Sunday, October 24, 2010

Acts 20 – Paul’s Farewell Tour

Acts 20

Journeys in Greece

 1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia. 2 Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece 3 and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.

[You can see Paul was not just a traveling evangelist, but was committed to making disciples. He had spent about 3 years at Ephesus, and the gospel had so changed that city that the economics of idol making had changed. Imagine if we were so successful sharing Jesus and teaching the converted that sin was no longer profitable (drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes all without customers). Leaving Ephesus he goes back up to Macedonia to encourage all the churches, working his way back around to Greece. When he was preparing to sail for Syria he became aware of a plot to kill him. It was common for Jewish pilgrims to sail from the ports around Corinth, and would have been easy to find Paul in such small groups, so instead he passes back through Macedonia by land.]


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

[Notice the disciples from all these different churches traveling and meeting with Paul. Paul is teaching and training these young men for ministry as he travels. This sort of internship reminds me of how Jesus taught his disciples as he completed his earthly ministry. Notice again in verses 5 and 6 the pronouns change indicating the return of Luke to Paul's traveling group.]

Ministering at 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. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. 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. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him." 11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

[Now any preacher can look at verse 7 as a license to preach as long as they like. Another way to look at it is that long preaching can kill. Either way Eutychus is forever famous for falling asleep in church. Before the days of children's church, when I was a young boy, my mom encouraged me to sleep during church so I would be quiet and still. Here we had a crowded house with a lot of body heat. We also had many oil lamps used for light, but also adding to the heat, and fumes in the house. With that as the scene, and Paul preaching until midnight, it easy to see how a boy nodding off in a window seat, could be a dangerous situation. But he was healed and fully restored, and the people were again encouraged by the power of God.]

From 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. 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.

[Troas is the port of the far north west corner of Asia Minor along the Aegean Sea. The "we" again shows Luke is in the boat. They sail south toward Miletus which is the nearest port city from Ephesus. They sail past islands like Chios the birthplace of Homer, and Samos the birthplace of Pythagoras, so you can see this area is the intellectual hub of the once mighty Greek empire. Paul knows if he goes back to Ephesus he would not make it to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost.]

The Ephesian Elders Exhorted

17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. 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. 22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 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.

[Instead of going to Ephesus he calls the elders of the church to come to him. Paul has been warned by the Holy Spirit that chains and tribulations are in his future. He feels this could be his last time to see these elders in person. In his message he gives them the keys to ministry in Ephesus:

  • Be a living example of the grace of God to the people "in what manner I lived"
  • Teach the Word (the easy and the hard) without hesitation "I kept back nothing"
  • Be a constant advocate of repentance and faith, not just for salvation but for life

For Paul God was not a way to get what he wanted. God was the goal, the ministry was the method. Nothing in this world had the same attraction to him as the pleasure of his Savior and faithful service toward God.]

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

[Back in Acts 18 when Paul was at Corinth He shook out his clothes and said "Your blood be upon you own heads" a reference to Ezekiel 33 and the watchman. If the watchmen warns and the people to not listen, the watchman is innocent. Here Paul again says he is innocent because for 3 years he was in Ephesus warning day and night of the judgment of God, calling men to repent. Now he hands this responsibility to the elders of Ephesus telling them to watch for two things. 1) He said wolves (external threats) would come into the church to attack the flock, the redeemed. 2) He said that even among them, the elders, the leaders of the Church; false teachers (internal threats) would emerge and draw away disciples for themselves. I always look suspiciously at any ministry where the people seem to be disciples of one charismatic leader rather than disciples of God. We had a full lesson on false teachers back in August when we studied 2 Peter 2. Peter said of false teachers that "many will follow their destructive ways". We can never relax as a church, because when we do the wolves will come, false teachers will come, and do great damage before they are brought down.

Knowing that the Ephesians church is one of the churches of Revelation 2&3 I wondered what it would say about how well they kept Paul's warning.

Revelation 2: 2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. 4
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

The Spirit says that the Ephesian church had identified the wolves (those who are evil) and false teachers (those who say they are apostles and are not) and driven them from the church. They had works, patience, and perseverance. But they had lost their love. In Matthew 22 Jesus had said the greatest commandments were to Love God, and love your neighbor. In Ephesians 1 Paul told this same church he heard of their "love for all the saints". So How can a church known for love, need to be rebuked by the Spirit of God for losing their love? Well I think the answer is in Revelation 2:5 "repent and do the first works". Last week in Acts 19:18 we saw this church got started when people "who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds"; their "first works" were faith and repentance. When we forget that repentance and faith are a constant part of life in the Way of Jesus, we risk losing our love, for God and the Saints. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes a whole chapter explaining that all the works and all the spiritual gifts are nothing without love. And yet without a constant life of repentance and faith toward God, we will lose our love for a Holy God and his people.]

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. 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.'"
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.

[Paul entrusted this work to God, and to the word of grace, reminding them to be charitable and covet nothing.]

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