Acts 20

Thursday Evening Bible Study

January 3, 2008


Paul is winding up his third missionary journey. He travelled through the Galatian churches, then went on to Ephesus where he would spend three years, the longest he ever spent with one of his churches. In the end, the idol-makers stirred up the city into a huge demonstration in the city amphitheater and Paul left town to allow things to quiet down. But the gospel had become established throughout Asia Minor.


Acts 20

:1-6 Off to Greece

:1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia.

Paul had been planning (Acts 19:21) on going to Macedonia (Philippi, Berea, etc.) then to Corinth, and then to Jerusalem. (see map)

What Luke doesn’t tell us is that there is just a little more to the story than this.

Paul apparently stopped at Troas before going to Macedonia.

(2 Cor 2:12-13 NKJV) Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, {13} I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.
Paul didn’t take the opportunity to preach at Troas because he missed Titus.

When Paul arrived in Macedonia, he wasn’t having an easy time.

(2 Cor 7:5-7 NKJV) For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. {6} Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, {7} and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.
Titus had been in Corinth when Paul arrived in Macedonia. Titus returned with good news for Paul, that the Corinthians had taken Paul’s letter seriously and had made some major changes in their church as a result.

Bible Students: Write in your margins – “AD 56: Paul writes 2Corinthians from Philippi.”

:2 Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece

:3 and stayed three months.

Greece – Paul is in Corinth. Greece is also known as “Achaia”, of which Corinth is the capital. (see map)

Bible Students: Write in your margins – “Paul writes Romans from Corinth

Do you remember what kind of city Corinth was known for being? It was the capital of immorality in the world. I wonder if Paul wasn’t sitting in a streetside café writing to the Romans as he described what he knew was going on around him. In Romans 1 Paul talks about the consequences of no longer acknowledging God as your Creator, how man slides down into a cesspool of wickedness …

Do you see any hints of this in Paul’s letter to the Romans?

(Rom 1:29-31 NKJV) being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, {30} backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, {31} undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…
Paul had a good idea of what a world turned away from God could become. He had Corinth all around him.

:3 And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.

Instead of going to Jerusalem more directly by sea, Paul decides to go back through the Macedonian churches on his way to Jerusalem. (see map)

:4 And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia; also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.


Don’t travel alone

If you look at Acts 20:4, you will notice that Paul has picked up a group of men selected from the various churches and regions that he has visited. (see map)
Sopater was from Berea (Macedonia)
Aristarchus and Secundus were from Thessalonica (also Macedonia)
Gaius was from Derbe, one of the Galatian cities
Timothy was actually from Lystra, one of the Galatian cities
Tychicus and Trophimus were from Asia, most likely Ephesus.
Why does Paul take these guys along with him? Why so many guys from so many different churches?
It could be that they are all going to represent their churches when the group brings the financial gift (Rom. 15:26) to Jerusalem.
To me, I see a picture of Paul making “disciples”

Paul reminded Timothy about what it meant to make disciples.

(2 Tim 2:2 NKJV) And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

When you look at Paul’s life, you see that he did this very thing. He took men with him to teach them about Jesus and to teach them to follow Jesus.

Aristarchus was one of the guys caught in the riot in Ephesus. He’ll eventually travel to Rome with Paul (Acts 27:2), and even be in prison with Paul (Col.4:10).

Timothy – from Lystra was Paul’s right hand man.

Tychicus would be one of Paul’s messengers while in prison (Col. 4:7)

Trophimus would make it to Jerusalem with Paul (Acts 21:29), and was still active in ministry at the end of Paul’s life (2Tim.4:20)

Here’s my point – as you grow as a Christian, find people you can take along with you on your journey. It doesn’t matter whether or not you feel like you’ve been “discipled”. It’s about passing it on to the next generation. Don’t travel alone.

:5 These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas.

Paul’s group of disciples went ahead and made the trip across the Aegean to meet Paul at Troas while Paul heads north by land to Macedonia.

us – We believe that Doctor Luke, the author of “Acts”, had left Paul back in Acts 16:40, when Paul went through Philippi the first time. Now we get the hint that Luke is going to go with Paul on to Jerusalem from Philippi, as he starts again to refer to Paul’s group as “us”.

:6 But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Unleavened Bread – also known as “Passover”, overlapping Jewish feasts. It seems to me that it was important to Paul to spend the “feast days” with believers. He has spent Passover with the Philippian church.

Troas – also believed to be the ancient city of Troy. See map. Remember how Paul had wanted to stop at Troas to preach, but didn’t the last time he came this way?

(2 Cor 2:12-13 NKJV) Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, {13} I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.

Now he gets his chance to spend some time at Troas.

:7-12 Ministry in Troas

:7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

first day – for those who insist that worship should be on Saturday, note that the church in Troas met on Sunday. Sunday would have been a regular work day for the world, so the church would meet at night.

Do you see the impact that Judaism and Christianity have had on the western world? We have Saturday off because of the Sabbath. We have Sunday off because of the resurrection of Jesus.

until midnight – and you thought some of my Bible Studies went long!

:8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.

lamps – lets you know that there might have been a lack of oxygen in the room. It was the warm room that put people to sleep, not Paul … right???

:9 And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.

EutychusEutuchos – “fortunate”

:10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him."

It seems that Paul was used to raise Eutychus from the dead.

:11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed.

broken bread – might be a reference to taking communion

:12 And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.


Don’t preach too long unless you know you can raise the dead.

A good lesson for Bible teachers.
A congregation was having trouble with the preacher preaching far too long. They had a business meeting about the matter and it was decided that they would buy a gavel and after one hour, someone would tap on the pew to signal that time was up. The preacher agreed to this tap arrangement. The first night a young boy wanted the honors of keeping time and tapping on the back of the pew in front of him. After one hour, the boy was too embarrassed to make the noise of tapping on the pew. The preacher continued to preach on and on, and all the eyes of the congregation became focused on the boy. They all began to mouth the words to the boy, "Go on, go on." He became angry, and tried to hit the pew with a loud knock; however, as he came down with the gavel, he hit the person on the head sitting in front of him. The wounded member as he was falling over in his seat said, "Hit me again, I can still hear him!"

:13-16 Troas to Miletus

:13 Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot.

The team takes the ship to Assos. Paul walks to Assos. For some reason it seems that Paul wants to spend some time alone. And this is after spending the entire night preaching and ministering to people.

:14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene.

:15 We sailed from there, and the next day came opposite Chios. The following day we arrived at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium. The next day we came to Miletus.

:16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.

Hop, skipping, and jumping southward along the coast of Asia. See map

Prior to the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19), Paul had been planning on staying in Ephesus until Pentecost. He had wanted to celebrate Passover and Pentecost in Ephesus.

(1 Cor 16:8 NKJV) But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost.

Now his plans have all changed because it hadn’t been safe for him to stay in Ephesus, and he’s trying to get to Jerusalem in time to celebrate Pentecost.

past Ephesus – Paul is afraid that if he makes a stop in the city of Ephesus, he’ll never get away in time to make it to Jerusalem for Pentecost. Possibly because of safety, possibly because all the people that would want him to spend time with them.

Since the Passover that Paul spent in Philippi, he’s already taken about 24 days to go 360 miles to Miletus. That only leaves 26 days to go another 650 miles to get all the way to Jerusalem.


Choosing my priorities

Sometimes we can get so busy and so caught up with things that we “need” to do, that we feel helpless to do the things we really want to do.
Someone once wrote an article titled, "If You Are 35, You Have 500 Days to Live." Its thesis was that when you subtract the time spent sleeping, working, tending to personal matters, hygiene, odd chores, medical matters, eating, traveling, and miscellaneous time-stealers, in the next thirty-six years you will have roughly the equivalent of only five hundred days left to spend as you wish.
General Eisenhower is quoted as saying, "The urgent is seldom important, and the important is seldom urgent."
 (Psa 90:12 KJV) So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Be careful about telling people you don’t have time to do something. In the end, no one else is responsible for how you spend your time. Only you are responsible for that.

:17-38 Farewell to the Ephesian Elders

:17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.

Even though Timothy has spent a lot of time being trained by Paul for ministry, I find it interesting that in six years, Paul will write to Timothy as the pastor in Ephesus and give him instructions on how to select elders for the church (1Tim. 3).

Apparently these fellows had been selected by Paul.

:18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you,

:19 "serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews;

:20 "how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,

:21 "testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s message has been that people need to repent – to turn from their sins and turn to God, and that they needed to trust in Jesus Christ.

:22 "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,

bounddeo – to bind tie, fasten; put under obligation; Paul has a sense of obligation by the Holy Spirit to be going to Jerusalem.

:23 "except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

We’ll see at various stops that Paul makes how different prophets will speak up and warn Paul about what is up ahead.

:24 "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

I countecho – to have, i.e. to hold

lifepsuche – breath; soul; the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, soul etc.)

deartimios – as of great price, precious; held in honour, esteemed, especially dear

finishteleioo – to make perfect, complete; to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end

ministrydiakonia – service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others


How to not quit

This is a HUGE lesson in life.
It seems to me that when you begin to hear yourself say, “If one more thing happens, I quit”, that you will be sure to have that one more thing come your way.
Paul knew what he needed to do, and he wasn’t going to stop doing it.
I see a couple of components to Paul not quitting:
1. Selflessness

It seems to me part of the secret of his attitude was coming to the point where he didn’t consider his own self to be that important any more.

He didn’t feel like he had to have people respect his “feelings” (his “soul”, psuche)

2. Joy

It’s hard to be “happy” when life stinks.

Paul’s “joy” doesn’t seem to be connected with having a good time. He seems to be intent to experiencing joy despite his circumstances of the prospects of the future.

Again, the connection to “self” is important. If your “self” or your “feelings” aren’t all that important, then you have the option to experience joy. If on the other hand you are VERY concerned with your own “feelings” and “comfort”, then you will probably only rarely experience joy.

3. Servant

His goal in life was to be a “servant” (diakonia), and servants have to learn to serve whether they feel like it or not.

These are the lessons that are on my personal plate right now. With my parents getting older and my dad’s health problems, I’m finding myself a bit overwhelmed at times with keeping up with things. I struggle with feeling like I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. I’m acting like a baby when I struggle because I don’t feel like I have much free time anymore, let alone be able to keep up with all my obligations.

In the process I can start sliding into depression with the “why me’s” I want to run through my head.

But the more I try to be “selfless”; the easier I find it is to put the depression away. If my goal in life is to be a servant, then what better way to do that than to serve your own parents? The problem is that I’m not naturally “selfless”. In fact I’m naturally just a big baby who wants to have his way all the time.

Eight years later, as Paul is writing his last letter to Timothy from prison, and we find that he lived what he talked:
(2 Tim 4:7 NKJV) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

:25 "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.

:26 "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.

:27 "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

:28 "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

:29 "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.

:30 "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

Six years later, Paul would write to Timothy about some of the fellows that sprung up in Ephesus:

(1 Tim 1:3-7 NKJV) As I urged you when I went into Macedonia; remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, {4} nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. {5} Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, {6} from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, {7} desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.

:31 "Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

:32 "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.


God’s Word

It is God’s Word that takes us across the finish line.
It’s the “word of His grace” – not just the laws and legalisms, but His grace. God’s Word is all about God’s grace.
This is one of the key elements of a healthy walk with the Lord – spending time in God’s Word.

:33 "I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel.

:34 "Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me.

:35 "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

that He said – we don’t have a record of Jesus saying this in the gospels. Paul is the only one who gives us this nugget. The gospel writers didn’t write down everything Jesus said.


Give or take?

Paul reminded the elders of the example that he had set. He was a hard working guy. He was a person who gave more than he received.
When the funds weren’t available for Paul to be ministering full time, he would resort to his trade, making tents.
It was all so that he could give more than he received.
Paul later wrote to the Ephesians:
(Eph 4:28 NKJV) Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

There are people who think that everyone else owes them. They have no problem expecting people to pay for them. They have the wrong attitude in life. The mature Christian is one who learns to give, not take.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:
(2 Th 3:7-10 NKJV) For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; {8} nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, {9} not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. {10} For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
(2 Th 3:14-15 NKJV) And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. {15} Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
This is more of what “grace” is all about.
God’s grace is how God have given us so much that we didn’t deserve, starting with the giving of His only Son.
A mark that we have been changed by God’s grace ought to be an attitude of giving to others and not expecting others to be taking care of me.

:36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.

:37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him,

:38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.

They are sad that they don’t think they will ever see Paul again.