The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
PAUL ON THE GO AGAIN
- Acts chapter 19 ends with the town clerk of Ephesus breaking up a riot (19:40, 41).
- Acts chapter 20 begins with, "And after the uproar was ceased..." (20:1).
- The apostle Paul was on the go again -- this time from Ephesus to Macedonia (20:1; cf. 19:21).
- We are not told how long Paul stayed in Macedonia, but Acts 20:2 and 3 tell us that Paul stayed three months in Greece.
- Paul was preparing to sail into Syria, but heard that a plot was formed against him by certain Jews. It would seem from Acts 20:3, that their plan was to attack the ship in which Paul was about to sail, or perhaps to grab him on board the ship.
- The discovery of this plot caused Paul to take a longer and more circuitous route by land. "And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia" (Acts 20:3).
- Acts 20:4 says that Sopater of Berea accompanied Paul into Asia.
- Luke also refers to six other men -- Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia (20:4).
- Aristarchus and Gaius had been caught up in the riot in Ephesus (19:29). Paul mentions Tychicus in Ephesians 6:21 and 22; and Trophimus in II Timothy 4:20.
- Luke includes himself in Acts 20:5 -- "These going before tarried for us at Troas." The other men went on ahead and waited for Luke and Paul in Troas.
PAUL IN TROAS (20:6).
- Paul left Philippi ("sailed" across the Aegean Sea) "after the days of unleavened bread" (20:6). This feast lasted seven days. "We" indicates Luke was traveling with him.
- Philippi was in Greece, to the north of Troas, which was in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. It took them five days to get to Troas, and then they stayed there for seven days (20:6).
- Acts 20:7 reminds us that it had become the established custom for Christians to worship on "the first day of the week." In I Corinthians 16:2, Paul says to the church at Corinth, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come."
- Since our Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week, the apostolic church stopped observing the Jewish sabbath and set aside the first day of the week for church services, including the Lord's Supper (20:7).
- And they did not just meet on Sunday morning meetings. Paul "continued his speech until midnight" (20:7).
- Thomas skipped the Sunday night service and missed seeing the resurrected Lord (cf. John 20:19-31).
- Paul preached for a long time, "And there were many lights (candles, torches, etc.) in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together" (20:8).
- Up in the third loft, there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, who fell into a deep sleep, and fell out the third floor window (20:9).
- Eutychus died but Paul miraculously raised him from the dead (20:9, 12).
- Paul said, "Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him" (20:10b). This means Paul was confident God restored the young man's life.
- This is reminiscent of the great miracles of Elijah and Elisha. First Kings 17:21 says Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, "O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again."
- "And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived" (I Kings 17:22).
- Then in II Kings 4 we read about a similar miracle. Elisha raised to life the Shunammite's son.
- In Acts 9, Peter raised from the dead a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas. Of course the most well known resurrection story (after His own) is the story of how the Lord Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11).
- Paul and Luke stayed there until early the next day, then they departed (20:11, 12).
FROM TROAS TO MILETUS.
- From Troas, Luke (and others because he says "we" and "us" in verses 13 and 14) sailed unto Assos, which was about twenty miles away, south around the cape. However, Paul decided to walk there (20:13).
- Luke does not say why Paul walked. Perhaps he just wanted to spend time alone with God.
- Paul met up with Luke and the others at Assos, where they took him in, and they next arrived at Mitylene, the chief town on the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea (20:14).
- From the island of Lesbos, they sailed southward to a point opposite the island of Chios, another island in the Aegean Sea, between Samos and Lesbos (20:15).
- The following day they arrived at the island of Samos, and stayed at Trogyllium, a promontory, and the next day they came to Miletus, a seaport about 30 miles south of Ephesus (20:15b).
- Paul decided to sail past Ephesus, in order to hurry on to Jerusalem. He wanted to be there for the day of Pentecost (20:16).
- While in Miletus, Paul sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus to come to him there (20:17).
PAUL'S MESSAGE TO THE EPHESIAN ELDERS (20:18-38).
- This is a wonderful message. Albert Barnes says this discourse "is one of the most tender, affectionate, and eloquent which is anywhere to be found. It is strikingly descriptive of the apostle's manner of life while with them; evinces his deep concern for their welfare; is full of tender and kind admonition; expresses the firm purpose of his soul to live to the glory of God, and his expectation to be persecuted still; and is a most affectionate and solemn farewell. No man can read it without being convinced that it came from a heart full of love and kindness; and that it evinces a great and noble purpose to be entirely employed in one great aim and object -- the promotion of the glory of God, in the face of danger and of death."
- Paul referred to his tears and temptations, his trials and troubles, especially the constant harassment from the Jews (20:18, 19; cf. 20:3).
- Paul looked backward (20:18-21), and forward (20:22-24).
- Paul looked behind with humble gratitude, and he looked ahead with Christian courage, knowing that "bonds and afflictions" were waiting for him (20:22-24).
- There is much important doctrine in Paul's message:
- Paul defended himself against personal attacks (20:18ff). He defended the integrity of his ministry.
- Paul "kept back nothing" when he preached (20:20, 26, 27). "The counsel of God" refers to the will or purpose of God (20:27). Albert Barnes gives several reasons why preachers do not preach all the counsel of God:
Truth may be disguised or kept
(1) By avoiding the subject altogether from timidity, or
from an apprehension of giving offence if it is openly proclaimed;
(2) By giving it too little prominence, so that it shall
be lost in the multitude of other truths; or,
(3) By presenting it amidst a web of metaphysical
speculations, and entangling it with other subjects;
(4) By making use of other terms than the Bible does,
for the purpose of involving it in a mist, so that it cannot be
People may resort to this
(1) Because the truth itself is
(2) Because they may apprehend the loss of reputation or
(3) Because they may not love the truth them selves, and
choose to conceal its prominent and offensive points;
(4) Because they may be afraid of the rich, the great,
and the frivolous, and apprehend that they shall excite their indignation;
(5) People often preach a philosophical explanation of a
doctrine instead of the doctrine itself.
- Paul went house to house with the Word of God (20:20; 26; cf. 18:6; Ezekiel 3:17).
- Though Paul often preached in public, and though his time was much occupied in tent-making for his own support (20:34), nevertheless he still visited from house to house. This is 20:20 vision!
- Paul preached repentance and faith (20:21).
- Paul emphasized the leadership of the Holy Spirit (20:23, 28).
- Paul preached the importance of the local church ("flock"-- vss. 28 & 29).
- It should be noted that the words "elders" (20:17) and "overseers," i.e. bishops (20:28) are used inter-changeably. Furthermore, they were to "feed" (to tend a flock, keep sheep) the church of God; i.e. to pastor them.
- Paul emphasized the blood of Christ (20:28).
- Paul warned of "grievous wolves" entering in (20:29-31) -- "fierce foes and false friends, the latter being worse than the former" (Scroggie).
- Paul was preaching this message to elders of the church in Ephesus (20:17). Elders are to warn (20:28, 31), watch (20:31), and work -- "labouring" (20:35).
- When Paul said, "after my departing" (20:29), he meant his leadership had been the means of guarding the church from false teachers. He was the founder and leader of the church in Ephesus, and after his departure, they would be exposed to "grievous wolves...speaking perverse things" (20:29, 30).
- Paul preached that it is the Word of God that builds believers and churches (20:32).
- Paul preached our Lord's message: it is better to give than to receive (20:35). Apparently they were familiar with this saying, though it is not recorded in the Gospels.
- Much of Paul's personality comes through in this message -- his consecration (20:18, 19), his steadfast endurance (20:19), his faithfulness (20:20, 31), and his selflessness (20:32-35).
- Paul reminds them that he
ministered in Ephesus for three years (20:31). Now they would never see him again in
this world (20:25, 38).
- When Paul finished his discourse, he kneeled down,
which is the proper posture for prayer (cf. 21:5).
Chronicles 6:13 says, King
Solomon "kneeled down upon his knees before all the
congregation of Israel" and prayed.
- Daniel 6:10 says Daniel "kneeled upon his knees three
times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God."
- Ezra said, "I fell upon my knees, and spread out my
hands unto the LORD my God" (Ezra 9:5).
- Luke 22:41 says the Lord Jesus "kneeled down, and
- Acts 7:60 says that as Stephen was dying he kneeled
down and prayed.
- Acts 9:40 says Peter "kneeled down, and
- And here in Acts 20:36 it says Paul "kneeled down, and
- Acts 20:37, 38 tells us
this was a very emotional and a most solemn farewell.
- There is a lot of doctrine in Paul's discourse, but I would like to just say a few more words about Acts 20:21.
- W.A. Criswell said,
Here is a fellow"I was a
pacifist; I was a pacifist; I did not believe in arms for the defense of my
country, but when Pearl Harbor was attacked I changed my mind. I am not a
pacifist any longer, I believe in defending our country. That is
repentance; that is repentance. "I used to be a pacifist, but I am not a
pacifist any more. I have changed my mind. I have turned
All right, take another
one. Here is a fellow who said, "I used to believe in legalizing
liquor. I used to believe in selling it on every
One day this man helped pry
a man out of the snow and ice in a ditch outside a bar on the edge of town. The
man had been drinking, had gotten drunk, and the bartender pushed him out into
the cold winter night. Staggering,
the drunk had fallen into a ditch and had frozen to death. The next morning they found him, and
this man helped pry him out of the snow.
He said, "When we pried him up, I looked at him frozen with mud all over
his face and body, and I have changed my mind, I am against alcohol now, I have
turned around. That is repentance; that is repentance.
I am thinking of another
man, "I used to be a gambler. And he said, "One day I saw a ragged boy,
underfed and undernourished, going to school with a little bitty lunch basket in
his hand, and not enough in that basket for him to eat. He said, "The
night before, I had gambled with that boy's father and I had won everything that
the father had. And he says, "When I saw that boy, ragged and hungry,
going to school with that little bitty lunch basket in his hand, empty," he
said, "I said I will never gamble again; never again. That is repentance,
I have changed my mind; I have turned around, I am going to do something
else. That is repentance.
- These are illustrations of genuine Biblical repentance (Acts 20:21).