here.  There are two ways in which grace is used in the Bible.  One is God's unmerited favour He has towards us.  Two is the God given ability to do as He wants us to do.  It is this second way I believe Paul is speaking of here.  God's grace can pull these people through the tough days ahead, and only His grace can do this.  

In verse 33 Paul says that “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.  You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. We know that Paul was not financially rich.  We know that many times he lived in poverty, yet he did not covet silver, gold or clothing, from those to whom he ministered.  He in many cases did not even ask for financial support.  He supported himself by making tents, and not only himself, but he also supported those who were with him in the ministry.  So many of Paul’s days were spent working and then preaching and teaching.  I wish more modern day Christian superstar leaders would have the same mentality as Paul. 

“In everything I did” Paul says, “I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’”.  There it was Paul’s motto he lived by.  Following in the steps of Jesus, he felt it was better to give of himself than ask to be supported.

You might note that there is no written record in the gospels that Jesus said these exact words, but I think we can all agree that Paul's words here do represent much of what Jesus said, and how he lived.  It might well be that Jesus did say these exact words, and they were passed down to Paul from men like Peter.  Paul wrote the first canonized book in the New Testament around 50 AD.  Before this the words of our Lord were passed from person to person in an oral tradition. 

Paul was now finished speaking to his friends.  In verses 36 to 38 all of those present knelt and prayed.  They hugged and kissed Paul.  They shed tears of sadness, and grieved greatly because they would never see his face again.  I am sure this was a very sad moment in time for all of those involved in this gathering.  Once everyone was somewhat composed, they accompanied Paul and his companions to the ship that would take them on their way.

This section in Acts is one of the most moving and heart wrenching sections you will read.  You really see the heart of Paul.  You see how these elders felt about him.  You see how Paul had to commit these men and those they represented to Jesus.  He could not be around to bolster their faith.  The future was now between them and Jesus. 

Ephesus became an important city for the church.  The Apostle John ended up there where he helped lead the community of God's people.


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